Letter to the Herald Editor re: Bow River Flow

by Mark Zaugg 26. August 2011 09:52

In response to this editorial in August 25's Calgary Herald.  All I can think about right now is, "I didn't run it through my editing process."  I won't fix the "where cars were cars were" below.


I began as a detractor to the Bow River Flow.  I saw no purpose to it and thought it only an inconvenience on a Sunday afternoon.  I am, however, a huge fan of the festivals and the amazing spirit formed within Calgary through them.

Three years ago, I had started riding my bike again for the first time in many years.  There were two purposes, the first to save money on gas and the get exercise to strengthen my chest muscles after a terrible lung infection.  I did like the prospect of a festival for alternative transportation in Calgary, but I also questioned the value of holding the event on Memorial Drive.

My children demanded to attend the Bow River Flow the first year it was held and I had no better excuse to dodge out of it, so I grudgingly went.  I observed a very interesting festival and changed my opinion towards it.  I did not have children pestering me to buy something every five minutes.  Instead my children ran from booth to booth actively seeking out what each had to offer.  We reconnected with organizations we participated with in the past and formed relationships with organizations new to us.  It created a bonding experience between us as a family and also with Calgary as a city.

The other observation I made that first year was that people almost appeared to be afraid to walk on the street itself.  I encroached the road when my children played a game or walked the chalk maze, then scurried off to the side again wary of a car swerving across Memorial to plough into a crowd of pedestrians.  It never happened, of course, and it took a second year for people to appear confident enough to celebrate on the street.  It reminded me of my childhood where we played road hockey and rode our bikes up and down the streets without fear.  Is it wrong to wish the same for my children?

Granted, none of those streets were Memorial Drive.  A "necessary east-west thoroughfare" according to the Herald's editorial on Thursday, which suffered from day-long traffic snarls.  Such trite obstinacy to neglect to mention the newly revamped Trans-Canada Highway along 16th Avenue a few blocks north.  An inconvenience, yes, but Memorial Drive is hardly the sole link from the northwest part of the city to the northeast.  Memorial Drive has undergone much more severe and long lasting closures during it's reconstruction just a few years ago.

Does the Herald also decry the closure of Memorial Drive to traffic from 4 Street NE to Crowchild Trail for the Caglary Marathon?  Of course not, nor should they.  The closure of Memorial Drive is a disingenuous excuse to disparage this particular festival and nothing more.

The Bow River Flow is contrasted with Lilac Festival.  The closure of 4 Street and 17 Avenue SE is dreadfully disruptive when I was forced to drive around it a few years back when I forgot it was Lilac Festival weekend.  I had every bit as much warning then as drivers receive for the Bow River Flow.  If we as drivers make the mistake to not pay attention to the warnings, then the fault lies with us and not the event.  The editorial utterly fails to mention the parking problems on either side of 4 Street SE where cars were cars were parked wherever they could.  I had absolutely no problem finding a place to park my bike at Bow River Flow, and I certainly did not create a parking problem for community members in Sunnyside.  I must certainly call into question to characterization of Cliff Bungalow and Mission as pedestrian friendly while Hillhurst and Sunnyside are not counted as pedestrian friendly.  Both areas have substantial pedestrian traffic in different ways, why are we not taking the best of each area and trying to improve the city at large for pedestrians?

Since I attended the first Bow River Flow, my preferred means of commuting has shifted more and more towards my bicycle.  I still have to pay the cost of vehicle infrastructure through my taxes, even though I now commute four of every five days by bicycle.  I would like to see bicycle infrastructure improve significantly so that when I ride my bike I am safe from traffic and also so that when I drive my car I am free from worry of hitting a cyclist.  I would like others, such as my children, who would cycle more frequently if there was better infrastructure to have an opportunity to travel in whichever manner is appropriate to them at any given time.  That may mean car, bicycle, bus, taxi, pedicab, skateboard, segway or some other fashion I haven't even come up with.  Choice is good, the Bow River Flow exists to promote choice.

I continue to call for a better balance of vendors at the Bow River Flow.  The expansion into Chinatown allowed my family to have lunch at one of our favourite places, but I wish more was available throughout the festival.  Balance is the operative word.  I don't want Bow River Flow to become just another outdoor market and lose it's status as a unique festival in Calgary.

The Herald has clearly carried the worst of the special-interest agenda.  The agenda that says, "Transportation must always be vehicular.  Festivals must always be the same.  It has always been thus and thusly shall it always be."  Calgary is a city of youth, of vitality and, most importantly, a city of innovation and growth where options are available to us as citizens.  It's time to declare a singular mode of transportation planning an expensive flop and move on in the effort to give Calgarians more options to make our own city more sustainable.

Mark Zaugg

Smiling and waving and riding through.

by Mark Zaugg 16. August 2011 19:20

Here I go into another way-too-long post trying to get my thoughts established, but it bugs me and therefore I think it's a worthwhile endeavour.

The trigger for this is Tom Babin's article here.  Go take a little time to read it, it's very worthwhile to go through.  Even if you've read it, it's worth scanning through again because I will doubtlessly refer to it.

That is far from the only source I'm going to draw from, however.

The next person to play a significant role in this entry is Mia Birk.  If you're unaware, Mia is, from her twitter bio: "Author, Joyride: Pedaling Toward a Healthier Planet. President, Alta Planning + Design. Co-founder, Initiative for Bicycle and Pedestrian Innovation"  To me, Mia is one of the "PeopleWhoRuinedMyLife" by making me actually care about how my riding appeared towards others and made me have second thoughts about how my behaviour may have repercussions against others.

The third person is an unknown cop who sat in his van yelling at a cyclist on the street.  Okay, the cyclist was me and I would characterize it as "..lording in his van yelling inappropriately at a cyclist on the street" but I will try to be factual and as balanced as I can be.  I've alluded to the story in the past, but I intend to throw the whole story out warts and all.

And with that, I will start with my anecdotes.  Do not confuse an anecdote with data.


My ride home from work is as follows.  I start on 11 Avenue SE and McLeod Trail (northbound) and ride eastbound along 11 Avenue SE until I reach the bus barns.  I went through the bus barn parking lot once behind another bicyclist - never again, that's a busy parking lot and although I actually trust the drivers who park there, I'm uncertain how they view bicyclists going through.  Instead I circle around the bus barns on the streets.  Sadly, that leaves me with a problem: Getting back onto 12 Avenue SE requires a left hand turn across a fairly busy road, after which I have to navigate the risky intersection of 12 Avenue SE / 7 Street SE and MacDonald Avenue SE.  I strongly prefer to ride along the sidewalk on the north side of the avenue, crossing at 7 Street once the traffic abates considerably.  I proceed along the Multi-Use Pathway (hereafter MUP, often referred to in Calgary as the "Bike Pathway") which is on the east side of 7 Street, proceed under 9 Avenue and continue on the MUP until I reach 17 Avenue SE at the Cushing Bridge.  After that it's 17 Avenue along the sidewalk all the way home.

I consider getting to work to be much, much safer.  Although it's the same route in reverse, I'm travelling downhill and with the flow of traffic along 17 Avenue SE and I avoid the fearful side of the 12 Avenue / 7 Street, McDonald Avenue intersection.

I ride this route twice a day, at least 17 times every month -- Monday through Thursday each week, plus the first Friday of every month.  I consider myself a seasoned bicyclist, somewhat out of shape, and confident riding virtually everywhere in the city year round now.

Both my anecdotes relate to this exact route.


The first anecdote is when I ran across "The Law".  I was riding home heading eastbound on 11 Avenue.  I don't remember the exact day any more, but it was early spring 2010 or late fall 2009.  It was fairly cool weather with ice on the road, and the left hand lane was still closed along 11 Avenue SE for the construction of the Keynote building.

You can see the exit to the Impark parking lot at the gap in the fence just before the red and white sign.  It's actually pretty safe in my view, although it is far from perfect.  There is a relatively good view of cars trying to exit the lot through the chain link fence, although often the view can be obstructed by parked cars.  The downside of the exit is that 11 Avenue is a one way road and cars trying to enter the flow of traffic often only watch for oncoming vehicles and do not turn their heads to watch for pedestrians (and certainly not bicycle traffic).

I hope you notice the puddle along the roadway.  This is an area that frequently ices up.  I knew that the exit was icy and if a car bombed out of parking lot without looking for pedestrians I wanted as much notice as possible.  So I swung out into the lane to get a better viewing angle on cars coming out of the lot.  For reference, I would have been riding approximately where the puddle ended in the picture.

At that point I heard a horn honk.  My first thought was someone was coming out of the parking lot - no one was there.  The horn blared as I continued across the exit and a cop shouted out of his van at me.

I wish I remembered everything that was said.  It started with the usual, "What are you doing?" "I'm going home," and continued with the cop yelling at me and myself becoming more obstinate at the treatment I was getting.  It ended with the cop threatening to get out of the van and write me a ticket and me mumbling, "May I leave now?" while not really caring what his answer was, then dismounting and walking my bike along the sidewalk to not give him any more excuse to come after me.

This feels like I should have more of a moral to this, but I don't really have one.  Frankly, the cop was right.  By the law, I should not have ridden the wrong way on a one way street and it was a perfectly ticketable offence.  In subsequent conversations with cops (both that I do and don't know personally) the consensus seems to be he could have handled himself a lot better - if only getting out of the van and having a discussion with me directly.  Escalating the argument to the point of threatening to write a ticket did nothing to diffuse the situation or to change either my attitude or my behaviour.  Write one if you're going to write one, or say, "Hey, you ought to know better," if you're not.  Be decent either way.  Instead he just got blown off as another asshole cop having a bad day.

We can hire a thousand cops and have them write up 20 tickets each every day and have a terrible environment where everyone's afraid to put one wheel wrong.  Turning back to Tom's question, is it the job of the cops to punish or to educate?  Is it wrong to not hand out a ticket?  Should that cop get out of his van and listen to my reasoning?  Is my perspective skewed because the cop was in a van?  I'd have a ton more respect to the cop if he was riding behind me on a bike and said, "Hey buddy, smarten up."

I'll let it hang for a while longer.


I've been sucked over to the side of the argument that says there is no excuse for breaking the law.  It is making our job more difficult and we, as cyclists, need good will and infrastructure a lot more right now than you as a rider needs to save 15 seconds running a red light.  So I've tried to become more introspective while I ride and more vigilant in following the rules of the road to the letter.

It's catching, too.  I ring my bell each and every time I pass someone on the pathways.  Usually I exert enough peer pressure in that act alone that if another cyclist is not ringing his or her bell they will start after hearing mine go off two or three times.

So I have a lot of reason to be feeling proud of myself.  Then a couple weeks ago they restricted the lane on 11 Avenue SE to do work on the 4 Street underpass and I changed my route and started going straight to 12 Avenue and taking the lane.  Personally I prefer going down 11th, and still feel it's safer, but I figure I can "man up" and be a confident rider all the time.  A few days into the new route I noticed someone on twitter complaining about a bad cyclist.

I suppose the first question that has to be raised is just why I'm riding on 11 Avenue and 12 Avenue instead of the actual bike route on 10 Avenue.  Well, I think it's a bike route, although I admit I had to pull a U-Turn before I found any indication whatsoever that it was a bike route at all.  Here's my proof.

That's a fine piece of paint right there.  Now, this is on the far east end of 10 Avenue, there isn't a lot of traffic, bicycle or otherwise, along that stretch of the road.  Looking at that sharrow, it's pretty hard to say there is currently a commitment to cycling in this city or that we have adequate travel routes.

But that's not the real reason I don't use 10 Avenue.  The real reason can be found here.

Because the city is building the new 4 Street underpass, 10 Avenue just ends right now and there has been no access eastward from the end of 10 Avenue in at least two years.

So let me start my second anecdote and take you for a ride down 12 Avenue.  I was riding along this section in front of the casino, with the turn onto Olympic Way.

You can see very clearly that the right lane is unquestionably right turn only.  I rode up to the lights and was catching my breath when a car pulled up beside me.  "Okay," I thought, "she wants to turn so I'll scootch over right to the curb."  She didn't turn, so I dismounted, pulled my bike onto the curb and waited.  She still didn't turn.  "You idiot, you're going to race off the line and cut over, aren't you?" I thought.  She did.  I rode across the intersection after she performed her poor interpretation of launch control grateful she was gone and I could ride in safety.

When I'm pushing, I can cruise at about 30 to 35 km/h on my bike, so I'm not far off the speed of the traffic.  People were passing me, only to get caught up in the cue of cars trying to turn onto McDonald Ave.  At that point I start passing them.  However I've still got the problem of getting into the left hand lane so I can go straight onto 7 Street.  I signal, two cars refuse to let me in and I have to slow down to let them cut over to turn.  The lady in the third car did not see when I signaled and I was braking at that point and not in a position to be taking my hands off the handlebars to signal again.  I managed to move over through a lane change that would have thoroughly pissed me off if I were driving and stopped at the intersection.


See the guy riding a bike above?  He had a hard time getting to the left lane safely too, today.

Now, as I take a deep breath, this normally wouldn't be much of a story and certainly not a story worth telling.  That day, there were two cyclists riding along the sidewalk in the above picture.  They stopped at the intersection far ahead of me, had the right of way, and the first vehicle that did not let me change lanes damned near ran the lead cyclist down then and there.  The second vehicle waited, but I was completely certain that I was going to have to perform first aid and call an ambulance - it was honestly that close.

Now I know that I sometimes feel it's safer to ride on the sidewalk and I will do so when I think it's my best option, but after seeing the guy was okay my gut reaction was to yell at that cyclist for riding along that sidewalk just the way they had where they were less visible to the cars.  Here's the photo in the other direction from the exact same spot as above.


That is not just a sidewalk.  That is also a small section of the MUP that leads down along the west side of the Elbow River leading down through the heart of Stampede Park.

And somewhere in this mess is the exact point that I want to make.

I'm riding a bike on 12 Avenue SE and hit a red light.  Legally, I'm to take the lane and keep vehicles queued behind me as I ride through to 7 Street where I stop at the three way stop sign, proceed in turn, then transfer over to the MUP.

The lady who pulled up beside me at the light wasn't going to wait for cars, let alone a bike.  She was technically street racing off the line, and most certainly performed a dangerous lane change to merge into traffic.  When I arrived at the 12 Avenue / 7 Street, MacDonald Avenue intersection, two vehicles failed to yield to me, both of which cut across my path of direction in order to make their turn.  One nearly collided with another cyclist.  That cyclist was riding along the sidewalk and proceeded through the crosswalk so was plenty to blame on his own accord.  I doubt his wife or girlfriend behind him would have been thrilled to hear that criticism should he have been hit, though.  Even I performed an illegal lane change because I did not signal to the third car.

There is absolutely more than enough blame to go around over a stretch of three city blocks.

And I'm not even bothered by it.  It is "normal!"

And that is the point I want to make in response to Tom's article.

This issue goes well beyond the simple argument that cyclists have gotten this extra responsibility to browbeat good behaviour into other cyclists here and now so we can get some good will to build some desperately needed infrastructure.  It becomes bigger than yelling at drivers who perform incredibly stupid and irresponsible actions.  It becomes more than being vigilant for the unleashed dogs and the tottling toddlers and the joggers pacing themselves to skull-splitting volumes on an iPod.

Many of the rules that cyclists are defending are wrong, are dangerous, are nonsensical for anyone outside of a car.  But it's the law.

Well the law is an ass, an idiot.

I have no problem with telling other cyclists to clean up their act and ride safely.  I am not about to tell someone to endanger their life because the laws on the books are ridiculously dated, modal-centric rather than well designed, or outright contradictory.  (Seriously, is that a sidewalk or an MUP?  And is it too fine a line to draw, really?)

I have one, absolute, unbreakable law while I ride that I invariably abide by.  Cyclists must yield to pedestrians.  I'm moving faster than they are, I can cause more damage to them than they can to me, I'm higher than they are and I ought to be able to see better than them.  Every law needs to be held up for inspection.  Some need to be upheld as a no-brainer:  Cyclists need to stop at stop signs.  Guh!

Some really do need to be examined.  If we have crosswalks and intersections, why can't we have bicycle crossings?  Do we really need to force cyclists to dismount at every intersection to cross at a crosswalk?  Cyclists must stop (full stop, real stop, not a yield, a stop, period) and if it's safe they can proceed.  Cars must yield to bicycles in the crossing.  Cyclists must yield at all times to pedestrians in the crossing.  Why does this not make sense?  Why can we not create rules that make sense and better reflect how we actually use intersections?  How is this not safer for bicyclists and pedestrians and vehicles?  It's reducing dangerous, higher speed interactions between us all.  If there are flaws in my reasoning - and I assure you there will be - smarter people than I can create real solutions.  So do it, damn it!

But for right now, we need change and infrastructure so desperately that a lot of us in the cycling community feel that we have to grab the moral high ground right away so we can at least start making progress.  We don't have time to wait for all the fatties in gas guzzlers to die off.  (He says as he puts down his snack and considers getting extra exercise over the next day or five.)

Laws need to be about making us all safer and creating fewer confrontational interactions and increasing positive interactions.  I'm not just talking about bikes, I'm talking about life.


I'm going to wrap this Dickensian post by directly addressing part of what Tom addressed.

Very often while I'm going to work, I round the curve on 12 Avenue.  Once you pass the curve, parking is allowed and there are always vehicles parked along the road by the time I get on my way to work.

It drives me crazy when someone feels the urge to pass me along that stretch by swinging into the oncoming lane of traffic as we round the curve.  It's incredibly stupid, incredibly dangerous, and quite sadly incredibly common.  This is before we even approach the parking zone.

I don't consider it a politeness, I have a very low opinion of the driver's abilities when they do that.  I need at most four feet - I'd prefer five if I can get it - but there is much more space than that available.  Crossing the center of the road demonstrates that you're deathly afraid of your driving abilities because I'm 100 percent confident that I'm not about to swerve six feet towards you with no warning whatsoever.

Like Tom, I get annoyed when some driver stops in the middle of the road to wave me through when I don't have the right of way.  I also get annoyed when drivers fail to yield to me when I do have the right of way.  It's a very simple concept, why can't drivers figure it out?

I'm going to quote someone wiser than myself.  From Mia Birk's Joyride, p. 113.

"I wave constantly at my neighbors and at strangers who stop for me at a stop sign.  Often, they wave me through although they have the right of way.  For many years, I would assert my presumed equality by motioning, "No, you go ahead, really."  But then I realized that when someone offers me kindness, it's my responsibility to graciously receive.  Besides, when you're on a bike, momentum is your friend, and I think that the motorists waving me through must understand that.  Perhaps they themselves bike from time to time.  I always smile and wave in gratitude.  And since this happens numerous times a day, I'm always smiling and waving, waving and smiling, happy, happy, happy as I pedal along, until I arrive at work or a meeting or home feeling pleasantly hungry, energetic, even buzzed."

On my bike, sure.  I'll smile and wave thanks and ride on through safely.  And quite possibly question your driving ability.

But when I'm in my car you damned well follow the rules of the road.  Seriously.

Bicycle vs. Car - an Argument With Myself

by Mark Zaugg 30. June 2011 20:52

I've been becoming more vocal lately about pretty much everything.  I'll go right back to what I told you last year - I'm a smart guy, but I'm wrong about half the time.  We count on it - that's the basic fundamental principle of democracy:  The majority of us will probably have the right answer most of the time.  It's not foolproof, but it's as good of a starting point as we've found.


So I've made a big shift from being a fair weather, pathway cyclist to year-round, "confident" cyclist who chooses a bicycle as my primary choice for a daily commute.  I've always been good on a bike and I've always enjoyed riding, but I grew up in Small Town, Alberta where traffic wasn't anywhere near the big deal it is in Calgary.  In the city, it's a whole different deal.  The pathways aren't bad when they aren't busy, but they can get extremely congested downtown.  Roads in the city are just scary to ride on.


Where the conflict develops is that I'm not just a cyclist -- I'm a driver too.  I'd like to think I'm above average in both categories - I secretly fear I'm not much different than anybody else out there.  It's not a fair argument.  We already know who's going to win.


Driver Mark:  All this crap about making Calgary bicycle friendly is starting to make me sick.  We have more than enough problems with traffic in Calgary.  We have too much sprawl and not enough roads and interchanges.  It takes far too long to get in from the suburbs to downtown.  Most of the people in this city drive cars.  We need better roads, we need more parking, we need better ways to move people back and forth.


Cyclist Mark:  We have a better way.  We've sunk untold millions into automobile infrastructure.  We can't continue this.  We don't have the space for more roads, we don't have capacity to move more cars through the inner city, we can't afford to keep building more neighbourhoods further and further from city centre and still move people back and forth every day the way we have.  The better way is alternative transportation.  Transit, bicycles, and walking can all relieve our biggest obstacles.


Driver Mark:  Yeah, yeah, more of this cycling crap.  One percent of Calgarians are going to ride bikes for three months in the summer and we're talking about sinking $28 million for a handful of people.  It's a joke, we need to put the money where people are really using it now.


Cyclist Mark: Hold up, let's be genuine here a moment.  We're talking about $28 million in capital costs, but there's a little over $12 million that's unfunded right now.  One mile of urban freeway costs about $60 million.  The numbers are kinda simple - that's one fifth of a mile of highway to find for all of Calgary's start up for bicycles over the next three years.  That's really cheap compared with vehicles.  We're talking tens of thousands of cyclists out there now, and we want to increase those numbers in the near future.


Driver:  That's ridiculous.  The roads are already built!  You're going to take away driving lanes and parking and call it a bargain.


Cyclist: We're not going to reduce McLeod Trail to two lanes all the way up and back.  Changes have to be strategic.  Bicycle lanes need to be put where cyclists can use them.  We're asking for a full transportation network, just like vehicles have.  No one would be happy driving from Deerfoot Trail, getting on a five mile long dirt lane, and then carrying on Highway 2 up to Edmonton.  We want the same planning to go into our bicycle infrastructure.


Driver:  But we already have this world class bike path system we brag about.


Cyclist:  We call them bike paths, but they're really not just for bikes.  They're Multi-Use Pathways (or MUPs) and there are bicycles and pedestrians and dog walkers and wheelchairs and all manner of users out there.  They're great for recreation, they're okay for commuters when they happen to align with your route, but they're not helpful when you have to go out of your way.


Driver:  So we spend a whole pile of cash to revamp our roads and nothing is going to change.  We don't know that anyone is actually going to ride a bike anyways.


Cyclist:  No, we don't know for sure that habits will change.  We do know one thing for sure:  Without better infrastructure Calgarians will not change.  Most people don't feel comfortable riding on the roads.  We have to make things easier if we want to convince more people to pull their bikes out of their garage. We've proven it over the last 40 years.  It's time to fix it.  It's a cheap way to leverage what we've already built.


Driver: And the end result of this is that we're going to get more idiots on bikes driving dangerously.  Have you seen those guys weaving through traffic back and forth?  They're insane, they're dangerous, and they're never held responsible for their absurd behaviour.  Why don't they ever get tickets the way I get ticketed as a driver?


Cyclist:  You know what?  You're exactly right.  It's dangerous, it's stupid, and it's setting back the cause of cycling twenty years.  Cyclists should not be riding like that.  Let's not forget there are plenty of drivers out there driving dangerously, too.  The dangerous drivers are a much bigger problem for you than the dangerous cyclists because you have to deal with a lot more bad drivers than bad cyclists.  I am still going to through out a proviso, however.  Sometimes it's safer for a bike to not strictly follow the rules.


Driver:  Hold it.  As a driver, I'm expected to follow all the rules, all the time.  You are not going to get away with some creative excuses because you're on a bike.


Cyclist:  People on bikes should follow the rules all the time.  But not all the rules are particularly bike friendly.  Not all the rules have been designed with bikes in mind.  We need to get them addressed fairly.


Driver:  Tough, tell it to the judge.


Cyclist:  It might come down to that, eventually.  Until then can we agree that we need fair and reasonable enforcement for everyone on the roads?  We're going to have issues, but everyone's driving out there needs improvement.


Driver:  Fine.  But what about all those cyclists slowing me down when I'm trying to get somewhere?


Cyclist:  Bicycles are slowing you down?  Can't you pass safely?


Driver:  No.  Those cyclists think they own the whole lane.


Cyclist:  They deserve the whole lane.  It's done to keep us safe.


Driver:  Safe?  You're going 30 km/h blocking me the whole way!  Move over and let me by.  You're supposed to ride to the right.


Cyclist:  Most people I know generally do move over when it's safe.  But even if you're held up for a block, it's hardly the problem with slowing you down much.  Honestly, the problem is there are more cars than the roads can handle.  Look at this video, it's Crowchild Trail during rush hour.  The bikes are faster than the cars.  And they're not even trying to go quickly.  More bikes on the road mean less cars on the road.  You'll travel faster as a driver.  It's good for you!


Driver: It will only get worse when you're taking away driving lanes and parking.


Cyclist:  Experience from cities like Montreal have been the opposite.  Bike lanes are getting congested because they're so well used.  That's easing congestion on the streets, at least a little.  Besides, haven't you noticed all the "traffic calming" measures the city is slapping in through the inner city neighbourhoods?  You're losing your driving lanes anyways.


Driver:  All those blockages really piss me off.


Cyclist:  We can use some of that for bike lanes.  It'll keep traffic flowing, take cars off the streets, and we'll all be better off.  As for parking, if someone goes to the store by bike, that's one more person you don't have to fight for a parking stall.  You can park a lot more bikes out of the way with a bike rack than you can with a single parking stall out front.


Driver:  Okay, but Calgary has this thing called winter.  Why are we spending this much money for times of the year when no one can ride?


Cyclist:  Actually, I ride year round now.


Driver:  Are you crazy?  That's ridiculously dangerous.  You're going to slide right underneath my car going around a corner.


Cyclist:  Look, during the winter what tires do you put on your car?


Driver:  Well, I just use my All Season tires.


Cyclist:  The same tires you hate in the rain because they're so slippery?  Are they better on ice?


Driver:  Well, no.  It can be kinda scary in the winter.  But I have AWD so it's not all that bad.


Cyclist:  Okay, when I ride in the winter, I put studded tires on my bike.  They give incredible traction out there - I feel very comfortable on ice or snow.  Besides, Calgary is famous for it's chinooks.  It's not so bad all winter long.  You just prepare for the conditions.  Why don't you put winter tires on your car?


Driver:  They're pretty expensive.  Don't get me wrong, I'd love to have better tires year put on.


Cyclist:  I got fantastic tires for $80 each.  I feel much safer out there and they'll last me for years.  My entire bike is set up and maintained for winter.  Honestly, it's kind of nice to not get to work sweaty in the winter.  It would be a lot better if they cleared snow regularly out of the lanes where I need to ride instead of moving snow onto it.


Driver:  It was tough enough getting the city to plow more of the city streets regularly.


Cyclist:  We're sharing the pain.  Don't you agree it's a real problem when the lines are faded?


Driver:  I can't tell where the bicycles are supposed to be and where I'm supposed to drive.


Cyclist:  A huge portion of the bicycle strategy is dedicated towards maintenance.  That's going to help drivers and bikes know where each other are supposed to be and keep us all safer.  It's as much about cars as it is about bikes.


Driver:  Well why aren't bikes carrying their share of the costs?


Cyclist:  I drive, too.  I pay taxes just the same as you.  We're paying right now.  It's just that there's been very little put towards cycling infrastructure up to now.  We don't need as much as vehicles, but we do need more than we've had up to now if we're going to encourage more people to ride.  Cycling is getting me fit, it's going to save a whole lot of health care costs.  Cycling can save us a whole lot of money in the long haul.


Driver: Well why aren't we leaving space for the cars and just putting cyclists and pedestrians together on a oversized sidewalk?


Cyclist:  There are two major problems.  The first is the problem that a traditional intersection isn't really well designed for pedestrians, and it's atrocious for cyclists.  The other problem is between cyclists and pedestrians.  Relative speeds between bikes and pedestrians are too great to be safe.  I walk at a quick pace and I'm only travelling at 5 km/h.  On a flat road on my bike with no wind I can sustain 35 to 40 km/h now.  That's the same as talking the difference between a car and a bike.  Really, the best case scenario is to separate vehicles from bicycles and separate bicycles from pedestrians.  It will take an investment, but it's ultimately geared towards making us all safer, more active, and hopefully healthier.  We call it our bicycle strategy, but it's really about transportation for all Calgarians.  We have literally sat on this since the early 1970's.  The sooner we act, the sooner we can make it better for all of us.


Driver:  Well, I've got one more beef.  I don't see why we have to hire three people to organize this whole bicycle strategy.  What are those jobs supposed to be doing?


Cyclist:  You know I've been complaining about the signs on the pathways.  They're horribly designed for a cyclist moving at 20 km/h - let alone someone moving at that 35 km/h I can sustain now.  We need someone to design better signs, to plan detours and maintenance, we need someone to plan routes that will least interfere with drivers and give maximum usefulness to bicycles.  We need someone who is taking a serious look at bike boxes, crossing signals, coloured lanes and other safety features other cities are having success with.  This isn't a three year job, this is going to be a ten year project until we show significant results.  At the end of it, we're going to have a healthier city, cleaner air, safer traffic and faster commutes.  It only makes sense.  We absolutely have to work on this.


Driver:  I'm not sure you've convinced me, but you make some good points.


Cyclist:  I am you.  You're out riding on a regular basis.  You're happier when you get into work.  You're not scowling at the other drivers when they do something stupid.  You haven't lost a pound of weight, but you've dropped an inch from your waistline and your lungs feel better than they have in years.  You know this is right for you.  You know this is best for your children.  It's a chance to correct 40 years of mistakes and finally get a cycling network built in Calgary for them!  Don't blow the opportunity.


Driver:  At the public hearings when one of the presenters said cycling was fun, Andre Chabot said that driving was fun, too.  He's right, I like to drive!


Cyclist:  That's never going away.  You're going to have to do a little of both well into the future.  Having more choices is best for everyone.  We need to fund this.  We need to seriously act on it.  Right now.


Change is the only constant.

Welcome to the semi-exciting new look, same crappy blogger.

All comments are still moderated, I'll approve everything that isn't spam or offensive.  Agreement with His Dorkasaurus is not necessary.

What has changed is that I don't have 1000 junk accounts clogging up the system that I have to go through one by one.  Yes, you too can set up an account and no longer need to wait for me to notice you posted.  Completely optional.

As always:  Have fun, be respectful.


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