Whether families taking an afternoon ride through the river valley, mountain bikers roller-coasting over the vast network of single-track trails, casual riders making a trip to the corner store, or dedicated commuters braving traffic and the elements, Edmonton is home to an incredibly diverse and increasingly visible community of cyclists. While each of these groups has different priorities and reasons why they ride, a new coalition is seeking to bring them all together to support a common cause — securing funding for a quality bike lane network spanning Edmonton’s central neighborhoods.
Their new website, yegbikecoalition.info, allows supporters of the initiative to add their name to the call for funding and contribute to a photomosaic, which will be unveiled at City Hall in November.
“The city is very careful when it comes to bike infrastructure,” says Keren Tang, one of the founders of the Edmonton Bike Coalition. “But I think we’re at a time when we need some transformative action. At the community level, and also politically, I think there is more momentum. We need to capitalize on that.”
The idea for a coalition began when Tang, a public health researcher and advocate for active transportation, ran into Conrad Nobert of Strathcona Complete Streets at a recent pop-up bike lane event on 102 Avenue. “There are so many [advocacy] groups popping up,” says Tang, “[we thought] it’d be really nice if we could all consolidate our efforts and build some strength in numbers.” Aware that city council will soon debate the 2015-2018 Capital Budget, they began making plans to organize a united call for guaranteed funding to implement the city’s four-year bicycle infrastructure plan and quickly attracted support from groups such as the Edmonton Bicycle Commuters Society, QA Crossroads and West Downtown Complete Streets.
Specifically, the coalition is seeking to unite cyclists, community groups, health-care professionals and existing advocates in calling for a four-year commitment of $7 million per year. While the amount may sound impressive, it comes to less than one per cent of the projected $3.35 billion budget. “If we want to increase the capacity of the networks in Edmonton,” says Tang, “we need to increase how much we invest as well.” According to Tang, the city is currently considering a commitment of $4M over four years.
The coalition will present a full list of its members to city council before debate on the capital budget begins on Nov. 26.