Every year, community foundations around Canada conduct citizen surveys on what inhabitants of Canada's major cities like, how they rate aspects of city life, and where they want to see improvements. The Calgary Foundation released the Vital Signs 2012 report yesterday. At an average grade of B+, the report''s headline asks, "We're good, but can we be great?" Transportation got the lowest mark, a C. Calgary's multi-use pathways and bike lanes were singled out by respondents as one of three aspects of getting around Calgary wothy of celebrating.
Things are and have been improving significantly. The City of Calgary has almost doubled the number of bike lane kilometres in the last 1-2 years, and the new lanes are well-used and popular (especially 10 St NW). Some of the bike ways have a built environment that makes cycling there efficient and comfortable even without dedicated space for bicycles (e.g., mini-roundabouts and other traffic calming measures, such as on 13 Ave NW, 2 St NW, and Royal Ave SW). All of this is worthy of celebration, as is the fact that the Cycling Strategy got not only approved but fully funded, and City staff are hard at work at planning more and better infrastructure.
Unfortunately, the report perpetuates the myth that Calgary has hundreds of kilometres of on-street bike lanes: in fact, we have about 20 km of dedicated bike lanes, a few more km of shared lanes (marked with sharrows and "share the road" signs). The rest of Calgary's "on-street bikeways" are just blue lines on a map. Vancouver, Ottawa, Montreal, and Toronto have many times more dedicated on-road space for bicycles than Calgary does. The downtown core still has zero cycling facilites. As one survey respondent put it, "New bike lanes are great! But Calgary still has a really long way to go to improve its transportation systems to be somewhat comparable to other metropolitan cities."