Let’s put the proposed Macleod Tr. bike track to the test.

Nobody should fear a test unless they have reason to believe that they will fail it.

To say that taking a lane from Macleod Tr. Southbound (1 St. SE) in Calgary’s downtown in order to give the space to a tiny minority of bicycle commuters is a radical plan would be a gross understatement.

Calgary transportation planning appears to be actually trying to go ahead and take away 25% of the lane space from a piece of roadway that services 25,000 vehicles per day. This initiative appears to be based on some very weak speculation and projections of how much further Calgary’s traffic will be congested or how many new cyclists such a plan could draw. It doesn’t take a deep study to know that the claim by the transportation department that such a move would only increase people’s commute time by one minute to know that such a statement is nothing less than utter hogwash.

Calgary taxpayers paid tens of millions of dollars to build the roadways that will be covered by this rather aggressive cycle track network plan. It is not too much to ask to see some simple testing conducted to assure us that the impact upon downtown traffic will be reasonable and that these invisible thousands of potential cyclists will indeed pop out of the woodwork?

We should put the Macleod Tr. bike track to the test by temporarily setting the track up and getting true, hard figures on how well this may or may not work. Again, when we are talking about 10s of millions of dollars in infrastructure at risk here, the cost of such a test is negligible. No more cute artist’s depictions of how the new street would look. No more projected numbers on how many people would give up their cars in favor of a bicycle. Let’s lay down the barriers and see how it goes.

The required barriers are cheap and doubtless the city keeps them in stock for construction projects.

barrierThere are plastic barriers that are very cheap and easy to install as well.

plasticbarr

For intersections, temporary lights have been used on construction projects for decades. We are in the days where a $50 cell phone can store and play an entire feature film. Programing temporary traffic signals is pretty easy.

stoplightWe will need a little painting done. We know that we have spare city staff as they used 10 of them to paint the simple little green box below and now are all fully qualified in road painting.

bikeWith one weekend of construction we could take the lane from Macleod Tr. South and give it to those masses of awaiting cyclists. Let’s say we do this in May so the proponents can’t use the weather excuse and let’s say we leave the barriers up for a full 30 days.

With such a simple and reasonable test we can find out definitively just how traffic will be impacted by this proposed bike track. We will also find out how many new cycle commuters will be drawn to the new track. Most importantly, we will give commuters and businesses downtown a good taste of what the cycle plan has in mind for them as they target all of Calgary’s busiest central roadways for more cycle tracks.

The cycle proponents should be thrilled with such a concept. They are confident that most Calgarians want to give up main roadways for cycle tracks. They are confident that thousands of auto commuters are just waiting to cycle to work every day but have not done so due to the lack of a track. This experiment should prove the cycle advocates correct right?

Imagine how easy it will be to sell future bike tracks once Calgarians see that traffic is not impacted and that the bike lane looks like a scene from a Norman Rockwell painting with commuters on bicycles mingling with happy families all riding together with beatific smiles on their faces as they enjoy these vibrant, sustainable lanes!

rockwell-bicycle-sm-237x300

Doing tests and pilot projects for major changes to roads is actually standard practice in many Calgary transportation initiatives despite their not doing this with the bike track plans.  When I was living in the Northwest a couple years ago, temporary barriers were installed along 4 st NW as a pilot project for traffic calming. The barriers were changed and moved a couple times after real impacts were measured and citizen input was taken into account (people in the neighborhood were not pleased).

On Macleod Tr. South, a pilot project was undertaken to change morning congestion around Avenida as things had been bottlenecking. As can be seen with this detailed report, the pilot project led to a significant saving in commuter time and was made permanent. Had the project not aided traffic flow, it simply would have been scrapped. This is simple good planning. There is no reason why such pilots and tests can’t be applied to cycle tracks.

Edmonton Trail and Memorial have both seen major pilot projects on traffic flow and doubtless every major road in the city has seen some testing at one time or another.

Let’s put this whole debate to rest and put the case for cycle tracks at the expense of major road arteries to rest once and for all!

I suspect that the cycle track proponents will adamantly oppose the concept of such a test for the reason stated in the very first sentence of this posting.

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Reality on the impacts of Macleod Trail lane closure for bike lanes

Macleod Trail

One of the most vapid cases to be made in justifying the closure of major road arteries is the old: “Auto commuters should support this as every car taken off the road makes more room for them!”

If indeed Calgary’s proposed cycle infrastructure was complimentary to the existing roadways that statement would be true. Since Calgary’s proposed cycle tracks are all coming at the direct expense of existing roadways the above contention of car removal is simply BS.

The section of Macleod Trail (among the busy roads targeted) that the city wants to close a lane on moves about 25,000 cars per day. When transit is taken into account (bus riders will have their commute times extended by this too) we are looking at roughly 1.3 occupants per vehicle out there for about 32,500. Now in removing 25% of the roadway, we will be displacing 8125 people. As that section of road is one-way, we need not cut the number in half as most will only travel that stretch once in a day. Let’s be generous and make the figure 8000 then.

For the proposed bike track on Macleod Trail to actually reduce traffic we would need to see at least 8000 people who drive only on Macleod Trail alone to give up their cars and ride their bikes to work.

Reality dictates that we would only see a few hundred people leave their cars in winter at best on Macleod Trail and lets be generous and say 1000 in summer. The remaining 31,000+ commuters will be jammed into a much smaller roadway which in turn will extend their daily commute times which will lead to more idling and emissions and leads to reduced productivity and quality home time for daily commuters.

This is not theory folks, this is simple math.

Until the cycle proponents can convince us that nearly 25% of commuters will give up their cars and ride bikes to work all year round the case that bike tracks at the expense of automotive lanes is nothing more than pap.

 

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The business of bike lanes

sales_decrease

We already know that taking automotive lanes out of arteries like Macleod Trail and 12 Ave for bike lanes will greatly tie up our already congested traffic in Calgary. Despite that, city planners are planning to destroy that expensive infrastructure that we paid for in order to service a handful of cycle commuters. Aside from the traffic catastrophe, how will these cycle tracks impact local businesses?

Recently Calgary’s fervent bicycle advocates have been trumpeting an opinion piece by the head of Calgary Economic Development that claims that cycle-tracks that come at the expense of automotive lanes are good for local businesses. It should be remembered that Calgary Economic Development is essentially an extension of Calgary city hall (it is funded by city hall) and it is not a group that represents businesses despite a name that may imply such. The Calgary Chamber of Commerce or the Downtown Business Association on the other hand actually do work with downtown businesses and the Downtown Business Association has already expressed concern for the agresive and poorly planned expansion of bike tracks throughout downtown.

The sources that keep claiming that bike lanes are good for business tend to be almost exclusively environmentalist and cycle advocate blogs.

When actual businesses are asked how bike lanes have impact their businesses we hear an utterly different story.

Who should we believe? Environmental activists or the business owners who are actually being impacted? Would all these business owners be lying and wanting to harm their own bottom lines? If bike lanes were so good for business, somebody had better tell all those business owners below.

In Ottawa the stories are piling up on how bike lanes on Laurier have been detrimental to their businesses from restaurants to a copy shop.

In Vancouver it was found that bike lanes reduced business revenues by 11%.

The full Vancouver bike lane study is below and well worth a read. Despite their claims, it appears that cyclists are chintzy shoppers that only made up 8% of customers on the streets with separated lanes. The cost of the lanes to local businesses was estimated at $2.4 million per year in sales.

Stantec report on study of impact on business from separated bike lanes

A Toronto eatery has been terribly impacted by bike lanes. I guess the logic is the old: you have to break a few eggs….

Not good when the egg being broken by cycle ideologues is your small business.

In Halifax bike lanes have damaged small local businesses.

Even in New York City zealous cycle advocates have managed to get bike lanes on Broadway with catastrophic results. 

With a short trip down google one can easily find a myriad of these kinds of stories from Australia (where at least the weather cooperates) to the USA.

Instead of listening to actual business owners who are looking at their bottom lines, cycle advocates are citing pap from sites like “treehugger.com” (yes there really is such a site and they are using it).

If these bike lanes are so bang-up-good for businesses, why don’t we see these business owners themselves out in the streets demanding them? The answer is that business owners are bound by the hard realities of making a profit rather than the fuzzy ideologies of the anti-car set.

The Stantec report on bike lane impacts on business (linked again below) is one of the most comprehensive of it’s kind that has followed up on the placements of separated bike lanes in Canada. Every councilor should read that in full before considering accepting the insane bike lane plan that calls for closing a lane on Macleod Tr. among other critical road lanes.

Stantec report on study of impact on business from separated bike lanes

 

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