In a recent Tyee story, Christine McLaren refers to four cycling personalities identified by a City of Portland planner, the prominent one being the “Interested but Concerned,” 60 some-odd per cent of us who have a rational fear of cycling in the city. The trick in planning a bicycle-friendly city is reducing the concerns of those interested cyclists.
Riding home from Fish Creek Park on Elbow Drive last Monday, I was almost run over by an oncoming SUV making a left turn. My experience is not unique in this city. Our lack of investment in cycling infrastructure and education enables cars to trump cyclists — especially when compared to world-renowned bicycle-friendly cities like Amsterdam and Portland.
According Azim Jivraj, manager of transportation solutions for the City of Calgary, there’s $4.6 million in this year’s transportation budget set aside for pedestrian and cycling infrastructure (the footbridge is accounted for separately) and another $5 million to $6 million in the parks budget for the pathways system. With a total transportation budget of $630 million, that means less than one per cent of the budget is dedicated to pedestrians and cyclists — cities serious about cycling set aside far more, like Minneapolis with 14 per cent.
According to avid cyclist Ald. Brian Pincott, “We talk about creating a bike-friendly city all the time, but we’re not doing it.”
In Amsterdam, 40 per cent of all traffic movement is by bicycle. The city has made it happen with several auto-free zones, traffic calming measures, designated bike lanes, traffic signals for cyclists, ubiquitous large bike racks, bicycle parking garages and free public bicycles. Cyclists in the Netherlands are 30 times less likely than North American cyclists to suffer serious injuries and three times less likely to die while cycling because of their bicycle-friendly urban design.
Jivraj says Calgary is prioritizing cycling with a goal of creating 15 to 20 kilometres of on-street cycling facilities per year and he recently sent a staff member to Portland for a design workshop, but it’s hard to see how this will amount to much when transportation budget projections up to 2018 don’t show the cycling infrastructure number growing at all.
Until Calgary gets serious about cycling infrastructure, the majority “Interested but Concerned” will likely not peddle along our pavement.