Downtown cycle tracks just the beginning, city says

The work has just begun on the city’s burgeoning bicycle track system.

With city council’s decision in December to make the 2016 cycle track project a permanent part of the downtown transportation system, the city’s transportation planners are getting ready to launch a major public consultation on future cycle track development.

Katherine Glowacz, the active transportation planner for the city, says a full review of the existing city-wide cycle track plan will be undertaken this year.

“We will be engaging with the community over the next year, and bringing that report to council in 2018 to update the 10-year-old plan,” Glowacz said in an interview.

“Here we see where the council and the people of Calgary want cycling paths to go in the future,” she explained.

A couple of potential routes are already on the city’s radar, Glowacz added.

“In the future we are looking at places like the Northmount Drive project, connecting to 10 Street N.W., and eventually to the University of Calgary.”

Phase two of the Bowness project is also being looked at, she said.

“In Bowness, we’ll be looking to develop paths on Main Street, and connecting the existing pathways to it.

“All of these projects, when we engage with the community, we look at how we can improve all forms of transit,” Glowacz said.

“We are not just going to come into an area, and force a bike path in.”

On Dec. 19, council voted 10-4 in favour of making the cycle paths pilot project in the core permanent.

The 18-month project had focused on a number of cycle tracks, pathways and bike-friendly streets in the downtown area.

“In piloting the project we’ve seen more riders and more people using it as an option,” said Glowacz.

Over the course of the pilot project, general interest and support for the bike paths has increased.

The city also conducted surveys during the course of the pilot project, which found that merchants and pedestrians within the core agreed the increased amount of access means more business and opportunities for Calgarians.

That was reflected in the council vote. The original proposal to do the pilot project was approved by council by eight votes to seven.

The December decision was generally welcomed by the local cycling community, with some qualifications.

“I think there are a lot of different aspects to this, like with any infrastructure, it should allow a whole bunch of new activity,” such as bike couriers, said Joe Orum, a Calgary area biking enthusiast.

Orum is a long time biker who believes that environmental concerns will only increase the support for cycling in the area.

“Seems like interest has just increased over the last 10 years,” said Orum.

Paths help activate part of population that wouldn’t normally have access to a vehicle. – Joe Orum

“There is controversy over the bike lanes, and I feel that plugs into the green economy push to reduce your carbon footprint, and everything else, he said.

“Paths help activate part of the population that wouldn’t normally have access to a vehicle, and for one upside, I think it gives a lot of people better chances of employment if they don’t have access to vehicles.

“I think there are upsides, and downsides to this though,” said Orum.

“If bikes are designed as a part of civil planning from the get go, great, but as an after thought, and if its infrastructure that is already stressed, then there is going to be a problem.”

About Kenneth Maxwell 3 Articles
As a writing and communications major in the journalism program at SAIT, Kenneth Maxwell is working as a reporter for The Press during the 2016-17 academic year.