Apr 4, 2011

Are We On The Cusp Of A Cycling Renaissance In Calgary?

There has been a lot of chatter in recent months about The City of Calgary's Comprehensive Cycling Strategy and whether we might finally see some progress towards getting safe, onstreet cycling infrastructure built here.

Am I dreaming in technicolour?  I don't think so.

Thankfully, this issue seems to be getting the attention it deserves and is being discussed by more than just existing bike commuters.  Community associations are asking questions, civic engagement groups are asking questions, and local politicians and city managers are discussing the issue openly.  People are talking about bikes!

A citizen's committee has been working with the City's Transportation Department to craft the strategy, which included an online survey (results here) and a telephone survey (results here) that produced some very encouraging results, namely, that 60% of "interested but concerned" Calgarians want to cycle more and would if they felt safer.

Even a local reporter is posing the question today.

So, all of this begs the question - is the City serious enough about this issue to actually fund real transportational cycling infrastructure?  Well, the answer may be found here - Mayor Nenshi's campaign pledge regarding transportation - and some of his words from his Better Ideas website (I think the site been taken down) -

3. Invest in Cycling and Pedestrian Infrastructure.  People may think that investing in cycling and pedestrian infrastructure is ineffective in a cold climate. But in practice, Calgary’s climate would allow properly built and maintained facilities to serve Calgarians year-round. There are parts of the inner city where 50% of people commute every day by foot, yet basic infrastructure like sidewalks and crosswalks are worn out or lacking on a number of blocks. Every time we make it possible for one more Calgarian to get out of their car, it reduces congestion for everyone, even those who must drive With this in mind, Naheed will take the following steps to improve bicycle and pedestrian systems in Calgary:

a. Improve the existing park-n-bike system. Provide lockable storage so that people can leave bikes overnight and explore the implementation of a bike-sharing program such as that in Montreal.

b. Expand the dedicated bike lane network. While Calgary has decent recreational biking infrastructure, we are severely lacking in commuter infrastructure. We need to implement the proposed road standards in the Calgary Transportation Plan that call for real bicycle lanes along major urban roads. A line drawing of a bicycle on the road is not enough. We need safe, grade separated bike lanes on some roads, as well as adjustments to some intersections (e.g. allowing bikes to go through before cars turn right) to make cycling an option for people who don’t consider themselves hardcore cyclists.

c. Invest in repairing and improving streetscapes in inner city communities. Pedestrians, like cyclists and motorists, need comfortable and safe environments to travel. New communities like East Village and The Bridges were built with great, pedestrian friendly streets. Older communities like the Beltline need City leadership to see public realm infrastructure brought up to these standards.

We seem to have elected a Mayor that understands that bike infrastructure benefits everyone - including motorists - and we seem to have at least 5 (urban) city councillours who are very open with their support for more bicycling infrastructure.

The completed strategy is due to be published on the City's cycling page on May 13 2011 with the report going to the Standing Policy Committee on May 18 2011.  The stupidly tight timing between the report's release and it's appeance in council is a matter for another discussion however, there appears to be some momentum building towards the creation of a small number of forums for interested citizens to review the strategy and discuss next steps.

This is where you come in.  Yes, you!

If you want to see more bike lanes and safer conditions on our roads you NEED to speak up.  There are a few ways you can do this -

1.  Write your Councillour and Mayor and tell them your personal reasons why you want to see the strategy funded and implemented.
2.  Attend the forums.  Information on them will probably be available through Civic Camps' Discussion Group and on BikeCalgary.org.
3.  Talk to your friends, family, and co-workers that are into bikes and let them know that we need all hands on deck to apply pressure to our elected officials.
4.  Lastly, get involved anyway you can!

One of the easiest ways to be involved is obvious - ride your bike!

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