Calgary: Is the proposed First St. SE cycle track unsafe?

Guest Blog: Lawrence Braul, Chief Executive Officer, Trinity Place Foundation of Alberta

Calgary's Cycle Track discussion has prompted me to speak out on an issue that will have direct impact on the seniors who reside at 602 1 St. Street S.E. The Cycle Track is an unsafe design and represents a hazard to seniors living at Carter Place. The impact will also be felt by visitors and by service providers who regularly attend at this location.  

Any person using the loading zone will have to load and unload closer to moving vehicles and they will have to cross the Cycle Track to enter Carter Place. Can you imagine EMS, Fire department vehicles, Moving Vans, buses, Handi-Buses, visitors, and delivery vehicles all trying to use a three stall loading zone? Imagine the double parking, congestion, and frustration.

DESIGN MATTERS

The Transportation department has agreed that there is a significant risk of conflict at this location but they have not provided Trinity Place Foundation with a revision of the design that is more acceptable. They were opposed to moving the Cycle Track to the west side of the street. Why is an unsafe design being proposed?

STRATEGY MATTERS

The Mayor and Council needs to find other alternatives that will ease the conflict and develop a five year plan to enhance cycling in Calgary. The current strategy, and its latest “Pilot Project” approach, has resulted in suspicion and it does not effectively promote urban cycling. In fact, the opposite has occurred. Opponents of Cycle Tracks have been pitted against the advocates and this “win-lose” strategy is counter-productive to the important objective of promoting cycling in Calgary.  

SAFETY FIRST

The purpose of a Cycle Track is safety for cyclists and pedestrians. I had the privilege of getting very acquainted with the cycling infrastructure of Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec City in 2012. My son and I spent three days each in these wonderful cities and then cycled to our next destination, accumulating 1250 kms in total.

Ottawa has a very well-developed pathway system with no Cycle Track infrastructure but it is a very safe place to ride. When you cycle in Montreal, the “mecca” for urban cycling in North America, you need to navigate a route that is sometimes interrupted by a block or two of shared lanes. It is a system that seems to be evolving and slowly improving through the much larger downtown core of Montreal. Quebec City is a pathway system with a lot of shared lane infrastructure to link pathways. All three cities are beautiful examples of how to creatively include bicycles into an urban transportation system. These cities prove that there is more than one solution to developing cycling infrastructure.

BUILD ON THE SAFE INFRASTRUCTURE THAT EXISTS

As Ottawa and Quebec City demonstrate, the pathway system is a very effective method of moving cycle traffic. Calgary’s excellent system must be enhanced and improved, especially after the damage caused by the June 2013 flood. No other prairie city has the cycling infrastructure that Calgary has in place. Try cycling in Saskatoon, Winnipeg and Regina where there is virtually no bike infrastructure. Edmonton lags Calgary as well. We can build on what we have because it is a solid base.

EAST VILLAGE NEEDS TO BE CONNECTED TO A SAFE SYSTEM

I have spoken to a year round cyclist who uses different routes daily to get to his downtown worksite. He often uses 4th Street S.E. even if it is slightly "out of the way". He finds 4TH Street less intimidating on a bike. As the East Village densifies, more riders will want to connect to the east side of downtown, including the rapidly developing Victoria Park. The 4th Street S.E. corridor can accommodate a Cycle Track and it can link to 11th and 12th ave and Stampede Park and the pathway system on the Elbow River.  This alternative should be explored, even it if is a little further east than some would prefer. It is also the safer route for cyclists.

THE “GRAND SCHEME” VERSUS INCREMENTAL IMPROVEMENTS

I favour incremental improvements to cycling infrastructure over the next five years. This should include repairs and expansion of damaged cycling paths as the first priority. One North-South Cycle Track on 4th Street S.E. can be added as budget permits, giving cyclists’ two options to enter the downtown from the existing pathway system. East-West options need to be developed on 10th, 11th or 12th.

These common sense and affordable solutions can enhance the very good bike infrastructure that presently exists.

LAST WORD

Removing the cycle track on 1st Street S.E. from any further consideration also eliminates a serious risk of conflict and injury with pedestrians and seniors. Let's let safety and common sense prevail.

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