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EBC speech to Council at public hearing on capital budget

0 comments at 6:27 pm posted by Alex H

I attended the public hearing today on the proposed Capital Budget for 2012-2014.  This budget plays a major role in what we will see implemented in the next 3 years. 

Council will be discussing the budget until December 9, 2011 so please add your voice in support of funding for bicycle infrastructure.

Contact Mayor Mandel and your Councillor today!  Please copy EBC (.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)) with your letter and any response you receive.

Here’s what I said to Council:

Good morning Council, members of the administration, and to my fellow citizens in the room and listening online,

It has been inspiring to read the policies and directives which have come from Council in the past few years and I knew that the budget would start to reflect the movement forward on the many important goals for our city. 

In 2009, the Bicycle Transportation Plan, the Active Transportation Policy, the directive to put 5% of the Transportation Capital Budget towards active transportation, and the Transportation Master Plan all marked a clear plan to shift Edmonton’s transportation mode away from single occupant vehicles to active, sustainable transportation.  In 2010, Council passed the Municipal Development Plan and in 2011 The Way We Live and The Way We Green were also passed.

As the Executive Director of the Edmonton Bicycle Commuters’ Society, a not-for-profit which promotes and supports citizens in using their bicycles as a means of transportation, our members’ greatest concern with the proposed Capital Budget is the unfunded status of the Active Transportation project (#12-66-1430, p.504).  This project clearly supports the 6 documents I just listed, thus fulfilling the “multiple benefits” criterion (p.55) which the budget strives for, and it would have significant return on investment— bicycle transportation infrastructure is a fraction of the cost of motorized vehicle infrastructure.  This project would also add the desperately needed addition of 100 bike racks per year to the transit fleet, further enabling multi-modal, sustainable transportation.

I was pleased to see councilor Diotte, Iveson, Leibovici, and Sohi specifically ask questions of the administration about the Active Transportation project (p.13, p.23, p.28, and p.99 respectively).  The administration’s answer was that, although unfunded, active transportation would be implemented on a reduced scale through the Neighbourhood Renewal and Great Neighbourhoods programs.  Unfortunately, this would drag Council’s sustainable transportation vision down to a crawling pace.  I urge Council to continue the bold and necessary work to move Edmonton into the 21st century by supporting the full $30 million dollar funding of the Active Transportation project in the Capital Budget. 

In addition, the proposed Operating Budget has two service cuts which would further impede bicycle transportation.  The proposed 10% “Reduced Winter Maintenance on Trails and in Parks” (#22, p.19) will eliminate snow and ice maintenance on approximately 40 km of paved multi-use river valley trails.  Also the “Reduced street cleaning in summer months” (#24, p.19) will mean more debris on the side of the road where cyclists ride, decreasing safety and usability.

Compared to other Canadian cities such as Vancouver, Montreal, Winnepeg, Toronto and even Halifax, Edmonton is pathetically behind in on-street bicycle infrastructure.  Many young adults have left our city due to the appeal of the bicycle culture and access of other cities.

On behalf of the children, teenagers, adults and seniors of your respective wards who currently use bicycle transportation, and for the many thousands of residents who want safe, efficient, and sustainable transportation options, I urge Council to fully fund the Active Transportation project in the Capital Budget.

Thank you.

It is worth mentioning that the Active Transportation project is not focused on bicycle intrastructure, but also pedestrian infrastructure such as sidewalks, curb cuts and ramps, etc.  If the Active Transportation project is not fully funded, there is a risk that we would only see sidewalk funding.  The Sustainable Transportation department told EBC that with reduced funding for this project, their prioritization would be:

  1. Responding to curb ramp requests
  2. Creating accessible bus stops (sidewalk pads)
  3. On-street bike lanes and sharrows

When a fellow citizen spoke to Council in favour of bicycle infrastructure, he was asked if he was in support of funding for sidewalks too.  He responded that his only priority was bicycle infrastructure.  I made the choice in my speech to more broadly support the Active Transportation project because I think Council is more easily able to pass a pre-written project than to send the administration back to the drawing board to write a new one.  I also think it is worth pushing for full funding of the entire Active Transportation portfolio rather than pit one good project against another. 

Let your voice be heard!  Call your Councillor before December 9!







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