Calgary's 5th Street cycle track keeps breaking records

The three busiest days on record for Calgary's busiest downtown cycle track were Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday this week.

Busiest days to date were Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday — beating even last summer's Sled Island festival

Cyclists make their way down the 5th Street S.W. cycle track in Calgary. The first few weekdays in May 2016 set records for the number of riders using the route, outpacing the bike counts during last summer's Sled Island music festival, a highly popular event for downtown cycling. (CBC)

The three busiest days for Calgary's busiest downtown cycle track were Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday this week.

More cyclists were counted on Fifth Street S.W. during each of the first few weekdays of May than any previous day since the cycle-track network opened 11 months ago, according to the publicly available online data.

"It is a little bit surprising to see this much of an uptick so early (in the season)," said Tom Thivener, projects coordinator for the city's transportation planning department.

Monday broke the previous record for daily trips, with 4,660 bikes counted by three automated sensors spaced along the 1.4-kilometre route.

Tuesday then broke the record again, with 5,369 bikes counted, while Wednesday saw 4,925 counted.

The previous record was set during last year's Sled Island music festival — a highly popular downtown event that attracts many guests who arrive by bike.

Both the Squamish Constellation Festival and the Vancouver Folk Music Festival suggest festival-goers bike to the concert locations to decrease CO2 emissions. (Robson Fletcher/CBC)

A total of 4,617 bikes were counted along Fifth Street S.W. on Thursday, June 25, 2015, which marked Day 2 of Sled Island.

Since the Fifth Street cycle track opened on June 12, 2015, the weekday average has been 2,193 bike counts.

That compares to a volume of 1,370 bikes measured at the same three points along the route in September 2014.

This graph breaks down the individual counts at each location on Fifth Street: 

The city has 11 automated sensors counting bikes all across the downtown cycle track network, which also includes separated lanes on 12th Avenue, Eighth Avenue, Ninth Avenue, Seventh Street S.W., and Fourth Street S.E.

But the sensor at the Fifth Street underpass beneath the CP Rail tracks has been the busiest, since the network opened.

Thivener said that route hasn't historically been the most popular for downtown cycling, as the rail line used to present more of a barrier for people who didn't feel comfortable riding through the underpass, tightly squeezed between traffic on one side and a concrete wall on the other.

Cyclists ride on a separated bike lane along 5th Street S.W. beneath the CP Rail line, which has become the busiest section of the downtown cycle track network. Automated bike counts recorded by underground sensors, are displayed on an electronic board on the sidewalk. (CBC)

"It wasn't until we put the cycle track in last year that we really saw the uptick," he said. "I think it was a ton of latent demand."

Calgarians riding the cycle track this week said they've definitely noticed an increase in the number of other cyclists using the separated lanes since last year.

"It's busy, which I think is fabulous," said Jordan Hamilton, who was out cycling with his four-year-old son on Wednesday.

Jordan Hamilton, at top right, said he rides Calgary's cycle tracks 'seven days a week' and has notice they're getting busier. Other cyclists out riding this week agreed. (CBC)

"I use it seven days a week. I love the cycle track," Hamilton added. "It's the first time I've really felt safe cycling downtown."

Thivener said the early May numbers continue a trend from April, which was the third-busiest month on record, outpacing even some parts of last summer.

"Of course, it's been recorded as one of the warmest Aprils, maybe ever, and that helps translate into a lot of people getting their bikes out early," he said.

"I think it's translating to a lot of new people trying out the cycle tracks for the first time, too," Thivener added.

"Maybe they heard about it last year but they didn't give it a go, but this year they've decided to give it a try."

With files from Mark Matulis


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