Calgary city councillors need to learn what their mandate is

 

Some members of Calgary city council have been complaining for some time now that they are overworked and that we need more city councillors to help share the burden. As is often the case, I have to call bullshit. If anything, Calgary city councillors have too much time on their hands. How else can we explain the amount of time that they dedicate to myopic pet projects that are way outside of their mandate and jurisdiction as a council?

Brian Pincott wants to ban fire pits and end the odious trend of apparent light pollution as well as banning people from cutting trees on their own property. Those all pale in comparison with the council time wasted trying to ban types of soup from restaurants however. With all those foolish initiatives, can we really believe that poor Brian doesn’t have enough time on his hands?

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Druh Farrell came up with the profoundly stupid “Bow River Flow” festival which was nothing more than an excuse to close a main road and poke a stick in the eyes of drivers. It failed terribly after a few seasons and thankfully was tossed in the dustbin.

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Diane Colley-Urquhart took on a pointless crusade against e-cigarettes which sadly has now been taken on by Mandel on a provincial level. I wonder if she opposes methadone treatment for addicts too or nicoderm patches?

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City council now has a triumvirate of twits wasting council time trying to get rid of payday loan companies as they apparently prey on the poor. Can we assume that liquor stores, tobacconists, used car dealers and rent-to-own outfits will be targeted as well? Lower income people tend to make up a disproportionate portion of the client base of those businesses too.

What have all the idiotic, busybody initiatives above got in common?

None of the above pet projects of our supposedly overworked city councillors land within the mandate of city hall!!!!

Below I will quote directly from the Alberta Municipal Government Act. The act is hundreds of pages long but our esteemed councillors really only need to read one part. It is three simple lines and I will quote them below.

Purposes, Powers and Capacity of Municipalities
Municipal purposes
The purposes of a municipality are
(a) to provide good government,
(b) to provide services, facilities or other things that, in the opinion of council, are necessary or desirable for all or a part of the municipality, and
(c) to develop and maintain safe and viable communities.

There you have it folks. A very direct and simple mandate. Nothing about specifying which soups are legal or not. Nothing about banning things like e-cigarettes or regulating or punishing businesses that may be predominantly serving folks in the lower income bracket of society.

Every month we see at least one or two mind-blowingly foolish pet projects and initiatives from our city council in Calgary. It is galling that this collection of officials can waste so much time and money on these things and then whine about being overworked at the same time.

To Calgary city councillors: read those three lines that describe what your mandate is supposed to be. Follow those instructions! The workload will suddenly be reduced and we will get better government for it.

Sad that council will need to be directed to that act over and over again as they seem to think that they govern some sort of city state with huge, intrusive authority to govern our lifestyle or business choices. If they really want to build such a nanny state, may I suggest that our city council pursue federal seats in parliament as that is where such potential powers lie, not in city hall.

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The business of bike lanes

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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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City of Calgary’s war on cars getting ridiculous.

Macleod Trail

I honestly have to wonder if the plan to close an entire lane on downtown Calgary’s section of Macleod Trail (1 St SE) in order to put in a bike track is not a bait and switch tactic. Perhaps the plan is to get people so worked up with this profoundly stupid plan that Calgarians will sigh in relief when our ideologues in city planning decide to move the lanes over to 4 St SE in that precious parking lot of subsidies that they call “East Village”. The question on most people’s minds when it comes to this plan is; “Can they really be that stupid?”. Sadly the answer is yes.

Let’s look at some numbers right now to dispel some of the weak bullshit that proponents of this pending traffic catastrophe are using in order to justify this idiocy. Last spring the city took a lane of parking from 7 St. SW and created a separated bike track. I checked it out and didn’t find it too bad aside from a lack of cyclists actually using it. The lane came at tremendous expense as our cities finest needed to have 10 people to paint a simple box. It’s done, the lane is now there and we are expected to get over it.

Well in a matter of a few months the city has compiled some numbers and now is claiming that traffic flow has increased on 7 St SW due to the bike track. At best that is a half truth. Traffic flow on 7 St. SW has increased but that has been due entirely to the city finally synchronizing the traffic light system there and has nothing to do with the lane itself. Those lights could (and bloody well should) have been synchronized with the same effect on traffic flow without a bike track being placed at all.

Some are trying to spoon-feed us the horsepoop that this justifies the crazy plan to close an entire traffic lane on one of downtown Calgary’s busiest streets and that this will actually aid traffic flow on Macleod Trail South. Macleod Trail South (1 St SE) and 7 St. SW are completely incomparable as city transportation corridors and it is nothing less than utterly disingenuous to try and compare them as many are trying to do.

To begin with, the lane taken to use as a bike track on 7th St. SW was a parking lane, not a driving one. If anything, just the loss of people stopping and meddling around to parallel park eased flow a little bit. If traffic flow was the real goal, it could likely have been doubled simply by getting rid of the parking lane and opening it up to vehicular traffic along with synchronizing the traffic lights. Many drivers now choose to use other streets to drive rather than the one with the bike track as well which contributes to increased flow on 7th but decreases flow wherever they have spilled to of course. To reiterate, the bike track itself had nothing to do with the increase in traffic flow on 7th St. SW.

Next, 7th St. SW was one of the least used streets in all of downtown Calgary. It is a short connector of a street with only a couple lanes that only moved about 5,000 cars per day. Macleod Trail South (1 St. SE) in the city core however moves over 25,000 vehicles per day and is one of the most critical arteries in the entire core. The proposed area for this ludicrous bike track is not a parking lane, it is a traffic lane and it is heavily utilized. To squash thousands and thousands of cars into even less lanes will impact traffic on all of the roads feeding this critical route as well. Anybody who works downtown knows just how fun it is to try and turn on to 1 St SE during rush hour. Now imagine that task with one less lane and a ridiculous two way bike lane in the way. We can count on increased traffic jams on 4th Ave, 6th Ave and so on as people desperately try to adjust to this loss of critical infrastructure. There are bus stops on one side of the street and will be bike tracks on the other. Over 25,000 vehicles will be squashed in between as there is no comparable egress from downtown nearby.

The statement that the transportation planning is anti-car is quite well justified when looking at this lunacy from them. To purposely target the busiest street in all of Calgary to accommodate 1% of commuters proves this point rather well. Why the hell is it impossible to synchronize traffic lights throughout the city anyway? Oh yeah, our planners are focused on traffic “calming” rather than flow. In the last 20 years the percentage of people who choose to commute to work on bikes in Calgary has remained at a flat 1% range despite a huge increase in bike infrastructure.

There will always be a hardy one in a hundred souls who want to ride a bike to work all year round. That number has not grown however and it simply will not. People will not give up their cars and ride bikes to work no matter how hard our city tries to pressure them to. Do we really expect a middle aged person in the suburbs to decide to spend an extra two hours of their day riding a bike back and forth to work in the snow downtown? How about in summer? How many folks do you think will ride a bike for 15km each way in 30 degree heat? Do they all have the time and means to shower and change every day at work or will they funk it out? We have to get realistic here.

If city transportation planning really isn’t anti-car, then why does cycle infrastructure always seem to come at the expense of vehicle infrastructure that is already heavily in use?

As a growing city, we have pressures on our transportation infrastructure. Our freespending mayor loves using that as an excuse to keep up his lobbying for record tax increases. We will get much more bang for our buck in transportation infrastructure if we began planning and building it to reflect the real needs and wants of commuters. That would require having city hall dropping their anti-car agenda however and I am not sure if and when that may happen.

As a final note, it is not like we shouldn’t have seen this coming. The city planners released a plan to run a bike lane at the expense of as many as two automotive lanes down the entire length of Macleod Trail. Don’t underestimate their capacity for ideologically driven foolishness.

 

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Calgary tax dollars at work.

The other day, I ran across a picture on a Calgary discussion board that depicted the all too typical scene of a large number of city employees standing around while one or two fellows actually worked on the rather simple task at hand.

In this case the task was to paint a green square on the road on a bike track. The forum was at http://www.beyond.ca and the picture was posted by (and presumably taken by) a poster who goes by rage2.  

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The picture sort of says it all. We have had a Mayor and council constantly pleading poverty in Calgary while trying to justify a whopping 32% increase in property since Naheed Nenshi took the Mayor’s chair less than three years ago. Our Mayor and city council constantly pretend that it is utterly impossible for the City to streamline or even cut expenditures while scenes like that pictured above show that there is plenty of room to have the expenditure of our tax dollars done in a more effective manner. The excuses fly while countless dollars are wasted on foolish studies of whimsical plans and outright idiotic gameshow style “consultation” circuses that are ignored when the taxpayers wish something different than His Worship intended them to.

I tweeted the image and it took off as dozens of people retweeted this little piece of dark comedy.

This brought about the attention of Mayor Nenshi who to his credit is very responsive to social media. What Nenshi tweeted in justification of the depicted scene is below:

 

This whole scene was apparently a training session.

Umm….. OK… I guess I will just have to come right out and say it: HOW MUCH TRAINING DOES IT TAKE TO PAINT A GREEN DAMNED BOX ON A ROAD????

Seriously folks, we are in a city with over a million people that has thousands of civic employees and city contractors. None of them had been trained already in painting things on the road?

I wonder, is a special training course required to paint the image below:

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Does another differently trained crew need to come in and flip the stencil at other intersections or will they only need a different supervisor or two?

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Now we are going to get tricky. The painting job below requires two colors and possibly two stencils. How many workers were required? 20? 30? How many months was the training course?

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I have to admit, I could use a gig like training folks to paint boxes on roads. I had a great deal of informal training in my youth with more complicated design as pictured below:

chalk

I can provide my own training manual so that there shall be no confusion for trainees should they find themselves in a circumstance where they may need to paint something with less than 6 supervisors present.

paintbynumber

As a surveyor I am familiar with complex tools such as graph paper and measuring tape so will be able to “confirm final design” on painted boxes with possibly as few as two assistants. I have ArcGIS and could confirm such things alone from the comfort of an office in about 30 seconds but I do understand that our city has a limited amount of resources and needs to be led in baby steps here.

Is it really surprising that Calgary City council managed to blow the West LRT budget literally by 100% in light of how complex painting a simple box on a road appears to be?

In light of all this, I wonder what portion of our city budget is dedicated to road painting alone in Calgary. We have a great deal of pavement out there.

I really have not seen such a scandalous waste of tax dollars on paint since Mulroney purchased the masterpiece below for $1.8 million Canadian tax bucks.

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Calgary really needs to flush out City Council this fall in favor of some candidates with at least a little grounding in fiscal reality.

I am making light of this, but the issue of out of control spending by municipal governments is deadly serious. As Detroit how they are loving that great art collection these days.

 

Response-to-City-Budget

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On Calgary’s 7th Street Bike Track: I like it!

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As regular readers here know, I have been rather critical of the city of Calgary’s addition of bike infrastructure at the expense of automotive infrastructure based on some extremely questionable utilization numbers. My main targets have been bike lanes placed on automotive routes where either residential parking is stripped and or expensive automotive lanes are reduced altogether despite there being a paltry number of cyclists at best.

I see downtown Calgary as something of a different story. While the number of daily bicycle commuters to downtown Calgary has been greatly exaggerated by some, through multiple counts in different locations and with a long drawn out twitter debate with pictured below; it was established that a few thousand people per day commute to work in downtown Calgary.

bikestat

Three thousand is a tiny fraction of those who commute downtown in Calgary daily and is a far cry from the completely unsubstantiated twelve-thousand number that some folks have tossed out there. That being said, this is still a sizeable number of commuters and we should reasonably ensure that the infrastructure exists for these people to safely get to work and back.

In doing my counts, I found that while bike lanes on roadways had limited bike use, the Bow River bike path is quite busy with hundreds of cyclists riding it daily. I personally feel that the path should be expanded somewhat to reduce pedestrian/bicycle issues but that is a separate issue right now.

The Bow River bike path gives excellent access from East to West across downtown Calgary. What has been lacking is a safe bike access from North to South in the core and the 7th Street bike path has provided this (on the West side of downtown at least). Now a cyclist can get to many parts of the Calgary core while greatly minimizing the time spent on the open road with automotive traffic which can be a hair-raising experience to say the least.

In visiting the bike track today, I thought it looked very well done. Esthetically it was good and not looking too utilitarian. Directions for both cyclists and auto drivers appeared pretty clear. 7th Street was never really a main automotive artery and the number of cars displaced by the track is negligible. Parking was lost but it can and should be made up elsewhere if city council can get off their policies of choking it.

One thing that was terribly lacking on the 7th street bike track though was actual cyclists.

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Today was what I would consider to be ideal cycling weather. While cars were evident in the thousands as always downtown, I saw only a handful of cyclists using the track. In the next day or so I will get to the track in rush hour and see what sort of traffic the cycle track is drawing but in mid-day the cycle track almost could have sprouted tumbleweeds.

In wandering further downtown, I walked down 5th St. SW which parallels the 7th St. bike track only two blocks away. What I saw there was somewhat dismaying. I saw about as many cyclists on the street with no track as the one with one. In the 10 minutes on 5th, I saw one cyclist going the wrong way on the one way street, another pair riding side by side with a long line of traffic behind them and another riding while texting. Two of those are pictured below. I really do have to get a better camera for this stuff.

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To be fair, another thing I witnessed (wish I had been able to get a picture) was an idiot driving down the separated bike track in a Toyota pickup. Had there actually been bicyclists on that track there could have been a terrible accident as the barriers would leave the cyclists no room to escape. The point of the track is to provide a safe place for cyclists to ride and fools like the one I saw defeat this purpose.

While liking the track and the concept, I have to now wonder what it will take to get cyclists to use it in larger numbers. I used the term reasonable earlier when referencing bicycle infrastructure and I mean it. If bikes refuse to even go two blocks out of their way to use the track, how much infrastructure is reasonable? We can’t put tracks on every street in light of how tiny a portion of commuters ride bikes.

If we build infrastructure for cyclists only to find that pedestrians on sidewalks are still dodging bikes and auto-commuters are still being delayed by cyclists I have to ask: what is the point?

In Calgary we should start to look at bicycle infrastructure with real need, demand and traffic flow in mind. We can use more separated bicycle infrastructure but dammit if we are going to build that I expect a majority of cyclists to actually use it. With a couple more tracks built, I contend we could then heavily enforce and ticket bike users on sidewalks and designate some roadways downtown as being automotive routes only (and enforcing this). Just as no car should be on a bike track, there is no need to displace pedestrians and autos further with bicycles if the alternative infrastructure exists for them.

I am looking forward to seeing how rush hour goes on the new cycle track and do hope to see well built infrastructure in the future. If we continue to idiotically keep bike lanes on roads such as 11 St. SE that has a few bikes per 24 hours at best while taking an entire two automotive lanes up I think my hypothesis of Calgary’s bicycle strategy being one of an anti-automotive bent rather than pro-cycle will have been proven. There is no excuse.

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Nenshi’s charade of consultation.

 
The Purple Peacock
 

It has been brutal watching Naheed Nenshi and his gang on Calgary’s city council circling like hyenas over the spoils of an unbudgeted $52 million tax increase that they acquired through essentially stealing a tax break given to Calgarians by the government of Alberta. As Calgarians took notice and began to show ire towards this sudden gouge upon their wallets, Nenshi and the rest of council scrambled to cobble together a supposed consultation process on what to do with this money they were absconding with. As it became evident that Calgarians were overwhelmingly choosing to demand that the ill-gained money be returned to them, Nenshi upped the ante and created a literal circus-like atmosphere and held an idiotic public game show where it was discussed how Calgary’s unbudgeted tax hike should be spent.

Despite Nenshi’s dog and pony show, it still was becoming abundantly clear that most Calgarians simply wanted their damned money back. In light of this, Nenshi turned this already foolish “consultation” process into a total joke by making it “qualitative” rather than “quantitative” in nature. What this is essentially saying is that they do not care what the majority of respondents to their little poll chose as those asking for things like a refund of stolen money clearly were giving answers of low quality. It does not matter if 90% of Calgarians wanted their money back in the city poll as those figures are apparently not important. In other words, Nenshi and his cronies can come up with whatever conclusion they like from this circus and claim that it was endorsed by over 10,000 Calgarians.

All of this is not surprising as Nenshi took part in a similar joke of a consultation with Calgarians only a few years ago. This multi-million dollar disaster was coined “ImagineCalgary” and supposedly the product was created through the input of no less than 18,000 Calgarians. Few things can better demonstrate the utter idiocy and waste with these supposedly “qualitative” consultations than the ridiculous ImagineCalgary document itself which can be found in full here.

Below are the five simple questions (familiar number) that were asked for ImagineCalgary.

 What do you value about Calgary?What is it like for you to live here?
What changes would you most like to see?
What are your hopes and dreams for the next 100 years?
How can you help make this happen?

From the above simple and fluffy questions Nenshi and others excreted the 210 page ImagineCalgary document that really is so bad that it can’t even be found in full on the ImagineCalgary website. Even those employed in promoting this mess are ashamed of the product of this exercise. Shouldn’t such brilliance be front and center on their site otherwise? Alas, it is hidden deeply in the bowels of the City of Calgary site. I provide it here too of course.

I don’t think I could possibly drop enough LSD to make sense of the mess created in ImagineCalgary. It truly is a crowning achievement in the concept of baffling with bullshit through only five simple questions. No wonder Nenshi was so eager to try and do it again to mask his sudden $52 million tax hike upon Albertans.

Below is a top 10 list of what came from apparently asking 18,000 Calgarians five simple questions. I am not sure which are worse, the ones that set targets so unrealistically high that they will never be achieved in a million years, the ones that would come with government interference so deep that Stalin would blush, or the ones that simply look like the product of a person who had just ingested a 1/2 pound of pot. I will list a few of each.

By 2016, 90 per cent of Calgarians report that they have opportunities to express their unique gifts and talents

Only three years to go here. Hope those barriers are torn down soon whatever the hell they are.

By 2036, 90 per cent of citizens agree that “Calgary is a city with soul,” which is defined as citizens having meaning and purpose in life and experiencing ongoing feelings of connectedness with some form of human, historic or natural system.

Oh good, we have a realistic timeline here. It will take at least another decade to get even 50% of Calgarians to give a shit if municipalities have souls much less wonder if their own has one.

By 2036, 100 per cent of Calgarians report that they feel respected and supported in their pursuits of meaning, purpose and connectedness, and that they extend respect and support to others who meet this need in ways different from their own.

No less than 100% here. Lofty indeed. I do hope that I can live until 2036 so that I can be the one asshole left in Calgary who did not feel supported in my pursuit of connectedness thus killing their goal. I am just nasty that way.

By 2016, 95 per cent of Calgarians report that they feel safe walking alone in their neighbourhoods and walking alone downtown after dark

This one will be tough as 50% of Calgarians will feel unsafe when approached by strangers after dark asking them if they feel safe. How else will Nenshi know if we have hit the 95% mark? This will be tougher if Pincott’s crusade against light pollution continues too.

By 2036, 95 per cent of children aged two to five years exhibit high levels of emotional well-being and age-appropriate levels of attention span and impulse control, as measured by the Ages and Stages Questionnaire.

I was thrilled when my two year old kids made a poopy all by themselves in a toilet. Can’t imagine 95% of them taking part in detailed questionnaires but who knows. I bet their answers will make more sense than most of those in this loony ImagineCalgary document.

By 2016, by the age of six years, 95 per cent of Calgary children exhibit school readiness, as reflected by physical well-being and appropriate motor development; emotional health and a positive approach to new experiences; age-appropriate social knowledge and competence; age-appropriate language skills; and age-appropriate general knowledge and cognitive skills.

Come on, how many of the 18,000 put down that mouthful as a priority? One? Two?

By 2036, the consumption of urban- and regionally produced food by Calgarians increases to 30 per cent.

Here come the food tariffs. Say goodbye to those bananas.

By 2016, governance is restructured to allow governments to create or reallocate authority so that effective decisions are made at the geographical scale that matches the processes involved.

Say that ten times quickly. Now drink until it makes sense or you pass out. Whatever comes first.

By 2036, 80 per cent of non-violent criminal offences are handled in the community in which the victim lives.

I guess courthouses for prostitutes, drug dealers and car thieves will be set up in every community. Nenshi had better let the other levels of government know he is bypassing the constitution and having the civic government assume authority of criminal issues. May cause a smidgen of confusion there.

By 2036, 85 per cent of Calgarians, in all age groups, maintain excellent or very good mental health.

All those in poor mental health shall be deported in order to achieve civic goals!

Well folks, there you have it. This is what Nenshi and his compatriots can compile through a qualitative analysis of five simple questions.

Nenshi and company will simply fabricate whatever outcome they like from this latest façade of “consultation”. After creating ImagineCalgary, coming up with ways to blow a $52 million tax hike will be a breeze.

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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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Calgary City Hall reaching new levels of idiocy on the way to 2013 elections.

While governments on all levels struggle with deficits and tough social challenges, Calgary city hall remains immersed in idiotic navel gazing and pie-in-the sky policies from trying to ban Calgarians from eating certain kinds of soups to closing lanes on roadways to accommodate a demand for bicycle lanes that does not exist.

While many of our city council members are members of the flakey-left, Brian Pincott never fails to take the cake in his stupid, intrusive and rather petty initiatives. Some of his antics have been covered here.

The looming dragon that Pincott is now slaying in city hall is his imagined issue of: LIGHT POLLUTION!

Backed by Richard Pootmans, Councilor Brian Pincott got a motion passed to work towards implementing massive regulatory changes to how we are allowed to light things outdoors.

The document can be found here.  This document is loaded with idiotic terms such as “light trespass” and “unchecked light egress” along with enough other vapid pap that one feels somewhat dumber for having read it.

Bullshit issues abound from “impacts to human immune function” (load of crap) to even worrying about our poor bug population: “behavioural changes in insect and animal ecosystems”.

We have millions and millions of unlit acres in Canada where our mosquitos can live without fear and moths can thrive without running into porch lights.

If left unchecked, busybody nuts like Pincott will have armies of bylaw officers checking everything from whether you packed your coffee grounds in the wrong bin to peeking over your fence to check the wattage of your porch light (assuming you are allowed to have one). This document also suggests that perhaps lights within buildings should be regulated in their use too!!

Yes people, screw emergency services! Who cares about those pothole loaded roads and overflowing sewers! What this city needs is discussion on porch lights, fire pits and coffee grounds!

We are still more than six months away from the municipal elections but the time is now to prepare to change some of the nuts out that we have on council. Pincott only won by default when Barry Erskine pulled his stunt of a last second retreat from the election race leaving no time for any sane candidates to enter and run in Ward 11. Let’s not let this flake (among others) get re-elected to Calgary city council. We can’t afford many more years of this kind of terrible city management.

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Government debt is nothing like a personal mortgage!

As the inept and increasingly corrupt Redford government marches Alberta back into debt, apologists are trying to say that government debt it a good thing and is like a mortgage. That statement is utter hogwash and it is tiring.

To begin with a mortgage is taken out by individuals (or families), to purchase what will likely be an appreciating asset. Equity (most likely) will build in the purchase that can be used to borrow against in the future in possible hard times or the home may simply be sold outright later. Barring either of the above, the home and it’s value will eventually be handed down to heirs.

Government capital projects while providing value are not typically transferable and only lead to future maintenance costs as opposed to appreciating in future value. Can we use a hospital as collateral in a future loan? Can we sell an overpass if we need extra cash? Increasing long-term value makes incurring debt for a home purchase a good idea. That growing value simply does not exist in government capital projects.

A mortgage is usually a once in a lifetime debt. People may move from home to home while building equity and transferring the mortgage but a person will generally only have one mortgage at any one time and the goal will be to pay it off. When government begins borrowing in good times as Redford plans to do now, it is akin to taking out a new mortgage every year. No appreciating asset is being purchased and debt simply keeps growing and growing. There is no equity offsetting the loan.

While a personal mortgage will eventually end, capital expenditures never will. There will always be more roads needed and hospitals demanded. Will future generations not need such expenditures too? They will have to pay for that infrastructure while paying debt off along with interest. Is this principled or fair?

We hear the dwindling Progressive Conservative supporters trying to paint things as if it is some sort of zero-sum game with idiotic questions such as: “Don’t you want schools, hospitals and roads?”. Of course we do and we will still have all of those damned things without borrowing to get them.

People keep speaking of an infrastructure deficit. By who’s measure is there a deficit? Is there ever enough hospitals? Will roads ever be wide enough? Will kids have enough schools close to home? Will there be enough libraries? The demand for spending is truly infinite. The capacity to spend is finite though and we have to draw a line somewhere.

If we need to borrow while the government is receiving record revenues as it is now, it is clear that there is no way that this administration will stop borrowing down the road no matter what energy prices do. We will borrow and borrow and borrow until an inevitable fiscal collapse that our children and grandchildren will have to endure.

All around the developed world we are seeing governments collapsing under their own debt. Most of Europe is in fiscal shambles and the USA is soon to either hit the wall or have some terribly heavy austerity measures come into place as their government debt overwhelms them. Why on earth do we want to continue to keep digging ourselves into that unsustainable hole when such clear examples of the futility of that path are in front of us?

We are lucky in Alberta to have the means for some of the best infrastructure and development in the entire world. For us to threaten this with such a gross addiction to spending and lazy government is almost obscene.

The excuses and rationalizations will be coming hard and heavy as the 2013 budget looms and Redford presents Albertans with a massive budgetary deficit. To be sure, the mortgage comparison with government borrowing is simply bunk. Be sure to remind Redford’s small social media army of that as they ramp up their unprincipled rhetoric in the next few months.

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