Calgary rolling out plan for cyclists

Calgary is preparing to spend up to $5 million in a bid to make it safer for people to bicycle to work within the city.

Calgary is preparing to spend up to $5 million in a bid to make it safer for people to bicycle to work within the city.

The municipal transportation department said it will outlay $1 million a year for the next five years to implement its plan, which includes designating four new routes a year through the city for cyclists. Some will have dedicated cycling lanes.

The policy, which planners started working on last year, is designed to ensure the needs of cyclists are looked after when the city sets its planning, building and maintenance priorities, city spokesman Derek Heric said.

Bicycle riders are not simply pedestrians on wheels, he said, but vehicles just like cars, and the new streets policy will take that into account.

About 3,500 people in Calgary commute to work daily on their bikes, depending on the weather, according to a survey done by the city in 2006.

But they face a daunting task. Using existing bike paths often means a meandering and slow route navigating around walkers and joggers. And while riding the streets may be faster and more direct, it also means competing with drivers.

In theory, the plan means the city would have to take the needs of cyclists into account when it sets priorities for planning, building and maintaining city streets.

But some two-wheeled commuters are skeptical. 

"This is Calgary, and there's not any record of implementation for any infrastructure for cycling," said Gary Beaton, a long-time bike commuter.

Cam Cunnings, who has firsthand experience about the dangers of commuting by bike, is grateful the city is doing anything at all.

"I was hit a couple years ago on the road, so that makes me a little bit more leery but, yeah, the more they do is always appreciated." 

The policy will be presented to city council later this spring for approval.