Bike lanes in Eau Claire Park causing concern

While the long-awaited redevelopment of West Eau Claire Park has Calgarians excited, some are concerned over some aspects of the plan, including the construction of a new bike lane.

In addition to updates such as more spaces for picnicking and recreation, the revitalization project will see a separate path for bikers running adjacent to existing pathway south of the Bow River.

Project manager in charge of the parks redevelopment, Joyce Tang, says the new lane was made her teams’ top priority after they listened to concerns from community members in area.

“The hope in building an additional lane for cyclists is to give pedestrians room to move around freely while staying safe from oncoming cyclists,” said Tang.

While the new lane may be a priority for some, there are those who believe that all that is needed is simple common courtesy for fellow commuters.

Stephanie Aster frequently rollerblades along the Bow River and says cyclists should stick to the existing bike lanes on the north side of the river.

“It’s just a general sense of awareness and usership in the city that I think is really lacking,” Aster said.

“We’re all out here trying to do our own individual sport, so respect that.

“Do we actually need to spend the money and time on a new bike lane? No, I think we need a lesson in ethics,” said Aster.

The project plans to open to the public for full access by summer of 2018.

For commuters like Brandon Miles, who uses the path daily as part of his walk to work, that’s not soon enough.

“The river walkway is unusable and has caused complicated access to Prince Island Park when coming off of the Peace Bridge,” said Miles.

“And that makes me frustrated when trying to get to my job on time.

“Rather than redeveloping the path section by section, they have destroyed the whole network as one unit, altering park usage and the general atmosphere while construction takes place,” Miles said.

Pedestrians walking through construction: Calgarians walk through the construction site at West Eau Claire Park in Calgary on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017. The construction is in part of a redevelopment plan to enhance the city’s parks, making them more accessible to the public. (Photo by Mitchell Danser/The Press)

The construction of the bike lane isn’t the only thing to have caused Calgarians to be concerned.

Forty-one fully grown trees are planned to be removed as part of the redevelopment plan.

“The removal of the old deciduous trees will alter this space for at least the next 20 years, as shade coverage and essence of beauty will be stripped away,” said Miles.

“Naturally, it will take decades to restore the river walk to what it once was, that of a serene setting of a beautiful path situated under the old growth of the tree canopies.”

“The purpose of the tree removal is to accommodate flood improvements that will protect downtown Calgary in the future,” explained Tang.

“We developed a tree compensation plan to replant two trees for every tree lost in order to replace lost coverage created by the existing tree canopy,” said Tang.

According to the Tree Information page on the City of Calgary’s website, many of the removed trees will be moved to playgrounds, as well as recreating fish habitats affected by the flooding of 2013.

“The community has been favourable in our efforts in building flood resiliencies,” Tang said.

“Instead of building a standard river barrier, we’re going to have a huge seating area that people will have access to for picnics.”

“I’m excited to see redevelopment of that space into a more formal places that can hold more people,” said John Hamilton, who lives close to the river in Eau Claire and is looking forward to having a place where his grandchildren can play safely.

“The picnic spot with more visibly lit areas makes far more sense than a mound of grass coming off the Peace Bridge into Eau Claire,” said Hamilton.

“It’s practical and will draw a number of community members together.”

The hope in building an additional lane for cyclists is to give pedestrians room to move around freely while staying safe from oncoming cyclists. – Joyce Tang

Construction in West Eau Claire began on Sept. 1 and will continue through the winter into 2018.

For a map of Eau Claire Park’s pathway closures and detours, check out the City’s website.

About Mitchell Danser 3 Articles
As a writing and communications major in the journalism program at SAIT, Mitchell Danser worked as a reporter for The Press during the 2017-18 academic year.