The Downtown Cycle Track Pilot project is now a year into implementation and people are using the tracks more than ever.

A cycle track is a bike lane protected by a physical barrier from cars on the road and sidewalks that minimizes potential conflicts between people who walk, cycle and drive.

Council approved the Downtown Cycle Track Network and Stephen Avenue/Olympic Plaza bicycle pilot projects in April 2014. Since the launch in June 2015, three new corridors have been made available to cyclists, creating a 6.5 km network of safe, separated bike lanes that can get you to most destinations in downtown’s inner city. City council will meet in December 2016 to review data and make a decision on the future of the project.

Freq caught up with projects coordinator Tom Thivener to talk about the tracks and what developing bicycle infrastructure means for Calgarians.

“[The pilot] is a way to alleviate some fears about what the impacts [of the tracks] are going to be, to try it out and make adjustments before ultimately going permanent and really impacting a few corridors,” says Thivener.

“So far the project is going very well, and Calgarians are taking to the streets more than ever,” Thivener continues. He goes on to say that the city is seeing a “second year bump” as more people discover the paths and try them out.

Though 2016 data still needs to be processed, Thivener maintains that judging by data collecting automated counters that detect the number of bikes on the track, not only has there been at least a doubling of bike trips, but the city is anticipating the one millionth trip on the new corridors of the pilot cycle track in August.

Thivener also points to the advantages of the pilot in determining what the needs and demands are for tracks to make sure the proper bike facilities are created on the appropriate roads, depending on traffic, lights, width, speed and use.

The city established a Bicycle Advisory Committee in 2014 that includes representatives from Stephen Avenue businesses, merchants and community organizations to gain feedback and ideas and provide input on planning and design for mixed bicycle and pedestrian use on Stephen Avenue.

By communicating this way, “we’ve been able to address most of the parking and loading concerns from the public and businesses,” Thivener says, and explains that curb and underground work that would further alleviate concerns will be possible with a permanent project.

The City also performs a fair amount of outreach, with bicycle ambassadors trained in bicycle safety that provide useful how-to information around the routes.

According to a recent study concerning costs and benefits of cycling in Calgary, the benefits of cycling are not only personal as far as health and wellness are concerned, they also exhibit direct and indirect economic gains felt by society.

An estimated 63 million kilometers are traveled by bicycle a year in Calgary while 9.8 billion kilometers are traveled by car. The estimated social benefit of cycling is calculated at $0.35/bicycle km travelled whereas driving incurs a cost of $0.10/km based on social, environmental and economic impacts.

Developing bicycle infrastructure can help mitigate congestion, reduces emissions and promotes physical activity. Arguing that the cycle tracks create more traffic does not recognize the number of people choosing to cycle instead. Consider you are not ‘stuck in traffic’, you are traffic, and that reducing congestion is not the sole purpose or greatest impact of cycling.

Having options that serve citizens that live inner city and in the suburbs is necessary to reimagine what the road is as public space and how to best utilize public resources for the largest number of people in a safe, fun and comfortable way.

For more information on how to use the tracks and the direction of the project, visit http://www.calgary.ca/Transportation/TP/Pages/Cycling/Cycling-Route-Improvements/Downtown-cycle-track-pilot-project.aspx

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