Calgary’s Cycling Strategy Downtown

by Caralyn Macdonald · 6 comments

There seems to be a misconception that the Calgary Downtown Association (CDA) does not support cycling in the downtown and that cars are the end all and be all for transportation. This could not be further from the truth. We support cycling, but want to ensure it is safe and that all aspects of executing a cycling strategy are open for discussion by all stakeholders. This way we can ensure that the new infrastructure is beneficial for all users in Calgary. Similar to everyone else, we have reviewed the information available on the city’s website and are reviewing the full strategy that is now available.

Since 2007 the CDA has supported the Centre City Mobility Plan that lists cycling along with pedestrian, transit and automobiles as an important mode of transportation within the Centre City, which includes the Downtown Core and Beltline communities.

“Cycling is an increasing popular mode of travel for people coming in to the Centre City from the city’s pathways and roads or getting around the Centre City. It is important that safe and convenient cycling facilities both on-street and off-street are provided for cyclists.” Page 92 of the Centre City Plan

Below is a copy of the letter that was sent to the Mayor’s office and all the Aldermen outlining our recommendations:

The Calgary Downtown Association (CDA) has been a supporter of the Calgary Transportation Plan and the Centre City Plan, which both promote cycling as a key to a healthy downtown through physical activity and the reduction in vehicular traffic. Cycling is an activity the expected to attract and retain employees, making the city internationally competitive. It is a worldwide initiative promoting health and sustainability, which the CDA supports. We have consistently supported the addition of bicycle storage and amenities for new developments and renovations in the core to accommodate cycling in the downtown.

Data from the two surveys conducted in January 2011 by the City indicate that 59% of Calgarians would like to cycle more often, especially if it was safer and the pathways were better integrated into more communities. It was not apparent from the survey results how many of those surveyed frequented the downtown.

The City’s engagement strategy of targeting only cyclists and the general public, excluded the business community from providing input into the development of the strategy. We would like to take this opportunity to share our observations and recommendations as well. The CDA believes that Calgarians need to understand the anticipated benefits and full costs of implementing all of the attributes of a successful bicycle network.

Our comments are categorized into four areas as follows:


The requirement for a safe environment for cyclists is paramount. We believe education is key for both cyclists and motor vehicle operators, as is enforcement of the rules of the road for both groups. Traffic signals need to be coordinated to maximize traffic flow and reduce the requirement for bicycles to stop. Four-way stops must be either upgraded to traffic signals, or all parties must stop. The under-utilized pedestrian scrambles on Barclay Parade (3rd Street), if designated as a bike route, will provide a challenge to cyclists due to the long traffic signal times where they need to come to a full stop, and are not be able to turn.

We understand that physical barriers are not being proposed for bike lanes at this time, and the CDA supports that decision. Although they may appear to provide additional safety, commuter cyclists seem to agree that they are too confining and impede a cyclist’s ability to avoid a collision or object on the roadway.

Cost of Implementation

The full cost of both the implementation of all the components of the strategy must be publicly available. This should include, but not be limited to, all the capital costs (lane markings, signage, traffic signals, bicycle hub facilities) as well as the cost of maintenance, education and enforcement. Currently, less than 2% of all trips made into the downtown daily are made by bicycles, and seasonal impacts must be considered, both to the ridership, and to the cost and frequency of maintenance.

The success of a cycling strategy from the point of sustainability must include the cost to the environment of motor vehicle traffic which has longer travel times due to the impact of cycling lanes on carrying capacity.

Access to the Downtown

Access to businesses in the downtown already has its challenges, including parking and loading. Loading access is already at a premium and must be fully considered, both for the ability of trucks to negotiate turns across bike lanes or around bike boxes. Consideration of the removal of any street parking stalls during prime business hours (9:00-15:30) should be done carefully. The Downtown Parking Strategy restricts the amount of parking available in the downtown, in an effort to increase the modal split between motor vehicles and public transit, while supporting a healthy business environment. With transit ridership nearing the percentages desired for 2024, and transit operating at near capacity at peak hours, further reductions in parking will negatively impact businesses.

An example of a street where a bike lane would provide significant challenges for business access would be Barclay Parade. There are several parking structures and office buildings which only have access from laneways in one direction, and that is onto 3rd street. In addition, there is a valet parking initiative at 3rd street and 8th avenue. If 3rd street was to be considered a north/south bike route, the CDA would suggest a single contra-flow lane for cyclists and a single lane for motor vehicles be considered, and that existing short-stay parking remain in place.

Economic Impact Study

The CDA would request that the City undertake an economic impact study to ensure that bike lanes in the downtown are fairly evaluated and measured. Experiences in other Canadian winter cities (Edmonton, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Toronto, Montreal) for usage and maintenance should be used for benchmarking.

The CDA has been in discussions with the consultants involved with the current economic impact study nearing completion in Vancouver, and we would request that a similar study be set in motion. The study should utilize comparisons of streets with bike lanes being implemented with streets having a similar mix of uses, to establish changes in business revenue, lease rates, and building values. A current state assessment should be completed prior to any implementation of the downtown on-street bike network.

In conclusion, the CDA has a strong desire for cycling in the downtown to be safe, efficient and economical for everyone, including businesses. We respectfully ask that you consider our recommendations and address our concerns.

The City’s of Calgary’s Cycling Strategy has been released and will go to the SPC of Land Use, Planning and Transportation (LPT) on Tuesday June 21, 2011.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Dustin June 10, 2022 at 10:03 pm

I own an SUV, but commute by bike to work. Some of my favourite stores like Patagonia, SportChek, and Out There have provided me with some of best allyear cycling gear.

The below survey indicates that a total of 51% of people who live in the downtown already commute by walking and biking. This indicates a high level of interest in biking, particularly in surrounding neighbourhoods.


Furthermore, 59% of all Calgarians wish to cycle more often. Currently there are ZERO bike lanes in the downtown. Also, the average cyclist in downtown is a higher income bracket.

I strongly believe there are compelling reasons that this will increase retail vibrancy and economic success of downtown Calgary, as the current situation of having ZERO bike lanes in the downtown negatively impacts mobility of the 50% of Calgarians that live within 10 km (biking distance) of the downtown business area. The other obvious opportunity is that increase cycling facilities will fit more bikes in a compact space compared to vehichles.


Caralyn Macdonald June 13, 2022 at 3:31 pm

The stats report is an interesting read especially how the civic census and federal census numbers are so different in 2006. The city has grown rapidly over the last few years and the cycling infrastructure is definitely something that is needed if done properly. We want everyone who comes to the downtown core to arrive safely and there is a noticeable north /south gap from the pathways / 10 st into the downtown. The idea of the bike hubs and the phased in approach to allow for monitoring is well received. Happy cycling


David H June 11, 2022 at 11:35 pm

Wait — your organization is miffed because only the public, and not your organization, was consulted? And your reason was that you had important insights on (1) safety, and (2) cost of implementation? Huh? Those sound like PUBLIC interests to me. Why all the whining CDA? Or are you just being a TOUCH disingenuous with this response, and all your REALLY care about is (4) economic impacts? Wow — pretty transparent if you ask me. And pretty hypocritical when you first accuse the City of not playing fair, so you turn around and do the same? Shame, shame, shame. (Keep doing this, and the public isn’t going to want to support you, and then you will have nobody to whine to.)


Caralyn Macdonald June 13, 2022 at 3:30 pm

The CDA has a strong working relationship with various departments within the city and represents more than 3000 businesses that employ over 140,000 workers in downtown Calgary. We have a responsibility to make sure that there is appropriate engagement with businesses to ensure that the cycling strategy for the City is successful for everyone, and that decisions made are not based solely on the desires of less than 1500 people who participated in surveys and a committee of 14 people. We fully support cycling and believe that an economic impact study would provide accurate current and on-going data to support appropriate and desired cycling activity in the core. The phased in approach that the report recommends from 2012 to 2015+ is ideal for our proposed study and measurement. If done properly from the beginning the Calgary cycling strategy will be huge success.


Gary Beaton June 13, 2022 at 9:19 pm

The Calgary tour de nuit Society (myself and our staff member) met with CDA (Caralyn Macdonald and Janet Jessiman) on January 18, 2022 to discuss the CtdnS proposal for dedicated bicycle lanes on 5th and 6th Avenues. CtdnS has identified the Calgary Downtown Association as a key stakeholder in our efforts to get more people cycling more often.
It is apparent that the City Centre Plan was written by non-cycling commuters and needs to be updated to take into account new mobility options that have been introduced or are being introduced in all of Canada’s other major cities. Raising the mode share of bicycles downtown can be achieved without a loss of traffic capacity on 5th and 6th.


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