Disappearing bike lanes from Calgary festival street rendering rankles community association

A community association is raising concerns about the design for a new festival street in Calgary’s Victoria Park after bike lanes vanished from its latest rendering.

Stampede Trail is a planned four-block stretch of Olympic Way S.E., from 12th to 17th Avenue.

It’s set to be lined with shops, restaurants and bars — and at times, closed to traffic for events — after a $20 million redesign.

However, the Beltline Neighbourhoods Association (BNA) initially was not happy that the design included a shared bike lane instead of a physically separated cycle track.

But now, the design has been updated — and although the city says the rendering isn’t final, it does not depict any extra cycling infrastructure at all.

Stampede Trail, which is part of a redesign of the city’s centre, is shaded in green on this map. (City of Calgary website)

Peter Oliver with the BNA says the street should be designed for all users, not just cars, and the oversight could doom the road.

“It’s an important street, and perhaps maybe the most important street in the entire district,” he said.

“I mean, what it looks like if we get it wrong is a street that’s effectively dead.”

‘From bad to worse’

The BNA has been working with the Calgary Municipal Land Corporation (CMLC) since the end of last year, Oliver said, and when the first iteration of the design became available, it offered its feedback.

The design had features including gently rolled curbs and different types of paving that indicated for all users “who goes where,” Oliver said.

But, there was concern that active users and bikes were put in the middle lanes of traffic and within the door zones of parked cars.

“[It was] really going against all best practice that we know is not really truly safe or accommodating,” said Oliver.

BNA spoke to the CMLC about coming back with something that is safer and truly multi-modal, Oliver said. But now, there’s no paint on the road that delineates a bike lane.

That means “it has definitely gone from bad to worse,” Oliver said.

“If we want an active high street with shops and businesses, and people who go there outside of events … then we need a street that’s not just designed for cars loading in and out of a surface parking lot.”

Design being refined, CMLC says

According to Kate Thompson, the head of CMLC, the current design is still being refined based on feedback from stakeholders, and ensuring the district is cycle-friendly is part of the plan.

What the city is trying to do with Stampede Trail is create a gathering place, Thompson said, with a street that can be closed to traffic and filled with people.

Cycling fits within the pedestrian realm, the cycling realm and a transportation network — which means the CMLC is “trying to balance all of these things,” Thompson said.

“We’re still in design review. We’re working with the City of Calgary and all of our shareholders to try to kind of answer that exact question of ‘where does cycling go and how does it go?'” she said.

Like every district, network connectivity is critical to the design, Thomspon added. But a festival street is designed to prioritize pedestrians.

To be a successful “highly-used retail ground-level activation, we have to consider where our separated cycling infrastructure will land,” Thompson said.

“It might not be on festival street, but we need to look at it on the overall plan.”

The final design will be done in a few months and Thompson said construction is slated to start next year.

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