Now that Council has voted to make the Cycle Track Network a permanent fixture in Calgary I would like to take this opportunity to articulate my side of the debate one last time. Again, I have never been anti cycling only anti nonsense. I believe that if the cycle track was a project that benefitted the majority of Calgarians I would support it. But the fact remains we are a winter city where over 99% of Calgarians do not commute via bicycles. We are also a city that has funded one of the largest cycle path systems in Canada. So, at some point someone has to stand up and say enough is enough.
The cycle track network decision is one of those decisions that on the surface sounds great but in reality does not make much sense. From day one I have been articulating very distinct points in regards to the Cycle Track Pilot Program:
- Calgarians were told by administration that harsh Calgary weather had no effect on bike ridership. If this is the case, then why did the pilot project capture two summer seasons and just one winter season? I believe common sense, and even the tracker numbers themselves, tell a different story. It is apparent that inclement weather does affect cycling numbers and I would like this fact to be taken into account when Council considers making the cycle track permanent. Calgary has poor weather for at least 6 months out of the year and we are adding “fair weather infrastructure” to appease less then 1% of the population. Yet, the Green Line which will move 100,000 Calgarians a day, reduce GHG emissions and forever change how Calgarians move throughout the city is overshadowed. I ask… where is this type of passion for making the Greenline a reality?!
- In order to get the cycle track pilot program approved Council was told that businesses would benefit from increased cycle traffic. Now, that the pilot program has been completed, there is nothing in the numbers saying that businesses benefited from cycle tracks. In fact, all I can find is how businesses were negatively affected. I know that the economic downturn is being used as the excuse as to why revenues are down. But I want to go on the record to say that businesses who are already struggling do not need us adding further challenges. Grandstanding that cycle tracks are good for business is simply glossing over the fact that taxpaying Calgarians are the ones who are taking the brunt of this.
- Another point that was used to get the pilot project approved by Council was the notion that road safety and traffic flow would increase once the cycle network was in place. Now, we see that collisions increased and commuting times were increased by 20%. Why are these facts being deemed a success? A decrease in safety is never acceptable and commuting times for almost 99% of commuters should not be considered a success. Increased commute times harm our environment and place additional stresses on the majority of Calgarians.
- The fact that non cyclists would begin to use bicycles in order to commute to work was another claim used to get the pilot project passed. To present I have not been shown any data that demonstrates this to be the case.
So, when I realized that Cycle Tracks were being voted in by Council I decided to try and better serve Calgarians by putting forward an amendment:
“That council remove the 8 Avenue (west of 3rd St) and relocate the 12 avenue portion of the Cycle Track Network to 10 Avenue.”
The reason I brought this amendment forward is multi pronged:
- First, the 8 Avenue and Stephen Avenue portions of the Cycle Track Pilot Project failed to meet the objectives set out in the project. The targets not met include failure to meet cyclist volume targets, failure to reduce the number of collisions on 8 Ave SW (all modes), and creating a negative effect on businesses. Since significant objectives of the one year pilot project were not met I felt that the information should be reflected in Council’s final approval of the Cycle Track project. At the very least I was hoping that the Cycle Track portion of 8 Avenue would be limited to one side of the street.
- The 12 Avenue section of the Cycle track barely met the pilot project objectives and increased vehicle travel time beyond target levels. Increasing commuting times harms the environment and places extra stress on the majority of commuters. As well, given the planned Greenline development for this roadway it makes little sense to spend taxpayer money on a permanent cycle track only to have to have it removed. I would have rather seen this section of cycle track moved to 10 Avenue where the cycle track originally was located.
- It has been clear from the beginning that Administration wanted the Cycle Track Network in their portfolio and pushed hard to ensure it came to fruition. Instead, I believe investment in projects should be based on what makes sense for Calgarians and not on preconceived biases and goals. This idea that Calgary must have Cycle Tracks in order to be a “more progressive” city is an example of poorly reasoned planning at the expense of taxpayers. Council should only be allocating funding for the sections of the Cycle Track that have proven to be a success. The failure to approach this project in any other manner sends the message to Calgarians that we will conduct pilot projects for the purpose of pageantry and not merit.