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Time to pay up on city cycling plans

A commuter bike review has council’s approval with a comprehensivebicycling strategy set to be presented to the land-use, transportationand planning committee by June.

A commuter bike review has council’s approval with a comprehensive bicycling strategy set to be presented to the land-use, transportation and planning committee by June. Another paper plan isn’t going to address either inadequate cycling infrastructure or pathway safety concerns though.


The kind of paper we need comes in the form of cash. I think we have a pretty good idea of what we’re lacking and what we need to improve safety and increase commuter trips by bicycle — we just haven’t backed up our knowledge with proper funding.


A 2006 Commuter Cyclist Survey conducted by the city aimed “to understand cyclists’ needs in order to improve conditions for those already cycling and improve facilities so others would be tempted to try cycling as a commuting option.”


Well, the responses from almost 2,000 cyclists reaffirmed the same findings from a survey five years earlier and resulted in the following recommendations — improve on-street bicycle routes both inside and outside downtown, expand secure parking facilities and improve downtown conditions for cyclists.


About 3,500 Calgarians commute by bicycle to work, according to the survey and those commuters need to be tough and patient. That’s because riding on the streets means competing with drivers (24 per cent of respondents had been injured riding downtown), while using the pathway system can be a long, winding and slow go (council recently rejected an idea to increase speed limits from the current 20 kilometres, citing safety concerns).


So we’ve got the survey. We’ve also got a cycling plan that’s been in place since 2008. We’ve got staff knowledge, too — many city planners and some aldermen attend conferences highlighting the latest and greatest in cycling infrastructure and urban planning. Heck, all one needs to do is visit Vancouver to note 100 deficiencies in our cycling infrastructure by way of comparison.


We need more bicycle stencils on roads, signage, wide curb lanes, bicycle lanes, bicycle boulevards, traffic calming measures, bicycle storage facilities, driver and cyclist education, and traffic signals for cyclists … to start.


We’re not getting enough of these things because less than one per cent of our transportation budget is put towards cycling infrastructure, while other cities like Minneapolis invest 14 per cent.


You get what you pay for and we’ve got inferior cycling infrastructure, and so only 0.0035 per cent of Calgarians cycle to work. More reports won’t fix this problem — only money will.



– Adrienne Beattie is a Calgary-born writer who has covered urban issues since 2001 and has an English degree from the University of Calgary.