The Eternal Debate – Edmonton Bike Lanes

The notion persists that cyclists aren’t paying their way. Cyclists pay, through taxes, like everyone else. The argument can be made they pay more than their share.

Bike lanes aren’t for me. They’re for cyclists less comfortable on the road, or out for a leisurely ride, maybe with kids. Bike lanes also serve to remind drivers cyclists belong on the road.

I’m not familiar with the 76th ave route, so can’t speak to specifics. I’d sure rather a bike lane in front of my house than a dirty feeder road. I feel for those losing parking. I just think more cyclists and pedestrians, and slower traffic, make for a healthier neighbourhood – a real community with character as unique as the people who live there.

I’m not anti-driver. Just about everyone I know drives, including friends, family, and my partner. It’s expensive (payments, parking, insurance, maintenance, tickets, repairs, gas, taxes, etc,) and getting more expensive all the time. Traffic can suck, parking is a problem, bad drivers abound, road construction, poor conditions, etc, etc, etc. Sometimes it doesn’t seem fair.

Then there’s the sanctimonious cyclist, free as a bird, flaunting the rules, getting in the way, forcing drivers to be alert, and generally doing whatever he or she wants, smugly righteous in their “saving the world” hero personas. If traffic’s backed up, they can hop on the sidewalk, or cut across a field, or even get off their bike and walk it home. And we’re laying out the “green carpet” for them, with paths and lanes, at considerable expense. They don’t have to pay anything.

Except taxes of course, and taxes are what pay for the roads.

I see where some resentment comes from. The cycling milieu is like the wild west – there’s yer law-abidin’ bunch, and yer-outa control bunch, with all kinds between. We don’t tend to notice the good ones – cyclist, or driver, and they don’t make for interesting conversation.

There’s a much deeper resentment bordering on hatred I’m seeing all too often, in people like Rob Ford. Where Kerry Diotte may fan the populist flames, which tends to bring out the crazies, Rob Ford is one of the crazies. I don’t know where that kind of antipathy comes from, maybe being picked on or bullied, but there’s a real misguided sense of injustice that goes along with it.

In fairness I see some of the same thing on the other side of the cyclist-vs-driver debate, but where the cyclist advocates know they are a minority, the anti-cyclists I see think they’re the majority.

The most heated debate happens at the extremes, and can drown out the middle ground. We’ve a pretty good idea how many automobiles we have in Edmonton. What we don’t seem to consider is that there are likely as many bikes, or even more, and that gives me hope. Some are used, but many stay in the garage, or on the balcony, even through nice weather.

We should encourage those who have bikes to ride them. They clearly want to, having taken the first step – getting a bike. A lot of people know I’m a cyclist, and the topic of commuting often comes up in conversation. The #1 reason, by far, that people I talked to don’t try commuting is fear of the roads as they are. If there were safer alternatives I’m convinced more people would ride more often.

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