Calgary Cycle Track – Business Tries to Block Cyclists on Stephens Walk

©Photograph by JL Chong, 2013From the Calgary Herald:

  “a proposal to allow bikes on Stephen Avenue Walk is drawing criticism” from the Calgary Downtown Association.

“Maggie Schofield, the executive director of the Calgary Downtown Association, supports much of the plan, but said allowing bikes on the popular pedestrian stroll on 8th Avenue S.W. will compromise the safety of pedestrians and a public amenity well-used by tourists in an area of downtown that is not popular with bicycle commuters.

“(Our concern) is totally about pedestrian safety,” Schofield said. “People are comfortable walking and not paying attention to this kind of thing. We have tourists and historical tours down there … we are worried about conflicts.”

©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2013“Kimberley Nelson, the president of bike advocacy group Bike Calgary, says the group is supportive of the city’s five-year plan, but also questions whether pedestrians are ready for bikes on Stephen Avenue. She says the group would prefer to see bikes added to Stephen Avenue later, after more infrastructure is added so that motorists, cyclists and pedestrians are given time to grow accustomed to the idea of sharing space.”

“We just think this comes down to the prioritization of routes,” Nelson said. “We think they need to move to other locations first.”

©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2013It is truly amazing how the same reactions come from local business organizations every time a change is proposed in their area, if they did not propose it first.  For business streets to be successful, retail outlets need people traffic.  Yet, there is hesitation to increase that by supporting cycling movement on Stephens Walk.  In other cities, studies have continuously shown that bringing cyclists onto streets increases sales, more sales than generated by motorists by the way.

From my perspective, I find the arguments presented by the two persons quoted difficult to accept for two reasons.

For one thing, as someone living downtown, I avoid shopping on this street and instead cycle farther to the Beltline.  Why, I tend to shop at stores that I can reach on cycling facilities.  So, if the Calgary Downtown Association wants me as a shopper, then open up Stephens Walk to cyclists.

©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2013Secondly, if anyone has studied people streets, or also called pedestrian walks, some things will be evident.  Pedestrian traffic tends to start later in the morning, possibly in the 10:00 am to 11:00 am range.  Before that, municipalities allow car, delivery vans, and city service vehicles on these streets.  Police tend to patrol these streets throughout the day in cars, motorcycle or on bicycles.  Cyclists use these streets at all times of the day.  They know when to reduce speed and when to walk, or when to cycle behind a police vehicle if pedestrian traffic gets too busy.  Just go and experience walking and cycling on pedestrian streets that have traffic levels we could only wish for Stephens Walk.  It is an experience that one can only wish to have here for Stephens Walk.  Try these streets in Madrid, Barcelona, Avignon, Lyons, or go north to such cities as Malmo and Copenhagen, or go to other cities in Europe of all sizes.

©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2013It is interesting to note that some city planners are now preaching the need to move away from a car-oriented cities to one that brings back people on streets through incorporating walking, cycling, and transit.  Let us move Calgary towards this trend and by it improve retail business in our neighborhoods.