Welcome to Calgary, home of Canada’s favourite mayor, oil companies, the stampede and a bike path system worth taking a closer look at.
The centrepiece to this system is undeniably the path that runs along the Bow River cutting from the Northwest of the city to the South East. The path which also connects to Elbow River and Fishcreek Provincial Park makes up part of over 700km of bike lanes around the city. The riverside path is safe, scenic and at times actually over-congested with cyclists.
The Bow River path, however, is limited in that it will always be disconnected with retail, homes and work places, which emphasises the importance of more inner city bike lanes and development. In response to the rising demand, the municipal government has invested in a separated bike lane that runs through the city centre starting from Seventh Street and Bow River to Eighth Avenue. The path opened just in time for the start of the 2013 summer.
The most scenic of trips Calgary offers may be a ride up to Nose Hill Park just north of the city; a wide open landscape of nature that is close enough to ride to but far enough to feel like you’re getting away from the city. There are also a series of long distance treks that can be a perfect way to spend a weekend.
Nenshi, Calgary’s meme worthy, Twitter-mastering Mayor has invested so much political capital into bike lanes to the point where he had to defend his administration as being more than just that. Since 2006 bicycle ridership within the city has been steadily increasing.
Of course it isn’t all wild roses when it comes to city cycling in Calgary. Wade into any comment section on a news story about biking in the city and there will be enough posts about bike lanes that go nowhere that you have to wonder how meticulous city planners have been in laying out the paths. There are several instances of bike path locations being chosen based on ease of building rather than optimal usage. Calgary, along with much of Alberta, has a serious problem with cyclists riding on sidewalks instead of the road, which causes problems with pedestrians and just ain’t right if you ask us.
Bike theft is also on the rise with a double digit percentage increase three years in a row from 2009 to 2012. It is expected that 2013 will again have a substantial increase as a spike in number of thefts were reported during the floods that ravaged the city earlier this year. Local police continue to advise citizens to invest in high quality bike locks but as of yet have not launched any programs to help crackdown on bike theft.
Despite these issues, as a city of just over 1 million citizens, Calgary continues to punch above its weight for cycling and has a positive outlook moving forward as the interest and the will are present to keep the city on two wheels.
Is your fixed gear a fixture in Calgary? Let us know what you think of the city’s paths in the comments!