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October 22, 2017
June 19, 2017

Edmonton Headlines: Monday, June 19, 2017

Bike lanes are good news

Written by Jeff Samsonow

Friday saw the first blocks of Edmonton’s new downtown bike network open for people to cycle. This is a good news story. It’s about changes to our transportation network that I don’t think have been seen since the city built its first LRT line in the 1970s (and this goes beyond downtown to the westward 102 Avenue bike lanes, and on the southside with 83 Avenue bike lanes and bike infrastructure throughout Queen Alexandra). It’s a testament to community leadership from people who wanted more options to travel around Edmonton, including the Edmonton Bike Commuters, Paths for People and Stantec, who pushed councillors to build out the network quickly. It also speaks to the kind of work that can be done when the right people, passionate about their work, are put in charge of a project for the City.

But local journalism has to be “objective” and needs “the other side of the story” even when there really isn’t much of another side of the story.

Enter cranky white men.

Image: The Simpsons

Sun columnist Lorne GunterSome old guy grumbling to the CBCFormer deputy premier Thomas LukaszukOne guy near a CTV camera.

After going through all the local stories, almost all of the criticism of Edmonton’s new bike lanes seems to be coming from (old) white men, and 100% of it has been men. Which says something about privilege.

Men often feel safer in public spaces that have been (largely) designed by and for them. Toxic masculinity means men often act in more aggressive ways, including on the road, and protected bike lanes could be seen as “weak” or invading “their” space. White men often come from backgrounds where they can afford a car (or giant pickup truck). Dislike of the bike lanes may not be completely rooted in white, male privilege and classism, but so many of the criticisms come from those places.

If people don’t want to ride a bike, they don’t have to. They also aren’t forced to enjoy that the City of Edmonton is trying to offer more ways for people to get around, and protecting some of the most vulnerable people on the road. And journalists don’t have to give these crankbots a platform.

This kind of “he said/she said” journalism fails in lots of stories. It fails here. And that means failing your audience. The #yegbike hashtag has been absolutely flooded with joy about the bike lanes – and we have barely begun to open the full network yet. That’s the story.

To waste space in newspapers and broadcasts with people complaining about parking – which remains plentiful and cheap – a reduction in some vehicle lanes – which remain the major use of all of Edmonton’s transportation network – and a mode of transportation the critics likely won’t even use, does nothing but prove you know how to tell a story like they taught you in journalism school. And it proves you don’t know what the real story often is.

Edmonton’s bike lanes are beginning to open. This is a good thing.


Around the city

Food security is an important issue, and will continue to grow in importance as costs rise and Alberta’s local farmland disappears. It’s all too often an issue for some of our city’s most vulnerable. One program here in Edmonton is trying to keep on top of the ever-changing face of who needs help to eat, focusing on immigrant and refugees to our city.

Protesting continues over the potential placement of four safe injection clinics in central Edmonton. It raises a lot of chicken-and-egg kinds of questions. There are always going to be neighbourhoods where more people are in need, or people struggling will have more of a presence; so we should provide services to them where they already are. But we do need to put more services for Edmonton’s homeless, people with addictions and serious mental illnesses, like schizophrenia, in neighbourhoods outside of the core too, not just to try and spread things out a little (which is what the protests are about) but because there are people in need all over the city, particularly throughout our core and mature neighbourhoods.

All that said, we need to start opening safe injection clinics and building out our services to help people get off the street, and it does have to start somewhere. So we should start where people already are. It’s the only way we’ll be able to start helping and eliminating the heavy burden currently placed on neighbourhoods like Boyle, McCauley, Chinatown and Central McDougall.

The End of the World will be safer.

St. Albert City Council has created a new policing committee to shift responsibility for liaising with the RCMP from the mayor and council directly, and it will increase civilian oversight.

The war on dandelions is breaking out chemical weapons. The herbicide the City will use is considered pretty safe, but not right after fields are sprayed so keep your eyes open for signage about spraying.

I also find it pretty funny that spraying for dandelions is going to cost the City more money, which is just the opposite of what small government, anti-tax folks like Jason Kenney and Lorne Gunter tend to rant about. I am sure the irony is lost.


Local business

You won’t be seeing a familiar poster throughout the downtown anymore. NightLife is calling it quits after almost 40 years, and the twice-monthly posters highlighting arts events in Edmonton’s theatre, music, festival worlds won’t be on the streets after this week.

An Edmonton startup is doing something to connect musicians with producers and others who could use their songs, or work with them on bigger projects. It’s also looking to break through some of the hurdles that keep a lot of musicians and songwriters from rarely getting paid.

Investment in Aboriginal businesses has a good track record in Treaty 6, and urban businesses are starting to see a larger portion of the money. We do need to do more, however, to change the fact “Would-be aboriginal entrepreneurs still don’t find much interest from professional lenders“.


Public engagement

The Community and Public Services Committee meets today, at 9:30 a.m. You can see the agenda online. The meeting will stream live from the River Valley Room. One of the topics on the agenda is new rules, fees and fines for rideshare companies like TappCar and Uber.


This article was updated Monday, June 19, 2016

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