Now that the Transportation & Transit committee has elected to bring the Cycle Network Pilot program before Council on December 19th I want to take this opportunity to articulate my side of the debate. It is not that I am anti cycling like many have said on social media. I just think that the cycle track network represents a much bigger issue. I believe we are a council that sometimes makes decisions for the sake of looking “more progressive”. This type of action is all fine and dandy but if it is not grounded in reality it does come with a cost. By making decisions that sound good in theory means that Calgarians must foot the bill. The cycle track network decision is one of those decisions that on the surface sounds great but in reality does not make much sense. So then, by default, the cycle track becomes a way for me to highlight how Council can become disconnected from ordinary tax payers.
As you read this article keep in mind we are talking about infrastructure spending on a project that services less then 1% of a the population in a winter city.
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 traffic would flow better once the cycle network was in place. Now, we see that an increase of 20% on commute times is a success? Why is an increase in commuting times for almost 99% of commuters 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.
I would also like to take this opportunity to show how two areas of the cycle track in particular did not have favourable results and I hope Council takes this into account on December 19th.
- in 2014 overall = 380 trips per day. Target pilot goal = 1200. Pilot results = 640
- in 2014 West of 8th Street = 480/day. Target pilot goal = 1000. Pilot results = 480
- in 2014 West of 3rd Street = 920/day. Target pilot goal = 1800. Pilot results = 1240
- in 2014 West of 3 Street = 220/day. Target pilot goal = 700. Pilot results = 470
- in 2014 west of 2 Street = 190/day. Target pilot goal = 800. Pilot results = 870*
- in 2014 West of 8 Street = 140/day. Target pilot goal = 600. Pilot results = 890*
*although over target I would argue non material increase not worth the cost