Calgary’s downtown core could be on the cusp of cyclist boom, but the infrastructure needs to come first, according to the city’s new cycling co-ordinator.
Tom Thivener is familiar with the challenges of building cycling ridership having come from a role with the City of Tucson, Ariz. at a time when the number of bike riders had flat lined.
“Despite all the investments in bike lanes, the ridership really hadn’t changed,” said Thivener. “You can’t just build the facilities and pray that they become used.”
Thivener said through utilizing education and promotion, in conjunction with the infrastructure, ridership doubled between 2008 and 2010 — something he’s hoping will carry over to Calgary.
Thivener said the coming months will involve work on a master plan that lays out all of Calgary’s current and future cycling networks, setting in place a guide for the next 10 to 15 years, but the biggest short term challenge is the downtown.
“Calgary has a really well-developed network of off-street pathways,” he said. “When you get to downtown, there’s really nothing. It just drops off.”
Thivener said the city’s transportation department is working to determine what treatment the downtown roads will get to accommodate cyclists, adding, “there’s a bunch of tools in the toolbox to do that.”
“The downtown is really ripe for an explosion; there’s a lot of people living here,” he said.” It’s a lot easier to bike 1 km than it is to walk 1 km or drive 1 km so that could explode if we can just get some facilities in place downtown.”