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.

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4 thoughts on “With Calgary’s cycle track proposal, numbers do indeed matter.

  1. Cory,
    It’s not just downtown that the cycling czars have their eyes on; check out this “consultation” http://www.mybowness.com/planning/bowness-complete-streets/

    I live in Bowness. The “proposed” plan calls for the work to be done THIS summer, yet the “consultation” is only happening now. Which tells me that contracts have already gone to tender and the plans are in place; Consultation is only needed so when people scratch their heads at the loss of two complete vehicle lanes, the city can say, “we consulted with the community.”

    The facts are the bike traffic along that stretch of road is almost non-existent because we’ve got a good – albeit winding – bike path along the river. The only significant number of cyclists on Bowness Road are the “road bike racers” that meet up at Bow Cycle on the weekends. And during that time vehicle traffic is diminished.

    I’ve completed the survey, so I’m part of the “consultation”. I mentioned how it baffles me that cyclists seen to think that they can only ride one way in a lane wide enough for three abreast. That’s always the reason I’ve been given for why they NEED two bike lanes on these “complete roads”.

    As I drive into downtown these snowy days and count the number of cyclists on Bowness road on one finger (not the middle one either), I realize that their over-all strategy is simple: This year it’s Bowness Road West, Next year it will be the rest of Bowness Road to the River, and then Montgomery will be “encouraged” to make their portion of Bowness Road into “a complete street” because they don’t want to be an “old” community. And we all know that roads are only “complete” when there is a stifling of vehicles.

    Keep up this fight, Cory; You’re not alone.

  2. On my days off I hop on my bike and cycle the pathways for the benefit of exercise. Doctors orders!! I always make a trip to the 7th st cycle track just to see what’s going on and it’s like you say Cory, deserted. In fact I’ve ridden the track many times and felt privileged that they built this track just for me. Ha. And yes I’ve been there during the afternoon rush and watched for 20 minutes or so and there was about 2-3 cyclists every couple of minutes or so. I feel sorry for the businesses along 7th st that, after a futile battle with City Hall, have to look outside anytime during the day and see virtually no one in the track that once was valuable parking for their customers.

  3. Dear Cory

    I just returned from Victoria,BC which has Canada’s mildest weather year round. Victoria has many roads designated cycle and car which is good. They also have cycle lanes on some very busy streets – again all good and reasonable EXCEPT there are very few cyclists.

    On Bay Street heading East from Blanchard (Highway17) is a mostly 2 lane street heading towards Royal Jubilee Victoria General Hospital. Very busy roadway. Lots of cars,buses and service vehicles. A bike lane most of the way. How many cyclists during peak hour around 4:45 pm? About 100….maybe!

    My point is this – even in Victoria, BC, Canada’s fairest climate and home to many, many tree hungers, very few people cycle to work.

    Our Mayor Spendshi, Councillors Farrell, Pincott, Wool over your eyes etc and that crazy female Transportation Engineer (Councillor Chu should have never apologized) are indeed advocating spending tens of millions on something we don’t need and don’t want!

  4. http://www.calgaryherald.com/travel/Cyclists+expect+downtown+network+improve+safety/9720692/story.html
    In this article, they take positive quotes from a woman who says she uses the 7th st cycle track as a route for her cycle commute from Haysboro to the University of Calgary. The cyclists say that moving the cycle track over from the proposed 1st se to 4st se is to far out of the way for convenience for cyclists, yet this woman mysteriously bikes multiple km’s out of her way to use the cycle track on 7st to go to the university. Checking the pathway map, she could be just a poorly thought out media plant for the article, a glutton for exercise , or just directionaly challenged.

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