FAQs

Questions Bike Calgary Gets Asked the Most

Here is our list of our most asked questions at Bike Calgary. We answer more questions in our Tips for Riders section that address such topics as rider safety, finding a bike, preventing bike theft and commuting.

  • Cycling provides freedom of mobility, regardless of your income, age, gender or social status.
  • Cycling regularly and cycling to work are a part of a healthy, active lifestyle which results in more productivity and reduced health risks such as obesity, heart disease and cancer.
  • Cycling to work is often less stressful than driving. You are being active outdoors and often avoiding heavy traffic by navigation to work on Calgary’s pathway and route infrastructure.
  • Cycling is a stress reliever as it is fun, friendly and allows you to experience your community in a more personal manner.
Fifteen Benefits of Cycling (2018, external link)
Cycling - Health Benefits (external link)
  • Cycling is a great way to engage in a healthy lifestyle which, in turn, helps to reduce our regional health costs. Statistics show that costs reduce the more active citizens become.
  • Encouraging people to ride bikes more often, especially as commuters, reduces motor traffic congestion. In fact, this has been proven to be one of the most cost-effective way of reducing road congestion.
  • Noise and air pollutions reduce as motor vehicle traffic reduces. Also, bicycles do not emit greenhouse gasses or damage air quality.
  • Bicycle friendly streets increase personal mobility. This causes an increase in consumer traffic which benefits our neighbourhood businesses and leads to positive impacts on our local economy.
Why Cycling Is Great for Everyone - Not Just Cyclists (2014, external link)
There are several thousand Calgarians who ride their bicycle to work every day for the entire year. About 40,000 Calgarians ride their bicycle for transportation purposes regularly in the spring, summer, and fall.  140,000 Calgarians ride bicycles for recreation at least once a week.  And about 400,000 Calgarians ride at least occasionally.

Calgary's Annual May Count of Total Downtown Bike Trips (2017, external link)
Daily and Historical Counter Data (external link)
Calgary Bike Data (2017, external link)
The vast majority of Calgary's commuter cyclists own a car but choose not to use it for their daily commute. On average, bike commuters travel 10km but some travel as much as 30km. Bike commuters are of all working ages although currently the largest group is middle-aged males. Interestingly, in European cities with bicycle infrastructure, the demographics of cyclists is similar to the general population.

What's Driving More Calgarian's to Cycle to Work? (2016, external link)
Bicycles are recognized and regulated as vehicles, just like cars, trucks, and buses, under the Alberta Traffic Safety Act, and bicycles are permitted vehicles on nearly every roadway in Calgary. It is an unfortunate but common misconception that bicycles have no place on our roads. In fact, the Alberta Use of Highway and Rules of the Road Regulation (Section 75) explicitly states that cyclists have all same rights to the road as a person operating a motor vehicle.

Transportation Canada (external link)
Bicycle Law in Alberta (2018, external link)
Many Calgarians demonstrate daily that cycling is a viable mode of transportation. Over 40,000 Calgarians ride their bicycle for transportation purposes regularly in the spring, summer, and fall. This number decreases in the winter months but still remains in the thousands. When community transportation priorities focus on moving people, not vehicles, increases in commuters using their bikes is seen. As a mode of transportation, there are so many benefits - bikes take up less space than cars, they do not emit pollution or noise, they are part of an active lifestyle, and bike infrastructure costs are relatively inexpensive to implement and maintain.

Calgary's Annual May Count of Total Downtown Bike Trips (2017, external)
Calgary has 3 types of cycling infrastructure:
  • Multi-use pathways (MUPs) - these are typically recreational pathways through parks and are managed by the City’s Parks department; some, like the MUPs along Memorial Drive, are used as transportation corridors, but many are not suitable for travel directly to destinations; there are over 700 km of MUPs through parks in Calgary;
  • Cycletracks are physically separated cycling lanes on roadways; they are managed by the Transportation department; there were about 7 km of cycle tracks in the downtown area after the pilot (with a few more added since the completion of the pilot in 2016);
  • Bike lanes are painted lanes, sometimes “shared” with cars on the road; bike lanes are managed by the Transportation department; this type of infrastructure is not comfortable for many riders as it closely shares the space with cars.
Data has shown that more infrastructure, and in particular, physically separated infrastructure such as MUPs or cycle tracks, increases ridership. See the FAQ for “How many cyclists are there in Calgary” for this information.

City Downtown Cycle Tracks (external link)
Types of Cycle Tracks and Bike Lanes (external link)
It is a common misconception that motorists alone pay for the cost of building and maintaining roads through gas taxes and parking fees. The truth is that mainainance and operation of city roads is funded from general revenue, which is funded by residential property tax, and does not include taxes on gas, licensing, or registration.  Construction of new roadways is financed by provincial and federal grants, the majority of which also comes from general revenue (income tax). Taxes on gas make up a small portion of those grants.

According to the City of Calgary's Annual Report, operating expenses for roads, traffic, and parking amounted to over $362 million in 2011. The overall expenditures for transportation (transit included) were over $750 million. According to the City's Transportation business plan and budget, the capital budget for transportation amounts to $640 million for 2012. In 2011, when the West LRT was being built, that number was even higher at $1,167 million.

Taxes on gas cover only a fraction of this cost.  According to the City's 2009-2011 Capital Analysis, it receives $283 million in federal gas tax funding, and $475 million in provincial fuel tax revenue sharing over the 2009-2013 period, or $56 million and $95 million respectively per year.  The federal Gas Tax Fund is earmarked for sustainable infrastructure projects, and cannot be used for road construction in Calgary. It is in fact mainly used to fund transit and waste/recycling projects, although a small fraction (5%) is used to fund active transportation projects such as pathways.  All of it is restricted to capital projects.  Overall, less than 25% of Calgary's capital expenses on transportation projects is covered by gas and fuel tax funding.

Passenger vehicle registration and license fees re not used to fund city spending on roads at all. They are collected and held by the province, making up less than 7% of provincial spending on highways and transportation.

The rest of the City's funding for new roads, and practically all of the City's funding for the upkeep of roads and transit comes from the general fund, which is mainly from property taxes, developer levies (paid by future homeowners in new developments), and federal and provincial grants (funded from general taxes such as income tax).  Less than 7% of the City's operating expenses for roads and traffic are covered by profits from the Calgary Parking Authority.
Roads are a public good - just like the Police Service, they should not only be paid for by people who use them, but by everyone - and in fact they are.

In fact, cyclists pay much more than their fair share of road costs. In recent years, the City has only spent about $2.5 million a year for cycling infrastructure, about 0.4% of the total capital expenses for transportation. The 2011 Cycling Strategy calls for capital spending of $5 million a year for the four years. That's about 0.8% of all transportation capital expenditures, less than cyclists's "fair share" (1% of all trips and 2% of home-to-work trips according to CARTAS, 1.3% commute mode share according to the National Household Survey). In terms of operating expenses, expenditures for cyclists amount to less than 0.3% of the City's expenses for transportation. Taking into account transit fare revenue and parking fees, dividing the City's operating expenses by the number of daily commuters per mode would give about:

  • $2,500 per transit commuter
  • $800 per car commuter
  • $400 per bicycle commuter (based on 2011 operating budget and 2006 commuter numbers).
None of this yet recognizes the public benefit bicycle commuters have. Not only do bikes not have the same impact on road wear and maintenance as cars, cycling is also not burdened with the "hidden costs" of operating motor vehicles, such as air and noise pollution, traffic injury costs, cost of policing traffic regulations and investigating car collisions, congestion costs, and the health care costs of sedentary lifestyles.  The Victoria Transport Policy Institute (VTPI) studied this question in detail and published their results in a study entitled Whose Roads?. Riding a bicycle instead of driving a car has a benefit to the public that justifies investment in bicycle facilities many times what the City is already planning to do.
Transportation infrastructure for cyclists is very inexpensive compared to infrastructure needs for motorists or public transit (e.g., roads, light rail). For instance, widening a road from 2 to 4 lanes costs about $8.5 million per kilometre; painting a bike lane only a few thousand dollars.  In fact, the mayor of Portland, Oregon—one of North America's most bicycle friendly cities—recently announced that their city’s entire bike infrastructure cost less than one mile of freeway. Specifically, the estimate was for a total cost of US$52m, or about the cost of a single freeway interchange in Calgary. Naturally, this cost would not be spent in a single year, nor would there be ongoing annual costs nearly as high as that.  Not only is cycling infrastructure relatively cheap to construct, it is also relatively cheap to maintain.

The City's 2011 Cycling Strategy has 50 specific recommendations for how to make Calgary more bike friendly.  This includes not just new bike lanes, but also education programs for cyclists and drivers, and other safety improvements. The estimated additional operational cost is $1.5 million per year (= 0.3% of the City's annual operating expenses for transit, road, traffic, and parking), and the additional capital cost is $12.2 million over three years (= $3 million a year, or 0.6% of the City's annual capital expenses for transportation).

The Victoria Transportation Policy Institute has estimated that the monetized benefits of encouraging more cycling can be very substantive, and more than justify increased investment in cycling infrastructure. Based on VTPI's research and very conservative assumptions, we've estimated the monetized benefits of a successful implementation of the Cycling Strategy to be at least $2m per year, but probably more than 10 times that.
Giving up a car is not an option for most Calgarians but it definitely is for many Calgarians, especially in regard to their daily commute to work. The more we invest in bike infrastructure, the more we see Calgarians (and others in cities around the world) choosing to use their bike more and their car less. This represents a win-win situation for everyone, because it reduces roadway congestion, reduces our ecological footprint, encourages active and healthy lifestyles and improves the overall quality of life in our communities.

Why Cycling is Great for Everyone - Not Just Cyclists
(2014, external link)
According to the City’s Bicycle Policy, cyclists have the same basic needs as other road users, which means they want
  • space to ride,
  • smooth surfaces that are obstacle-free,
  • connected cycling systems,
  • the ability to maintain a speed,
  • parking and amenities for bikes at destinations,
  • to feel safe and secure, and
  • more education and enforcement.
Good cycling infrastructure makes it easier for people to access businesses, and cyclists and pedestrians have similar spending habits. Because bikes are easy to park and take up less space than cars, more cyclists can reach your business. Again, the idea is to move people, not cars. In many European cities that have seen a rise in cyclists, this has translated to increased business.

Cyclists are Better Shoppers than Motorists (2007, external link)
All cities are different but everyone has similar needs - we have to get to work, we need clean air, we are concerned about our health and that of our loved ones, and we rely on a thriving local economy. Many other cities are thinking ahead and making significant investments in cycling infrastructure to obtain such benefits, and those cities that have done so have seen huge increases in cycling. Even northern cities like Edmonton, Montreal, Winnipeg and Saskatoon are moving forward with infrastructure development for cyclists - and their snowy, inclement winters are not deterring them! Montreal gets twice as much snow as Calgary and has roughly the same winter temperatures; yet it is one of North America's most bike friendly cities.  Calgary already has a fair number of winter bicycle commuters, so cold and snow do not make riding in the winter impossible. Even if improved cycling infrastructure only doubled the number of people cycling only in the dry summer months, the investment would still pay for itself.

It's also sometimes thought that cycling is not feasibly as a mode of transportation in Calgary, because Calgary is so large and the commute would take too long.  As a matter of fact, 30% of Calgary's commuters travel less than 5km to work (15 mins by bicycle), and 60% less than 10km (or up to 30 mins by bicycle).  Encouraging bike transportation is an investment in our future, and even cities such as Los Angeles (which has not been considered an archetypical bike-friendly city in the past) recently voted an ambitious plan to build 1,680 miles (2,600 km) of bikeways. We encourage Calgarians to think to the future!
We are not aware of statistics to suggest that cycling is a particularly ‘dangerous’ form of transportation in our city compared to, say, walking or to other cities. There is a common perception that cycling in traffic is dangerous. The latest Calgary cycling survey reveals that 59% of people would like to bike more often, but most (64%) Calgarians do not feel safe riding on our roadways. International comparisons reveal that cycling injuries are up to 27 times higher (on a per km basis) in US cities that lack proper cycling infrastructure than in places like the Netherlands where cities have substantial infrastructure. Thus, safety concerns are real and they represent a major barrier to increasing cyclists in our city. Improving cycling infrastructure has been demonstrated to increase safety (e.g., New York’s experience) and it certainly boosts the confidence of new cyclists. So, failing to provide Calgarians with appropriate cycling infrastructure represents a huge loss of opportunity for our citizens to engage in a safe, healthy and fun mode of transportation.

Most Bike Friendly Places in Canada (external link)
How the Humble Bike Can Save Our Cities (2018, external link)
Actually, more bike lanes means fewer accidents. For example, according to a memorandum published by NYC's Office of the Mayor, "When protected bike lanes are installed, injury crashes for all road users (drivers, pedestrians, cyclists), typically drop by 40 percent and by more than 50 percent in some locations."

Segregated Bike Lanes Are Safest for Cyclists (2013, external link)
Why New Bike Lanes Are Good for Every - Yes, Even Drivers (2018, external link)
Not only is it illegal to ride on the sidewalk in Calgary, but it is also dangerous for cyclists and pedestrians. Studies have concluded that the sidewalk is the most dangerous place to ride, and fewer injuries occur on roadways.

Bicycle Law in Alberta (2018, external link)
Just like motorists, most cyclists follow the rules of the road and drive their vehicles in a respectful and appropriate manner. Perhaps some cyclists are unclear about the rules of the road, or they choose to ignore the rules, but the same can be said of motorists as well.  What is clearly needed is better education for cyclists and motorists alike on how to behave in traffic, and how to use cycling infrastructure such as bike lanes properly.

One often hears people claiming that the majority of cyclists run red lights and stop signs.  If that were true, it would be borne out in the accident statistics. You'd expect far more cyclists involved in collisions having just run a red or a stop sign.  In fact, about the same number of cyclists as drivers are recorded as having committed such an error.  In collisions leading to a fatality, more drivers than cyclists are recorded as having committed a driver error.
One car takes up as much space as 8 bicycles. Recall how nice it is to drive around town in the summer when a mere 10% of Calgarians are away on vacation. Imagine what it would look like if we had the infrastructure to encourage just 5% of our motorists to leave their cars at home and cycle to work instead!

Coexisting with Bicycles: 10 Rules for Drivers (external link)
Coexisting with Drivers: 10 Rules for Cyclists (external link)
In typical traffic, the average speed of a bicycle is roughly the same as a city bus. Often, such as in congested traffic, cyclists can be much faster than cars, particularly if they have their own bikeways. Appropriate bicycle infrastructure also attracts many cyclists away from roadways, particularly new cyclists or more leisurely bikers, thereby reducing traffic congestion for motorists.