Council votes to make Calgary's cycle tracks permanent

The $5.5-million pilot project, which features protected lanes in the Beltline and downtown, is here to stay.

The pilot project through the inner city is here to stay

Councillors Sean Chu, Peter Demong, Joe Magliocca and Ward Sutherland voted against the motion to make the inner-city cycle tracks permanent. (CBC)

Calgary city council voted on Monday to make the inner-city cycle tracks permanent.

The network, which features protected lanes in the Beltline and downtown, was a pilot project initiated 18 months ago. 

The point of the pilot was to see whether the protected lanes — and a shared space on Stephen Avenue — would lead to an increase in cycling.

City administration engaged in a massive consultation process prior to the lanes being installed and collected reams of data on safety, cyclist counts and engagement. 

Tom Thivener, the city of Calgary cycling coordinator, speaks to media after council voted to keep the inner-city cycle tracks. (Evelyne Asselin/CBC)

Ultimately, council was persuaded to stay the course based on those findings. 

"We delivered a boatload of information with this project — 82 performance measures — so the data is all there," said Tom Thivener, the active transportation projects coordinator for the city. "Met some targets, didn't meet some targets, but in the end council made a decision to make the cycle track network pilot permanent."

Mayor Naheed Nenshi said he thinks the cycle track network was a false controversy, pointing to the fact he got 850 emails to his office, 825 of which were supportive of the project.

"People kept saying this is controversial, but it's controversial I think in the way secondary suites are controversial, which is it's controversial around the council table," he said. 

"In fact, as it turned out with the final vote, not that controversial around the council table."

The entire network cost $5.5 million, $1.65 million under budget. 

That excess money will be used to make improvements to the network including permanent signalling, improved loading access for businesses and will address parking issues. 

The Green Line question

Not all on council supported the network, with councillors Sean Chu, Peter Demong, Joe Magliocca and Ward Sutherland voting against the motion to make the tracks permanent. 

One sticking point at Monday's meeting was 12th Avenue S.W., which some said was a disaster for drivers thanks to lanes that swerve and come to an end on certain portions. 

Additionally, city administration will have to re-examine that portion of the network based on the final alignment of the Green Line LRT through the Beltline.

If the transit project goes forward above ground on 12th Avenue, it could affect that portion of the cycling network. 

Sutherland said he voted against making the network permanent based solely on the 12th Avenue issues. 

"The areas that work, it's great, let's keep it. But the areas that aren't working, stop saying, 'Well we're going to work on it, or maybe we're going to do it or maybe we're going to switch it.' I want a final answer," he said, adding he'd support the project once administration has hard answers on fixes. 

Relief

Thivener said he's relieved he and his team can go back to "normal work" now that the cycle track pilot is over.

"Evaluating a project of this size takes up a lot of time and resources," he said. "It was an important step to bring this much evaluation to the table, but at the same time it's a relief to go back to our regular course of business, because we have a lot of things to do."

Thivener said he'll be busy implementing the city's pedestrian strategy and improving connections into downtown for communities outside the core.

An amendment to delay making 12th Avenue permanent was defeated on Monday, as was a motion to remove the protected lanes west of Third Street on Eighth Avenue S.W.