Bikes on Stephen Ave

I used to live in Copenhagen. For the most part the city is overrun with cyclists. Bikes are king and everyone yields to them. Cars stop for cyclists and pedestrians let them ride on by. The only conflict happens when cyclists have to yield to other cyclists. Sometimes it gets you sworn at but then again they’re a touch spoiled.

This is true everywhere except on Stroget, the longest pedestrianized street in Europe. Bikes are allowed there but at many times of the day this is a technicality. Sure you can ride there but why would you? Stroget is a walking street. It flows at a walking speed. Unless you are an aggressive cyclist or you want to slowly pedal forward while trying to stay balanced you get off and walk your bike. At night when the crowds are thinner you can ride there no problem. I usually locked it up on the edge of Stroget closest to my house and walked the rest of the way to wherever I was going in the centre. In a city of bikes Stroget is for walking.

This brings me to Stephen Ave. It is the heart of Calgary’s downtown and is also a place for walking. I think driving on it at any time of day should be banned and trees and street furniture should take over. If you’re going to have a pedestrianized street you should fully pedestrianize it. Not at certain times of the day and not with bikes in the mix.

The other annoying thing about allowing cyclists on Stephen Ave is that it’s a cop out. The whole point of the cycle tracks is that the city is setting aside valuable street real estate for quality infrastructure. Building dedicated and separated bike lanes and committing to cycling is the way to grow it. A lane should be built on 9th Ave (which can one day connect through Inglewood) instead or the concept should be abandoned all together.

So much of Calgary’s other cycling infrastructure inhabits this unhelpful compromise zone. The lanes on 10th are nice but not separated or terribly well respected. They put cyclists in conflict with buses and parked cars. It’s not a dedicated and safe space. You don’t use a Swiss army knife to eat steak, you use a steak knife. Put cyclists in separated bike lanes or don’t bother. Stephen Ave is the classic set of clumsy compromises that don’t do much to advance cycling but allow city council to think they’re doing something.

Maybe in a few years as cycling continues to grow and the network expands the cyclists being funneled down Stephen Ave will get a route along 9th. A girl can dream.


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