Dear Edmonton City Councillor: An Open Letter

Dear Mr. Diotte,

Thank you for taking the time to consider this correspondence. I am writing to let you know that as a car-owner, a constituent of Ward 11, and an active voter in municipal elections, I am fully in support of the 2013 plans for bicycle routes and lanes in the City of Edmonton.

I am saddened by the tone of the rhetoric against the bike lanes in the media to-date, and am certain that it is primarily rooted in an inappropriate culture of entitlement nurtured in many car owners. I say inappropriate for a number of reasons:

1) The primary argument seems to be that the rights of a majority for parking outweighs the rights of the minority to safety. As you know, cyclists face disproportionate risk when they are in conflict with cars, and bike lanes and designated routes go a long way to buffering cyclists from hazards and reminding drivers that they share the road with people more vulnerable than themselves. I think vulnerable is a key word here Mr. Diotte, and I hope you will show some leadership on this issue and help support the efforts to provide bicycle lanes and routes to keep Edmonton’s vulnerable commuters, more safe.

2) The people who are anti-bikelane seem to think that because cyclists have a choice not to cycle, that they are entirely responsible for what happens to them on their commute, and accordingly, they incorrectly believe that it’s not up to the City to provide infrastructure to make commuting by bicycle more safe. Nor do they believe that car owners/drivers should have sacrifices imposed on them to make streets safer for cyclists.  If we apply this logic without bias, the tables are easily turned; car owners have made the choice to own and drive cars,and most have the option not to; therefore, why is it the responsibility of the city to ensure they have street-front to park on? Further, what car owners sacrifice for the imposition of a bicycle lane amounts to, in most cases, an inconvenience, while what cyclists sacrifice when bike lanes are given over to car parking is in the most literal way, their safety, and all too often, their lives.

3) There seems to be an opinion that cyclists, and bike-lanes, and the supporters of bike-lanes are somehow radical. This is far from the truth.  The majority of great cities in the world accommodate bicycles and recognize the services that they provide, namely pollution-free transportation that requires minimal space and minimal infrastructure to support. This is not radical, it is common sense and it is time that Edmonton joined the enlightened by recognizing the value that bicycles provide as a mode of transportation that goes beyond recreation.

Given all of this Mr. Diotte, it seems to me that you and the rest of the Edmonton City Councillors are on the verge of something important, something defining.  Do you give in to the masses of the vocal self interested, or lead the City of Edmonton down a more accommodating, safer, and modern road to a better society?

Truly, Mr. Diotte, with some leadership, some white paint, and some no-parking signs, the City of Edmonton can protect the vulnerable, promote healthier lifestyles, reduce CO2 emissions, set an example for other municipalities, and join the other great enlightened cities of the world. Or, you can take the easy route by giving in to those willing to risk the lives of others so that they can “park out front”; meanwhile, Edmonton’s cyclists will continue to risk life and limb.

The Mayor has described this bike lane initiative as a nightmare, an unfortunate choice of words to say the least.  To you, the Mayor, and the rest of the Edmonton City Councillors, I suggest that far better example of a nightmare is getting the news that a loved one was needlessly crushed beneath the wheels of a cement truck while commuting to school in a city far behind the times when it comes to promoting and facilitating safe urban bicycle traffic.

Joseph Likte


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