Calgary Cycling Infrastructure – 2021 Year in Review

As 2021 comes to a close, we want to reflect on some of the progress that has been made in Calgary towards safer and more convenient cycling routes. This will be somewhat of a longer blog post, so here is a brief outline:

  1. Policy and/or administrative changes implemented in the past year
  2. Adaptive Roadways program
  3. Multi-use pathway / Off-street pathway projects
  4. Protected Wheeling Lanes
  5. Looking ahead to 2022

POLICY CHANGES

One of City Council’s most impactful actions towards safer active transportation in 2021 was the adoption of 40 km/h residential speed limits, for all residential streets (streets with no painted centreline), and some collector streets (busier neighbourhood streets, often with bus routes). More information about this change can be found here. After a strong majority vote in favour by City Council in February, the changes were quickly implemented and officially came into effect on May 31, 2021. The speed limit change is estimated to prevent 450 collisions (all modes) annually. Perhaps even more significantly, council approved another policy change to update roadway design standards for new communities and retrofit projects, to reflect 40 km/h for collector streets. and 30 km/h for residential streets. Bike Calgary supported this change and is looking forward to advocating for implementation of these new design standards in the coming years.

Calgary drops speed limit to 40 km/h on residential roads ...
Image Credit: CTV News Calgary

Also in February, City Council adopted changes to the Calgary Transportation Plan, the highest level planning documents for transportation in Calgary. One of those changes was the adoption of the 5A Network Map and 5A Network Principles for safe and comfortable walking and wheeling. Later in the year, council also approved a Notice of Motion to consider and prioritize funding safe routes around schools when building out the 5A network. With the next 4-year City budget being prepared in 2022, Bike Calgary hopes to see new funding for building out the first phases of the 5A network, as well as leveraging other funding sources like the National Active Transportation Fund.

A final policy highlight in 2021 was increased annual funding for snow clearing, including additional funding for clearing pathways, sidewalks, wheelchair ramps and windrows at crosswalks. Calgary now clears 550 kilometers of pathways within 24 hours of a snowfall. With winter well underway, we hope this new budget will help make active transportation a safer and more feasible option for Calgarians year-round.

ADAPTIVE ROADWAYS PROGRAM

In 2021, Calgary continued the adaptive roadways program, originally implemented in 2020 to give people more space to walk and wheel during the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the changes made in 2021 was to use more durable materials, mainly flexible delineators mounted on rubber parking curbs. These low cost materials require much less maintenance and provide better protection from vehicle traffic than the orange pylons that were primarily used in 2021.

Crowchild Trail SW Adaptive Roadway – Image Credit: Jon van Heyst

As of publishing this post, adaptive roadways remain in place on Crowchild Trail SW near North Glenmore Park, 11 and 12 Street SE in Inglewood/Ramsay, Crescent Road NW in Crescent Heights, and 50 Ave SW in Altadore/North Glenmore. We hope that the highly successful Memorial Drive adaptive roadway will also return in 2022, and that the City will continue to use this program to implement short term improvements that alleviate pathway congestion and separate people by their speed (5A Network Principle #1). So far, Northeast Calgary and other communities east of Deerfoot Trail have also been left out of this program, so there is work to be done to promote transportation choice and equity in all areas of the City.

MULTI-USE PATHWAY PROJECTS

Many small multi-use pathway projects and pavement rehabilitation occur throughout the year, but we wanted to highlight a few larger projects that were completed this year:

  1. Barlow Trail Reconstruction: As part of resurfacing of Barlow Trail, a new pathway was added on the east side of Barlow Trail NW between Centre Ave and 28 St (at 16 Ave) NW. Although this pathway does not connect to existing separated/off street infrastructure, it is the first multi-use pathway to serve the Meridian Industrial area, and could help form the backbone of an active transportation network in this part of Northeast Calgary, perhaps including a “Rails to Trails” project?
  2. 42 Avenue SE: Also known as the “Slooshway” thanks to advocacy from Bike Calgary’s 2018 Commuter of the Year, the 42 Ave multi-use pathway was substantially completed this year. Some remaining work includes a new signal for where the pathway crosses from the north to the south side of the roadway near 1 Street SE. This new pathway is the first major active transportation connection for another industrial area – Highfield/Manchester in this case. Along with new pathways along Highfield Boulevard and 12 Street SE, this project connects users to local destinations like the Calgary Food Bank, 39 Ave LRT station, numerous micro-breweries and distilleries, and a future Green Line station.
New pathway along 42 Ave SE – Image Credit: calgary.ca

3. Bonnybrook Pathway (Bow River right bank): Just recently opened in late December 2021, this under-the-radar project is perhaps the most meaningful pathway connection completed in the past year. This project completes a ~3.5km missing link on the Bow River pathway between Ogden Road and Glenmore Trail, while also providing a relatively flat option as an alternative to the steep Beaver Dam Flats -> Lynnwood climb on the other the river. The pathway was completed as part of two projects – the Heritage Drive Flood Barrier, and the Bonnybrook Wastewater Treatment Plant upgrades. It is great to see the opportunity realized to complete a missing pathway link as part of two projects that were not focused on transportation.

New Bow River Pathway connection in pink – Image Credit: Calgary Pathway/Bikeway Map

PROTECTED WHEELING LANES

2021 was a significant year for protected lanes in Calgary, with just over 11 km of new separated infrastructure completed. This includes 12 Ave SW (Sunalta), 11 St SW (Beltline), 3 Ave South (Eau Claire/Chinatown), Silver Springs Blvd NW (Silver Springs), Bowness Rd NW (Montgomery), and 24 Ave NW (Banff Trail/Capitol Hill), as well as the previously mentioned adaptive roadways. This brings our count to 23.5 km city-wide. Credit is due to the previous council and City administration for these significant additions to the 5A network in the past year. Some highlights we have heard from our members are the 12 Ave SW connection to the Bow River Pathway, and Calgary’s first protected intersection for active transportation at Bowness Rd and Home Rd NW.

Protected intersection at Bowness Rd and Home Rd NW – Image Credit: Jon van Heyst

As part of the 2011 Cycling Strategy, the City of Calgary set a goal of building 30 km of cycle tracks city-wide by 2020. Unfortunately, this goal was not achieved based on Bike Calgary’s tracking. Looking forward, should the City set a new target for the 2020s decade? Or should the focus be on other metrics, like usage or equity?

84% of this infrastructure exists in the Northwest and Southwest quadrants of the City, with only the Edmonton Trail protected lane falling within the Northeast quadrant. There is a similar disparity by ward, as seen in the chart below.

Data from Bike Calgary with reference to Calgary Pathway & Bikeway Map

The vast majority of infrastructure exists in the inner city wards (7 and 8). We want to recognize the excellent advocacy of outgoing ward 7 and 8 councillors Druh Farrell and Evan Woolley for safer active transportation routes, especially around implementing the Centre City cycle track network. But this chart highlights the equity challenges in making cycling a safe and convenient option all over the city. The first dedicated infrastructure east of Deerfoot Trail is just underway, and much of the City’s north, south, and northeast have been excluded from these projects. We see great potential for local connections in these areas towards the edges of the City, where high quality infrastructure can build safe connections to transit stations, schools, and recreation centres.

LOOKING AHEAD TO 2022

As we enter a new year, what will 2022 bring? Here are a few ongoing projects to keep an eye on in the coming year:

  • Progress on the 19 Ave SE wheeling lanes as part of the East Central Phase 2 Complete Streets project
  • Expected completion of the 17 Ave SW and 37 St SW Main Streets project, including a new multi-use pathway along 37 St SW, and better walking and wheeling connections on 17 Ave SW to cross Crowchild Trail
  • Bridge completions – the new 9 Ave SE bridge connection between East Village and Inglewood, and the new Jaipur Bridge from Eau Claire to Prince’s Island Park

2021 also saw repaving completed on portions of the 7 St SW and 8 Ave SW cycle tracks downtown. We hope that this program will continue in the coming years. Portions of 12 Ave SW and 5 St SW could benefit from resurfacing and replacement/upgrading of barriers.

Finally, we hope to see greater investment in active modes and livable streets in the 2022 4-year budget. Many of the projects mentioned in this blog were funded in part by other orders of government. There are great opportunities for Calgary to continue to leverage other funding sources to advance our City’s transportation and climate goals, while helping to build a city that gives everyone choice and access for transportation and recreation.

Are there any cycling opportunities or projects that you are looking forward to in 2022? Did we miss any highlights of 2021 in this post? Leave a comment on our social media post, or send us an email at connect@bikecalgary.org.

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