While most cities are now embracing the importance of ensuring that cyclists and sidewalk users have safe accessible ways to travel to services, shops and schools, Saskatoon has proven to be the remarkable disappointment, choosing hyperbole and conjecture instead of good data and researched example in ripping out their existing protected downtown bike lane.

We talk about equity, sharing the road and giving the most vulnerable road users priority,  but places deeply entrenched in vehicular movement use those politics to continue the 20th century domination of road space. I have written about the Transport for London study released this spring that shows that street improvements for walking and cycling increased time on retail streets by 216 percent, with retail space vacancies declining 17 percent. Best of all, and just like studies conducted in New York and Toronto “people walking, cycling and using public transport spend the most in their local shops, spending 40% more each month than car drivers”.

Back to Saskatoon. This is a perfect place to put in protected bike lanes, and they are needed to provide connected, safe travel. But imagine this~in April Saskatoon City Council voted to remove the protected bike lanes on Fourth Avenue North which had been in place for two years. Why? Because of “member of the public” complaints about limited parking space. What that really meant is that drivers could not park in front of businesses as they had been accustomed to.  Drivers were also concerned that bike lanes were cleared of snow before vehicle lanes, and that cyclists were in danger in drivers’ “blind spots”.

At Council it was clear that for many members of the public it was not a negotiation of where the bike lane would go, but a call for no bike lanes anywhere. Calling the lanes “confusing” Saskatoon council voted six to five in favour to “consult” the public about future bike lanes elsewhere,  and began ripping the bike lanes out on Fourth Avenue. That bike lane demolition is now completed.

This bike lane unfortunately did not connect up in a legible way to the bicycle network, and now never will.

You can listen to Brent Penner, the Executive Director of Downtown Saskatoon describe why bus lanes are needed instead of bike lanes. Pity Saskatoon cannot find a way to do both like other cities in Canada.




  1. Acting on conjecture and anecdote is the rule for most public entities, not the exception – except when evidence supports their prejudices. It’s just as common here.

  2. Saskatoon City Council has been out of touch with the people there for a long time. It’s a progressive place but you’d never know that from the Council.
    The bike network in Saskatoon had some basic flaws in it. Some of the intersections weren’t protected. A really nice grade separated pair of bike lanes are on Victoria Street and direct you to the river but then suddenly end at the bridge forcing you to decide to go on the sidewalk or the road. (People all over the world who cycle are familiar with this type of thing.)
    This is really sad but shows that people who want safer streets can’t just politely ask. They need to get involved in politics and insist they be part of the decision making.
    Another thing they can do is what Vancouver did in the 1990s after the first attempt at a Burrard Bridge bike lane is (if I have my history correct) direct energy to a greenway network. This will create a larger constituency of people who cycle. Saskatoon is very flat and much of the year has nice weather. It’s too bad that, like many places, automobile dominance has ruined it.

  3. Meanwhile, back in BC, the provincial government today released the new Active Transportation Design Guide. Best practice guidance for all levels of government, covering walking, cycling, etc.

    It is quite a document, and something that should go a long way towards establishing common approaches between municipalities. The Motor Vehicle Act hasn’t been harmonized with all of the guidance in it yet, but changes should be coming there as well.

    The guide, and specific sections of it, are downloadable here:

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