Nobody should fear a test unless they have reason to believe that they will fail it.
To say that taking a lane from Macleod Tr. Southbound (1 St. SE) in Calgary’s downtown in order to give the space to a tiny minority of bicycle commuters is a radical plan would be a gross understatement.
Calgary transportation planning appears to be actually trying to go ahead and take away 25% of the lane space from a piece of roadway that services 25,000 vehicles per day. This initiative appears to be based on some very weak speculation and projections of how much further Calgary’s traffic will be congested or how many new cyclists such a plan could draw. It doesn’t take a deep study to know that the claim by the transportation department that such a move would only increase people’s commute time by one minute to know that such a statement is nothing less than utter hogwash.
Calgary taxpayers paid tens of millions of dollars to build the roadways that will be covered by this rather aggressive cycle track network plan. It is not too much to ask to see some simple testing conducted to assure us that the impact upon downtown traffic will be reasonable and that these invisible thousands of potential cyclists will indeed pop out of the woodwork?
We should put the Macleod Tr. bike track to the test by temporarily setting the track up and getting true, hard figures on how well this may or may not work. Again, when we are talking about 10s of millions of dollars in infrastructure at risk here, the cost of such a test is negligible. No more cute artist’s depictions of how the new street would look. No more projected numbers on how many people would give up their cars in favor of a bicycle. Let’s lay down the barriers and see how it goes.
The required barriers are cheap and doubtless the city keeps them in stock for construction projects.
For intersections, temporary lights have been used on construction projects for decades. We are in the days where a $50 cell phone can store and play an entire feature film. Programing temporary traffic signals is pretty easy.
With one weekend of construction we could take the lane from Macleod Tr. South and give it to those masses of awaiting cyclists. Let’s say we do this in May so the proponents can’t use the weather excuse and let’s say we leave the barriers up for a full 30 days.
With such a simple and reasonable test we can find out definitively just how traffic will be impacted by this proposed bike track. We will also find out how many new cycle commuters will be drawn to the new track. Most importantly, we will give commuters and businesses downtown a good taste of what the cycle plan has in mind for them as they target all of Calgary’s busiest central roadways for more cycle tracks.
The cycle proponents should be thrilled with such a concept. They are confident that most Calgarians want to give up main roadways for cycle tracks. They are confident that thousands of auto commuters are just waiting to cycle to work every day but have not done so due to the lack of a track. This experiment should prove the cycle advocates correct right?
Imagine how easy it will be to sell future bike tracks once Calgarians see that traffic is not impacted and that the bike lane looks like a scene from a Norman Rockwell painting with commuters on bicycles mingling with happy families all riding together with beatific smiles on their faces as they enjoy these vibrant, sustainable lanes!
Doing tests and pilot projects for major changes to roads is actually standard practice in many Calgary transportation initiatives despite their not doing this with the bike track plans. When I was living in the Northwest a couple years ago, temporary barriers were installed along 4 st NW as a pilot project for traffic calming. The barriers were changed and moved a couple times after real impacts were measured and citizen input was taken into account (people in the neighborhood were not pleased).
On Macleod Tr. South, a pilot project was undertaken to change morning congestion around Avenida as things had been bottlenecking. As can be seen with this detailed report, the pilot project led to a significant saving in commuter time and was made permanent. Had the project not aided traffic flow, it simply would have been scrapped. This is simple good planning. There is no reason why such pilots and tests can’t be applied to cycle tracks.
Edmonton Trail and Memorial have both seen major pilot projects on traffic flow and doubtless every major road in the city has seen some testing at one time or another.
Let’s put this whole debate to rest and put the case for cycle tracks at the expense of major road arteries to rest once and for all!
I suspect that the cycle track proponents will adamantly oppose the concept of such a test for the reason stated in the very first sentence of this posting.