Cycling in the city, any city, has its challenges.
But in St. Albert, getting around on two wheels can be a daunting and sometimes dangerous venture.
Avid cyclist and Gazette reporter Scott Hayes wrote a column on July 31 expressing his frustration with trying to get around the city safely on his bike: “No one should ride a bike in St. Albert. Ever. It’s far too dangerous … because of all the drivers,” he wrote.
The drivers have their fair share of frustrations too, of course, as do pedestrians and anyone else trying to get from Point A to Point B in a timely and efficient manner. For cyclists, although St. Albert has quite a few bike trails, they’re not great for commuting and urban cyclists would be hard-pressed to refer to St. Albert as bike friendly.
As the city continues to grow and develop, its leaders have spent years talking about how to tackle the issue of transportation. The list of grievances never seems to end: from poorly co-ordinated traffic lights to pedestrian safety concerns, it seems St. Albert poses difficulties across the board.
In 2012, the city’s then-environmental co-ordinator and head of bike strategy Kalen Pilkington told the Gazette the city wanted to get more people riding bikes to promote fitness and tourism, and to reduce traffic and pollution.
“It’s healthier for both people and the environment,” Pilkington said. “We want people to feel safe riding on the roads.”
Seven years later, it’s hard to say what has changed. Cyclists are still worried about being hit by drivers, and drivers are still worried about hitting cyclists. Add to that the frustration of navigating traffic calming measures along many residential roadways, and the impatient drivers and irresponsible cyclists we all inevitably have to contend with, and you get a perfect mix of competing transportation needs that sometimes culminate in disaster.
The city is still working on its “complete streets” design for new roadways, an effort to provide safe and convenient access to all roadway users, according to St. Albert’s website. But that won’t help roadways that are already in existence, since retrofitting is not currently part of the plan.
In February, the city came out with a report on St. Albert’s current transportation system. Not surprisingly, the majority of pedestrians and cyclists think it’s hard to get around since city trails and sidewalks don’t connect. Cyclists also said too much traffic on roadways, coupled with traffic moving too fast, poses additional challenges.
Until the city invests in an additional 99 kilometres of sidewalks and 67.5 kilometres of trails, as the report suggested – pricey projects that could cost millions of dollars – we’ve all got to learn to coexist on the roads.
The best way for cyclists, pedestrians and drivers to navigate their way through the city is to share the road with respect for each other, and a little patience – for the sake of safety.