CREBNow’s three-part series examining the news, community and culture of cycling in the city
Even when the snow falls hard and fast, there are still those who brave Calgary’s snowy streets on their bicycles for their weekly commute to work.
Before moving downtown about a month ago, Eric Westrum made the downtown commute on his bicycle — utilizing John Laurie Boulevard and the 10th Street bike lane from his home in Brentwood — year round.
“Most days, honestly, it wasn’t that bad. I’d say this winter was worse than last,” he said. “I had to go out and buy studded tires and I bought foot splash protectors and I had to buy some gear that would actually keep me warm enough but honestly it wasn’t that bad. Within the first five minutes, you’re already warm enough.”
Across the city in Woodbine, Selina Renfrow makes the bicycle commute to her workplace on Stephen Avenue, sometimes alternating the route with transit depending on her timeline. As she doesn’t own a vehicle, Renfrow relies on transit and her own two legs to get both herself and her eight-year old around the city.
“She loves being on my bike,” Renfrow said of her daughter. “She’d rather we bike everyday than anything but obviously that’s not really an option sometimes just because of the time; it does take a lot more time than taking transit or a car or whatnot.
“Everybody I talk to I say, ‘Yeah I don’t drive,’ and they’re like ‘That’s insane, I could never do it,’ but obviously you can because I’ve been doing it.”
While he finds cyclists are “always watching out for each other” Westrum said motorists aren’t always civil when it comes to sharing the road. One incident saw him cut off by a car while riding in the 10th Street bike lane.
“He basically pulled up in front of me, pulled to the side, so I had to stop and he got out of his car and had a verbal confrontation with me that I was biking in the road. I basically had to tell him “No, I’m sorry it’s your fault, there’s a lane here dedicated to cyclists’.”
As far as cycling culture in the city, Renfrow feels it’s growing but there’s still room for improvement.
“As a commuter [culture], I think it’s growing for sure,” she said. “I’ve been impressed this winter, it was minus 30 out often this winter and I was amazed at the people I saw on bikes who were braving it, even in Woodbine.”
Renfrow said some improvements for cyclists she’d like to see included more bike lanes connected to the City’s bike path network.
“Even in newer communities, it’s so car-centric they don’t even have sidewalks,” she said. “Especially in those newer communities that are far flung they should be encouraging other lifestyles as opposed to car culture because transit sucks out there because there’s not enough people and they don’t have the amenities. You have to have a car and I think a lot of people, if they necessarily don’t want to have [a car], they’re forced to because they don’t have a lot of options when it comes to transit, walking or cycling.”
A proposed cycle track network in the downtown core, expected to connect the Elbow River and Bow River pathways, is headed to council for a vote on April 28.