Proposed redesign of 101 Avenue creates danger, say cyclists

· The Pulse

Some cyclists say proposed changes to the intersection of 101 Avenue and 75 Street are unsafe. The Edmonton Bike Coalition is holding a protest northeast of the intersection on June 18 to draw attention to the problems and suggest what a safe intersection for biking and walking would look like.

The new bike lane is a part of the 101 Avenue revitalization project, which seeks to make 101 Avenue into a destination for surrounding communities. A significant portion of the plan involves upgrading walking and biking paths.

The design currently includes bike lanes on both sides of the road all along 101 Avenue, allowing people to bike easily and safely from 50 Street to 84 Street. The bike lane would be protected except for road crossings and in the lead-up to the 75 Street intersection, at which point it would be a painted bike lane.

"The 75th intersection is the most dangerous portion of the route," said Conrad Nobert, organizer of the Edmonton Bike Coalition. "To exacerbate the issue, the slip lane that allows for fast right turns would stay. Slip lanes cause drivers to instinctively look to their left for an opening in traffic at high speed."

The coalition feels the intersection turning onto 75 Street heading northbound is particularly dangerous because the speed soon increases to 80 km/h. Nobert wants a redesign that would extend the protected bike lane to the intersection and remove the slip lane, which tends to prioritize traffic movement over pedestrian safety.

Coun. Ashley Salvador of Ward Métis shares the cyclists' concerns. "I feel that a lot of the new design for 101 Avenue is absolutely fantastic. However, I agree that this particular intersection is problematic," she said.

Concerns about the intersection are news to Miles Berry, a community organizer with the Greater Hardisty Community Sustainability Coalition, which has been working on the 101 Avenue project for 10 years. "I haven't heard anything from community members about the intersection design," he said. "Unfortunately, when designing plans, you can't build them around people not following the rules of the road."

A map the recommended concept for the intersection of 75 Street and 101 Avenue

In March, the city proposed a concept plan for 101 Avenue Corridor that includes this vision of the road's intersection with 75 Street. (City of Edmonton)

The current design includes a large island for cyclists and pedestrians to feel safe at the intersection. The city's reasoning for going from a protected bike lane to a painted lane well before the corner is to give the driver extra time to see the cyclists before changing lanes. The hope is to give drivers more time to know they are sharing the road. Berry believes that the speed limit will decrease to 40 km/h.

"It's an imperfect situation that unfortunately won't have a perfect solution because of the location of the intersection," he said. "The goal was to find a way to make 101 work for everyone; bikes, pedestrians, and vehicles, we took everyone into account."

The city's open data catalogue shows that while vehicle collisions are down over the past four years, there has been an increase in collisions caused by vehicles failing to yield to cyclists, rising from 29 in 2018 to 67 in 2021.

Nobert thinks there is a solution to the 101 Avenue intersection within the city's Complete Streets guidelines.

"There is a perfect example of how we would like the intersection to look on 132 Avenue and 90 Street," he said, referring to plans for future bike lanes that would be protected up to the traffic light, with no slip lane. "We would like if they applied those same standards here."

There is currently no timeline for construction. Once funding is obtained, further public input opportunities will be available before preparing for construction to ensure the project fits the community's needs.

Salvador is confident the necessary tweaks can be made.

"We want to make it safe for all ages and abilities, and I'm certain that there is still room to refine the design at this point in the project as part of Phase 3," she said.

Correction: This story has been updated to more accurately describe Miles Berry's role with the Greater Hardisty Community Sustainability Coalition.