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YYC cycling infrastructure

Calgary cycling project met with disapproval

Anyone who has been to Amsterdam knows that cyclists own the city. It is a part of their identity. You’ll find mothers riding bikes with toddlers stacked five high on the way to the grocery store, as well as the elderly pedalling through the 500 kilometres of impressive bicycle infrastructure. Cyclists take precedence there. 

After City Council decided that a pilot project regarding cycle tracks downtown would become permanent this past December, it seems some Calgary residents need more convincing than Amsterdammers in welcoming cyclist culture, with the project receiving a 33 per cent disapproval rate. 

We could all agree that through cycling emissions could be reduced in a city that is often blamed for having a large ecological footprint, and our quality of life would be improved through living healthy active lifestyles. 

Though, there are some benefits that are murkier and often overlooked by objectors.

For instance, many businesses located along the cycle tracks on 5th street, 8th, 9th and 12th avenue are concerned with their customer’s parking spots being taken away by the new infrastructure, thereby decreasing their sales.

However, “It was never a guarantee that the people who parked in those spots were customers of those stores specifically,” said Mike Morrison, a blogger and author of Calgary by Bike, a travel size guide featuring a bike map and must see destinations in Calgary. 

He also said there is a common misconception that those who ride bikes don’t have money to spend, which is untrue. Many just choose to ride their bike rather than drive a car simply because it’s faster, not because it’s cheaper. Although, it doesn’t hurt.

A study out of Münster, Germany, revealed that cyclists are actually better customers than motorists. Cyclists visit grocery stores 11 times per month on average while motorists visit seven times. This is due to the fact that cyclists purchase smaller quantities of products each time they shop, as they don’t have the cargo space to transport the same amount of goods home and thereby have to return to the store more often. This means they often fall victim to the temptations subjected onto them by businesses. 

Cyclists spend more money. Therefore, businesses should embrace the tracks outside their shops.

Morrison specifically mentioned Alforno Bakery and Café. He said they “just owned it,” in regards to the track build outside their doors. The café is located on 7th street SW, it provides air for bicycle tires, plenty of bike parking and lots of vintage bicycle décor. It has proven quite popular among cyclists in the city.

Secondly, like businesses, motorists have been concerned with less parking as well as more difficult commutes on core streets having to weave around perhaps inexperienced, rule-breaking cyclists. 

“There has actually been a net increase in parking spaces available, not to mention, the decrease in traffic congestion with less cars on the road,” said Pooja Thakore, who works in communications with the City of Calgary.

Bike infrastructure has been proven to be the most cost effective solution to keeping congestion down. In Portland, Ore., a particularly bike friendly city, it was discovered that their entire bicycle infrastructure costs them less than just one mile of freeway.

In Calgary, “The longest delay seen was just 90 seconds,” said Thakore referring to motorists traveling on 12th avenue during morning rush hour, which is nothing to go home and cry.

Motorists can also worry less about amateur cyclists getting in their way due to the physical barrier that is bike infrastructure and cyclists can feel safer.

Without physical barriers, 64 per cent of people didn’t feel safe on the roads and they have good reason, as the rate of injury is 27 per cent higher, according to www.bikecalgary.org

“I’m experienced, so I know my rights [as a cyclist]” said Morrison.

But, infrastructure just keeps it safer for everyone, and now there’s a lot more families taking advantage of the bike network.

“The barriers provide the extra protection that paint doesn’t,” said Thakore.

There were 1.2 million trips taken during the pilot project according to counters that were embedded in the pavement. And, after 80 different measures were considered, the project is here to stay and cyclists motorists and business owners should be wary of false misconceptions and welcome the beneficial project.

Since the 1970s and 1980s Morrison said motorists were protective and were under the impression that by implementing bike infrastructure, society was basically telling them to stop driving.

But, fear not motorists, because according to Morrison we just need to switch the conversation to, “I’m biking, help me stay safe.”

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