Having had a few run ins with motorists Nick Lynem, owner of Cranked bike shop in Airdrie, is a proponent the bike lane system implemented in Calgary. Other rural regions, including Red Deer and Cochrane have proposed bike lane systems during roadway upgrades. Photo by Carl Patzel

Cycling Calgary’s surrounding communities

On the rim of on-street bike lane initiatives in Calgary, more cyclists are looking to transport safe pedal-power to smaller cities around southern Alberta.

Met with controversy by some motorists, Calgary has approved 260 kilometres of on-street, 3.1-metre wide bike lanes to go along with a 550-kilometre pathway system.

While bike lanes may be the trail to two-wheel success in Calgary, many smaller centres are relying on an array of paved and non-paved pathways to accommodate a growing number of free-wheeling travellers.

But while multi-use pathway systems may be an attractive option for recreational riders and casual commuters, hard-core on-street distance riders like Nick Lynem have experienced some road sharing concerns with automobiles.

“To be honest I don’t find Airdrie very friendly as far as bike lanes and how traffic handles cyclists,” said Lynem who, as the owner of Cranked bike shop in Airdrie, keeps in touch with the cycling community.

“A lot of the comments are on how drivers or motorists handle the cyclists on the road – they get pretty aggressive, throw things at us and honk at us. I think a lot of it has to do with just having no shoulder and them not understanding where we can ride.”

Many roads in this growing city have little or no shoulders for cyclists. Airdrie compensates for this with 98 kilometres of a shared pathway system for the bike community.

Archie Lang, Operations Manager of Parks and Public Works with the City of Airdrie, said a bike lane system has been rarely discussed.

“People who commute on bicycles use our pathway system and don’t have to use the roadways for the most part,” said Lang.

“We work with the developers…and the one thing that we do assist on is the connectivity of the pathway system. I don’t think we have any great big missing links and it never has come forward as a concern to me.”

Other smaller towns and cities follow the same pathway guidelines but are rolling out new cycle lane ideas. Okotoks counts over 40 kilometres of shared pathways but have included concept designs for cycle tracks along their Centre Avenue surface improvement project.

Chestermere boasts 27-km of pathways through the city with a long connection reaching into Calgary. The recent Chestermere Boulevard, Highway 1A corridor plan is also evaluating one-way cycle tracks and bike lane options.

Rocky View County maintains pathways through several provincial parks and is currently pedalling the idea of developing a multi-use pathway from Calgary city limits to Highway 22 along the Highway-8 route.

Like Calgary the Town of Cochrane is progressively wheeling in bike lanes on several main corridors during street upgrades.

“We are doing our best to consider multi-modal transportation with pedestrian and bike lanes where ever possible in new and existing road networks,” said Rick Deans, Town of Cochrane senior manager of Infrastructure. “We’re able to justify bike lanes due to the width of the current roadway.”

Falling back on a pathway system doesn’t sit well with veteran Airdrie cyclist Nick Lynem, who finds Airdrie’s narrow streets are getting tougher to navigate.

“Our style of cyclists really don’t belong on the pathways. With long distance and speed, people are not too friendly if you are on the pathway,” said Lynem, who hosts on-street group rides twice a week.

“I feel pretty safe but I’ve always worried about that one driver that is going to be angry about you being on the road. Even today with Airdrie’s growth it’s starting to feel less and less safe.”