According to Bike Calgary, there's good news and there's bad news in the latest count of commuters entering the downtown core, at least in terms of cycling. The good news: the number of cyclists commuting into work is up 20 per cent from last year (1 in 17 vehicles). The bad news: there's not a single bike lane in the entire core.
Bike Calgary has a great blog post breaking down the numbers, complete with an infographic outlining how cyclists are accessing the downtown core. It points out that the numbe of cyclists is up 40 per cent since 2006, when the count began. The fact that the count is in February dispels notions that nobody rides their bike in the winter.
The Peace Bridge is now number two in terms of how many cyclists use to cross into downtown, and Bike Calgary uses that number to push the new cycle track proposed for 7th Street S.W. It makes sense to use that corridor to shuttle people into the caverns of office towers, but it also falls short.The Bike Calgary post higlights that 1 in 7 of the collisions between cars and cyclists in the core happens within a block of that proposed lane, but it's unclear whether that's on 7th, or the result of other roadways.
While the 7th Street cycle track (which is just fancy talk for a separated bike lane) is welcome, it's not necessarily the best place to start, or at least shouldn't be done in isolation.
Once you've entered the core, east-west connections are nowhere to be found. You can ride the southern edge on the low speed limit pathway, but then you're still just skirting the edge. You can have some room on 8th Avenue S.W., but you'll end up at Stephen Avenue Mall where you have to dismount or face a ticket during the day.
The Calgary Tour de Nuit society has been pushing for separated lanes on 5th and 6th Avenues for years, which for some reason has fallen on deaf ears. According to Gary Beaton, the president of Tour de Nuit, these avenues are ideal for bike lanes, with more room, and better access into the core. It makes sense to include these with any north-south connections.
One thing is clear, with the number of cyclists increasing on downtown roads, something has to be done. This is particularly true when looking at the Bike Calgary numbers which highlight that 1 in 8 bike/car collisions happen in the core.
I'm not arguing against the 7th Street lane, but we have to look further than a small solution to a transportation problem that is only going to get worse, and east-west should be a priority in those discussions.