Why it's noteworthy that today's discussion about bikeshare had next to zero bikelash / by Tim Querengesser

Photo: Richard Masoner/Flickr

Photo: Richard Masoner/Flickr

The narrative arc for bike infrastructure in most cities is consistent. It begins with bikelash, which everyone talks about, most especially news media, and ends with bike-love, which next to nobody does. 

First, people claim bike lanes (and it's usually bike lanes that lead the infrastructure debates) will create bedlam. Then, once built, people will next complain about bike lanes taking too much road space, or not being used sufficiently to justify their expense, or catering to "elite" cycists (how someone using less space and resources is an elite, I do not understand, but let's just leave that).

What's less discussed is the final step in the story arc – the resolution of the tension. That's when after a year or a few, people just stop complaining. It's at this stage that people realize their bike lanes work and start asking for them in their own neighbourhoods. It's the moment, oh so quiet, when cycling becomes mainstream. 

People then start to exhibit bike-love.

I couldn't help but think today's discussion of bikeshare, inspired by a story by Elise Stolte in the Edmonton Journal that examined just how easy, low cost and simple bringing a dockless system could be in our city, underlined that Edmonton is on the cusp of stage three of the arc. 

I expected bikelash. I expected angry emails in my inbox. I expected criticism. I expected mockery. I expected someone to suggest I deserved to die. Instead, as Stolte sought to spur discussion of the idea on Facebook and Twitter, I saw an almost unanimous belief a bikeshare could be useful, convenient and positive for Edmonton. Even the people who disagreed just kind of said, "No, not for me," and moved on. Hardly a barb was thrown.

Dare I say it, but we've come a long way in not so long in Edmonton when it comes to perceptions and attitudes. While I won't suggest we're at the stage of bike-love, I will suggest we're closer to it than we are to bikelash. And that's a very noteworthy thing in one of the most car-dependent cities in North America.