This past June, the City introduced its first “bike guy”, cycling coordinator Tom Thivener , who left the desert sun of Tucson, Arizona for Calgary’s cooler climes. Thivener will be taking the lead on the implementation of Calgary’s new Cycling Strategy and took the time to chat with CREB® about his new responsibilities, where he likes to ride and upcoming cycling projects for the city.
Thivener>> For five years I served as bike/pedestrian co-ordinator for the City of Tucson. Essentially, I was a transportation planner whospecialized in improving mobility for people walking or going by bike. I worked on everything from improving infrastructure to getting out messages to the public on transportation and safety issues
creb®>> What are your responsibilities as cycling co-ordinator for Calgary?
Thivener>> Like in Tucson, I will become the point person on issues relating to bicycling in Calgary. I will get to work on a variety of exciting projects that are aimed at giving bicyclists some dedicated space on the road so that Calgarians have the option of riding. There are barriers to overcome related to our infrastructure, but also with how we maintain our facilities and through educating the public better. The council approved Cycling Strategy will help guide the City’s role for the next few years and covers these items.
creb®>> What are some of the first strategies or cycling implementations we might see in Calgary?
Thivener>> There are several bikeway projects that are currently being built or will be built by the end of summer. With each project we away at the lack of on-street bikeways in Calgary and with each we make it a little easier for Calgarians to take a bike from point A to point B. The most exciting projects will be seen in downtown; we are rolling out bike lanes this summer on 6th and 7th Street SW. Given that there are 130,000 employees that enter our downtown every day, it is critical that folks have safe and predictable routes to get from their homes and the river path to where they work. We are looking at doing some protected bike lanes in the future like Vancouver, Montreal, and New York have done; they give people biking some space from moving or parked cars. Once we have these it will become easy to bike in downtown, instead of an adrenalin rush like it is today.
creb®>> Would you call Calgary a cyclist friendly city?
Thivener>> Calgary is getting there. We have a lot of good infrastructure along the rivers that help thousands of people biking to work or for recreation right now. The paths serve as a good spine for building a world-class bikeway network. We need connections into downtown and into the neighbourhoods though, we need to develop a bikeway network that our children and grandparents feel safe biking on. If we are only successful in getting 30-year-olds out biking, then we know we are not as friendly as we need to be.
creb®>> What are some of the challenges for Calgary cyclists?
Thivener>> Bicylists just want safe predictable bikeways that are well connected to one another. The City needs to do it’s best to keep pathways cleared of gravel, snow and ice. The City needs to build welldesigned bikeways to help people feel comfortable.
creb®>> In your short time here, have you found a favourite cycling route so far?
Thivener>> I live in the Northwest so I like taking the scenic route into work which takes me through Confederation Park and in on the 2nd Street NW bikeway into downtown. I love getting to bike through the neighbourhoods and see the different styles of architecture, the different vibes of the neighbourhoods and the street life.
creb®>> What’s the first piece of advice you’d dole out to someone wanting to start cycling on a regular basis?
Thivener>> First, get a bike that you are comfortable on, one that lets you sit up straight so you can see the surroundings go by. It’s so much fun riding a bike, but if we’re hunched over like a racer it’s harder to enjoy the ride. Second, get out and explore your neighbourhoods and the routes that you could take to the store or wherever you are going and stick with the route that feels best for you then try to (turn) that trip into a routine. You’ll get some exercise in the process, save some money on gas and get to see your neighbourhood in an entirely different light than when you drive in it.
creb®>> Is there one bad habit in particular that city bikers tend to commit on a regular basis?
Thivener>> When you ride on the road, please ride in the same direction of traffic. Bicyclist’s put themselves at risk when they go against the flow. When a driver pulls up out of a driveway or from an intersection they often are just looking left towards oncoming traffic and not to the right.
The more than 160-hectare park is features pathways, tennis courts, baseball diamonds, picnic areas, wetlands and a permanent orienteering track.
Confederation Park is home to the Confederation Park Gold Course, a nine-hole offering with a two tiered driving range and licensed snack bar, and The Lions Festival of Lights, a free, drive-by Christmas light showcase that runs from November to January every year.
To learn more about Confederation Park call 3-1-1 or check out www.calgary.ca.
What are your thoughts on the City of Calgarys bike path system? Do we need more bike lanes in the city?