Municipal Election Bike Advocacy

Municipal Election Bike Advocacy

It’s municipal election time here in Edmonton (as you may know from the fabulous Miss Sarah’s blog), and I’ve been trying to work out who will earn my votes this time around. The new ward map means I can’t just vote for who I voted for last time, so a little research is required.

Luckily for me, Edmonton Bicycle Commuters have put together the terrific Cycle Edmonton website, compiling the responses from all the candidates to their questionaire and reader-submitted copies of email responses to letters. It also has links to all the candidates’ websites and other contact information. Highly recommended!

Update: The REALTORS Association of Edmonton have also posted the responses by candidates to their survey. Very interesting stuff.

(Also luckily, Edmonton Grows Up have endorsed a slate of candidates for the Edmonton Public School Board who will work proactively with communities to prevent school closures in mature neighborhoods. There’s a great post on Dave Cournoyer’s blog about the old-guard versus younger candidates for EPSB trustees that I also suggest you check out.)

However, there are a number of candidates whose public platforms are incomplete, or who have not replied to surveys and questionnaires. Since these particular candidates don’t have twitter accounts, I went with the next most immediate method to publicly ask them for more information online: their blogs. (More after the jump…)

For Edmonton Catholic School Board trustee candidates in my ward, the race is essentially between the incubent Marilyn Bergstra, and former trustee Michael Savaryn. (One other candidate seems to be running on a platform that Catholic schools are not religious enough – um what? – and the fourth candidate repeatedly misspells “school closure” in her campaign literature and has no website. So, I’m not taking them seriously.) Savaryn has replied to EBC’s questionaire and makes a point of discussing ways of preventing the closure of schools in core neighborhoods in his pamphlet (but, again, no website? Seriously?). Bergstra mentions her recreational cycling and work on anti-idling campaigns on her website; her literature is the usual effective-responsible-fiscally-prudent stuff that incubents here in Alberta always seem to run on.

So I asked her on her blog:

Hi Marilyn,

I’m a parent in your ward, with children attending St. Monica’s Elementary and Monsignor William Irwin Elementary Schools.

Can you please comment on your platform and record regarding closure versus renovation versus alternative uses for ECSD schools in mature, core neighborhoods?

Also, will you please take the time to complete the questionnaire you have received from Edmonton Bicycle Commuters? I’m very interested to hear whether, as an avid recreational cyclist yourself, you’ll advocate for adequate bicycle parking and other pedestian- and bicycle-friendly infrastructure at ECSD schools, bicycle safety education, bike-to-school events, and other measures to encourage students and their families to ride or walk to school.

These ideas can reduce the ridiculous crush of idling motor vehicles around our schools during drop-off and pick-up times, and promote stronger, healthier, safer, more vibrant neighborhoods.

I look forward to your response.

…No response yet. I wonder if I’ll get one? There’s so little conversation on her blog that I was surprised that comments were enabled.

(I may actually be in a position to follow up on some of these ideas at the level of individual schools in my part of town, since I have volunteered to help organize a bike-to-school month with a bike rodeo at my daughter’s school, and will naturally share the information with people at my son’s school as well… stay tuned for a separate blog post on that!) 

As for councilors, the race in my ward (Ward 9) isn’t hotly contested. We have a well-respected, fairly progressive incumbent in Bryan Anderson, who has replied to EBC’s questionnaire and said sensible, well-researched things – and a handful of challengers who none of the pundits seem to think have much chance of unseating him. (Envision Edmonton aren’t even funding a candidate in this ward.) The most interesting of those challengers, or at least the one whose platform aligns most closely with my own opinions, is Jennifer Watts, so I commented on her blog to see if she would also say sensible, well-researched things. (Update: she did! But none of them were about cycling infrastructure. Yet.)

Here’s what I said:

Hi Jennifer,

I’m extremely interested in sustainable design and development, and have recently taken up cycling again as a way of minimizing both my carbon footprint and improving my health. I bike both with my school-age children and on my own to run errands, and I’m fortunate to live in a part of Ward 9 where it is possible to walk, bike, and use public transit much of the time – although the multiuser pathways are not always convenient, and motor vehicle users sometimes seem dangerously unaware that adult bicycles are legally required to be on the roadways, not the sidewalks.

You’ve been quoted in the newspaper articles you have attached about the need to manage sprawl in our ward, and you specifically mention accommodating public transit and active transportation (walking & cycling) in the “Transportation” part of your platform, and supporting the community leagues and schools to strengthen our neighborhoods in the “Community” section of your platform.

Can you clarify how you, as councillor, would support our school boards in preventing school closures in core neighborhoods, and support rejuvenation of core neighborhoods so that they are attractive to young families such as mine, and the small local businesses promoted by groups such as Keep Edmonton Original?

Can you also clarify your position regarding funding of the City of Edmonton’s Bicycle Transportation Plan, and take the time to answer the questionnaire you have received from the Edmonton Bicycle Commuters Society? I’m very interested to hear how you would support cyclists and pedestrians, and thereby promote stronger, healthier, safer, more vibrant neighborhoods. (Readers can learn more about the City’s BTP, and see what other candidates are saying at

Congratulations on a thoughtful and progressive campaign. I look forward to your response.

Update: since her response did not answer the cycling side of my questions, and her questionnaire response has not been posted yet (presumably because she has not bothered with it), I posted a followup comment:

 Thanks for your thoughts on revitalizing mature neighborhoods by improving infrastructure, and how demographics influence school enrolments. Naturally, these are complex problems that require a many pieces to be in place for their solutions.

However, you really didn’t address my question about bicycling infrastructure. Cycling in Edmonton is increasingly popular, but the existing recreational multiuser trail network is incomplete and ill-designed for the needs of people wishing to commute to work or run errands in their own neighborhoods. City planners have recognized the importance of cycling and the trend toward increasing bicycle use by creating the 10-year Bicycle Transportation Plan, but it needs to be fully funded, and although the dollar amount for that investment is relatively small (less than the cost of a single freeway overpass, at $10-million per year for 10 years), it is vulnerable to cuts if councillors are ill-informed about the many other benefits of the plan. 

By completing the proposed bike paths and sharrow lanes, and fully integrating the needs of bicyclists and pedestrians into future public transit and roadway construction projects, we would not only ensure that everyone can travel our city safely and efficiently in a healthier, more sustainable manner. We’d also make it possible for families to get by with fewer motor vehicles, putting more money back in their pockets and thus improving the local economy. Improved bicycle infrastructure can also make neighborhoods come alive: more pedestrians and bicyclists on the streets lowers crime rates, and more pedestrians and bicyclists spending time in local parks and spending money in local businesses helps to build vibrant neighborhoods where residents know each other and set down roots. More people using their bikes means less traffic congestion, fewer parking issues, and requires less road maintenance.

Will you commit to fully funding the Bicycle Transportation Plan as part of your commitment to smart, comprehensive development plans and reinvestment in mature neighborhoods?

Thank you for taking the time to reply to my comments.



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