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.


9 thoughts on “City of Calgary’s war on cars getting ridiculous.

  1. I am one of those 1/100 cyclists who commute year round, even over the last few weeks with the shoddy (replacing ‘odd’ with ‘itt’ is acceptable) plowing and clearing of streets. In a visit I had with the city, it was confirmed that the city is attempting to improve things for the other 60% who would like to cycle more. (I am going to assume that at least 40% could care less about biking, period).

    As a driver as well, I have concerns about removing a whole driving lane on 1st St SE/MacLeod. It is obvious that more drivers will have to compress onto one less lane of traffic. However, I find a lot of traffic issues are due to drivers not knowing how to lane change and merge. By removing the extra lane, it ‘should’ remove the extra merge by drivers.

    My biggest issues, however, are:
    a) the consultation process has never really included 1st St SE as an option – and it makes less sense than streets like 4th/5th St SW (to me)
    b) they are likely only going to built the part north of the tracks, not the whole length. Crossing the CP line is the biggest impediment for cyclists from the south.

    Both smack of poor planning (again) by the city.

    I want to see the city grow cycling in a manner that most will find acceptable (I will not say all because that is impossible). Their planning (and some of their numbers spin) leaves me skeptical.

    Hopefully the overall plan in April is more indicative of how things are going.

  2. I generally agree with your comments. I biked downtown for a number of years without bike lanes and managed fine as long as there was a mutual give and take between motorists and cyclists..

  3. What I see here is an article from someone that believes that car infrastructure has to be enlarged. It is too mixed with emotion and anecdotal evidence to be something that people can make a decision on. We need to stop being overly emotional about it and look at other cities that have made similar changes (and no I don’t mean Amsterdam or Europe because apparently that’s a biking Utopia)
    What I can say is that, from research I have done about various cities in the US making these changes, there seems to be improvements on a number of fronts: economic, safety, & (yes, it’s true) traffic. For instance like New York, (which I believe you’ll agree) is one of THE most car congested cities in North America. Over the last 6 years they have added bike lanes, changed sight lines at intersections, reduced lane sizes and improved transit. ALL of those things were hotly resisted by people in that city. Now, most of those same people are happy with the changes because pedestrian & cycling traffic has increased. Businesses are getting more walk-in customers and making more sales because of it. The alternative options (biking & walking) have been improved to entice more people to do it and so car traffic has been reduced and therefore traffic flow has improved.
    You mentioned that McLeod Trail moves 25,000 cars daily. Right now there is an average of 1.2 people per car driving into downtown. If we could get 1000 more people to bike into the city, then that’s almost 834 cars less. If people would actually be willing to carpool with neighbours/coworkers (say having 2 people per car) then we would be down to only 12083 cars driving on McLeod Trail. That means substantially more parking available and a major change in traffic flow. Create a culture of bike commuting on top of that to attract thousands more, and the downtown core will start flowing more like it did when I moved here 23 years ago. So space isn’t really the issue because it’s car volume that is causing problems.
    You mentioned how expensive a bike lane is to build. The cost to make 1 mile of ring road could have given us bike lane infrastructure for 40% of all the major roads in and around the downtown. So cost isn’t really an issue either because we are willing to spend it on expensive vehicle I frastructure already.
    I thought your comment about people not wanting to take a hour to bike ride into the core and then back again was amusing. Right now it takes people on average 45 minutes to go from home into downtown and the same again on the way back. I know because I used do it as well (luckily I don’t have to work downtown anymore). We sit, fuming, in our cars listening to the 660News traffic report about all the hold ups in traffic. Eventually your rear end and back get sore and all while our heating/AC system is sucking in the exhaust of a diesel or gas vehicle in front and around us. Then we get onto something like Deerfoot Trail and average a whopping 30 km/h. So time isn’t an issue either because we’re spending that time in traffic already.
    We are grasping at straws to legitimize why we need more roads and lanes for cars. What is really needed is a change in our thinking! If we understood that and were willing change, then this bike lane would not be an issue. In the 23 years that I have been here, the city’s population has nearly doubled, yet we all drive around like we’re in a small low populated city. We need a big city mindset where carpooling, transit, and yes, bike commuting become the new standard to reduce the traffic congestion. The benefit will be a more pleasant and quicker commute for everyone involved. We need to stop pointing fingers at everything else and look at how we as individuals are either benefitting or hindering the traffic issue. And as long as our thinking as a population is like this article and just focuses on one tiny piece of what is truly a much MUCH bigger issue about traffic congestion, nothing will improve. Thanks.

    • Well said! Change of thinking is what needs to be done. And I believe can be done. I am one of those middle aged people he made mention of. While it is true that I will not be riding a bike during winter months, I absolutely love the summer. If I get hot & sweaty as mentioned, without showers, there is a sink with water for a refresher and a little dab”ll do ya. Lots of people perspire w/o bike riding & it hasn’t killed anyone yet. 4th or 5th Street and 12th Ave. I can start riding my bike again. (Have to shop for one first). YES!

    • I wish people would stop comparing Calgary with Amsterdam, or even New York City. Biking works great in Amsterdam because the entire city would fit roughly within what is considered the inner city of Calgary. There should also be a ban planned on comparing Calgary with any city that doesn’t have 8 months of snow. I don’t care if some place in California is doing well with bike lanes, and no one up here should care either. Find a comparison with a place like Edmonton or Moscow and then come back.

  4. any city in Canada, other than those on the coast in southern BC, that permit bike riding in the winter are populated by the terminally stupid.

  5. Well the City, the Ward Alderman Ward 9G-C and Ward 7 DF have ignored 13 months of emails and Tweets. they delete emails before reading them, ignore requests for meetings to discuss commuter impacts of unused bike lanes. It is so sad that we have no opposition to City of Calgary elected imposed changes.

    As if they are in touch, they have paid parking, can come and go during off peak hours, and have their pensions……

    They ignore calls for proof of cycling numbers even though they admit that they only do random counts and have chosen not to adopt the electronic counting technology used by Vancouver for their cycling stats.

    We have bold “feel good” claims with absolutely no proof. When you ask for a meeting and proof they ignore you!!!

    Our City overlords practice 3rd world politics and hope people will just accept what they impose. The City wants sheep that will go where they tell them and not look out of the pens. 11th St SE unused bikes have forced 12,000 motorists a day from 4 lanes to 2 lanes and forced dangerous line queing and traffic control for the Foodbank along 11th St SE. I alerted the City to this and they have ignored this.

    I hope no one is hurt and the Ward 9 Alderman knows this and should be held accountable!!!


  6. Glad people are waking up to the fact city council is ramming the bike paths down our throats. That is one of the reasons there is no longer any road repair in the NW. Let’s let the roads decay until they resemble third world countries. If you live in the Varsity, Brentwood,Dalhousie etc. areas, you know what I mean. What are they doing with my tax dollars???What is going on with John Laurie at Brisebois Drive???How long before someone loses control of their vehicle? Is the City waiting until someone gets killed? Check out the bike path going west on 40th ave and 37 st NW. It goes from the curb, disappears then reappears in the middle of two lanes of auto traffic! Looks like the brains at city hall are a victim of their own fluoride program. They should hang their heads in shame!

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