Step one on bicycle-track network down. Now it’s time to pursue some data.

snow-covered bikes

I think that just about everybody is relieved that the heated debates on the aggressive cycle-track plan in Calgary are done for now. I had hoped for an even further scaled down pilot than this but we have to respect the vote of council. I had proposed months ago that we put the Macleod Trail portion of the network to the test months ago (before the transportation department backed down and agreed to propose a pilot). City council wisely rejected the Macleod Trail proposal and has agreed to put a few more streets to the test.

Believe it or not, I am happier with a pilot than with a total rejection. A properly run pilot will settle many questions that would have remained in the air had the entire network been dumped. If the whole thing had been tossed out, we would have just seen a similar proposal a year later and so on and so on. The cycle obsessed are tireless that way. We need a solid test and figures now.

One of the biggest bones of contention in the whole plan was the constant inconsistency in data and figures coming from the Calgary transportation department. One day we hear of 1200 cyclists, then 12,000 trips, then 1060 per day on one track, then 1160 on another street. The cost figures ricocheted around like a Ping-Pong ball as well as the transportation department tried to hi-ball the costs of a trial and low-ball the cost of a permanent network. Having Blanka Bracic speak for the transportation department made it very easy to seriously question the objectivity of the department.

We now have an opportunity to pursue some real numbers. While many (most?) pilots of this nature never get removed, this cycle network is new and more unique. Scrutiny will be expected and rigorous.

We need to get some accurate baseline numbers and then we will need reliable follow-up numbers. We need to hear where the bar will be set in order to consider this plan a success or a failure. Impacts on traffic and businesses must be taken into account and measurements of utilization need to be taken accurately. No single hour measurements in August to represent an entire year for an example.

Good data should be easy to replicate and we can rest assured I will be working to ensure that counts are checked.

If indeed the cycle tracks lead to the Nirvana that proponents suggest, then there should be nothing to fear in this pilot. If I see heavy usage of the tracks all year round with minimal impact on traffic I don’t see why I would oppose making these tracks permanent.

People had better expect though that if there is not a great surge in all year round cycle commuters on these tracks that there will be a stronger push than ever to get rid of them as they are covering roadway infrastructure that cost 10s of millions of dollars to build. If data does not support all of the flowery projections that we have heard from the cycle lobby in the last couple months, we can confidently get rid of the tracks and shut them up for at least a decade.

The test is coming. No more projections and predictions. The cycle pushers next goal had best be to get new butts on bike seats if they want to see these tracks remain. Time will tell.

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Baffling with B.S. on Bike Lanes

As the debate on Calgary’s ridiculous plan to place bicycle tracks throughout downtown at the expense of major and busy laneways comes to a peak, the utter pap flying from our esteemed city bureaucrats is flying hard and heavy.

Calgary already has the most expensive parking rates in Canada which is terrible for downtown businesses. People need not wonder why Calgary’s downtown lacks vibrancy among tourists and shoppers when it costs so much to simply park. The city of Calgary has purposely throttled the number of parking spaces downtown for years and we are seeing the effects of this.

The ludicrous bicycle network plan will remove yet another 260 or so parking spaces from downtown Calgary which are rather dearly needed. Businesses and senior’s centers are concerned over the loss of loading zones and parking spots in front of their establishments and rightly so.

Fear not though! Listen to our tall foreheads in the Parking Authority: “Overall, 260 parking spaces would be lost, but the parking authority
says it can create 350 new ones simply by rethinking available space
during non-peak hours.”

Just what the hell is “rethinking” available space? Do we have it or do we not? Are these spaces that are usually removed during rush hour and now would choke the rush further? Are these magic spaces that nobody can see until somebody “rethinks” them?

Really folks, is it any wonder that councillors express such frustration when city bureaucrats feed them such clear and utter BS.

Considering Calgary’s already economically depressing and¬†embarrassingly high parking rates, why the hell hasn’t the Parking Authority already “rethought” these apparent hundreds of parking spaces that are just laying around??

There are no good stats to show any reasonable demand for this bicycle plan and it is clear that the city bureaucrats will say pretty much anything to try and pass this idiotic plan. That is of course because the plan is not pro-bicycle, it is simply anti-car. The fact that the Parking Authority will hold back parking spaces purposely despite our insanely high parking costs pretty much proves that.

This is turning into an utter mess. Let’s hope that our city council wisely tosses this inane bicycle plan into the dustbin where it belongs this Monday.

We can “rethink” and add those 350 parking spaces downtown without adding an unnecessary bicycle mess.


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We can’t test separated cycle tracks while using “discovery math”


The best that can be gathered from the latest figures and proposals from Calgary Transportation in their almost bizarrely obsessive pursuit of a downtown cycle network is that they have utterly no clue about the numbers and figures for anything and are willing to claim just about anything. The numbers change weekly and we really can no longer trust their source.

The ridiculous and utterly unfounded 12,000 cycle trip per day bullshit was being trotted out by our bureaucrats in city hall almost at the same time they are claiming that a separated cycle track network would triple current trips downtown from 1,500 to 4,500! Pardon me? Which is it this hour? 12,000 and 1,500 are rather far apart.

The bias from Calgary Transportation in this issue is getting pretty blatant and completely out of hand. These people are supposed to at least make a token effort to get objective figures and plan based on them. Just as mockery ensued when a prominent cycle advocate (and city employee) tried to claim that over 1,000 people per day use the 7 St. cycle track, people now can only roll their eyes when they see the latest round of wild projections and prognostications from Calgary’s clearly inept transportation department.

The department is trying to both suck and blow as they highball costs for testing while lowballing figures for ongoing maintenance required to keep the lanes. While it cost over $300,000 just to remove snow from the 7th St. track alone, the city is claiming that it would only be around $500,000 per year to maintain the entire proposed network? Sorry Blanca but I smell bullshit again.

The ludicrous cycle track proposal is going to cost well over $10,000,000. That much pretty much everybody can agree on.

We need real figures, real testing and we need to face the simple reality that the city of Calgary transportation department is way too biased and inept to do this job properly.

Independent counts for traffic need to be conducted over the course of an entire year and encompassing more than just peak utilization times. Traffic impact studies need to be done that determine more than just BS ways to claim that the impact of lane removals on existing commuter times will be minimal.

The only real traffic benefits that have been seen with cycle infrastructure so far has been almost solely due to optimization of traffic signals. It has to be asked then: why the hell aren’t the traffic signals already set up to optimize traffic flow??? Fix the signals first (without the bike tracks), then get traffic flow reports, then one can consider adding a cycle track and seeing just how badly it bungs up the works.

Real counts need to be done and then real goals need to be set. What would be considered a success with the cycle tracks? A doubling of cyclists? Tripling? It would take an increase of about 5000 per day to merit the closure of a lane on Macleod Tr. as proposed. The impact on existing commuters needs to be measured and taken into account too. If we gain 400 cyclists but disrupt 5000 cars, was this worth it?

As I have posted here too, a comprehensive study found that separated bike lanes harmed businesses badly in Vancouver causing an 11% drop in sales in some cases. Losses of hundreds of parking spaces will impact businesses too. We can’t move on this based on pie-in-the-sky references to “green” bike blogs that make a poor case that cycle tracks increase business. We need real study on these things.

We need to put some of this to the test. Clearly the city of Calgary transportation department is nowhere even close to taking this sort of project on yet.

Calgary City Council needs to send the hyper-aggressive cycle-track proposal back to the drawing board.

Calgary Transportation needs some lessons in reality and in math before they can come back and try to drop such a major plan on city council again. The concept is simply way too big to start when the bureaucrats clearly have utterly no clue of the need, impacts or costs associated with the network.

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With Calgary’s cycle track proposal, numbers do indeed matter.

With the next Calgary Transportation committee meeting on the proposed (and ridiculous) cycle track network for downtown looming, people are paying more attention to the numbers in this issue and the numbers do not look good for cycle proponents.

Hard examples are building up that simply put lie to the tiresome “if you build it, they will come” theory¬†with bicycle infrastructure. Calgary has one of the most extensive pathway networks on the continent. Still the number of cycle commuters was barely over 1%. “We must build bike lanes!” was the cry of the cycle advocates.

Bike lanes sprung up throughout the city. Numbers were batted around by the cycle proponents claiming as many as 12,000 people cycle into Calgary’s downtown daily. Search as I may, they could not be found. With multiple counts throughout the city it was confirmed that there were still only a tiny number of cycle commuters going downtown despite all the lanes. Some lanes hardly draw more than a couple cyclists per day even. Other counts can be found here and here.

Having clearly established that the 12,000 cyclist claim was utter nonsense, the cry now moved to “We must build separated bike tracks!”

Portland Oregon and Vancouver BC both tried extensive bike track networks. By the business numbers, the network in Vancouver was a failure and by the usage increases both networks were failures.

Well 7 St SW got a separated bike track and the results are as dismal as the rest of the initiatives. Just today I went down there to have a look. With good weather on a busy weekday the lanes and bike racks were empty.

The only thing missing was tumbleweed.

Now when members from Calgary Transportation stand before a committee and try to imply than more than 1000 rides per day are happening on that lane, is it any wonder that tempers get frayed and words like bullshit are used?

We would like to think that Calgary’s Transportation planners would try to be as objective as possible when using figures such as traffic statistics. What we are seeing from Calgary Transportation is gross exaggerations based on short measures that can only lead us to mistrust them even further. Are these transportation planners or advocates?

Just as we can’t measure all cycle traffic based on a measure at 2am on a -30 January day, we can’t plan based on numbers hi-balled in a short count at a peak time in August.

The numbers matter. The numbers are in $10s of millions of tax dollars when the infrastructure being impacted is considered and the numbers of cyclists appear to remain insignificant. We are talking about closing lanes on Macleod Trail and 12 Ave here. These are critical roadways for personal autos and transit alike.

If Calgary’s cycle network can only be justified through massaging the numbers and exaggerating the demand, I think it is safe to say that the network is not worthwhile.

We are not getting lost in a numbers game. It is the only game that counts in the end.

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