Step one on bicycle-track network down. Now it’s time to pursue some data.

snow-covered bikes

I think that just about everybody is relieved that the heated debates on the aggressive cycle-track plan in Calgary are done for now. I had hoped for an even further scaled down pilot than this but we have to respect the vote of council. I had proposed months ago that we put the Macleod Trail portion of the network to the test months ago (before the transportation department backed down and agreed to propose a pilot). City council wisely rejected the Macleod Trail proposal and has agreed to put a few more streets to the test.

Believe it or not, I am happier with a pilot than with a total rejection. A properly run pilot will settle many questions that would have remained in the air had the entire network been dumped. If the whole thing had been tossed out, we would have just seen a similar proposal a year later and so on and so on. The cycle obsessed are tireless that way. We need a solid test and figures now.

One of the biggest bones of contention in the whole plan was the constant inconsistency in data and figures coming from the Calgary transportation department. One day we hear of 1200 cyclists, then 12,000 trips, then 1060 per day on one track, then 1160 on another street. The cost figures ricocheted around like a Ping-Pong ball as well as the transportation department tried to hi-ball the costs of a trial and low-ball the cost of a permanent network. Having Blanka Bracic speak for the transportation department made it very easy to seriously question the objectivity of the department.

We now have an opportunity to pursue some real numbers. While many (most?) pilots of this nature never get removed, this cycle network is new and more unique. Scrutiny will be expected and rigorous.

We need to get some accurate baseline numbers and then we will need reliable follow-up numbers. We need to hear where the bar will be set in order to consider this plan a success or a failure. Impacts on traffic and businesses must be taken into account and measurements of utilization need to be taken accurately. No single hour measurements in August to represent an entire year for an example.

Good data should be easy to replicate and we can rest assured I will be working to ensure that counts are checked.

If indeed the cycle tracks lead to the Nirvana that proponents suggest, then there should be nothing to fear in this pilot. If I see heavy usage of the tracks all year round with minimal impact on traffic I don’t see why I would oppose making these tracks permanent.

People had better expect though that if there is not a great surge in all year round cycle commuters on these tracks that there will be a stronger push than ever to get rid of them as they are covering roadway infrastructure that cost 10s of millions of dollars to build. If data does not support all of the flowery projections that we have heard from the cycle lobby in the last couple months, we can confidently get rid of the tracks and shut them up for at least a decade.

The test is coming. No more projections and predictions. The cycle pushers next goal had best be to get new butts on bike seats if they want to see these tracks remain. Time will tell.