Shortly before summer, I tiptoe past the accumulative junk on my balcony to a crowded corner and whip off a wrinkled plastic tarp with the flair of a magician. Beneath it a blue, upright bike that performs one trick: it gets me around for the next six months.
But the freedom and delight I get from cycling also opens up a minor domestic tension in my house.
My wife, who owns a little red cruiser she named “Scout,” is too scared to ride it on most roads, so we constantly negotiate how we get to places as a couple—often separately in summers. For Scout to touch the pavement, a practically interstellar alignment of good weather, low traffic and clear side-walks must occur. By contrast, I mostly avoid the sidewalks—partly because it’s law, partly because it’s statistically less safe—and get a passive aggressive kick out of taming traffic with my two-wheeled presence.
On the cyclist spectrum identified by American transportation engineer Roger Geller, I’m in a small category of “enthused and confident” riders. My wife, however, belongs to the largest subset, “interested but concerned.” Fifty-four per cent of Edmontonians surveyed characterize themselves like this and, as Jeremy Derksen writes in “Cycles of Change” (p. 11), that is for whom the 102nd and 83rd avenue bike lanes are being constructed.
If your imagination can’t conjure why this city—sprawling, affluent, 53rd parallel north Edmonton—needs a multimillion-dollar segregated bike lane, think of it as a service road. Service roads separate local traffic from commuter traffic, and in a neighbourhood like Oliver, where 80 per cent of households own bicycles, there’s potential for a lot of local traffic.
Potential, of course, because only a sliver of people in the ’hood commute by bike—just 1.37 percent according to the municipal census. (However,these surveys are deeply flawed because they don’t account for multimodal people; I once argued with a census taker who tried to put me down as a driver because it was one of the several ways I get around.) And so the hope is a 40-block segregated corridor along 102 Ave. will induce more cyclists, just as adding a lane to a freeway is guaranteed to induce more drivers.
I hope my wife will be one of them.
On another note, this is our first issue designed by Jennifer Windsor, who joined our team in March. We’re so thrilled to work with Jennifer, a veteran designer with 20 years experience. We’re ever thankful for the great work of past art director Vikki Wiercinski, to whom we wish the best for her many design endeavours, which you can see at veekee.ca.