Calgary’s 12 Ave bicycle track causing nearly 1/4 million extra driving hours per year for commuters


The numbers are starting to come in from Calgary’s controversial and expensive bicycle track experiment and they aren’t pretty. Proponents highballed numbers claiming as many as 12,000 cycle commuters per day when pushing for the tracks. They then moved the goalposts to the more realistic couple thousand per day for a baseline when the tracks went in. Despite those number crunching efforts and an extremely mild winter, the cyclist numbers simply are not that impressive. The tiny but vocal cycle lobby has been sadly trying to cherry pick numbers such as a nearly insignificant uptick in female ridership in hopes of claiming success but it is falling on deaf ears for commuters tired of languishing in traffic only to see empty cycle lanes taking up parking and laneways.

Naheed Nenshi said in a radio interview that on 12th Avenue alone the cycle track has added a 2 to 2.5 minutes for drivers to get a short 14 blocks.

While those numbers sound small at a glance, one really needs to look at the cumulative impact of these tracks and in that context they are staggering and bad.

When crunching the numbers and being generous on 12th Ave alone, we see the addition of nearly a quarter million driving hours per year in the city due to the tracks!

12th Avenue SW in Calgary moves between 15,000 and 21,000 cars on an average weekday. It is a very busy avenue on weekends too as it is a main artery. I picked the lower part of the average and used 17,000 cars per day.

In splitting the difference in Nenshi’s numbers, we get an average of 2.25 minutes of driving time per driver due to the tracks which adds up to 637.5 extra automotive hours per day on that road.

When those extra hours are applied over the course of a year, we have 232,687.5 extra hours per year that cars are running on 12 Ave SW due to the empty cycle tracks.

So much for proponent claims that these tracks would reduce traffic.

The cost of so many wasted hours cant be understated.

What kind of environmental impact is caused by an extra 232,687.5 hours of active vehicular traffic?

What does this add up to for consumers as extra fuel is purchased and extra wear and tear is imposed on vehicles due to this slow, start and stop traffic?

How about productivity? I bet if those 1/4 million hours were applied to work rather than sitting in traffic, we would see some benefits.

How about quality of life? 232,687.5 unnecessary hours are being wasted sitting in cars. What if that time was spent with family? Perhaps in the gym? Maybe simply sleeping or getting a better breakfast. Pretty much anything is better than sitting in traffic without cause.

These numbers are from just one avenue in Calgary. The cycle tracks are on many other streets and are impacting traffic there too. What kind of extra commute time numbers are we talking when all of the cycle tracks are added up? Possibly into the millions of hours.

Millions of hours of time wasted with fuel burned by Calgarians so that a handful of hipsters can use cycle tracks downtown during good weather. Is this a good trade?

Calgary has one of the best cycle path systems in North America but you wouldn’t know it to listen to the few but shrill downtown cycle lobbyists.

City council needs to look at the real and cumulative impact of these tracks downtown. They are a failure and should be removed if the interests of the majority of Calgarians are to be taken into consideration.

Of course, if the interest is an anti-auto agenda rather than that of the majority of Calgarians, we can expect these tracks to stay no matter how terrible the numbers are.

Sad when the damage and cost is considered.


16 thoughts on “Calgary’s 12 Ave bicycle track causing nearly 1/4 million extra driving hours per year for commuters

  1. That’s a proper deconstruction with demonstrable figures and an explained methodology. This is how you win the argument! As an aside you probably should have gotten someone who cares to calculate how many tons of CO2 that adds up to and trow in some comparatives. (I believe it’s all hooey but it’s another way to reach the credulous). Great post!

  2. umm… the 2 min delay is at peak period, which applies to the highest two 15-min periods in am/pm, so one hour of the day. so, no, your calculation is way off because you are assuming a delay for every trip at all times of day. nice try, A for effort, but F for accuracy.

  3. The maximum effect of the worst-case cycle-track, at the height of rush-hour is 2.5 minutes…Tell me how this *isn’t* “cherry picking numbers”?!

    Of course, you keep going with crazy numbers, applying this worst-case scenario to /every driving minute of every day/. Do you really imagine that there’s a 2.5 minute delay at 3am? 2pm? Hint: there is not.

    To make it even worse, you’re just looking at an absolute number by itself — so there’s nothing to compare it too. If you want to compare based on “driving minutes”, you have to sum the total “12th avenue total driving minutes per day”. Only then can you say “it’s a big effect” or “it barely registers”.

  4. Yes kiddies, the tracks don’t stop hindering people during off rush hours and the bulk of the traffic concerned lands within those hours.

    But hey, try to minimize the impact that is so visible to commuters every day. 🙂

  5. You dummy, you don’t measure results less then a year after implementation. The affects of new bike lanes (just like roads), can’t be effectively measured for several years after installation because as they say, if you build it they will come. Just like if you alleviate highway traffic by adding several more lanes, more people will move further out into the suburbs and drive in, resulting in far more traffic then before. Case in point, Katy Freeway in Houston Texas. It went from 8 lanes to 23 lanes. Worlds biggest highway and now the traffic is crippling.

    Secondly, how about recognizing that part of the goal of adding bike lanes is for traffic calming. The fewer and more narrow lanes, cars drive slower making it safer for pedestrians and children alike. Cars in my neighborhood drive way too fast. I want bike lanes put in on the 4 lane roads to slow traffic.

    I appreciate the rant! No matter how misguided it might be!

    • Has the use of these lanes increased?
      What is the population of calgary, devided by how many cyclists?

      This is the percentage of people that millions of dollars are being spent for. As a handicapped person who’s money is apparently going towards something -I- cannot use, I hope that number is about 30%.

      It is not.
      I doubt it is higher than one percent.

      Wasting. OUR. Money.

  6. How do you measure the bike vs car accidents prevented? Or the deaths that didn’t happen because bikes are in their own lane? Can you quantify that for us too? How about the people who won’t become obese because they ride a bike a couple days a week instead of sitting in a car? What’s that number?

    Am I snarky? Sure a little bit. But bike lanes bring real benefits to communities that go far beyond moving from point A to point B quickly. The benefits may be tough to measure but no one can deny the benefits are real. Calgary isn’t perfect by any means, everything requires give and take to make Calgary better. But bike lanes are a step in the right direction.

    • Hello Velo Guy,
      The City of Calgary bike team has no goal for the number of car drivers who switch to bicycle commuting. Nor do they have any metrics for calories burned. In fact the whole pilot cycle track project is so slapdash they will never know the answer to the former key policy question.
      By contrast the City of Ottawa measured bike and car volumes on all roads in the vicinity of its proposed separated bike lane before it added the bike lane so it could tell the source of bike lane users after it was installed. In Ottawa the fact that there are hundreds of missing cars and way more bikes suggests that hundreds of drivers took up cycling.
      Putting bike lanes on the wrong roads are not “a step in the right direction.” 4 of the 5 proposed and built tracks in the cycle track network were built at a cost of millions of dollars on the wrong roads. (A coalition of Chinese organizations, downtown business groups and Calgary’s cycling advocacy group killed the flagship cycle track proposed on 1 St SE near City Hall.)
      The City and Ward 8 Councillor Evan Woolley claimed that everyone in the Beltline would use the 12 Ave Cycle Track but to this day the low bike volumes is generated mostly by commuter cyclists, not residents. The supposedly bike-friendly rookie city councillor had to kill two other bike lanes (one separated) in order to force bikes on to the 12 Ave cycle track to inflate bike traffic. Killing two bike lanes (including a no-cost one on 10 Ave that saw a 100% increase in bike traffic in 12 months) cannot be described as “a step in the right direction.”

  7. Ever heard of this insane premise that building roads does not reduce congestion because it just encourages more traffic? Surely that theory must apply to bicycle lanes as well and yet the cylcists don’t materialize.

  8. James. You’re correct building more roads results in more driving and congestion, but like growing bike commuting, it takes time for the roads to fill up. Dummy.

  9. How about the cost to the community when they have to pay for your heart attack that your likely very fat car driving ass caused? That doesn’t seem to figure in your calculations anywhere?

    • How about the costs to the community for having a bike seat permanently ensconced in your arse? That doesn’t seem to figure in your calculations anywhere?

      • My fat ass with its heartattack required a cane to get around due to tremor and balance issues.

        How do bycicle lanes help me, you self entitled, inconsiderate, militant. How do they benefit the elderly in general? How do the downtown tracks appeal to children? Are they frequently traveling through downtown alone?

        Now that the economy is nearly through being crushed, and downtown vacancies are near 25%, and we have had these tracks for upwards of three years (10th St, that means you) exactly how well are they being used, 24/7, 365 days a year, vs. the cost vs. The percentage of ‘vocal’ population driving for it.

        In my commutes I have seen few cyclists, but more accidents, close-calls and road rage due to frustration than this could possibly be worth.

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