Cycle Tracks: An open letter to the Calgary Eyeopener
Earlier today Michael Stark did a opinion piece on why bicycles should not get separated bike lanes. It started poorly and went downhill from there.
I cycle. I drive. I ride the bus. I walk. I commute back and forth to work, but also move around and about my neighbourhood a number of ways even when I’m not commuting back and forth to work. The point of travelling using multiple means of transportation is not to give an air of authenticity to my argument, it’s very much to emphasize getting around is much easier when I can travel in the most appropriate way possible. When I have my children or heavy loads with me, it is far easier to drive. When I am commuting on my own, driving is wasteful, expensive and slow.
Mr. Stark decried those bikes zipping past him while he was stuck in traffic. It’s true, cycling is faster downtown in rush hour. Sometimes much faster. In real numbers, it takes me 20 minutes to ride from my home to my office at 8:00 am every morning. Driving that same route at the same time took me 35 minutes the last time I tried it. Then I had to find parking and walk from my parking stall to work on top of that time.
My office does not have showers, however we do have enclosed parking for bicycles and we have a change area. I can wear appropriate clothing for cycling then change into something appropriate for work. Or those who know me better know I somewhat underdress for work and stay comfortable and productive all day. It’s true that I’m fortunate to work at a great office. Days when I have to dress in a suit means I’d have to slow down and not get to work all sweaty. Suits on bikes are not uncommon.
Lack of showers or secure lock up areas are a reason to improve available facilities downtown, and are not a valid reason to eliminate cycle tracks.
As for cyclist behaviour, I ride daily along 9 Avenue SE through Inglewood. I strictly follow the law while hundreds of drivers each and every day break the law. Let me reiterate that, literally hundreds of people breaking driving laws by speeding, driving in incorrect lanes, cutting off other drivers, or failing to yield to pedestrians. I ride safely and legally. I’m more than willing to take the lane when safe to do so. Sorry for your luck if you are tailgating me in your car, driving in the bus/bike lane on 9 Avenue, blowing your horn and blowing your gasket. Drivers are not supposed to be in that lane whatsoever and they are at fault, not the cyclists.
Yes, all travellers need to follow law and get about the city safely. There is a dangerous imbalance when a vehicle weighing thousands of pounds meets a bicycle. Separating lanes means we have a clear segregation where bicycles are expected and cars can travel. It prevents overly aggressive or overly timid interactions between commuters. It’s beneficial to me as a cyclist and it’s beneficial to me when I’m driving.
Mr. Stark chooses to drive and not cycle. His choice and his perceived suitability for commuting choices has no bearing on the need for segregated bicycle lanes. Those of us out there appreciate the safer, quicker, standardized routes to ride and many of the drivers out there appreciate cyclists being in their own lanes where they are not likely to swing into their driving lane. It’s necessary. We need to encourage more ways to commute into downtown so more people can make more appropriate commuter choices.
We can’t keep expanding roads without starting to eliminate the very downtown the roads are built to serve. Better cycling infrastructure is just one of a number of great ideas aimed at improving access to downtown.
- Mark Zaugg