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

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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.

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.