Speech to City of Calgary Standing Policy Committee for Planning and Urban Development, given by Gary Millard, in person, on October 7, 2020

Thank you Madam Chair and Members of the Committee for giving me the opportunity to speak with you today. My name is Gary Millard, I am the President of Bike Calgary and an employee of an oil company facing difficult times. Bike Calgary’s mission is to represent and enhance the experience of all Calgarians who cycle, whether they’re parents out for a ride with their kids, students biking to school, recreational cyclists, or the growing number of Calgarians who rely on their bikes to commute to work. Above all, however, we are Calgarians who are concerned about our jobs and economic prosperity. We are employers and employees who want to get back to work safely while respecting public health and collective well-being. We are parents who want to protect the safety of our children, and we are taxpayers who want to see our communities emerge from this crisis stronger and better connected. It is with these considerations in mind that I speak to you today about the 5A Network.

Within the proposed Calgary Transportation Plan before you today is a true treasure map – the 5A Network Map – 5A – “Always Available for All Ages and Abilities.” The 5A network has the potential to become one of those ‘city-defining’ projects, much as the original pathway system was, that benefits Calgarians in all wards and in so many ways. However, while the vision is there, the strategy for implementation is lacking. Without phased capital allocation to the project, as well as clear timelines and objectives, 5A risks becoming yet another great city policy that never actually sees the light of day. If you will excuse the pun, we urge you not to take this path.

The 5A network is essentially Calgary’s vision for non-motor vehicle traffic. It includes infrastructure for pedestrians, bicycles, e-scooters, and other modes of active or micro transportation. It is the most cost-effective way to widen the mobility options available to Calgarians, especially for those who cannot afford a car, who don’t live near public transit, or belong to a group that relies on mobility without a car such as students, the elderly, immigrants, and low-income Albertans. It would empower those who are actively making mobility choices that improve their physical and mental health. It would enable the City to meaningfully reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, and would ultimately lead to stronger, more resilient, safer, and human-scaled communities.

Madam Chair, the benefits of 5A are clear. The question is how to expediently and cost-effectively translate this vision to reality. To that end, Bike Calgary proposes the following 3 steps:

Step 1: As with any other major project, divide 5A into phases. Dividing the network implementation into clearly-defined stages will enable the City to prioritize where the need is greatest and fill in the gaps. Most importantly, having a project divided into shovel-ready phases will enable the City to pursue external funding, such as the funds for active transportation projects that the federal government indicated in its Throne Speech only two weeks ago. If Calgary is to compete with other cities for these funds, Phase I of the 5A network needs to be shovel ready.

Step 2 is to make sure that Phase I of the 5A network addresses the most significant, high-priority gaps in Calgary’s existing network, and does so in a way that benefits all parts of Calgary – not only the downtown core. With the most extensive urban pathway network in North America, Calgary already has great options to walk and wheel throughout the city. Unfortunately, segments are often fragmented and disconnected. Priority number one should be to address these gaps, often less than a kilometre long, and focus on communities underserved by the existing infrastructure.

Lastly, Step 3 is to continue the conversation. The current version of the 5A map before you is incomplete. While its overall vision is strong, the proposed network lacks many of the lateral connections needed to get safely from Point A to Point B and combine trips with other modes of travel. The solution is to consult with local communities and organizations on how to make each phase practical for them. Bike Calgary has engaged many communities and has submitted suggestions to the City. Please, let’s keep this conversation alive and community-driven.

Madam Chair, 5A is more than just cycle tracks and pathways, and it’s more than just a temporary measure for physical distancing. It’s about making the city safer and more livable for its residents and, in doing so, making the city more attractive to the talent we need to fuel our diversifying economy and burgeoning new sectors. In addition to creating thousands of construction and engineering jobs in the short-term, a shovel-ready, fully-funded Phase I will send the message that Calgary is a forward-thinking, open-for-business jurisdiction worth living and investing in. A plan with such potential deserves a well-thought-out approach for implementation. Thank you.