bclark's picture

Bicycle Boulevards/Greenways (Calgary)

Through the end of July, I had a number of occasions where I travelled from Highland Park to Downtown. This mean frequent use of the 2nd Street NW bicycle route. Though it’s not quite as robust as some of the bicycle boulevard/greenway corridors in Vancouver, i.e. there minimal traffic diverters to limit through traffic and speed limits remain 50km/h instead of the 30km/h I see on Vancouver’s bicycle boulevards, it was definitely efficient and relatively comfortable.


I definitely preferred the intersections with roundabouts, as they allowed me to carry my speed for the most part.


The few intersections that had stop signs were a bit of a pain due to what felt like an unnecessary loss of momentum on very quiet streets.


Though I originally thought I’d prefer sharrows for wayfinding markings, the circular bicycle route markings were actually welcomed in reminding me of what streets I had to turn at, as well as indicating where other bike routes crossed.

I think it would be great to see the City enhance its bicycle boulevard/greenway network as means to make it easier to get around by bicycle, at least in the relatively limited, but important in terms of cycle mode share, central areas of the City where a grid street network exists and such improvements might make sense.

To me, making this entails a few considerations;

  • More widespread use of roundabouts to allow cyclists to maintain momentum.

  • Deploying traffic diverters at key locations to limit through traffic.

  • Reduced speed limits to reduce speed differential between travel modes.

  • Improving signalization at major cross streets to allow safe and efficient crossing.

  • Introducing snow and ice control to ensure accessibility in winter.


Crivak's picture


How did you find line of sight on the round abouts that had large central green spaces in the middle of them? From a lower perspective on a bike, was it still easy to see other connecting roads? The example in your photo seems to be fine with only low lying shrubs. I have seen a few roundabouts in the city that had small trees planted in them or large (or tall), inconveniently placed signs instead that seemed more challenging. Or not a likely problem even from the lower point of view? 

In terms of improving signalization at major cross streets, do you have an example of this?
For example, a few weeks ago I tried to cross the TransCanada from 46th street southbound. It was not a good experience and not one I would want to do very often. There are of course alternative routes, this is simply what I did during the Home Road detour. It would have been better to continue all the way down until 43rd street, but again, the connection from here to the pathway system is just a pedestrian crosswalk with no ramp in mind for a bicycle to join the sidewalk for the crossing button. Are these the types of crossings you had in mind? Like you said this is not a route that would be cleared in winter. 
Or, another recent example from a pathway detour: joining the 52nd street cycle track from the Shouldice Aquatic Centre. For this crossing Bowness Road seems to have alternating lights that keeps traffic flowing from one lane over to the next. This works great from a vehicular stand point as 52nd is one way. You simply wait for "your lane" to be the one flowing and join it by turning. It's not possible to go straight through onto 52nd since it's the wrong way, and I've never seen someone try to access the Aquatic Centre by car from 52nd either (anecdotal). However for a bike it's a bit more challenging and again the best option seems to be to dismount and use the pedestrian crossing [twice]. 
Even when I tried to go straight to the cycle track while a pedestrian was crossing [therefore stopping both lanes of alternating through flowing traffic], someone from 52nd street tried to pull in front of me as they were not expecting any oncoming traffic. In fact, the only legal oncoming traffic is a bicycle. I can't think of a way that would improve such a crossing in terms of signalization aside from a bridge. Which it is, of course, with the underpass, but as far as I know there is not a good alternative detour. 

bclark's picture


Hi Crivak. I have never found the line of sight to be a problem at the roundabouts I've encountered. I can see clearly across any of the shrubs to oncoming traffic and also have good sight for anyone approaching from the left or right. I definitely take the middle of the lane (actually almost a bit to the left of middle), in case any motorists are coming up behind, as I don't want them to try and overtake in the roundabout.

In terms of crossings, I was thinking of two situations; (1) where a neighbourhood street crosses a busier street (think collector or local arterial) and there are no signals (example: 18th Avenue and 10th Street NW) and (2) where a the neighbourhood street crosses a major roadway (think arterial, urban boulevard, parkway, etc.) and there are signals (think 2nd Street at 16th Avenue NW).

In the first instance, I've found that such locations can result in a long wait for cyclists if the intersecting roadway is busy and timing it out to cross safely can be difficult, especially if one is riding with slower riders, i.e. kids, or if one of the approaching drivers on the cross street unnecessarily yields, where others do not. If there is a pedestrian crossing, I've found they are often on the "wrong-side" for the direction I am travelling, meaning I'd have to cross the opposing traffic lane to the corner to activate the button, get off my bike, cross the intersecting street, re-cross the neighbourhood street, re-mount and keep going. What I'm thinking about in these situations is a traffic light that's set to sense cyclists, so that cyclists can cross safely.

In the second intance, my challenges is two-fold. I find the timing of the light is very poor for cyclists and heavily favors traffic on 16th Avenue. Though I recognize the rationale for this, I find that the wait can be unfairly long for anyone (cyclist or pedestrian) waiting to cross 16th. The other thing I'm not sure of is whether I think the position of the sensor (against the right curb) is appropriate. Normally, if I'm going through an intersection, I would position my bike close to the centre line, to allow any motorists (or cyclists) wanting to turn right, a clear line to do so. In this case, I think setting the sensor close to the centre line makes sense, as no one is able to make a left turn or go straight until the signal gives clearance to do so.

Coming back to the 18th Avenue example, it does also highlight that some crossings could require a grade separated crossing. In this case, where 18th Avenue crosses 14th Street, 14th Street drops and widens, so a surface crossing would be very challenging. An active mode (note I'm not using the term 'pedestrian'), lined up with the roadway would be a benefit in providing efficient and safe connectivity. While I realize it would be expensive, it would probably be similar, if not better, cost-benefit than the $5M each overpasses crossing the ring road at Arbour Lake and Tuscany, though those are essential (even though very poorly thought out in terms of approaches) as well.

Hope that clarifies. 

I do totally get your challenges crossing from Shouldice to 52nd Street NW as I have the exact same experiences.