Jun 10

Calgary’s Cycling Strategy Downtown

by Caralyn Macdonald · 7 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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