MLA Candidates Views on Bike Issues (2012 Alta Election)

With the provincial election called for April 23rd and as there was likely to be little to no discussion as to what the candidates/parties views on bike related issues were I decided, as per a recommendation on the Bike Calgary website, to contact the candidates running in the ridings that fall within the ward I represent as Bike Calgary’s Ward 6 representative. The ridings whose MLA candidates I contacted were Bow, West, Currie and Elbow. I e-mailed all the candidates indicating them my position as Ward 6 representative and intention to pass their answers onto their potential voters. What I asked them was:

Some things that I am curious about are your opinions on:

    • Educating new drivers on the rights and responsibilities of bikes on the roadway;
    • How you will help discourage both bad drivers and cyclists;
    • How you will coordinate a province wide bicycle strategy;
    • How you will fund bike connectivity between large cities and neighbouring smaller communities;
    • What your stance is on “green route” off street pathways that span the province of Alberta (similar to  Quebec’s Route Verde and a system Ontario is considering;
    • Finally your general opinion on the importance of sustainable modes of transportation, such as cycling, to help reduce our reliance on oil and promotion of more active lifestyles that you would like me to pass on to your potential voters.

Of the people who did respond to my questions most were by e-mail, but both the PC and Wildrose candidates for Calgary-Currie wanted to meet me in person to discuss the issues as they did not understand how it was a provincial matter and we did in fact meet. Originally I planned on presenting the responses in a question and answer format but for simplicity and because not everyone answered in the same way I am going to present what they said as I received them so as to not present what they said in a way that is out of context.

Ellen Phillips-Alberta Party
       No response

Stephanie Shewchuk-Liberal Party

Note: Stephanie is currently on the Cyclepalooza Steering committee and has been involved with Bike Calgary

On educating new drivers on the rights and responsibilities of bikes on the roadway:

Education for drivers regarding cyclists should be a specific part of driver training education. I would be pleased to see a mandatory component of driver training focused on sharing the road with cyclists. (In Amsterdam, for instance, drivers are taught to open their doors with their arm crossing their bodies, forcing the driver to look behind to make sure no cyclists are near the car door. Drivers are also very likely to also be cyclists and thus understand cyclist behaviour better, but that's another story.) At the same time, I believe education should be available for cyclists who are either unaware of or flout the rules of the road. Pardon the pun, but it's a two-way street and both cyclists and drivers must have a stake in road safety.


How you will help discourage both bad drivers and cyclists:

I think there needs to be more enforcement in cases where either drivers or cyclists have broken the rules of the road. Particularly, there is very little recourse in the event of a driver having a non-serious altercation with someone on a bicycle. I believe financial incentives (like tickets) could be an effective deterrent - and as these exist already, better enforcement should occur to discourage bad behaviour. I was heartened to see (at least once or twice) officers handing out tickets to drivers parked in the 10th Ave bike lane during "cycling" hours. Ultimately, better infrastructure will also help legitimize and increase the presence of cyclists on the road, thus contributing to better cooperation between drivers and cyclists.


How you will coordinate a province wide bicycle strategy:

I'm a big fan of the idea of a position paper that's currently circulating. If an elected representative had a comprehensive, yet clear, outline composed by cycling stakeholders, I believe a member (or group of members) could effectively champion this in the legislature. I would be happy to advocate for a province-wide strategy, and for provincial funding for such a strategy. In a dream world, I would like to see a sustainable transportation grant created so that provinces would directly fund dedicated infrastructure that supports active transportation in municipalities.


How you will fund bike connectivity between large cities and neighbouring smaller communities:

To be honest, I'm not entirely sure how best to approach the issue of connecting cycling pathways in cities and smaller communities. It seems to me this should be addressed in a province-wide cycling strategy and funded by both the province and municipalities.


What your stance is on "green route" off street pathways that span the province of Alberta (similar to  Quebec's Route Verde and a system Ontario is considering):

Again, I'm very supportive of any strategy that helps more people cycle in a safer way. I understand the Route Verde in Quebec has been successful and I have seen for myself the benefits of the National Cycle Network in the UK (I lived there for two years and was a volunteer with Sustrans, a non-profit that advocates for sustainable transportation, for part of my time there).


Finally your general opinion on the importance of sustainable modes of transportation, such as cycling, to help reduce our reliance on oil and promotion of more active lifestyles that you would like me to pass on to your potential voters:

I think the promotion of sustainable transportation (particularly encouraging modal shift so that more people are are active) is one of the more important issues on the policy agenda. Policymakers must do more than pay lip service to the issue. Investment in dedicated infrastructure absolutely needs to occur so that cycling, and other modes of active transportation, are encouraged over the automobile. Sustainable transportation is not just a "nice to have", as they say, it's essential. Health outcomes will improve, less money will be spent in the longer-term on roadways and dependency on hydrocarbons will decrease. It's a no brainer to me.

Jason Nishiyama-NDP

A general NDP answer from Jim Gurnett with no specific MLA candidate identified

On behalf of the Alberta NDP I thank you for your recent email raising a number of question about biking.

Alberta’s NDP supports cycling as a healthy, environmentally-friendly mode of transportation that also reduces congestion on Alberta roads. Many of the ideas raised in your questions are areas either where municipalities have jurisdiction or where a partnership between the provincial and municipal levels of government would be required. We support adequate, reliable funding for municipalities so that they can fund important capital projects, such as cycling infrastructure.  We also believe that provincial funding for public transit, another sustainable mode of transportation, should be significantly increased.

Although there are laws in place to protect cyclists, motorists, and pedestrians, the Conservative government has failed to pay for enough police officers on our streets, especially in Edmonton and Calgary, to ensure proper enforcement. Alberta’s NDP supports increasing the number of police officers in the province, to make sure that motorists and cyclists are safe and following the rules of the road.

It is encouraging to see the City of Calgary taking steps to improve the city’s cycling infrastructure. The provincial government should encourage municipalities to work together on cycling initiatives, regional projects, and other strategies to make cycling safer and more attractive to Albertans. We applaud Bike Calgary’s efforts to make Calgary a more bike-friendly city!

Alana DeLong-Progressive Conservative
        No response.

Tim Dyck-Wildrose Party
        No Response

Wilson McCutchan-Liberal Party

First off, allow me to overarch everything I'm about to type by addressing your final issue - my general opinion on the importance of sustainable modes of transportation to reduce our reliance on oil, as well as my views on the importance of promoting more active lifestyles.

Oil has immeasurable uses beyond merely fueling cars and airplanes, but it's perhaps fair to say that none of those other uses are as damaging to the long-term health of the planet. I certainly favour reducing our reliance on traditionally-fueled cars. Not only that, I favour a reduction on our reliance on the automobile more generally, however that automobile is powered.  

A personal anecdote: I was fortunate enough to attend school in Odense, Denmark for one semester. While there, I purchased a cheap bike at a police auction, which I used to ride the 5 mile route to and from school every day. Odense, like other cities in Denmark, has an extensive bike path system. On the way to school, I never shared the road with cars, which reduced the stress of the ride for a relatively inexperienced cyclist. In all, I recognize the value of a bike path system and fully support improvements of and expansions of Calgary's bikeways.

Getting down to the specifics of your e-mail:

- Educating new drivers on the rights and responsibilities of cyclists on the roadways is crucial. This is not only for safety's sake, but also, in my mind, a way of fostering understanding between motor vehicle operators and cyclists.

- Without having the Traffic Safety Act, the Highway Traffic Act, or the Rules of the Road Regulation in front of me, I shouldn't necessarily comment on the sufficiency, or lack thereof, of the province's legislation against reckless driving or cycling. But let me say this: aggressive drivers, or cyclists, should NOT be on the road. WIth respect to automobiles, it's cliched to state, but driving is a privilege, not a right. As much as that privilege can be earned, it can be taken away. I would support lengthened suspensions for people with numerous convictions for aggressive or reckless manoeuvres or behaviour while operating a motor vehicle.  

- My idea of a province-wide bike strategy involves incentivizing school boards to teach bike safety and education pursuant to a standardized curriculum. This education would consist, in part, of learning of the environmental and health advantages of cycling.

- With respect to how I would find bike connectivity between large cities and neighbouring smaller communities, I am not sure I fully understand the question. Something that comes to mind is potentially requiring new or upgraded highways to have broadened shoulders. Rides from Calgary to Bragg Creek are scenic, and obviously popular, but at least on the route I take, there are stretches where I've found the shoulder uncomfortably narrow. Again, however, I'm not sure that I've understood the question. Please do not hesitate to seek further clarification from me if so.

- Finally, I would be in favour of a "green route". I was not aware such pathways existed in Quebec. The development of green route pathways, together with development of convenient and safer routes between Alberta communities, has not only the intrinsic benefit of making it easier for and encouraging Albertans to be active, but also presents a significant opportunity for Alberta's tourism industry. If the pathway systems were well developed and maintained, it would likely be a real draw for active tourists across Canada and around the world. New Zealand, for instance, is a country of great natural beauty that caters to this type of active/athletic tourism, bike tours especially. Alberta certainly doesn't lack for natural beauty. Development of a green route spanning the province could well go hand-in-hand with development of hotels, restaurants etc. along the way.

Mary Nokleby-NDP
        See general NDP response above.

Ken Hughes-Progressive Conservative
        No response.

Andrew Constantinidis-Wildrose Party
        No Response

Norm Kelly-Alberta Party
        No response.

Dean Halstead-Evergreen Party of Alberta
        No response.

Norval Horner-Liberal Party

Just to start I live in Scarboro and worked downtown during my 35 year energy career. I was an active bicycle rider. I generally rode from Mid March to the 1of December. I had a parking spot for most of my career but let my group use it on a rotating basis. I had a great route along the river into downtown and it was steadily improved over the 30 plus years I rode. In the dead of winter I walked to work and rode the bus home. In answer to your questions.:

• my first point would be something you did not ask about. Alberta has the same gasoline tax as it had 25 years ago. It is the lowest in Canada and it raises approx. 20% of what Alberta governments spend on roads. I would raise the gasoline tax which would indirectly benefit bicycles and all other forms of alternative transportation. I would then direct part of the revenue towards our bicycle infrastructure. (that is my view, not yet liberal policy)

• Education on bicycles should be covered in driver training and provincial materials for a learners license

• perhaps more police presence on bike paths enforcing speed limits. More police on bicycles and make aggressive behavior an offence.

• I am familiar with the bike path between Bentley and Gull Lake which is heavily used. I would like to see Green route connection between far more places in Alberta, eventually forming a network at least in the more densely populated sections. I believe this could be a real aid to tourism and I would direct part of our immense transportation budget towards bike connections instead of just roads.

• I believe that as long as we have a conservative gov'ts the private vehicle will continue to benefit from huge subsidies to the detriment of our environment and our health. When I was an active conservative I presented motions to increase gasoline taxes at the policy conferences until the then premier took me aside and told me they were not going to do it. The wild rose will be worse. Cheap gasoline and private vehicles are part of the right wing worldview.

Robert Scobel-NDP
        See general NDP response above.

Christine Cusanelli-Progressive Conservative

I met with Christine’s platform advisor for coffee to answer a few of his questions and advised him how the province could help promote cycling and some of the hurdles cyclists face. I also sent him Calgary’s Cycling strategy, info on Quebec’s Route Verde and an article on the economic gains of cycling, all of which he seemed very eager to read. He appeared very interested and was very easy to talk to. After talking to Christine and reading through the materials this was his response.

Thank you very much for meeting with me last week and educating me on some of the issues that face cyclists in Calgary-Currie and Alberta in general. Christine would have enjoyed meeting you personally if time had been available.

As you know, the Progressive Conservative government has taken some recent steps that  have promoted bicycle safety and the use of sustainable modes of transportation. A summary of those steps is attached. (Note: This is a general PC summary that Alison Redford’s assistant also sent me and I will include in her answer below)

While some of the issues facing cyclists need to be addressed by the municipal government, you made some very good points that were new to me. I agree the Province can do more to educate motorists regarding the respective rights and responsibilities of drivers and cyclists. The idea that roadways are intended for motor vehicles only and that bicycles have no place is plainly wrong. Cyclists pay taxes too. Moreover, given the challenges facing our health care system, the government should encourage healthy affordable activities like cycling. I will pass your thoughts on to Christine.

Some of your ideas regarding bike connectivity and “green routes” are also very appealing. My wife and I have visited Portland on occasion and have noticed how cycling is integrated into its transportation system in a very positive way. We live in a beautiful province and cycling is a wonderful way to enjoy it. However, I think Christine would want to know more about those plans and the costs before she could commit to advocating for those programs. If Christine is elected I am sure she would enjoy meeting you and learning more about your proposals on these subjects. I would be happy to arrange such a meeting.

Corrie Adolph-Wildrose Party

Corrie also wanted to meet for coffee to better understand the issues. Wasn’t able to make it through all the questions and attempted a follow up e-mail to clarify my understanding of her/Wildrose’s views as she wanted and she did not respond. Below is my e-mail to her on how I interpreted her answers to be from our meeting.

Thanks again for taking time out of your busy schedule to meet me. I have summarized what we talked about the best I could and will just run it by you like I said I would. The first part is related to the questions I asked in my original e-mail that I tried to answer from our discussion. I have highlighted in red where I have questions. You may answer these or not, is totally up to you. If I have made any false statements based on what you said feel free to change it to what you think more accurately reflects your position.

Some things that I am curious about your opinions on:

Educating new drivers on the rights and responsibilities of bikes on the roadway

  • Agree that this is a provincial issue and believe that it would be appropriate  to include instruction to drivers education/defensive driving courses to help educate motorists on the rules and skills required when it comes to sharing the road with cyclists.

How will you help to discourage both bad drivers and cyclists?

Didn’t discuss this. Not sure if you want to add anything?

How would you coordinate a province wide bicycle strategy?

  • It would be up to advocacy groups within the municipalities to develop their own strategy and to help gain public interest. The provincial government should not be imposing a strategy on communities where it may not be beneficial to them. (I didn’t get the impression that this is something the Wildrose would consider as you believe that what is good for one municipality may not be good for another and that the provincial government should stay out of issues such as this. If I am wrong here it would be great if you could clarify your position).

How will you fund bike connectivity between large cities and neighbouring smaller communities?

This is somewhat related to the above but didn’t really discuss the Wildrose position on this but wondering if you would like to comment. As these can be areas with little to no residential areas what would be your position on bike lanes between places like Calgary-Bragg Creek, Calgary-Cochrane, Calgary-Airdrie.

What is your stance on “green route” off street pathways that span the province (similar to Quebec’s Route Verde and a system Ontario is considering?)

  • It is not the responsibility of the province to add bike infrastructure when it doesn’t fulfill the needs of the community. It is up to the communities to decide what is best for them and to use the funds that would be given to them unconditionally by the province (10% of all provincial tax revenues, and 10% of all budget surpluses) to build the facilities required and the bike advocacy groups to help spur interest in such infrastructure.

Finally your general opinion on the importance of sustainable modes of transportation, such as cycling, to help reduce our reliance on oil and promotion of more active lifestyles that you would like me to pass on to your potential voters.

Never really touched on this but I know that you believe walking when possible is a good thing. If you would like to elaborate about your stance on this it would be great.

Corrie really stressed that if Wildrose were elected to office that the mandate would be very much city driven and that Edmonton would take a more ‘hands-off’ approach in when transferring money to the cities, rather than designating the funds for specific city services such as transportation. It is the cities that know what they need the most so therefore the provincial government should let them do what they see fit with provincial money.

Agrees that it is difficult when your interests do not fall with that of the majority and that it takes advocacy to help get more people on your side. Suggested that Bike Calgary help extend its reach, to actively promote the Urban Cycling course and that if the city doesn’t provide that necessary infrastructure to make cycling safer in Calgary to turn to private sectors for funding of bike lanes. Oil companies are looking to be more publicly accountable and could be a source of funding for bike lanes, where they could even sponsor a section of bike lane that would contain their name (ie. Encana Pathway).

Greg Clark-Alberta Party

In brief, the Alberta Party believes that our air should be as clean as possible everywhere in the province, including our natural areas, our industrial areas and municipalities.

Specifically, we propose to create a long-term action plan to reduce commercial and personal vehicle emissions. This includes encouraging the use of bicycles and other forms of human-powered transit wherever possible. An Alberta Party government would provide municipalities with incentives to support alternative forms of transportation including public transit, bicycle infrastructure and high-speed rail.

We believe very much in the health benefits inherent in increased use of bicycles as a means of transportation. The Alberta Party health policy calls for initiatives that will prevent people from becoming sick in the first place. The health benefits from the improved fitness that comes from increased cycling are a significant part of this.

All of that said, on the flip side increased bicycle traffic without proper education and infrastructure could lead to an increase in injuries. Although I am extrapolating from the current Alberta Party policy, if we say we want to encourage bicycle use then it stands to reason we are also in support of proper education and infrastructure.

Finally, I want to communicate the Alberta Party's support for the GreenTrip program, which provides funding for public transit infrastructure. My reading of the program tells me it does not include bicycle infrastructure but I think we should consider expanding the definition to include bikes.

William Hamilton-Evergreen Party of Alberta

Joshua, thank you for your recent query on behalf of Bike Calgary. Please inform your membership that the EverGreen Party is broadly supportive of cycling as one of a number of alternatives to using single-occupancy motor vehicles. Stay tuned for an important announcement about where we stand on transportation issues in this election.

Craig Coolahan-NDP
        See general NDP response above.

Alison Redford-Progressive Conservative (incumbent)
        This is the general PC stance that Alison’s assistant sent me.

Alberta Progressive Conservatives take traffic safety very seriously, and this includes the safety of cyclists. That is why, as a government, we have passed the Traffic Safety (Distracted Driving) Amendment Act. This new law restricts drivers from using hand-held cell phones, texting or e-mailing, and it complements other legislation that penalizes drivers that are driving without due care and attention. This law applies to all vehicles as defined by the Traffic Safety Act, including bicycles as all vehicles must share the roadways and have a responsibility to travel in a safe manner.

Alberta Progressive Conservatives are also staunch advocates of green transportation methods. As a government we have implemented the GreenTRIP program, which has allocated $2 Billion to municipalities for green transportation.  Over the duration of the program, $800 million in funding will be available to Edmonton; $800 million to Calgary; and $400 million to other municipalities throughout Alberta. GreenTRIP helps reduce traffic congestion - which improves traffic safety and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

GreenTRIP has been a successful program that has been very well-received by municipalities. It has enabled them to add new bus routes; buy transit vehicles and build public transit infrastructure. It is one example of how working together with municipalities, we can ensure sustainable transportation options for all Albertans.

James Cole-Wildrose Party

Glenbrook is not in my constituency.  I'm sure you'll understand that with an election underway, my focus is on engaging with my own constituents.

Hello James,

I was asking because I also represent Glamorgan for Bike Calgary, who I believe falls within your riding, to pass on the necessary information to them but if you rather not answer that is fine.



No response.

I hope that you have found this information to be useful and will hopefully help you to make the most informed decision on April 23rd. I definitely have developed some of my own opinions about some of the party platforms and responses but my intention here is to just provide you with their responses and not my opinions.