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With a proposed network of downtown cycle tracks unveiled, Calgary City Council will vote On April 28 to determine whether or not the $11.5 million pilot project will get the go ahead.
City Transportation said the 12-month pilot allows time to study how the new network affects people traveling in areas pegged for cycle tracks, will connect existing pathways so more people can utilize them and will provide the same function and safety as a permanent cycle track would.
“We plan to use temporary barrier separators that we can easily move around or interchange with other devices,” said Blanka Bracic, transportation engineer with the City. “We also want to collect information on how [the pilot is] working … in the one year of information we collect the success of this network, and then … council can decide if it’s working, to leave it, to change it or to remove some things that aren’t working so well.”
Pilot tracks will be included on First Street SE, Fifth Street SW, Eighth Avenue W and Stephen Avenue, Ninth Avenue E, 12th Avenue and Eighth Street.
The cycle track has been an item of hot debate on city streets both in council and even on social media sites such as Twitter. One proponent seen and heard on the Internet, including a piece for Bike Calgary early this month, is Calgarian and multiple Olympic medallist Denny Morrison.
“I live less than five kilometres from where I train, so 99.99 per cent of the time I ride to the [Olympic] Oval and back, twice a day,” he said via email. “Since selling my car, I get groceries on my bicycle and run other errands like going to the bank, dry cleaners, whatever.”
Morrison said the proposed cycle track will give an opportunity for Calgarians to safely cycle downtown while expanding transportation options.
“Less people driving means less congestion and less pollution,” he said. “The proposed cycle track benefits the health of all Calgarians, especially those who choose to cycle instead of drive. Healthier citizens means money is saved on healthcare.
So overall, the proposed cycle track network will help to make all Calgarians safer, healthier and richer.”
Included in the voices against the cycle track is Calgary businessman Cory Morgan. Morgan is also behind a website posing as CivicCamp, but opposed to the practices of the actual CivicCamp, which organizes and supports local initiatives.
Morgan cited a “pretty comprehensive” study done in Vancouver in which it was found local businesses saw a drop in sales.
“It found that actually there’s some very serious effects on some of the local businesses having as much as an 11 per cent drop in retail sales which is a pretty significant number,” he said. “There’s no guarantee that would happen but it’s saying we’ve got to look at some of these issues before we go full steam ahead with a lot of these tracks.”
Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said now isn’t the time to look at the numbers but the idea of the track as a whole.
“We’ve gotten into a kind of weird world where everyone is fighting about numbers that are completely hypothetical,” he said. “It’s like saying, not very many people took the LRT west of Sarcee Trail two years ago, they didn’t take the LRT because there was no LRT there.
“So if our goal is to create safe infrastructure for cyclists that encourage more people to cycle, which is the goal, and studies show a very large number of people would cycle more if they felt safer, if that’s our goal then we actually have to test it.”
– With files from Cody Stuart