Bike Calgary’s Response to the 2023-2026 Budget

The City of Calgary’s proposed 2023-2026 budget allocates just $1.4 million to building active modes of infrastructure. This is less than 0.5% of the total Streets budget and is less than what it would cost to build the few blocks of the 7th Street Cycle tracks today.

Read Project Calgary’s excellent breakdown of the Streets budget here.

Bike Calgary’s letter to city council and administration addressing the lack of active transportation funding is below. We encourage everyone to speak or submit a written submission about why they support active transportation on Nov 22, when Council will be hearing public submissions. We also support Calgary Climate Hub in asking the City of Calgary to commit to funding at least 100km of the Always Available for All Ages and Abilities (5A) network of bikeways and pathways by the end 2025.

Bike Calgary’s Letter:

We are concerned about the 2023-2026 Service Plans and Budgets. Council has taken important first steps to support active mobility by approving the Cycling Strategy, Calgary’s Transportation Plan (including the Always Available for All Ages and Abilities (5A) network and its guiding principles), and the Climate Strategy. Active mobility spending makes up a very small fraction of the City’s transportation expenses, increasing investment would result in significant benefits. The benefits include improved health, long term transportation cost savings, vibrant communities, reduced traffic, fewer collisions, greater equity, reduced GHG emissions, and a more affordable cost of living. In order to meet Council’s commitment to a fully realized 5A Network and transportation modes share targets by 2050, substantial work backed by an appropriate budget, must be done annually.

According to recent studies, there are several key tactics that determine whether or not active mobility goals are successfully achieved by a municipality. These include:

  • Prioritization of active mobility in policies by aligning with broader goals on climate, road safety, health, equity, and build back better strategies.
  • Integration of 5A network infrastructure into: (i) long term transportation plans as a key element of integrated transport systems, (ii) standards for design for urban infrastructure, and (iii) financing schemes at the federal, provincial, and city levels.
  • Setting a minimum percent (10-20% for example) of the transport or infrastructure budget for active mobility is the most straightforward way to fulfill active mobility goals in a sustained form.
  • Establishment of a screening process for transport and road infrastructure projects to ensure adequate and appropriate inclusion of walking and cycling components.
  • Undertaking capacity building to train staff on best practices for active mobility with the ultimate goal of creating a dedicated team or unit.

The proposed 2023-2026 Service Plans and Budgets generally fails to position Calgary for success in meeting our active mobility and mode share goals and fails to support most of the tactics outlined above. Our key concerns with the proposed budget are described below and we look forward to your response:

  1. Several programs, from previous Council budget asks and recently approved strategies, are not explicitly mentioned in the proposed budget, including: Pathways Missing Links, Active and Safe Routes to School, Safer Collector Framework, and Neighbourhood Streets Policy – Why did these not receive dedicated funding?
    – In particular we are concerned about the absence of funding for the Active and Safe Routes to School Program. On July 26th, 2022, Council directed Administration to: “Bring an option in the 2023-26 budget for an expanded package that would accelerate the program’s objectives for Council’s consideration.” (Item IP2022-0556).
  2. Proposed capital funding for Pavement Rehabilitation is set to increase from $53.5 million in the previous budget cycle to $71.5 million. We believe that in accordance with the Complete Streets Policy and Calgary’s aspirations to build out the 5A network, pavement rehabilitation projects should include the development of active mode corridors. When a roadway along the 5A network is repaved, will this significant budget increase be used to also provide a safe walking and wheeling route within the road right-of-way?
  3. In contrast, a large capital funding cut is proposed for the Community Mobility Improvements program. This is one of the few programs that consistently delivered new and improved 5A network routes in the previous budget cycle. Why is this program being cut by 83% ($27.8 million to $4.7 million) without a replacement for these key community investments?
  4. Bike Calgary welcomes investment in downtown revitalization, transit oriented development, and main streets corridors, and we hope to see quality walking and wheeling routes delivered as part of these programs. One of our top advocacy priorities, however, is ensuring equity in transportation choice across all areas of the City. Our assessment of this budget is that it is very city centre and established areas-centric. Which programs in this budget offer opportunities for 5A network development in the rest of the City, including North/Northeast, and Southeast Calgary?
  5. Performance Measures (PM) in the Sidewalks and Pathways portion of the budget seem to be operational in focus and do not reflect city policy and long range plans such as the 5A principles, The Climate Strategy, and The Calgary Transportation Plan. Why have the Performance Measures changed so substantially from the 2019 budget? The Climate Implementation document PMs related to mode share appear to be decoupled from the budget PMs. Can you comment on this? (Example below)
Sidewalks & Pathways PMs -2019:Sidewalks & Pathways PMs – 2023:Climate Implementation document PMs:
-Pedestrian/Cyclist Injury Collision Rate
-Citizen Satisfaction with Snow and Ice Control on Sidewalks 
-Sidewalk and Pathway Condition 
-Sidewalk and Pathway Satisfaction
-Bike Route Connectivity
Average number of days for sidewalk construction
-Material usage for environmental sustainability
-Number of traffic signals with accessible pedestrian signals
-Number of active control devices available for pedestrians
-Snow and ice control completion at prioritized transit/accessible locations within targeted timeframes
-Total investment towards walking and wheeling infrastructure
-Length of 5A network
-City-wide mode share %

We would like to stress that investing in active mobility is not an investment that merely benefits a handful of Calgarians who already walk or wheel to work. It is an investment which will have substantial, ongoing benefits for all Calgarians. By enabling more access to safe active mobility, Council would improve the transportation options of all Calgarians. More Calgarians using these active modes, whether to work or school or for errands and social engagements, means fewer cars on the roads, less wear and tear on infrastructure, fewer accidents, less air and noise pollution, lower GHG emissions, a healthier population, and success and wellbeing of Calgary’s students. A recent study compiled the transportation costs2 borne by both individuals and society within Calgary. It concluded that driving costs $0.83 per kilometre and cycling costs just $0.08 per kilometre (2015 dollars).

Making Calgary more safe and accessible for walking and wheeling is the equitable, economical, and climate friendly thing to do. We believe all Calgarians should have the right to active mobility options. We strongly encourage Council to make the required investment to ensure that these many benefits can be realized, all across our city.

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