Some residents call it the “Whitemud Drive of bike lanes.” Others lovingly refer to it as the Oliverbahn.
But one thing most downtown commuters can agree on is how well-used the 102 Avenue bike lane is.
“It’s the only kind of east-west connection in Oliver to get to downtown, to get to U of A, to get to further out west toward West Edmonton Mall,” said Daniel Morin, co-chair for Paths for People, a non -profit working toward stronger mobility routes for everyone in Edmonton. “It’s like the first corridor people use.”
It’s why concerns were quickly raised when a construction notice that would impact the area was sent out.
A manhole will be installed at the intersection of 116 Street and 102 Avenue for maintenance of the main sewer lines.
Construction started on Wednesday and is expected to be completed by the end of August.
“We’ve had a pretty long and icy winter, so it is a little disappointing that it’s happening right during peak cycling season,” said Bike Edmonton board president Sarah Rebryna.
Ward O-day’min city Coun. Anne Stevenson called it a “quadruple whammy.”
“It’s a hard piece of news to take right now. Definitely not where we want to be heading in our community.”
During that time, the bike lane on 102 Avenue will be closed from 115 Street to 117 Street with detour signs posted. A number of vehicle lanes, crosswalks and roads will also be closed.
“We’re hearing pretty loud and clear from a lot of the commuters in Oliver that they’re not looking forward to the unsafe detour that this is going to result from,” said Oliver Community League president Robyn Paches.
“Detours are never fun and they’re tricky,” said Rebryna. “Especially because the bike lanes serve folks who aren’t really comfortable, or who are just starting out, or children.”
Bike Edmonton and the Oliver Community League met with the City of Edmonton and EPCOR to address concerns they had about accessibility and the suggested detours.
Patches says the community isn’t opposed to the mandatory construction being done. Where the frustration lies with the lack of consultation from those who use the bike lanes regularly and what impact suggested detours have on accessibility.
“It’s not just cyclists that do get impacted when there are bike lane closures. It is other folks as well,” said Rebryna.
Because of the width and quick snow clearing, the bike lanes can sometimes offer a safer alternative for walkers.
“If consultation would have happened before a proposal was sent out to the community, we could’ve highlighted these issues earlier,” said Paches.
‘IMPACTED WHEN THESE CLOSURES HAPPEN’
On Tuesday, EPCOR sent an email to both groups highlighting improvements that will be added during construction, including the option to dismount and use the sidewalk, a speed reduction, installing temporary push buttons, and extra signage along the detour.
Calling it a compromise, both groups say they’re happy to be involved but think more should be done. They specifically want separation between cars, cyclists and pedestrians.
“Unfortunately it still isn’t the like-for-like replacement that the City of Edmonton policies dictate,” said Paches. “Commuters and cyclists won’t necessarily have the same protected and safe infrastructure in the new detour that they do currently. And we want to get to a place where everybody feels safe using this new infrastructure.”
In a statement, EPCOR said it plans to reconnect with the community once the snow has melted to determine if there are any additional improvements to access that can be made.
The issue has opened the door to a larger discussion on detours in the city, and who should be added to those conversations.
“I think what’s shifting is that some of our bicycle infrastructure has that same level of importance as an arterial road,” said Coun. Stevenson.
“Making sure that there’s strong and consistent detours for people of all modes of transportation I think is really important for us, especially as a winter city as we move forward,” said Morin.
Rebryna is a year-round cyclist and knows first hand the impact closures and detours can have on a commute. She hopes a voice advocating for those who use the bike lanes will be added to the consultation next time.
“We do exist and we do have lives that are impacted when these closures happen.”
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