The business of bike lanes

sales_decrease

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

 

Recount!

Back in early October I headed out one morning to see for myself just how many cyclists are using some of the main bike-lanes in our city. Despite bike enthusiasts constantly tossing out numbers claiming as many as over 10,000 people use bicycles to commute in and out of downtown Calgary daily, it simply did not seem like I was seeing the number of bike riders on the street to justify these rather grand claims. On parking myself on a few main bike commuter routes and doing a formal count during rush hour my suspicions were confirmed.

One Calgary bike lane had only 2 bikes on it during an entire hour during the rush. The 10st NW bike lane as a main artery to downtown Calgary carried a grand total of 51 bike riders during the morning rush on a nice clear day.

Upon posting these findings, the rather hysteric and somewhat extreme self-styled bike crowd in Calgary were predictably apoplectic that somebody dared question and verify the veracity of their exaggerated claims of bike ridership in Calgary. Excuses were made and new numbers were cooked. Some excellent creative accounting of the rather flimsy bike rider counts out there was used but the bottom line simply can’t be escaped; only a tiny minority of Calgarians are using bike lanes to commute to work!

I felt I needed to be fair here though. Perhaps that period of October was a one-off sort of situation. Maybe there was some sort of religious observance where the bike cult all had to pay homage to the great cycle Gods that week or something. In light of that possibility, I went back out to the 10 St NW bike lane to get yet another count.

Well, on a reasonable morning for this time of year, the winds were down and the road was simply wet, on a main artery into Calgary’s downtown on a bike lane that was well established during the busiest hour of the day………….

I didn’t even need my  fancy clicker. I could have taken off my shoes and counted the grand total of 17 bikes that used the 10 St. NW bike lane during the busiest hour of the day.

10 St NW carries thousands of cars daily and is a terrible choke-point for traffic coming in and out of Calgary’s core. Despite that, 1/3 of the road was taken from vehicles and designated for bike use which as we can see today is pretty much pointless.

What pissed me off even more was that two bike riders were actually ignoring the bike lanes built for them and rode on the sidewalk instead while I was there. With the light at the time and with my parking spot, I did not catch shots of them in action though I did get pictures of their tracks.

This action of bike riders ignoring and refusing to use these very expensive bike lanes is clearly a chronic thing as a sign actually was posted (and clearly ignored) telling bike riders not to ride on the sidewalk. If we subtract those two bike riders from my count we get 15 actually using the lanes in rush hour.

Being ever generous though, I thought I should venture further in search of this elusive crowd of bike riders that is packed so tightly that we must take away automotive lanes and give them to bike riders for their commute.

I took a deep breath and ventured deeply into prime hipster habitat (Kensington) seeking this pileup of bikes. I began at the Safeway. Maybe all the bike commuters had paused to get granola and organic-bean sprouts or something.

While the Kensington Safeway provides loads of bike racks, not a single bike was to be found in them. The mystery continues. Following the scent of patchouli, I ventured deeply into this foreign district and found an actual bike shop. The outside had a grand variety of bike racks.

One would think that a bike shop within Kensington with a bike lane leading to it would be a virtual Mecca of bikes. As can be seen though, not a one was parked in the many bike racks. The grand migratory herd of Calgarian bike riders still eluded me.

I carried on with my venture to downtown Calgary. I saw the occasional bike track, but alas no riders as I crossed one of our many many many pedestrian bridges.

I found myself at Calgary’s Eau Claire Market. No bikes were found to be parked there either though but my tour of that dismal little mall ties well into all this.

Eau Claire Market was a terribly planned and incredibly expensive experiment that was created on the flawed logic of: “If you build it they will come!” Sorry kids, that only works in movies about cornfields. In real life one must identify demand before creating a supply.

Bike lanes are based on that logic too. Despite 20 years of effort, no measurable increase in the percentage of people who commute with bikes in Calgary has happened. That little bit of reality unfortunately is still not stopping idealistic city planners and delusional cycle aficionados from promoting and indeed wasting countless dollars and space on bike lanes for which there is no real demand.

Eau Claire Market was supposed to be Calgary’s great entry into a cosmopolitan and “vibrant” world of an active core. This was going to be Calgary’s Granville Island! People would come from around the world to visit Eau Claire and drink at the (very short lived) Calgary Hard Rock Cafe! Trendy development and pedestrian friendly services would naturally expand from this anchor and Paris would be envious of this profound exercise in urbanism!

Alas, reality prevailed. Currently space can hardly be given away in the Eau Claire Market. Small specialty stores with hand-drawn signs fill some spaces while others languish empty. Even the food fair has spaces that they can’t lease out (quite and accomplishment downtown) and the mall itself is cavernous and depressing.

Decades of effort and countless marketing dollars spent would not change the simple reality that Calgarians are suburban people. We don’t want to hang around downtown with it’s purposely inflated parking costs and purposely choked traffic. We have no interest in an urban mall with poor selection where we would be expected to lug our overpriced purchases onto public transit in order to bring it back to our homes. This will not change folks.

With decades of effort, the social engineering experiment of making us all ride bikes to work in a winter nation is failing too.

The 10 St bike lanes are well established. They built it but alas the bikers did not come (nor will they ever). Today was no exception. These bike lanes and this bike demand is supposed to be all year round. At -11 this morning, it was actually much warmer than many mornings will be throughout the winter. On days when it is hot people are not going to be too willing to ride home on a bike while wearing a suit either by the way.

The bike lobby is persistent and extreme though. Yes I do refer to them as the “bike cult” at times and I think it is accurate. Many (possibly most) people enjoy going out for a bike ride now and then. There is nothing wrong with that and it is these recreational users that bike fanatics use to pad their polls trying to exaggerate bike demand. There is a world of difference between a recreational user and a bike cultist though.

The bike cultists are much like vegans, you don’t have to look hard to spot them (they will self-identify if you do not open the conversation on their spandex wearing at the wedding) . These people wear their lifestyles on their sleeves and they live for their hobby. Their twitter monikers invariably will contain the word bike within them and usually include a picture of them on a bike or of a bike they wish they could own.

Hey, it is a free world. By all means wrap yourself around the activity of biking. FSM knows there are far worse obsessions for people to have. The problem with the bike cult though is that like vegans they generally are sanctimonious and demanding. It is not enough that they have chosen what they feel to be a higher way, they now need services to accommodate their choices and they feel that others must be converted. That is when the line from enthusiast to cultist gets crossed and ire gets raised.

Red Deer got rid of some of their idiotic bike lanes last summer. Calgary is getting rid of a purely stupid notion of a bike lane in Lakeview now and Toronto dealt with outright hysteria from their bike cult when they got rid of a completely redundant bike lane that had a bike track running parallel only one block away.

Look at the drama queens in action below as a pointless bike lane is removed in Toronto a few weeks ago. No folks, calling these people cultists is not an exaggeration.

Do we want to be a competitive destination as a city? Do we want to reduce pointless idling? Do we really want a “vibrant” core? We need traffic flow for that and bike lanes choke that.

The case is being made about how bikes take cars off roads. That is a load of horse poop. What the bike lanes have done is choke vehicular traffic however. On 10th St in Calgary 1000s of cars pass daily while the bike lane can barely draw dozens. The number of autodrivers suddenly embracing bike use will have to increase a hundredfold before the waste of dedicating a third of a lane to them can be somewhat justified.

On 11 St SE two lanes were removed to make bike lanes. A person is lucky to see even a single bike ever use those lanes but it is always easy to find traffic hopelessly snarled as it is packed into two less lanes.

The world revolves on supply and demand. Social engineers keep trying to fight that principle but they inevitably lose. The problem is that the loss comes at a great cost in the battle.

People in Calgary are increasingly moving to the suburbs and now outside of the city altogether causing tax-revenue losses while they still commute on city streets. Businesses are now moving to the suburbs and out of the city following the citizens as we become increasingly unbalanced in Calgary.

Let’s plan realistically with citizen demand in mind for a change. Plan for vehicular traffic as it simply is growing despite all city hall efforts to fight it. Quit putting in stupid bike lanes at the expense of automotive lanes. The demand is simply not there nor will it ever be.

A pushback will happen eventually. I fear for how much mess will be made of our city infrastructure before that happens though.

Toronto stores had better stock up on pop-tarts.

 Currently the reward for morbidly obese welfare recipients in Toronto is a paltry $20 per month. That paltry number can hardly get blob a small loaded pizza. To address this outrage, a review has proposed that the allowance for obese welfare folks be raised to $51 per month. That will get those overweight recipients at least a couple nights at an all you can eat buffet.

 To qualify for this little extra allowance, a person has to have a body mass index of >40 though the government is considering lowering that bar to >30. As it is at 40 (really damn big) there are currently 31,000 fat folks on welfare who qualify for the pork chop bonus. That means that taxpayers will be spending just a hair less than $1.6 million per month to subsidize the waistlines of fat welfare folks.

 Now in the usual logic of those who insist on pandering to and enabling the irresponsible, it is expected that this extra allowance tacked on to the welfare ticket will be dedicated to purchases of low-fat milk and whole-grain products. Come off it people, these people are grossly fat and not even responsible enough to maintain a job, do you really think that they are going to waddle down to the nearest organic market or gym?

 If anything, the morbidly obese should have their meal allowances cut. Clearly they can live with a little less food intake. These people insist on being wards of the state thus I say the state is obligated to cut these people’s diets for their own good. If the obese welfare crowd wants to maintain their excessive girths, they can do what most of the country does; get a job and buy your own fattening food.  When we read of those who have grown to such a point that they are bedridden, we can’t help but wonder; who is feeding these people? Well, in the case of Toronto welfare recipients it is the Ontario taxpayer.

 With the slippery slope of the naive bureaucrats who like to piss away hard-earned tax-dollars on bleeding heart projects, I don’t doubt that taxpayers will soon be on the hook for welfare recipients overweight pets soon too.

 The creative capacity of socialists who want to waste the money you work hard for is infinite.