Calgary

Cycle track on 8th Avenue spurs petition while city increases parking

Some business owners in downtown Calgary who want the city to rip out the Eighth Avenue portion of the controversial cycle track have launched a petition.

Some business owners say they're feeling the pinch thanks to 5-minute walks

Tom Thivener, the city's cycling co-ordinator, points to new parking spots along Eighth Avenue. (CBC)

Some business owners in downtown Calgary want the city to rip out the Eighth Avenue portion of the cycle track.

They've launched a petition, arguing there is not enough bicycle traffic to "justify the huge cost of time and money to the citizens and businesses of Calgary."

Darren Hamelin, owner of Escoba Bistro and Wine Bar, says his customers are telling him their clients aren't coming downtown due to a lack of parking, which has eaten into his lunch and dinner business.

"If the parking is two, three, four blocks away, which the city said they are — close enough for a five-minute walk, they're not going to do the five-minute walk," he said.

Hamelin says his restaurant's sales are down 25 per cent this year. He says it's difficult to tease out how much of the decline was caused by the economic downturn, and how much by the new cycle track.

"But they go hand in hand and exacerbate the issue at hand," said Hamelin.

When the petition came across his desk, Hamelin says he and a few of his employees did not hesitate to sign it.

Circulation on social media

The petition has been circulating along Eighth Avenue for a few weeks. A copy of it was taken down from the counter of a Second Cup cafe on Friday after a picture of it showed up on social media.

The sign-up sheet traces back to an oil and gas exploration service company on the 1000-block of Eighth Avenue. Tami Einarsson, an employee with Geophysical Service Incorporated, was the first person to send it out.

"Everybody is up in arms about it," said Einarsson.

She says she had her son and another friend walk up and down the street to distribute the sheets.

"I am not against cycling," she adds."I have a bike and I ride it. But I never ever expected the city to take away parking so that I can ride my bike. I ride no matter what. I never had a problem but now when you ride a bike, people swear at you because they are so angry with the cycle track. It's just the strangest idea!"

Einarsson estimates she has gathered close to 1,000 signatures so far. But says the movement has taken a life of its own, with other businesses offering to spread the petition around.

Co-worker Allan Feir says the problem with the cycle track extends beyond just customer traffic.

"The couriers can't stop along the street and deliver their packages," said Feir. "Even the mail — they can't even stop although they often do by parking just over the bike lane."

More parking installed

The City of Calgary says it's addressing some of those concerns.

Crews are out on the west end of Eighth Avenue downtown through the weekend in order to repaint and readjust the lanes. The city's cycling co-ordinator, Tom Thivener, says the move will restore parking on three blocks.

"We are skinnying up the bike lanes, the driving lanes and the buffer between the parked cars and the bikes," said Thivener.

"By doing that we have just enough room to put parking back in on one side of the road."

Thivener says parking will be restored on the westbound lane from Eighth to 11th Street S.W. He says it's important to keep in mind the cycle track pilot is a work in progress.

"When council gave us the green light to do the [cycle track] project, they told us to do it on the cheap, they told us to do it temporarily because it's a pilot," he said.

"The third thing was to be flexible. If it's not laid out right the first time, make an adjustment so it works better. What we're doing is responding to and acknowledging the hardship of not having parking/loading if you're a hotel or business with floor retail. "

A look at the cycle track on Eighth Avenue S.W. in downtown Calgary. Some people in the area are concerned about how the track has taken away parking in the core. (Falice Chin/CBC)

Positive reviews

Cyclists using the bike lanes, on the other hand, seem to have a different take.

Renee Ehm is visiting Calgary from Mesa, Arizona. She says she's loving the cycle track and believes it's good for tourism.

"I've got my knapsack, and I've got more time to scan the businesses and think, 'Oh I want to come back here, I'll stop here for a coffee,'" said Ehm while waiting at a stop light.

An average of 787 cyclists travel through Eighth Avenue and Third street S.W. every day, according to transportation planning data collection. But further west near Eighth Street, the daily average is 490 cyclists.

Calgary Transportation says it has not received the petition from downtown businesses. The person behind the petition says she plans to gather signatures from highrises in the area before submitting the document to Calgary city hall. 

The cycle track in downtown Calgary is part of a one-year pilot project. (City of Calgary)

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