The Bicycle Debate

Editor’s note: this article was originally published in the BOMA Calgary News in the June 2014 edition of Business in Calgary.

By David Parker

Jeff Fielding is known for reshaping the way administration handles their books but when he returns to Calgary as its new city manager he will have to face a few other problems that are making the headlines, like bicycle lanes and a much needed new convention centre.

The bicycle has probably garnered more letters to the editor that Rob Anders and measles combined, and the pilot project that has been estimated to cost us ‘somewhere between’ $9.3 and $11.5 million was depicted by one writer as an “apolitical decision allowing the minority to rule the majority.”

I am a cycle enthusiast and really enjoy watching the professionals racing across the European countryside. But flying through an Italian mountain pass or the back lanes of Brittany is a lot more exciting than pedalling from Shawnessy to Stephen Avenue Mall.

Fine for people living in the Beltline or Bridgeland, but in this winter city that we live in I cannot believe that many more of downtown office workers would be enticed to pedal to work no matter how many bike lanes are made available. That despite one letter writer who stated that more than 20 per cent of Calgarians said they would bike if the city built safe infrastructure.

What would be the result – bicycle as well as automobile congestion. Imagine what 5th Avenue would be like with dozens of cycles as well as cars trying to feed into it, and its crowded bus lanes from underground stalls during quitting time.

Some glorified and well-intentioned ideas are just not practical.

But it seems that our transportation engineers have made a decision and no-one is going to stop them. When I asked an Alderman – sorry his badge now says Councillor – how come we were surprised to read about the new network his response was, “It was all new to us – we were just as shocked.” How come I might ask?

Nevertheless the minority won even though some avid cyclists don’t agree with the expenditure or proposed routes. And I certainly object to the idea of having my casual stroll along the mall interrupted by an aggressive, in a hurry peddler. Walking there on our first sunny day it was a mass of people enjoying conversations – unfortunately that pleasure might come to an end by having to watch out for cyclists. Methinks we are headed for confrontations.

Another writer commented that the use of concrete dividers is an insane idea. Why not easily removed partitions if this is indeed a pilot? And if this is a pilot project who is going to make the review, and when?

Welcome Mr. Fielding to some interesting decisions.

 

Image from Atlanta INtown