The following October after I turned 18, I was so incredibly pumped to vote in our city election. I was politically engaged and saw voting as an opportunity to make Edmonton better. I was spamming all my friends and family with information, reminding them (low-key forcing them) to vote. Fast forward four years, and I almost was not going to vote in this election. I have felt very disengaged from Edmonton as a community and I have been unhappy with the progress we have made as a city. I am obsessed with transportation, and Edmonton’s transportation sucks.
I commute multi-modally. I drive, I bike and I use public transit. Biking is my newest way of commuting after feeling so exasperated with the congestion on our roads as well as our sub-par public transit. Edmonton is a driving city, I agree. We have developed poorly, choosing to sprawl rather than develop centrally.
When commuting to school, driving really isn’t an option for a lot of individuals, as they may not be able to afford it and traffic around the university area is idiotic. So when candidates talk about wanting to stop putting money into the LRT because Edmonton is a driving city, that is not okay. Students and professionals alike need the LRT, not to mention that we still need to be somewhat environmentally conscious.
As much as I support public transit, the fact that the LRT malfunctions at its own whim is not lost on me and that is why I now bike. As a biker, I care about bicycle lanes. Bicycle lanes are safest for both the bikers and the drivers. In areas where there are no bicycle lanes, I am forced onto the road where I obstruct traffic but I also cannot go on the sidewalk because then I am menace to pedestrians. Non-cyclists think that bicycle lanes are a waste of money because we are covered in snow for six months. Yet there are still cyclists in December. Drivers get winter tires and cyclists get studded tires.
Developments like Terwilliger Drive in Riverbend (the area I live in) are the perfect opportunity for support of active transportation.
Becoming a commuter bicyclist this year is the best thing has happened to me. I cannot miss my bike the way I do the bus, I do not pay for gas, and I can just cruise because I am not stuck in hour-long traffic jam on the Whitemud. It is only possible because of bicycle lanes and multi-use pathways along arterial roads, something that my city currently offers to me. I believe a lot of people my age are shifting towards a multi-modal, less car-centric approach to travel.
The complete dismissal of our LRT and of active transportation by many of the candidates has reminded me how important it is that I vote. I want our city to continue to be forward moving, rather than taking a million steps backwards.
There is still time before the election. Read every candidate’s platform. Even if you feel like your voice doesn’t matter and your city is a disaster, always know, that are candidates out there that want to do even more harmful things, like allowing smoking in public places. If active transportation is something you are passionate about, this is the election for you (it is also the election for you if you hate it, but let’s not talk about that). If you really don’t care about transportation, I guarantee you that just from reading your candidates’ platforms, you will find something that you care about in there. I certainly did.