It's clear from the picture that Inglewood is now ruined. We can expect to see an exodus of refugees fleeing the neighbourhood now overrun by 10-year-olds on bikes.Didn't the Inglewood CA fight this pump track?
Hope you talk to politicians!The answer to the Inglewood piece is a continuous bi-directional path from the river through to Crossroads Market.
The problem isn't that designers of the bicycle network don't know this, the problem is that bicycle stuff is not a priority and still doesn't get elevated to the level of "transportation" the way that cars have been, as they have been for decades in Amsterdam. This remains true despite massive improvements over the past decade in Calgary for on-street infrastructure and general acknowledgement that bicycles are really part of the transportation network fabric.
The backbone of the bicycle transportation network is largely a happy accident triggered by improvements in how park space should be used in the 1970s and 1980s, not from a transportation need to provide efficient bicycle routes as transportation. The Bow River pathway system was largely created from this perspective and functions amazingly consistent as a transportation route by North American standards. We are super lucky it worked out this way.
However, there are issues that aren't addressed because it's a park and recreation thing. It's funded and planned like a park and recreation thing. Some sections are too narrow. Some sections are curvy for no reason. The general state of repair is not always great. The occasional upgrades that do happen are typically done from the idea of having a nice park space, not improvements to capacity or travel time (not that those are always conflicting goals).
To illustrate this further, I'll pick on a niche issue on the Bow River Pathway, just west of Crowchild Bridge.
- This section is always busy and is tight for space due to a bottleneck in two ways - a combined pedestrian and cyclist pathway and a bunch of poles left haphazardly further narrowing the pathway width. Summer weekends it's very congested and practically a slow zone, but even most times of day all year round requires careful passing in either direction as it's always busy enough and the pathway is tight enough.
- First picture is from 2021 - as far as I am aware there has never been a plan to widen it or address the crowding that occurs, let alone just shift the poles out of the way a metre. The light isn't even directed onto the pathway as a perk for the inconvenience of having a pole in the way.
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- Same poles from 2009. Road has been resurfaced at least once, barriers improved but nothing done to improve capacity or width of the pathway since this picture.
What happens when a road has a similar capacity and safety issue historically?
What do we have in the works for increasing the pathway's capacity and usability?
- The city often spends decades expropriating land or even if they don't get around to capacity expansion, they will enshrine setbacks into the land use in the event they might expand the road one day. I doubt this has ever occurred for a pathway or even a sidewalk.
- A project will emerge, be funded and completed over the same time period as those two pictures were taken to allow for that expansion - quite literally in this case with the $90M Crowchild bridge expansion. I also recall the pathway bridge under it being closed due to construction for 2 years while traffic above was accommodated through construction as it was "critical". Again, bias that cars = transportation, bicycles and pathway users can just go around because they are probably just out there for fun anyways.
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- As far as I am aware, nothing. Despite all the cycling strategies, transportation pyramids, climate initiatives, priority network maps etc.
- I do know we are planning to build this one day (see below). I circled the area where the poles are and likely to remain for decades to come by the looks of it. Note all the future expropriations for further highway capacity expansion.
- Also note the only cycling improvement added - a curvy pathway bridge that goes up and over Memorial east of Crowchild. A pathway overpass is actually just car infrastructure dressed up - the goal is to ensure cars can move quickly at high capacity, not make it easier for pathway users. If pathway users were the priority we'd keep them on ground level.
All this gets to my conclusion. I think one avenue for improving the cycling system in Calgary is to treat the bicycle like a car. Not in the regressive way that those self-hating vehicular cyclists mean from the 1980s, but in the literal planning, engineering and budgeting way. This would take us closer to Amsterdam:
That's our one competitive advantage - we are clearly really, really good at long term arterial road network planning and implementation. Just take those same people and put them on pathways planning and projects, tweak the priority but keep the bureaucratic machine the same otherwise. We'd churn out high-capacity cycling routes in all directions in no time.
- Set minimum pathway widths and standards to separate pedestrians and cyclists with zero tolerance for exceptions. We'd never put a pole in a driving lane or expect a pedestrian to walk in the middle of Memorial Drive, we should never put one in a pathway. Where widths are too narrow, that would trigger the bureaucratic black box machine common in roads projects to just spool up a new projects and smooth out all bottlenecks over time.
- Flip the priority - where a trade-off needs to be made just default to the pathway instead of the car. In the case of this bottleneck, Memorial would be reduced by a lane or shifted over decades ago to accommodate a reasonable pathway width.
- Set long-term expropriation and setback plans for pathways. Luckily we won't need these often as bicycle stuff is so narrow and efficient compared to cars but the principle is important. A pathway in a straight line will exist here one day so be sure to get out of the way.