Calgary Bicycle Transportation FAQs

Also check out our Connecting Communities webpages on the Comprehensive Cycling Strategy!

What are the benefits of bicycle transportation?

Bicycle transportation is good for the individual and good for our community:

Good for the individual:

    • Cycling provides people the freedom of mobility, regardless of their income, age, sex or social status.
    • People who bike to work or cycle frequently are more active and more productive. They are also less likely to be affected by obesity, heart problems, and cancer.
    • Cycling to work is not only less stressful than driving for many people, but also a stress reliever. Cycling is fun, friendly, and allows you to experience more of your community.

Good for the community:

    • Regional health costs decrease as citizens lead more active lifestyles. Cycling is a great way to become more active.
    • Encouraging people out of cars and on to bikes reduces traffic congestion for motorists -- in fact, it is demonstrated to be one of the most cost-effective ways of reducing congestion on roads.
    • Reductions in motor vehicle traffic mean less noise and air pollution for us all. And unlike motor vehicles, bicycles do not emit greenhouse gases or damage air quality.
    • Bicycle friendly streets increase personal mobility. Neighbourhood businesses benefit by increased consumer traffic, leading to positive benefits to our local economy.
    • Each of the above improve our overall quality of life and can increase property value.

Read more on our page on how making Calgary more bike friendly will benefit all Calgarians.

How many cyclists are there in Calgary?

It depends on what you mean by "cyclist".  There are several thousand Calgarians who ride their bicycle to work every day for the entire year. About 40,000 Calgarians ride their bicycle for transportation purposes regularly in the spring, summer, and fall.  140,000 Calgarians ride bicycles for recreation at least once a week.  And about 400,000 Calgarians ride at least occasionally. Here is a very detailed answer.

Who commutes by bike and how far do they go?

The vast majority of Calgary's commuter cyclists own a car but choose not to use it. Their commute is 10 km on average, while some people bike as far as 30 km to get to work. People of all working ages commute by bicycle, although currently the largest group is middle-aged males (however, in European cities with bicycle infrastructure the demographics of cyclists is similar to the general population).

Are cyclists legitimate road users?

Bicycles are recognized and regulated as vehicles, just like cars, trucks, and buses, under the Alberta Traffic Safety Act, and bicycles are permitted vehicles on nearly every roadway in Calgary. It is an unfortunate but common misconception that bicycles have no place on our roads. In fact, the Alberta Use of Highway and Rules of the Road Regulation (Section 75) explicitly states that cyclists have all same rights to the road as a person operating a motor vehicle.

Is cycling a viable mode of transportation?

Lots of Calgarians demonstrate that it is every day, and many use bikes as our primary mode of transportation to work year-round. Community transportation priorities must focus on moving people, not vehicles. But even as a vehicle, bikes have some major advantages over cars: bike transportation infrastructure is relatively inexpensive to implement and maintain, bike infrastructure doesn’t require much space, bikes don’t contribute to noise or air pollution, and bikes encourage active and healthy lifestyles within our communities.

Calgary has 700 km of bicycle paths, what are you complaining about?

In reality, there is very little dedicated bike infrastructure in Calgary.  As of 2013, there are about 30 km of on-street marked bike lanes, about 0.1% of Calgary's over 19,000 lane kilometres of roadway.

It is true that Calgary has over 700 km of multiple-use pathways (MUP) that were designed for recreational users, particularly pedestrians, joggers, and recreational cyclists. Although the paths offer scenic routes through some parts of our city, they were not designed for transportation, and thus they are not well-suited for commuter cyclists. Commuter pathways need to be efficient (e.g., allow speeds beyond the 10 or 20 km/h limits on the MUP), provide a high level of connectivity throughout the city, must be cleared of snow and ice in the winter, must be well lit, and conform to accepted safety standards for cycle transportation. Unfortunately, our existing pathway system falls short in these areas and in some instances pose dangers to cyclists and non-cyclists alike. For instance, only 20% of pathways are snow cleared (compared to about 50% of roads), most pathways are not lit at night, and a large part of the 700 km network of pathways criss-crosses Calgary's large parks, e.g., Nose Hill.

Why should motorists subsidize bicyclists? Do bicyclists even pay their fair share of the road?

It is a common misconception that motorists alone pay for the cost of building and maintaining roads, e.g., through gas taxes and parking fees. The truth is that mainainance and operation of city roads is funded from general revenue, which is funded by residential property tax, but which does not include taxes on gas, licensing, or registration.  Construction of new roadways is financed by provincial and federal grants, the majority of which also comes from general revenue, e.g., income tax. Taxes on gas make up only a small portion of those grants.

According to the City of Calgary's Annual Report, operating expenses for roads, traffic, and parking amounted to over $362 million in 2011. The overall expenditures for transportation (transit included) were over $750 million. According to the City's Transportation business plan and budget, the capital budget for transportation amounts to $640 million for 2012. In 2011, when the West LRT was being built, that number was even higher at $1,167 million.

Taxes on gas cover only a fraction of this cost.  According to the City's 2009-2011 Capital Analysis, it receives $283 million in federal gas tax funding, and $475 million in provincial fuel tax revenue sharing over the 2009-2013 period, or $56 million and $95 million respectively per year.  The federal Gas Tax Fund is earmarked for sustainable infrastructure projects, and cannot be used for road construction in Calgary. It is in fact mainly used to fund transit and waste/recycling projects, although a small fraction (5%) is used to fund active transportation projects such as pathways.  All of it is restricted to capital projects.  Overall, less than 25% of Calgary's capital expenses on transportation projects is covered by gas and fuel tax funding. 

Passenger vehicle registration and license fees are collected (and retained) by the province (and make up less than 7% of provincial spending on highways and transportation).  They are not used to fund city spending on roads at all.

The rest of the City's funding for new roads, and practically all of the City's funding for the upkeep of roads and transit comes from the general fund, i.e., mostly from property taxes (paid by everyone), developer levies (paid by future homeowners in new developments), and federal and provincial grants (funded from general taxes such as income tax).  Less than 7% of the City's operating expenses for roads and traffic are covered by profits from the Calgary Parking Authority.

Roads are a public good: just like the Police Service, they should not only be paid for by people who use them, but by everyone (including cyclists)—and in fact they are.

In fact, cyclists pay much more than their fair share of road costs. In recent years, the City has only spent about $2.5 million a year for cycling infrastructure, about 0.4% of the total capital expenses for transportation. The 2011 Cycling Strategy calls for capital spending of $5 million a year for the four years. That's about 0.8% of all transportation capital expenditures, less than cylists's "fair share" (1% of all trips and 2% of home-to-work trips according to CARTAS, 1.3% commute mode share according to the National Household Survey). In terms of operating expenses, expeditures for cyclists amount to less than 0.3% of the City's expenses for transportation. Taking into account transit fare revenue and parking fees, dividing the City's operating exenses by the number of daily commuters per mode would give about:

  • $2,500 per transit commuter
  • $800 per car commuter
  • $400 per bicycle commuter

(based on 2011 operating budget and 2006 commuter numbers).

None of this yet recognizes the public benefit bicycle commuters have. Not only do bikes not have the same impact on road wear and maintenance as cars. Cycling is also not burdened with the "hidden costs" of operating motor vehicles, such as air and noise pollution, traffic injury costs, cost of policing traffic regulations and investigating car collisions, congestion costs, and the health care costs of sedentary lifestyles.  The Victoria Transport Policy Institute (VTPI) studied this question in detail and published their results in a study entitled Whose Roads? (PDF). See also this article (admittedly about Vancouver, but the situation in Calgary is similar.) Riding a bicycle instead of driving a car has a benefit to the public that justifies investment in bicycle facilities many times what the City is already planning to do.

Won’t it be really expensive for Calgary to build transportation infrastructure for cyclists?

Transportation infrastructure for cyclists is very inexpensive compared to infrastructure needs for motorists or public transit (e.g., roads, light rail). For instance, widening a road from 2 to 4 lanes costs about $8.5 million per kilometre; painting a bike lane only a few thousand dollars.  In fact, the mayor of Portland, Oregon—one of North America's most bicycle friendly cities—recently announced that their city’s entire bike infrastructure cost less than one mile of freeway. Specifically, the estimate was for a total cost of US$52m, or about the cost of a single freeway interchange in Calgary. Naturally, this cost would not be spent in a single year, nor would there be ongoing annual costs nearly as high as that.  Not only is cycling infrastructure relatively cheap to construct, it is also relatively cheap to maintain.

The City's 2011 Cycling Strategy has 50 specific recommendations for how to make Calgary more bike friendly.  This includes not just new bike lanes, but also education programs for cyclists and drivers, and other safety improvements. The estimated additional operational cost is $1.5 million per year (= 0.3% of the City's annual operating expenses for transit, road, traffic, and parking), and the additional capital cost is $12.2 million over three years (= $3 million a year, or 0.6% of the City's annual capital expenses for transportation).

The Victoria Transportation Policy Institute has estimated that the monetized benefits of encouraging more cycling can be very substantive, and more than justify increased investment in cycling infrastructure. Based on VTPI's research and very conservative assumptions, we've estimated the monetized benefits of a successful implementation of the Cycling Strategy to be at least $2m per year, but probably more than 10 times that.

Why do you want to force people to get out of their car?

It's clear that for many Calgarians giving up on their car is no option.  But for many Calgarians it is, and they would take up cycling more often is Calgary were more bike friendly.  If we had appropriate transportation infrastructure for cyclists, it would provide opportunity for some people to use their bike instead of their car. This represents a win-win situation for everyone, because it reduces roadway congestion, reduces our ecological footprint, encourages active and healthy lifestyles and improves the overall quality of life in our communities.

What do cyclists want anyways?

According to the City's Bicycle Policy, cyclists, like other road users, have a few basic needs:

  1. Space to ride
  2. A smooth surface, clear of obstacles
  3. A connected cycling system
  4. Ability to maintain speed
  5. Bicycle parking and amenities at destinations
  6. Character and to be safe and feel secure
  7. Education and enforcement

I’m a business owner. Won't more bikes on the road translate into less retail activity?

Good cycling infrastructure makes it easier for people to access businesses, and cyclists and pedestrians have similar spending habits. Because bikes are easy to park and take up less space than cars, more cyclists can reach your business. Again, the idea is to move people, not cars. In many European cities that have seen a rise in cyclists, this has translated to increased business (e.g., see this article on “Cyclists are Better Shoppers than Motorists”).

Just because cycling works elsewhere, why should it here? Isn't Calgary different from NYC, Vancouver, Montreal or Copenhagen?

Certainly cities differ from each other, but Calgarians have similar needs to people living elsewhere: we have to get to work, we need clean air for ourselves and our children, we are concerned about our health and that of our loved ones, and we rely on a  thriving local economy. Many other cities are thinking ahead and making significant investments in cycling infrastructure to obtain such benefits, and those cities that have done so have seen hughe increases in cycling. Even northern cities like Edmonton, Montreal, Winnipeg and Saskatoon are moving forward with infrastructure development for cyclists – and their snowy, inclement winters are not deterring them! Montreal gets twice as much snow as Calgary and has roughly the same winter temperatures; yet it is one of North America's most bike firendly cities.  Calgary already has a fair number of winter bicycle commuters, so cold and snow do not make riding in the winter impossible. Even if improved cycling infrastructure would double the number of people cycling only in the dry Summer months, the investment would pay for itself. 

It's also sometimes thought that cycling is not feasibly as a mode of transportation in Calgary, because Calgary is so large and the commute would take too long.  As a matter of fact, a 30% of Calgary's commuters travel less than 5km to work (15 mins by bicycle), and 60% less than 10km (or up to 30 mins by bicycle).  Encouraging bike transportation is an investment in our future, and even cities such as Los Angeles (which has not been considered an archetypical bike-friendly city in the past) recently voted an ambitious plan to build 1,680 miles (2,600 km) of bikeways. We encourage Calgarians to think to the future!

Is cycling dangerous in Calgary?

We are not aware of statistics to suggest that cycling is a particularly ‘dangerous’ form of transportation in our city compared to, say, walking or compared to other cities. But there is a common perception that cycling in traffic is dangerous. The latest Calgary cycling survey reveals that 59% of people would like to bike more often, but most (64%) Calgarians do not feel safe riding on our roadways. International comparisons reveal that cycling injuries are up to 27 times higher (on a per km basis) in US cities that lack proper cycling infrastructure than in places like the Netherlands where cities have substantial infrastructure. Thus, safety concerns are real and they represent a major barrier to increasing cyclists in our city. Improving cycling infrastructure has been demonstrated to increase safety (e.g., New York’s experience) and it certainly boosts the confidence of new cyclists. So, failing to provide Calgarians with appropriate cycling infrastructure represents a huge loss of opportunity for our citizens to engage in a safe, healthy and fun mode of transportation

Does more bike lanes = more bikes = more accidents?

Actually, more bike lanes means fewer accidents. For example, according to a memorandum published by NYC's Office of the Mayor, “When protected bike lanes are installed, injury crashes for all road users (drivers, pedestrians, cyclists), typically drop by 40 percent and by more than 50 percent in some locations.“

Why aren't you just riding on the sidewalk?

Not only is it illegal to ride on the sidewalk in Calgary, but it is also dangerous for cyclists and pedestrians. Studies conducted in Ottawa, Toronto, and elsewhere have concluded that the sidewalk is the most dangerous place to ride, and fewer injuries occur on roadways.

Aren't cyclists reckless law-breakers? Do all cyclists ride like couriers?

Just like motorists, most cyclists follow the rules of the road and drive their vehicles in a respectful and appropriate manner. Perhaps some cyclists are unclear about the rules of the road, or they choose to ignore the rules, but the same can be said of motorists as well.  What is clearly needed is better education for cyclists and motorists alike on how to behave in traffic, and how to use cycling infrastructure such as bike lanes properly.

One often hears people claiming that the majority of cyclists run red lights and stop signs.  If that were true, it would be borne out in the accident statistics: you'd expect far more cyclists involved in collisions having just run a red or a stop sign.  In fact, about the same number of cyclists as drivers are recorded as having committed such an error.  In collisions leading to a fatality, more drivers than cyclists are recorded as having committed a driver error.

Do cyclists take up too much space on the road?

One car takes up as much space as 8 bicycles. Recall how nice it is to drive around town in the summer when a mere 10% of Calgarians are away on vacation. Imagine what it would look like if we had the infrastructure to encourage just 5% of our motorists to leave their cars at home and cycle to work instead!

Are cyclists too slow?

In typical traffic, the average speed of a bicycle is roughly the same as a city bus. In some cases (e.g., congested traffic) cyclists can be much faster than cars, particularly if they have their own bikeways. Appropriate bicycle infrastructure also attracts many cyclists away from roadways, particularly new cyclists or more leisurely bikers, thereby reducing traffic congestion for motorists.

See also:

Cycling Health and Safety: A Review



How many cyclists are there in Calgary?

How many cyclists are there in Calgary? The answer depends on what you mean by "cyclist".  Many people, even if they ride bicycles regularly, don't think of themselves as cyclists.  Here, however, that's what we'll mean by "cyclist": someone who rides their bicycle regularly.  It is difficult to estimate this number accurately, since the question isn't asked in population-level surveys such as the national or the civic census.

As part of the planning leading to the Comprehensive Cycling Strategy, the City of Calgary hired a private consulting firm to conduct a representative, random telephone survey of adult Calgarians about their cycling behavior and attitudes.  (Note that this was not a survey of cyclists only.) 67% of respondents said they own a bicycle.  57% of respondents said they ride at least once or twice every two to three months; 19% of respondents said that they ride daily or at least once a week; 6% said they ride it daily.  59% of respondents said they would like to ride more than they already do.  According to the 2006 census, just over 740,000 Calgarians were age 20 or over (the number is certainly higher now).  This means that according to the cyclist survey:

  • over 500,000 adult Calgarians own bicycles
  • over 400,000 adult Calgarians ride bicycles at least some of the time
  • over 400,000 adult Calgarians would like to ride their bicycle more often
  • over 140,000 adult Calgarians ride their bicycles at least once a week
  • over 44,000 adult Calgarians ride their bicycle daily

If you think these number seem high, you might think that all these Calgarians mainly ride their bicycles recreationally.  The survey also asked for what purpose Calgarians ride bicycles.  6% (or over 44,000 adult Calgarians) say they ride their bicycles to work or school daily or at least once a week, and 4-5% (or 30,000) for social purposes or for shopping or appointments. While 59% said they'd like to cycle more often, still 50% of respondents (representing over 370,000 adult Calgarians) said they'd like to cycle more often for transportation purposes, i.e., not just recreationally.

The federal and municipal government are especially interested in how many people cycle to work on a regular basis, i.e., how many commuter cyclists there are.  The percentage of commuter cyclists among all commuters is called the cycling mode share.  Different surveys give different results for this number.

  • According to the 2010 cyclist survey, 3% of responents (representing over 22,000 adult Calgarians) use their bicycle daily to get to work or school.
  • According to the 2006 federal census, of 498,030 Calgarians aged 15 or over with a usual place of work, 6,975 (1.4%) commuted by bicycle. This number has risen in the 2011 National Household Survey, which replaced the "long form" census, to 7,400. However, the question is now asked of 578,660 employed Calgarians whether or not they have a usual place of work. The NHS commute-to-work mode share is now 1.3%.
  • Commute to work mode share data from the NHS and municipal census is consistent with 2011 CARTAS (Calgary and Area Regional Transortation Survey) data, which gave a 2% bicycle mode share citywide for weekday home-to-work trips.
  • According to the 2010 "cordon counts", about 4,500 (or 1.9% of the total) bike trips into the central business district were made (sources: 2011 Comprehensive Cycling Strategy, p. 15-16; Mobility Monitor 34, Sept 2009). That number has risen to about 6,000 in 2012, a 30% increase.
  • The percentage of people entering the downtown core by bicycle during the morning peak hour is 2.5% according to the most recent (2013) cordon count.
  • Bicycles make up 3% of morning peak hour home-to-work trips with destinations in the Centre City, according to CARTAS. The overall percentage of people cycling to work in the Centre City according to CARTAS is 4%.
  • According to the 2011 civic census, of 337,127 respondents, 2,923 (0.89%) commuted to work by bicycle.

The discrepancies in these percentages is easily explained by two factors:

  1. The methodology and questions for collecting the data differs. The National Household Survey, which replaced the "long form" federal census, uses a representative sample of the population and asked how people usually get to work. The civic census uses a non-representative sample (one person per household) but the sample is very large as every household is asked. For transportation, the civic census asks how people got to work the last time they went to work, so it is collecting actual trip data at or near the day the census is completed (early/mid April). The civic census also includes people who work from home, while the federal census only includes people who actually commute to a place of work. (The mode share of 0.89% reported above already takes this into account.) If the mode share reported in the civic census is extrapolated to the population covered by the federal census, the number would rise from just under 3,000 commuter cyclists to over 4,400.  The cordon counts only survey people entering Calgary's downtown core.  CARTAS data is the most detailed: it used a representative sample of all Calgarians, and participants completed a trip diary for a 24-hour period, in which every trip was recorded.  Trip diaries were only recorded on weekdays, however, so home-to-work mode share data from CARTAS excludes people working on weekends.  CARTAS also reports mode splits for the Central Business District, but their definition is different from the cordon counts and coincides with what's often called the Centre City, i.e., downtown core plus Beltline. About 160,000 people work in the Centre City, or about 1/4 of all employed Calgarians)
  2. The data was collected in different years and at different times of the year, with widely varying weather conditions -- and weather obviously is a factor for when people choose to ride a bicycle to work.  The cyclist survey (reporting a 3% mode share for daily bicycle commuters to work or school) was done in September 2010 (toward the end of the cycling season), the cordon counts in early May every year, the 2006 federal census in mid-May 2006, the 2011 National Household Survey between May and August 2011, and the civic census in early April 2011 (at the very beginning of the cycling season). CARTAS surveys were collected between February and May 2011. In particular, the morning temperatures during the April 2011 civic census ranged between -10 and 0 C and included several days with significant snowfall.  So the 0.9% mode share reported in the civic census is best interpreted as an estimate of the winter cycling mode share.  By contrast, morning temperatures during the 2006 federal census ranged between 7 and 22 C.

It is worthwhile to stress again that the census data only counts employed Calgarians and their commuting mode to work. It does not count students commuting to school or university, and it does not count Calgarians using their bicyles regularly to go shopping or run errands, and it does not count occasional or seasonal bicycle commuters.

Please see the attached maps for an idea of where Calgary's commuter cyclists live.

How much does the City spend on cycling relative to other modes of transport?

According to the 2006 census, of 498,030 Calgarians with a regular place of work, 372,985 commuted by car (75%; as driver, passenger, or by taxi); 85,695 by transit (17%); 28,900 walked (6%), and 6,975 cycled (1.5%). 

The proposed operational budget for the Roads Department is $132m, for Transit $171m per year.  The unfunded cost of the Cycling Strategy is about $1m ($1.125m to be exact). This amounts to roughly:

  • $2,000 per transit commuter
  • $354 per car commuter
  • $161 per bicycle commuter

If the cycling mode share increases to 4% as projected in the Cycling Strategy, the $1m per year would amount to

  • $56 per bicycle commuter.

No figures are available about how much of the city's Transportation Department operating budget is spent on pedestrians and cyclists now, but with only 16km of marked bicycle routes, the share of Roads operating costs is certainly tiny.  These aren't meant to be definite numbers, but only for illustration and only to give a sense of the proportions: even if fully funded, the costs of the Cycling Strategy per cyclist would only amount to a fraction of the cost spent on car and transit commuters.

Why aren't cyclists licensed?

Occasionally the issue of licensing cyclists and/or registering bicycles comes up in the media and from politicians.  Just like motorists should be required to be licensed, and just like motor vehicles are registered, so the argument goes, cyclists should be licensed and cyclists should have to purchase registration for their bicycles.  Upon examination, however, the arguments given for these proposals turn out to have little merit. Licensing as well as registration would be punitive, unlikley to be enforced or unenforceable, expensive to administer, unnecessary, and above all an additional barrier to cycling.

Arguments for cyclist licensing and bicycle registration

1. “But cyclists should pay their share!”

There is a common misconception that motorists pay for building and maintaining roads through user fees such as vehicle registration and licenses.  From this misconception the argument is then made that bicycle facilities like bike lanes should also be paid for by user fees.  In fact, however, the lion’s share of Calgary’s transportation budget comes not from user fees but from the City's general fund, mainly property taxes—taxes practically everyone in the city pays, whether they cycle, walk, drive, or use transit. Vehicle registration and driver licensing fees, on the other hand, are collected by the province and spent on provincial highways; none of it comes to the city.  About $154 million are collected from passenger vehicle registrations a year in Alberta, but even this only covers less than 7% of the Province’s $2.5 billion transportation expenses.  Moreover, most cyclists are also licensed drivers and own cars—a cyclist licensing or bicycle registration fee would thus essentially be a punishment for choosing active transportation.

Roads are a public good. Like the Police Service, they should not only be paid for by people who use them, but by everyone (including cyclists)—and in fact they are. Cyclists pay much more than their fair share of road costs. In recent years, the City has only spent about $2.5 million a year for cycling infrastructure, about 0.4% of the total capital expenses for transportation. The 2011 Cycling Strategy calls for capital spending of $5 million a year for the next four years. That's about 0.8% of all transportation capital expenditures, or roughly 1/2 of cylists' "fair share" (assuming by a 1.5% commuting mode share). In terms of operating expenses, expenditures of approx. $2m for cyclists a year amount to less than 0.3% of the City's expenses for roads, traffic, parking, and transit (2011 Annual Report). Less than 0.4% of Calgary's 6,700 km of roads have bike lanes on them.

The majority of Calgarians are interested in cycling more, and the City’s transportation plan supports encouraging more active transportation. Recent research demonstrates the significant societal benefits of more people cycling: reduced traffic congestion, improved road safety for all road users, decreased noise and air pollution, and health, longevity, and productivity of cyclists in contrast to motorists. The "allocation of funds by existing user mode-share" model of funding is a recipe for perpetually static transportation system. If we hope to move beyond the status quo and improve the life of Calgarians by making cycling a viable transportation option, more resources need to be put into cycling, and we must avoid imposing additional barriers to cycling.

2. “Licensing will make cyclists more lawful.”

Another common misconception is that cyclists are more prone to break traffic laws, and that they would be more law-abiding and could (only) be ticketed if they were licensed and their bicycles registered. There is no evidence that cyclists as a group do violate traffic laws more often than other road users do. Moreover, Alberta’s current traffic laws already apply to cyclists and are enforced by Calgary Police and Bylaw Services—cyclists do get tickets! When police enforce traffic laws, they charge the cyclist, not the bicycle. Cyclists receive tickets for traffic violations in almost the same way that drivers do.

The purpose of licensing car drivers is to provide a mechanism to remove dangerous drivers from the road. If a car is used improperly or is not roadworthy, it poses serious threats to public safety. Bicycle users and bicycles do not pose the same threat to public safety, and do not need to be regulated in the same way (this is especially true when cyclists are provided with proper infrastructure).

Neither licensing nor registration are necessary in order for traffic laws to be enforced. Better education around cycling, for both cyclists and motorists, could achieve safer roads without creating a barrier to cycling as mandatory licensing would. In fact, practically no jurisdictions in Canada or the US currently require special licenses for cyclists.

3. “Bicycle registration will reduce theft.”

Licensing cyclists as individuals will do nothing to reduce theft. While a system for registering bicycles themselves would help reduce bicycle theft, it should not be mandatory. A mandatory bicycle registration system would introduce an unnecessary barrier to cycling which would be expensive to maintain. There are currently voluntary bicycle registration systems available to Canadian cyclists, such as Bike Revolution. A voluntary CPS supported bicycle registration system in Calgary would be welcomed by Bike Calgary.

Problems with mandatory bike registration:

1. Accessibility of Cycling

One of the benefits of cycling is that it is a mode of transportation accessible to all, whether young or old. Would children be licensed? If not, would they be prohibited from cycling until they were old enough to obtain a license? Cycling is an accessible and enjoyable way for Calgarians to get active- with mandatory registration or licensing, many would lose access to this.

2. Expense

Many other Canadian cities, such as Toronto and Ottawa, have already looked at registering cyclists. Licensing systems have been found, nearly universally, to create more costs than revenue. For instance, Ottawa estimated that a bicycle registration program would cost $100,000 a year but only bring in $40,000 in revenue. On top of being a barrier to more widespread cycling, a licensing or registration system would be a drain on the City’s financial resources.

3. Enforceability

In light of the plain fact that an unregistered bicycle or an unlicensed cyclist are not a significant danger to anyone, it is unlikely that Calgary Police or Bylaw Services will expend any resources to police licensing or registration. Indeed, they don't do that for motorists, either: people aren't randomly pulled over to check if their "papers are in order". But an unenforced law, especially if it is associated with a significant cost, will just not be followed.

4. Jurisdiction

Driver licensing and vehicle registration are a provincial responsibility, and the Alberta Traffic Safety Act does not give municipalities the right to introduce licensing schemes for road users. It is unlikely that the City of Calgary has the legal authority to mandate cyclist licenses.

1935 (Repealed in 1957) Major reasons why licensing has been rejected:
  • The difficulty in keeping a database complete and current
  • The difficulty in licensing children, given that they ride bikes too
  • Licensing in and of itself does not change the behaviour of cyclists who may disobey traffic laws
One of the reasons for Toronto not reinstating its bicycle licensing bylaw was the netting of children. The City said “licensing of bicycles [should] be discontinued because it often results in an unconscious contravention of the law at a very tender age; they also emphasize the resulting poor public relations between police officers and children.”
OTTAWA 2011 N/A A committee of bylaw officials from the former municipalities decided a bicycle licensing system would cost too much to run and have little impact to the costs of stolen bicycle investigations. At the time, staff estimated the licensing system would cost at least $100,000 annually but only generate up to $40,000 in revenue each year.  
REGINA     Regina has a bicycle licensing bylaw on the books, but in practice it is not enforced; the system has been handed off to a community association, which operates it like a voluntary registry.  
CALGARY 2003   When a new pet registration scheme wasimplemented in Calgary, Calgary Parks and Animal and Bylaw Services investigated the possibility of raising funds for pathway operations through a similar bicycle registration scheme. It was found that admininstrative expenses were prohibitive. The initiative was dropped.  
  3/1/2010 Implemented, but revoked 15 days later  
* 2% surcharge idea scrapped March 2011 *N/A Maine proposed a 2% surcharge on new bike sales, proceeds intended to go towards a Bikeway Construction Fund.
According to the Bicycle Coalition’s Grant, about 10,000 bikes are sold in the state each year. “If the average price of a bike is $400, the total funds collected would be $80,000. That would hardly cover the engineering and design costs of a typical bike/pedestrian project, much less the construction. Subtract the cost of administering this tax, and there’s even less,” Grant said.
    Registration is no longer required or available through a state program in Minnesota. The Minneapolis City Council made the registry optional and as a result, participation in fell off. The program was run by the Dept. of Public Safety.

The administrative costs were more than the revenue generated, so the state abandoned the program. After administrative costs were paid for, excess revenue was to be spent on infrastructure.
Minnesota had the only state-wide bicycle registration system in the US. State law does not currently require all bicycles in Minnesota to be registered. Registration is voluntary, however cities or counties may make the state registration mandatory in their communities by passing a local ordinance. The state system is the only bicycle registration allowed under Minnesota law.

Mar 2010   Tucson City Council voted to investigate requiring Tucson cyclists to register their bikes and pay a $10 per-bicycle licensing fee.
According to the proposal document, the licensing program would actually cost the city money.

“Bicycle licensing programs have been considered by Tucson Pima County Bicycle Advisory Committee and the Tucson Department of Transportation. The cost of such programs have been found to exceed potential revenues for the price that the market would bear for the license.”

Matt Zoll, the Pima County Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator and long time member of the Tucson Pima County Bicycle Advisory Committee, said in the last 20 years the TPCBAC had done some research on bike registrations. He said most places discontinued their registration programs because they couldn’t pay for themselves.
SWITZERLAND (Nationally, not by municipality) 2010 (Repealed 2012)   CHF5-10 bicycle tax/license, which provides 3rd party insurance coverage for riders. The administrative costs of the license, which is obligatory in Switzerland, outstrip the revenue.

Licenses no longer required as of 1-Jan-2012, but RC insurance is required ( responsabilité civile, or general third-party insurance coverage, not specific or limited to bicycles. The insurance covers damage caused to another person or property and includes accidents such as footballs kicked through neighbours’ windows and more serious and expensive injuries caused to other people.)