Civic Duty: Supporting the Calgary Cycle Tracks Pilot

Cycle Tracks Pilot

I was busy with our littlest when the City of Calgary’s Cycle Tracks and Stephen Avenue Bicycle Pilot narrowly passed 8-7 at council and did not get to attend to express my support in person. Nor did I have my shit together enough to peck out a letter and email it. Don’t ask.

The pilot is officially over now and the data is in, clearly illustrating that it was pretty much a raging success, phew. Alas, it is still up to politics to decide the fate of our city’s awesome dive into excellence.

One of the key findings that was illuminated by the City’s statistics is more women (and children/families) are riding downtown. Although I rarely use the cycle tracks, I do very likely use them more than your average Calgarian — let alone your average female Calgarian, apparently — and I feel proud to represent. It was this that really motivated me to submit a letter of support to the Standing Policy Committee on Transit and Transportation: I want to help turn that number into a real person with real stories and experiences. And, I strongly urge you to do the same if you support this infrastructure, whatsoever. Even if you don’t use it… especially so!

Seriously, it is the councillors who believe that their constituents are not using the infrastructure who are voting against it. So, if you live in the deep suburbs of Calgary, please write in to the committee, your councillor, or heck, all of the councillors to express your support. If you Beakerheaded this summer on bikes, please write in to support the cycle tracks. If you show off your city by bike when you have friends come to town, please drop them an email in support. If you simply think that infrastructure is safer for all people, please write in to express that very important sentiment.

Unfortunately, it is rare to get positive feedback. If people are happy they do not let others know, in their personal life nor their civic life. We don’t have expressions in English (that I can think of) describing that behaviour. But, everyone knows that “the squeeky wheel gets the grease”. It is a ray of sunshine when positive comments are received, so let’s get that Calgary sun shining brightly! (Sorry, not sorry. That was cheezy.)

What’s happening?

Here are some resources to help bring yourself up to speed:

Who do I contact?

Here are the email addresses (ready for copying and pasting) for the members of the Standing Policy Committee on Transit and Transportation and they meet on December 8, 2016 (with the issue going to city council on December 19th – but, there is no public input on the 19th):

  • shane.keating@calgary.ca, sean.chu@calgary.ca, andre.chabot@calgary.ca, ray.jones@calgary.ca, brian.pincott@calgary.ca, evan.woolley@calgary.ca, themayor@calgary.ca

Alternatively, you can use the City’s form to contact the Office of the Counsellors to submit your letter.

More inspiration

I hope that you submit a letter in support. Please see mine, below. There were many points that I could have spoken on, excellent arguments covered in posts like this one by Elly Blue or this video featuring Mikael Colville-Anderson. I chose to make it personal. Yours doesn’t have to be as long as mine; in fact, that’s probably better!

Calgary makes the Guardian’s international list of “The best cycling infrastructure in cities around the world – your pictures“, let’s keep it that way.


To the esteemed members of the Standing Policy Committee on Transit and Transportation:

I am writing you this letter to strongly express my support for keeping the downtown cycle tracks network, in addition to improving it and continuing to invest in cycling (and multi-modal) infrastructure, in general, in Calgary.

My name is Lindsay Bliek and I am a female, stay at home parent to two girls and we like to use the biking infrastructure Calgary has provided for our daily routines, year-round. We are a one-car, many bike family, and we mostly move around the city by bike, with our car predominantly used to get out of the city.

Personally, the three main reasons that I support the cycle tracks are as follows:

  • My husband’s safety;

  • My and my girls’ safety; and,

  • Fiscal responsibility.

Admittedly, I rarely use the cycle tracks. From my perspective as someone who lives south of downtown, the cycle tracks network is not yet fully connected to the existing pathway system, making me feel uncomfortable to predominantly choose to go downtown for my shopping, etc. However, my husband almost exclusively commutes by bike, year-round. He regularly uses 5th St. and 12th Ave. cycle tracks and Stephen Ave. to travel to his place of employment. As the breadwinner in our family, I am certainly glad that he has infrastructure now protecting him for the majority of his commute. I know that infrastructure is the absolute best thing the City can do to help him get to work in one piece. So, thank-you.

When I do use the cycle tracks, it is to spend money at downtown businesses, travelling safely with my kids. The first time I used them a person verbally harassed me with expletives and hand gestures (even with my two young children present) and, wow, was I glad to have a barrier separating us from them and their road rage.

This spring, my two daughters and I were hit by a person driving an SUV. Thankfully, we were in our minivan. We were completely not at-fault in this incident. I mention this story for two reasons:

  • Firstly, because the culprit was elderly. As such, I believe that multi-modal transportation, like cycle tracks, are needed in order to best protect people from such incidents with our aging population. This is just one more reason why we need to continue to grow our network of alternate forms of transportation for everyone, including our aging population, so that they are not completely reliant on driving when no longer appropriate for their ability. A lot less harm (and expense to the City) comes from walking, cycling, or taking public transit than driving a heavy vehicle. This point can be driven home by our current count of nearly one pedestrian struck per day by a driver (not to imply that these drivers are all elderly — not at all — but to highlight that we clearly have safety issues already that are related to a lack of infrastructure and appropriate design, even though our population has not yet hit the crux of our large, aging “baby boomer” demographic). You may read this as an argument that highlights spending money on walkability and not rideability, but I think it should be both for the next reason.

  • Secondly, I want to live in a city where I have choice. I want to be able to choose how I get around in ways that prioritize my health and well-being, my time, and my money. I want this choice now and as I age. I also want to live where I can teach my children that they have choices in how they spend their money: on a car or a bike (with the difference invested!); on a chocolate croissant or parking.

Another interesting thing came from this incident: I chose to go car-less and not get a free rental car from the other driver’s insurance company. This turned into a nearly 5 week endeavour, spanning early April to May, with a 4.5 year old and a 20 month old along for the adventure. I was extremely fortunate to have Calgary’s amazing cycling infrastructure to protect us, utilizing predominantly the Elbow River pathway system, as I was uneasy driving or being around cars, in general. We now almost exclusively ride to the Zoo, to swimming lessons, to the library, to school, and for pleasure — which means financially supporting delicious local businesses downtown and then hanging out at a playground, with our round trips ranging from 4 to 25 km. I maintain my health and well-being by getting exercise. I get to talk with my kids instead of being another distracted driver yelling at my kids in the car. And, I get to enjoy all that this city has to offer.

In all honesty, I am a West Coaster through and through, but the cycling infrastructure in Calgary tips the scales for me to stay as I can get around safely, year-round (even though I prefer rain to cold), with both of my children. I have seen this infrastructure grow over the years and look forward to proudly watching it continue to proliferate.

Fiscally, I cannot imagine spending $2.5M to remove this more-or-less functioning infrastructure. It makes no sense to me, at all. Believe me, I am financially conservative as a stay at home parent raising two kids on one income in inner city Calgary. In my opinion, the best use of this money would be to expand the network to connect it to existing pathway systems. For example, it is unnerving riding from the Elbow River pathway along 5th St. to connect to the 5th St. cycle track; as such, extending the cycle track all the way to the pathway would encourage me to transition my daily routines, like grocery shopping, to downtown businesses.

I also support the cycle tracks because this is the infrastructure we need in a city our size. I believe that it is imperative we continue to develop multi-modal transportation in order to be able to safely move through a busy city, like ours.

City staff and Ipsos Reid collected excellent data to support the 2016 Cycle Track and Stephen Avenue Bicycle Pilot that paint a clear picture of success. In writing this letter, I hope that I have helped to turn some of those numbers into something that is personable and relatable, representing a citizen of this great city. I wish that I could present my points in person; alas, I am not sure my 2 year old has the patience.

Good luck with your decision. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach me by email.

Kind regards, 

Lindsay

What have you gleaned from this? Questions? Comments? Please reply here: