The cycle tracks have officially opened and they are getting noticed in the international media. Predictably an exciting and ambitious cycling project is bringing the eyes of the urban design world to Calgary. Projects like this make Calgary seem like an exciting and fun place to live or to move to. Instead of being that dingy oil town we are that place with ambitious and progressive urban projects.
This quote is from an article on People For Bikes exclaiming the benefits of going for a big network instead of a random street at a time.
One of North America’s unlikeliest and most ambitious protected bike lane projects is now on the ground.
To me it doesn’t feel that unlikely. Calgary has been building up to it for a while and Bike Calgary showed that they are organized and can throw their weight around. If Calgary had a municipal structure like Vancouver our progressive inner city councillors would be even farther along than they are. Calgary has been building semi-committed bike lanes for a while (see 10th Street or the terribly designed partially separated bike lanes near Northland Mall). Most of these lanes force cyclists to compete with buses, which is a nice way to discourage cyclists or crush them.
These are fully committed and quality. They are a lot safer and a lot more appealing. The numbers are great so far, as they should be. If you build it they will come.
The one part of the article I found strange was the reference to Calgary’s transit system.
For Calgary, the question will be whether a connected downtown sequence of comfortable bikeways will lead to meaningful change in just one year, especially in the absence of the bike sharing system that would make the bike network useful to users of Calgary’s above-average public transit system.
Maybe it’s because I’ve been living in the paradise of Translink’s world class system of frequent and reliable buses and the Skytrain but Calgary’s transit doesn’t seem above average. I guess it depends on what you consider average and there are many places in North America worse off than Calgary. Transit here is unreliable, badly funded and infrequent. You can miss a bus and wait for half an hour, forty-five minutes or an hour sometimes. Many areas have limited bus service. Buses are often behind schedule or don’t show up at all. The C-Train is great but only serves a few areas. There are at least eight lines in desperate need of being built. Maybe I should make a post of my dream C-Train map. There was one on Reddit a while back that I would make some slight changes to but liked the shape of. Hopefully Notley will give Calgary the funding to build at least one or two more lines. If Calgary Transit is above average that says something really sad about the average.
I also hate the obsession people have with bike shares. Most Calgarians already own bikes. They just don’t feel safe riding them around. Building cycling infrastructure that people feel safe using is way more effective than sinking a bunch of money into a bike share that puts inexperienced people with no helmets on unsafe roads. Bike shares are really expensive and usually lose money. It is way better to spend the money on infrastructure that people want to ride on.
Hopefully this buzz will prove to some of the haters that the cycle tracks are great for Calgary.