Cyclists have been some of the most enthusiastic supporters of Calgary’s craft breweries. Courtesy Banded Peak Brewing

Wheels are in motion for “Barley Belt” cycle path

More and more these days, people cycle to the office or pedal to the park, so why not bike to the brewery? At the moment, the lack of proper pathways is an issue, but owners of several southeast Calgary breweries are hoping the City of Calgary will pave the way to progress for their customers and staff.

Dubbed the “Barley Belt” by owners, the area contains about a dozen breweries. It is roughly bordered by the Bow River to the north, Macleod Trail to the west, 42 Avenue S.E. to the south and Blackfoot Trail to the east.

“With all the breweries and tap rooms popping up in the area, we noticed an influx of customers on bikes,” said Colin McLean, co-owner of Banded Peak Brewing. “A lot of them work in the area and bike to work.”

As this is the oldest industrial district in Calgary, it lacks the mixed-use pathways and other infrastructure needed to ensure safe passage for cyclists.

“People are already commuting by bike, so why not use the breweries as a catalyst to bring folks together? After all, isn’t that what beer is for?” – Colin McLean, Banded Peak Brewing co-owner

“We were hearing some horror stories from regular bike commuters about having to share the road with huge trucks and almost getting wiped out by them,” said McLean. “That’s why we’ve made the case to city council for mixed-use pathways like they have in East Vancouver and the southeast section of Portland.”

While Calgary’s cycling pathway network is quite developed in many parts of the city, it is lacking in the Barley Belt. For its part, the City acknowledges the problem and is seeking a solution.

“We started engaging business owners and people who visit the area about two years ago,” said Tom Thivener, active transportation projects co-ordinator with the City of Calgary. “Since then, we’ve been working on a plan to extend the pathway network to the brewery area.”

As with many projects, timing is everything.

“Unfortunately, we are at the end of a budget cycle and have run out of money, but we’d love to make it happen when council reviews the budget at the end of the year. It’s great to see the community interest, as it drives our ability to deliver on the project,” said Thivener.

“I’m excited about this area, as it’s really a blank slate. If we can get a basic biking network similar to downtown, people from all around the region can access the area safely. The breweries have done a lot to revitalize the neighbourhood and we want to support that.”

Though they understand the timing issue, brewery owners feel time is of the essence when it comes to getting the work done.

“People are already commuting by bike, so why not use the breweries as a catalyst to bring folks together?” said McLean. “After all, isn’t that what beer is for?”