Use of Edmonton's bike lanes nearly doubled in first month, numbers show

The number of cyclists on downtown streets in Edmonton doubled after the city's bike network opened.

'I love that Edmonton is becoming more accessible on the bicycle'

Edmonton police are partnering with non-profit organization Bike Index to make it easier to reunite stolen bikes with their owners. (David Thurton/CBC)

Tammy Pidner whips around downtown Edmonton for the first time using the city's new bike network.

In the past, she wouldn't feel safe riding downtown during the lunch rush.

"I love that Edmonton is becoming more accessible on the bicycle," Pidner says while waiting for the traffic light to turn green. "As a new person riding the bike grid downtown I feel a little more comfortable."

City numbers show the number of bikes on downtown streets jumped a month after the network opened.

Tammy Pidner rides Edmonton's new bike lanes for the first time Thursday. (David Thurton/CBC)

Before the bike network was built, the city counted 2,454 cyclists on May 31. On June 30, the numbers jumped to 4,711, said Olga Messinis, bike network project manager.

Messinis expects ridership will only grow when university and college students return in September.

"The early numbers showing the increase is positive," she said. "I feel good that people are using the grid."

Olga Messinis is the city’s bike network project manager and sees the numbers as a good thing. (David Thurton/ CBC)

The city counts cyclists, pedestrians and cars with cameras positioned along the bike routes.

Messinis cautions the numbers cover a narrow time frame and doesn't account for factors such as weather.

"These are early numbers," Messinis said. "We won't fully understand what those numbers look like until we have a wide enough sample range."

'They take up a lot of road'

Not everyone loves the new lanes. Jason Schweizer is a commuter cyclist and driver and he has a love-hate relationship with the lanes.

"We'll have to see how they kind of play out in terms of functionality," Schweizer said. "I think they take up a lot of road space."

Jason Schweizer is a commuter cyclist and driver and has mixed feelings about the new bike lanes. (David Thurton/ CBC)

Similarly, the Downtown Business Association said businesses are praising the lanes for bringing more people downtown, but also blame them for driving vehicle traffic away.

Executive director Ian O'Donnell said the association will wait at least a year before passing judgement.

Messinis, who points out she owns a car, said the bike network is here to stay but will adapt as the city learns more about how vehicles, buses and pedestrians co-exist.

"Part of this network is adaptable," Messinis said. "But in the end if it's an inconvenience on one mode, but it's providing a safe alternative for another mode, I think the safety trumps the convenience."

The city will continue to count cyclists, pedestrians and vehicles along the bike network over the next 16 months. 

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