Quarrel on the Promenade

More than 500 people signed a petition to end a bike-lane pilot project. The City says it's listening
The Victoria Promenade is a half-kilometre stretch of 100 Ave. with apartment and condo buildings on one side and a great view of the river valley on the other.

New bike lanes on a picturesque Edmonton street are getting a bumpy reception.

Oliver residents have gathered more than 500 signatures on a petition to end the pilot project on Victoria Promenade, along 100th Avenue. The Promenade is a stretch of apartment and condo buildings with a stunning view of the river valley, popular with the retirement crowd. Stacey Kuehn, one of the most outspoken critics of the pilot, says the separated bike lanes installed in July have taken away valuable parking space and made it harder for elderly residents, and visitors, to use the area.

“For us it’s the essential services for seniors,” Kuehn says, “making sure their homecare can find parking, the food deliveries they accept, the DATS [Dedicated Accessible Transit Service]. I haven’t met a single person that isn’t really, really put out by it.”

“We are absolutely listening. There is nothing set in stone.”

The project’s roots go back to the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, when the City of Edmonton used pylons to make mobility lanes as a public health measure, allowing those travelling by bike, scooter or foot to keep a safe distance. After finding vehicles were hitting the cones when they turned onto the street, the City’s Vision Zero Street Lab proposed a solution with sturdier materials. That meant creating a separated eastbound bike lane on the south side of the road and a separated westbound lane on the north side. Both run the length of the Promenade, from 117th Street to 121st Street. The westbound lane, in particular, caused problems because it displaced street parking in front of the buildings.

Kuehn says residents received “very little” notification and most had no idea the project was coming in July. While she says she is in favour of bike lanes, she says the Promenade project has made life easier for cyclists at the expense of everyone else.

“You would see people park with their small children and strollers, or people with very limited mobility with their cane and walker, and they would just park, shuffle across the street, sit on the bench and spend hours there enjoying the view,” she says. “We’re really not seeing that anymore.”

Jessica Lamarre, the City’s safe mobility director, says the City identified Victoria Promenade as a district connector, making it a high-priority bike corridor, and as a substandard route. “It connects two important parts of the existing network, so it’s a bit of a missing link,” she says.

The City held two virtual public sessions and gathered 647 responses to an online survey before implementing the pilot, with 55 per cent of respondents living in Oliver and 112 in the specific area. Lamarre says that’s “quite a good showing” by city standards. She contends the project also fits into the City’s bike plan and safe mobility strategy, which were both informed by significant public engagement.

But the deluge of complaints has compelled the City to expand consultation by postering, holding in-person meetings, sending physical mail outs to buildings on the street, reaching out to building managers, and having staff stop pedestrians on the Promenade to survey them in person.

The City has made several adjustments based on feedback, including fixing cracks and potholes in the street and adjusting parking spaces. It considered putting a single two-way bike lane on one side of the road rather than one-way lanes on either side, but concluded the two-way lane could not be safely connected to other biking infrastructure.

“We are absolutely listening. There is nothing set in stone,” Lamarre says.

The City will revisit the project in spring after looking at data including pedestrian, cyclist and vehicle counts, as well as vehicle speeds.

Whether the change becomes permanent could depend on Edmonton City Council approving rapid advancement of its bike plan. The project could also be permanently funded as part of Oliver’s neighbourhood renewal, which is scheduled to start in 2023 under the next four-year budget cycle.

The City’s online survey has closed but it will continue to provide updates and contacts at engaged.edmonton.ca/victoria-promenade.