Another bike count.

In my ongoing quest to find the apparent 12,000 daily downtown Calgary bicycle commuters, I have been setting up and counting cyclists using bike lanes at what should be peak usage times as documented here and here. Most of my point is that I feel that the utilization of and demand for has been grossly exaggerated by City Hall and bicycle proponents and so far my measures have proven my instinct to be quite correct.

Yesterday I chose to measure bicycle usage on the 53 St. NW bike lane in the Varsity area of Calgary as folks from the bike lobby have been bitching and whining up a storm about how despite the street being designated as priority one for plowing because of the bike lane, that it still is not being plowed quickly enough for their liking.

Oh the complaining is nigh totally insufferable as can be seen in their blog here. Read as they collectively organize to try and swamp Calgary’s 311 system with complaints due to there being snow on their precious lane. The entitlement is striking but not unexpected from them.

To hear these bicycle fanatics complain one envisions thousands if not at least hundreds of cyclists battling giant snow drifts while trying to commute to work. The need and demand on this 53 St bike lane must indeed be tremendous in order to rob residents of street parking and to make it a priority one plowing location to accommodate all these bicyclists all winter.

Rather than sip coffee at home in the morning I ventured forth with my little counter to see just how many cyclists must be crowded on this critical commuting artery.

Due to a bike fanatic commenting and wrongly claiming that I measure on “the coldest days of the year” I am including all details of the count here.

It was Friday morning March 23 between 7:00am and 8:00 am on the 52 St NW bike lane. There was no snow on the street, the sky was clear, wind was calm and the temperature was -7. Bear in mind these are apparent winter commuters complaining so these conditions should be ideal for bicycle commuting.

The count and grand total are pictured below:

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Yup, with such ideal conditions a whole sixteen bicyclists used the lane during the busiest hour of the day. I can’t imagine that the number rises on days when it is snowing even if plows would move quickly enough for these little darlings.

I then moved on to the 11 St SE bike lanes which came at a cost of two automotive lanes and gave it a 1/2 hour count. During that period I counted zero bikes. There really is utterly no reason at all to have those bike lanes in existence.

Believe it or not, I am supportive of bicycle infrastructure that compliments automotive traffic and provides real commuting alternatives. Bike paths are excellent and I have no issues with improving those. The problem we have though with the bicycle lobby is that these people are not pro-bicycle so much as they are anti-automobile!

Why else would the cycle lobby so strongly battle for the closure of auto lanes when clearly there is no actual need or bicycle demand for that expensive paved infrastructure? Should not people who truly care about bicycle use in Calgary focus where their demand and needs are strongest? Why not fight for expansion of bike paths where hundreds of bicycles travel daily and often have close calls with pedestrians? Those paths are truly alternative transportation.

With bike lanes taking up existing automotive lanes, traffic and congestion only increases as people simply are not giving up their cars in favor of bikes. Even by the City’s own stats the percentage of people riding bikes to work has remained flat for 20 years despite so much effort. If a person really wants to reduce idling and emissions, they should be encouraging automotive traffic flow rather than trying to choke it with bike lanes that nearly nobody uses.

Do we really believe that if we strangle automotive traffic enough that upper middle aged suburban commuters will suddenly get on bikes for a couple hours a day five days per week in a city with temperatures that range from -30c to +30c? Get real people. It simply will never happen.

Max (a regular reader of this blog) sent me a couple great pics from Japan where they are working realistically and pragmatically to have complimentary alternative infrastructure.

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It is recognized in Japan that there is an advantage to having more people commute by bicycle but they are working on a basis of realism rather than an anti-automotive idealism. Sidewalks are widened slightly for bike traffic rather than cutting into automotive lanes while markings and regulations are focused on keeping traffic of all types moving smoothly rather than adding one type at the expense of another.

If we truly want to build infrastructure that will enable more utilization of alternative transportation, we first will have to sideline the anti-automotive elements of the bike lobby and their supporters within Calgary City Hall. Then we may be able to really examine and see how we can have a mixed use type of infrastructure for Calgary commuting.

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6 thoughts on “Another bike count.

  1. Grande Prairie took an excellent road, two lanes each way plus parking on both sides and added a 4 block long bike lane and medians placed tight to intersections. Now there is one lane each way, little or no shoulder parking visual obstructions at the intersections and nowhere to plow the snow. It doesn’t connect to anything on either end and I have yet to see anyone use it. You could have it worse.

  2. Something else to note in those pictures, is the elevated train above the roadway. They managed to integrate a whole maglev commuter train over a roadway, through an already existing heavily built up residential and commercial part of the city, without screwing up the roadway, or any intersections at all.. The train covers 9km’s is operationally silent, and is fully automated(no driver). .
    There is a right way to do public transit as well..

  3. Woo. 5 people are “swamping” the 311 system. Let’s appeal to emotions to try and get our point across so our facts appear more than just anecdotes. Or draw biased assumptions (where are the other 11,000 cyclists? That’s like asking where are the other million Calgarians when looking at cul-de-sac).

    At least you’re doing something to prove/disprove your instincts – even if it’s not accurate enough.

    • Going beyond anecdotes and have been doing controlled measures of traffic. If these 12,000 cyclists indeed exist daily out there it should be very easy to find a bike artery where at least hundreds per hour are passing in peak times. I can find thousands of cars per hour on Macleod Trail, Bow Trail and Center Street during the rush. As it is, why am I having trouble finding more than a couple dozen bikes at any of these choke points? The highest count I have gotten so far was 41 on 10St NW near downtown during one rush hour.

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