Cycling in the City of Calgary, ALberta, Canada<empty>










Cycling in Calgary Alberta, Canada

This review will comment on cycling in Calgary, its cycling infrastructure, and first steps in moving toward European designs.

Calgary is a city with 1% cycling mode share and an infrastructure that could accommodate much more than the 10,000 daily cyclists.


























© H-JEH (Jack) Becker, Third Wave Cycling Group Inc. 2007-2012., Velo.Urbanism 2012

This review will comment on cycling in Calgary, Canada, its cycling infrastructure, first steps in moving toward European designs, the city, a friendlier place to live, and then some final comments.


1a Cycling in Calgary

The City of Calgary in comparison. The downtown core of Calgary is at a different scale than that of Vancouver with significantly less population density. For a city with such low population density, the challenge for providing an effective network and cycling infrastructure becomes more problematic. Somehow, the city is starting to face the challenge Currently, 1% of the population cycles to work, certainly an opportunity for growth for a city with a young population.

So, for Calgary on an average day there are 9,200 people cycling to work into the downtown business area. The cycling mode share is about 1.3% for the city. With the infrastructure that is in place there should be many more people cycling daily, at least 40,000. “Why not?” may be the question. Is it the weather with a temperate winter climate and a few hot summer months that distracts people from cycling? Is it the cycling infrastructure in place, maybe just not appealing enough to motorists who could be the future cyclists? Is it the infrastructure or network design toolkits being used by the city? Is it the cycling network, maybe not extensive enough? Or, is it the role that cycling plays in the city’s urban form and urban land use, better referred to as densification?

Is there an appetite for more cycling within the city? Well, the demand for inter cycling seems to indicate so.


1b Calgary - Cycling traffic is growing but!

So, why has cycling not grown to the levels of other North American aggressive cycling-cities considering Calgary’s cycling infrastructure.

Calgary is built around the concept that cars are needed to live here. Calgary is a city with low densification and a large land mass. The city has a basic rapid transit backbone system that now takes 50% of the downtown trips. The city also has a very extensive network of off-road bike trails along its rivers that need upgrading to commuting design levels. The city provides free car parking 6 kilometres and farther from downtown adjacent to the river bike trails system. Along with expensive downtown car parking costs, driving the car from home to one of these free parking areas and then cycling the rest of the way has increased entry into the downtown area to 9,200 cyclists per day. Extensive and expanding snow clearing program for these off-road bike paths leads to significant winter cycling even when the temperature drops to minus 20 or 30 degree Celsius. The city has a system of bike paths in road right-of-ways leading from the river bike trail systems to and through big box shopping areas facilitating cycling shopping. Beyond that, the city is just starting on bike lanes. Beyond the C-Train rapid transit system, the transit system is just experimenting with appealing to cyclists with a very limited number of bike racks on buses.

So, where does this all lead to? Learning from the European cycling-active cities highlights physical separation, visibility of cyclists, intersection priority passage, wayfinding that overcomes navigation frustrations, trip time, transit integration, and cycling culture ingrained into cities’ daily lifestyle as key factors for cycling growth success. From North American cities, separation of cyclists from motorists with a backbone network of off-road bike trails, an extensive cycling network, cycling integrated into land densification, and a service-extensive transit system that is cycling friendly are some of the key factors that lead to cycling growth. Marketing the images that driving is not the only way for a desirable lifestyle and that cycling and cycling-transit are socially acceptable alternatives also assists in cycling traffic growth.


1c Calgary as a cycling city

With a bicycle, as one tours cities in North America, Europe, Asia, and Australasia, one notices a variety of approaches towards providing cycling infrastructure to the locals. For some cities, cycling is an important option for travelling while in others the roads are not very conducive. However, each city makes a contribution towards an ideal cycling city. Each city has a layer of cycling infrastructure, network, or social marketing that should be part of an ideal cycling city.

For Calgary, the layers that stand out are:

• The bike trail systems along the city's rivers
• Feeder network to big box shopping areas connecting to the river system
• Feeder network to rapid transit stations (C-Train)


• Bicycles permitted on C-Trains (2 per car), except for rush hours

City’s approach to cycling
• Park and cycle lots 5 km plus from downtown along the river bike trails.




Final Comments

Cycling is not an end goal in itself. It is part of delivering a liveable, energetic, sustainable, green community. It is part of each neighbourhood’s urban plan with transportation capacity and supportive land-use densification that can achieve target active transportation mode shares. It is part of a solution where densification is sufficient to create demand that will make transit profitable for the routes through the neighbourhood. It is part of a solution where local cycling traffic is created to justify high-quality cycling facilities through the neighbourhood. For separated cycling facilities densification should provide a minimum cycling traffic of at least 1,000 trips per day. It is part of a solution of feeding transit stations and frequent service bus stops from homes that create profitable routes and where secure parking is available. It is part of a solution of feeding customers to local retail stores. It is part of a solution of feeding students to their schools.

© H-JEH (Jack) Becker, Third Wave Cycling Group Inc. 2007-2012., Velo.Urbanism 2012










Unless stated otherwise, photographs are the property of the article author(s)
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2013
©H-JEH Becker, Velo., 2013