Calgary grows cycle track network by 1.5 kilometres this construction season

Over the construction season, the City of Calgary added one-and-a-half kilometres of protected cycling infrastructure to the downtown network — bringing the entire network up to nine kilometres with more to come next year.

East Village and 12 Avenue projects make up bulk of work in downtown core

Over this construction season one-and-a-half kilometres of protected cycle tracks have been added to the core. (Helen Pike/CBC)

Bit by bit, Calgary's downtown cycle track network is changing.

Over the construction season, the City of Calgary added 1½ kilometres of protected cycling infrastructure to the downtown network — bringing the entire network up to nine kilometres with more to come next year.

The main changes came on 12 Avenue, with some changes to the design.

Kim Fisher, Active Transportation Education Planner with the city, said they had to take out the so-called "jogs."

"That reduced the amount of times people had to change lanes where they were travelling eastbound," Fisher said. "So we made improvements for people driving for that phase one of the project."

And then they went about making the protected lane longer from 11 Street SW, where the track used to end. Now, the protected lane goes all the way past 14th street into the community of Sunalta.

A City of Calgary map shows the new route. (City of Calgary)

Those improvements have been paid for out of the remaining budget from the cycle track pilot — $1.65 million, which the city says it is still using next season for more improvements.

Jessica Lau says she's a fair weather bike commuter. She lives and works downtown and has been using the cycling infrastructure to get her to and from nearby grocery stores.

"I find especially with the 12th Avenue one there's less traffic in the Beltline," she said. "It does a really good job for bringing people in and bringing in businesses — like Lime and Bird and all scooter rideshares —  they only survive and do really well because of the infrastructure in our city."

Since installing the cycle tracks, Fisher says Calgary has seen a 53 per cent increase in users — she expects to see more users now that scooters and other wheeled transportation modes are allowed on the network.

East Village cycling improvement project

Also new this season is the East Village cycling improvement project connecting the Bow River pathway to the downtown cycle track network on 9th Avenue S.E. — which is open.

The project was recently criticized online by several city councillors.

Right in front of the National Music Centre there's now a raised section along the 9th Avenue cycle track that's been put in as an accessible loading zone. It is meant mainly to be a safe and accessible way to load kids into school buses.

Fisher said they are trying it out and may put a similar build in other places if it works out.

"We're able to use that space as raised cycle tracks that people can still bike across it and that people disembarking a bus can still access the National Music Centre," Fisher said.

Farther east on 9th Avenue, under the CP rail bridge between 15 and 16 Street SE, there's another raised sidewalk designed specifically for bikes.

Kim Fisher explains the raised tracks throughout the core has less to do with bikes and more to do with safety. (Helen Pike/CBC)

Adrienne Tollas uses that underpass as part of her commute.

"It's kind of a dingy area," she said. "It's nice to have that extra support."

She's a commuter all year and says she's noticed the tweaks and improvements come online.

"Because of this expansion, like I feel like I can explore more places go to more shops that are on or near the cycle track," Tollas says. "So I find that it's a lot easier to get around, even in winter."

She's signed a petition to get the 5th Street cycle track extended south of 17 Avenue, a north-south connection that would connect users to the Elbow River pathway.

Kim Fisher says the city is building out connections to the existing river pathway networks. (Helen Pike/CBC)

Fisher says that request is on their radar, it is something the city has evaluated. But, there aren't any plans or funding at this time to tackle the request.

There are more projects brewing for the next construction season. The city recently released the design for 2nd Street, a north to south connection that will bring users from the Elbow River pathway into the core.


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