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Dec 31, 2010

Top 10 Cycling Stories in YYC

In the spirit of this time of year, and the inevitable Top 10 lists of everything under the sun, we have decided to compile our own list of Calgary bicycle related stories - according to us and in no particular order.

Did we miss something or do you disagree? Let us know in the comments.

1. More People Riding - I don't know about you, but I think I saw more people riding bikes this year.  I know, I know, you're all going to say "Sure you saw more riders, you just opened a bike shop"! And perhaps you might be right except that many of my friends have also made the same comment, so I think I might be onto something.  More people riding to work, more people on bikes in general.  The reasons for people choosing to ride more are probably as diverse as the people themselves - saving money, better health, frustrated with traffic or transit - all very hard to pin down for me.  I hope there is someone in Calgary asking these questions because the answers could be very interesting.  

2. Riding on the Sidewalk - Well, in winter at least.  Riding on the sidewalk is not a very safe thing to do but what's safer -  riding on the sidewalk or riding on roads that have been narrowed by snow plows with motorists who are passing too close?  To be clear, I am not advocating this practice but have noticed a lot more people doing it.  Could this be a sign that more people are choosing to ride in the winter too?  Could this be a response to our lack of safe bike routes and on-street lanes? 

3. Pathways Torn out With no Warning and no Detours - Oh boy, did the city piss off an awful lot of people this year.  There were 2 glaring examples of this - here and here both of which occurred without any advance notice or suitable detours on sections of pathway that are heavily used by commuting cyclists and recreational cyclists alike.  I had a chance to ask one of our bike friendly alderman (or "councillors" now I guess) about these occurrences and he was equally upset and sadly, not really surprised that they had happened they way they did.  Our parks department has demonstrated time and again that they do not care enough about area cyclists to create usable detours or at least warn users ahead of time.  Hopefully 2011 will see some positive changes in the way the parks department handles these pathway closures and detours.

4. The MUP System - Say what you want about our lack of on-street bike lanes (I think we need 'em bad!), one piece of cycling infrastructure that continues to define Calgary is our extensive multi use pathway (MUP) system.  Currently around 700kms in total length and stretching from the core to the farthest flung suburbs, the MUP is well used by many Calgarians for recreation, exploring, and for some - commuting.  Jack Leslie - former Mayor of Calgary, can be thanked for fighting against CP Rail's plan to put their main line along the banks of the Bow River.  By winning that battle - he set the stage for the creation of our pathway system and should be remembered for his vision and determination to create a more livable Calgary.  The MUP does have it's challenges though - especially during the last few years.  With our lack of direct bike lanes for commuters many more conflicts have been occurring, sometimes with serious injuries.  The MUP was never conceived as bike commuter infrastructure and the vastly different speed differential between cyclists, joggers, moms with strollers, and dog walkers has created a situation that (during busy times) can be scary and dangerous for all users.  Overall though, the MUP system is an incredible piece of cycling infrastructure that allows you to access numerous natural areas along the Bow and Elbow Rivers.  The MUP does have its challenges but we love it and hope that the city continues to improve the dangerous areas that exist.

5. Mainstream Media Coverage In Calgary - Was it just me or did it seem like there was more coverage of cycling in the news this year?  It all started in February with our city council voting to not raise the speed limit for bikes on the MUP and seemed to gain momentum throughout the rest of the year.  The Calgary Herald featured a handful of Calgarians who choose to bike commute (including your truly) and Calgary's other daily's (here and here) also got in on the action.  Even the local weekly arts and culture paper - FFWD Calgary had to take a stab at it.  Oh yes, I forgot to mention The Calgary Journal's feature on all things cycling here, here, and here.  Even Macleans magazine was seeing something happening - this time in Toronto.  All the coverage is great - whether its a sad story about a collision on the pathways or an inspiring story about someone who has chosen to cycle more - all these stories add up into a big year in the news for bike here in YYC.

6. Nenshi! (and the election in general) - Much has been written about Naheed Nenshi's incredible, come from behind win in the fall civic election and it was exciting to witness it.  His advocacy for more bike lanes and more bike infrastructure as part of his overall transportation plan was refreshing and welcomed by a majority of Calgarians, as evidenced by the very high voter turnout and his complete trouncing of the supposed frontrunners.  Now, we all know that the Mayor is but one of 15 people on council, but thankfully the overall makeup of our new council is a little more "urban" with the addition of a few new council members, and probably more importantly, a few of the more right-wing alderman are gone from the council chambers, giving us a much more progressive looking group for the new three years.  We will watching and hoping that infrastructure improvements - as Nenshi promised - show up during his term in office.

7. City of Calgary Investments in Bike Infrastructure - I find it amazing that I did not hear about this - especially considering I like to think I am pretty plugged into what is happening regarding bicycle infrastructure spending here.  I guess I'd better up my game!  Quietly, the city has been quite busy adding bicycle infrastructure in and around the city in the form of a painted bike lane here or a bike lane there.  Local bike friendly Ald. Brian Pincott also told me that they city is adding 20kms of painted bike lanes per year for the next 9 years - which must be part of the $47 million over 9 years that I linked to above.  Exciting!  I have to think that they have not been announcing these improvements to keep the "complaining class" from freaking out on them for spending money on these improvements than on more roads.  Hard to say.  Regardless of the reasons why the city is keeping things quiet, they deserve our thanks and support for their courage in allocating funds to build these important parts of our bicycling network.

8. Lack of Bike Parking - Ever since Calgary introduced the Park Plus system finding a place to lock up your bike has become a nightmare.  By installing this new system, all of the standard parking meters were removed leaving a huge gap in the available bike lockup options in the core.  Bike parking was a real problem before and now is even worse.  On top of that, there is a serious lack of secure bike parking at C-Train stations meaning people are reluctant to ride to a station and leave their bikes there.  Many office buildings downtown have their own secure lockups (usually some kind of key fob or swipe card) which is fantastic.  However, many of these lockups have waiting lists that are over a year long.  There is a real need in the downtown area for a "bike station" type of facility to encourage people to cycle.  More bike parking is on the way for downtown office workers at 8th Avenue Place in the form of a secure space for 300 bikes, with a change room and showers too!  Nice!  One other item that is equally important is that the city now has requirements for new developments to include secure bike parking so perhaps going forward more spaces will be available.  Unfortunately this requirement doesn't fix the lack of parking in the popular shopping districts, that will need to be solved by working with local BRZ's and area alderman.

9. BikeBike Arrives in YYC!- Our list wouldn't be complete with some self congratulations would it?  We are very excited to be a part of the bike scene in Calgary and we hope we have made a positive impact on the conversation happening around cycling since our arrival.  Our hope is that we have shown people that cycling does not have to always be about speed, or lightweight gear, or performance - cycling can mean many different things to many different people and be as diverse as the individuals that choose to ride.  We feel blessed to have met so many amazing Calgarians and are honoured by everyones patronage and support - thank you!  Hopefully we can help inspire more people to choose cycling as a way to stay healthy, have fun, and create a more humane city.

10. What's your choice for a cycling story from 2010 in Calgary? - Tell us what you think was a significant bicycle story.

Happy New Year to all, may 2011 be even more exciting than 2010!

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