A coalition on cycling safety has formed within the University of Alberta uniting students with experts in the discussion over safe streets following the recent cycling death of U of A student Isaak Kornelson.
As part of Sustainability Awareness Week, graduate student group Campus 2 Campus (C2C) is holding a forum Nov. 2 featuring a panel that includes city councillor Ben Henderson and Edmonton Bicycle Commuters’ Society Executive Director Chris Chan.
Following Kornelson’s death along Whyte Avenue in August, C2C’s aim is to put the popular thoroughfares under the spotlight of discussions concerning cycling infrastructure. C2C notes the importance of input from the student body, many of whom use Whyte Avenue to commute between campuses and residences.
“Whether you’re traveling from one campus to the other, from your home to campus, or to work or to your grocery store, these connections are helpful,” says C2C spokesperson Aviva Samson.
Samson argues a coordinated effort between policy-makers, professionals and the large student body is vital for effecting change and protecting cyclists.
“If we come together and learn, we can connect with each other and collaborate and then advocate together to make this change,” she said.
“We’re a city within this city, so if the university is behind this, action will happen.”
While some argue bike lanes would be a waste of money given both the low population of cyclists as well as the harsh winter, Samson notes the current unsafe conditions hold many cyclists back.
“People aren’t cycling now as much as they want to, and the reason is because they’ve seen this death in our faculty,” she explains. “They’ve seen how hard it is to cycle in our city and how dangerous it is.”
The adverse effects of improper cycling infrastructure extend beyond the cyclists. Samson notes a lack of safe cycling space has turned Whyte Avenue into a hostile commuting environment where cars, bikes, and pedestrians are continually at odds.
“This isn’t just for the cyclists. People who find it dangerous to bike are going on the sidewalks. That’s illegal and that’s not safe. Or they’re cutting in and out of cars’ ways, zipping across pedestrian crossings. It’s dangerous to motorists as well.”
Although focused on the student body, Campus 2 Campus acknowledges the value of input from all Edmontonians, encouraging everyone within the city participate. Aside from panel discussions, the forum will include a charter that interested parties can sign in support of the mission.
In addition, Campus 2 Campus will provide pre-drafted postcards for participants to sign, after which all will be sent en masse to city council.
Samson says creating this dialogue between citizens and policy-makers is essential in ensuring that further ignorance on the part of government and citizens doesn’t lead to another tragic accident.
“There’s complacency in terms of policies being put into place and implementation of infrastructure, but there’s also complacency in social responsibility for cycling safety. The bottom line is that cyclists are here in Edmonton,” Samson says.
“We’re not second-class citizens. We don’t want to be treated differently than motorists. We are motorists, but whether we’re in a car versus a bike or on a sidewalk we want to be treated with the same amount of safety.”
Students can voice their opinions and participate in the panel discussion Nov. 2 from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. in the SUB Alumni Room.
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