Saturday, 10 November 2012

The policy of cycling

With the snow fall becoming more frequent, the bike lanes nightmares are increasing. City Council has taken the view that Calgary should increase the number of useable bike lanes around town. It is a policy which has been pushed forward by certain groups in the city namely Civic Camp.

While certain flexibility is required to manage the rights of cyclists, it seems that Council has decided that this issue is part of their ‘social indoctrination ‘agenda. First it started with the view that cyclist are being endangered by sharing the road with cars. This was followed by the view that we should be encouraging the use of bicycles to alleviate the number of cars on the road and maximize the use of bicycles as a means of transportation to the downtown core.

Being a recreational cyclist, I have supported the building and proliferation of cycling facilities around town; more importantly the addition of miles of cycling paths around our parks and river banks. For example the existing bike routes in Fish Creek and Nose Hill parks are something that Calgarians should be proud of. The placement of signs to help cyclist and users in distress to report their location is an even better idea.

The problem with the current policy for bicycles is that it is not well thought. In the past it was conceived as a recreation issue, but increasingly the design, rules and regulations are taking a life of their own. In Lakeview for example the Community Association is complaining that the introduction of bike paths in the community is causing traffic problems. It seems that the addition of two bike lanes has reduced the width of the road and that there seems to be conflict between cars and bikes.

Although the bike lanes were requested by the community association it seems that the current design is not only ugly, but also is not being used by cyclists, as some of them still use the lanes dedicated for cars. hence the problem with ‘social engineering ‘without proper rules.

Calgary is not Copenhagen or Portland. We have months of snowfall and our roads were never designed for cyclists. Cyclists very often disregard the rules of the road. They ride in pedestrian crossings and sidewalks. They are a vehicle and should observe the rules of the road. Dedicated bike lanes should not be cleared of snow as a priority, since more people use cars and buses for winter commuting. Instead of bike lanes bus routes should take precedence after a snow storm.

What is becoming apparent is the intransigent attitude of certain members of Council, mostly those belonging to Civic Camp, who have a hidden agenda to rid Calgary of as many cars as possible. Alderman Pincott’s arrogant ‘take it, or leave it’ response to Lakeview’s community association concerns speaks for itself.

Bicycles are great, but in Calgary their use is more for recreation rather than commuting. Our roads were not designed for massive bicycle use. While bicycle paths are encouraged, major traffic arteries and streets should not be changed to accommodate wide bicycle routes. As long as Council believes that we must put bikes ahead of transit and cars, we are going to create conflict. We currently spend millions of dollars which could be better spent on mass transit instead. A balance is required in future policies for bicycles. What we don’t need is arrogance from civic representatives.

Marcel Latouche

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