Bike Calgary's picture

53rd Street NW Bikeway - Feedback Sought in Preparation for Stakeholder Engagement

53 Street N.W. from 40 Avenue N.W. to Crowchild Trail

In order to improve bicycle travel for Calgarians as well as enhance how our streets function for all users, the City of Calgary continues to engage stakeholders and the community on plans to add new bike facilities and improve existing ones.  As a stakeholder, Bike Calgary is asked to provide feedback on such bikeway projects on behalf of our members and from the perspective of facility users in general.

In 2015, the City of Calgary will review the existing bikeway on 53rd Street NW between 40th Avenue and Crowchild Trail NW.  53rd Street is currently a marked bicycle lane from 40th Avenue to 53rd Avenue NW.  The Cycling Strategy (2011) identified 53rd Street as Calgary’s first on-street bicycle lane and most popular route from the northwest for Downtown-bound bicycle commuters.  53rd Street connects to the regional pathway network south from 40th Avenue to Home Road and north through Varsity Estates Park (between Varsity Drive and Varsity Estates Drive NW).  It also provides a number of throughgoing on-street connections including Varsity Estates Drive and 40th Avenue.

53rd Street NW.jpg

In preparation for stakeholder engagement, Bike Calgary would like to ensure comprehensive representation of the perspectives and concerns of those using this bikeway.  If you have any comments or suggestions to enhance the operation and function of the 53rd Street NW bikeway that you would like Bike Calgary to incorporate into our participation at the stakeholder engagement please feel free to add them to this forum.


Opportunities to provide direct feedback will follow at a public open house.



DarrenB's picture

A few items to add

  • snow and ice clearing has been far below standard here, with the City admitting that it uses these bike lanes in the winter for snow storage
  • the pavement is in rough shape, particularly within the bike lanes themselves (longitudnal cracks, humps, potholes, etc.), particularly adjacent to the golf course
  • parking along the road remains an issue, particularly south of Varsity Dr -- school buses (east side) and residents  parking in the bike lane during the winter when snow accumulates at the curb (west side) 
  • still no integration of the pathway from Dalhousie Station (show in photo above) to the intersection at Varsity Estates Dr.
  • lane is very, very narrow in spots, while the travel lanes for cars seem luxuriously wide at these locations (definitely > 3.2 m)
  • transition southbound 53rd to 40th Ave is difficult for cyclists -- there is a real pinch-point there that makes it hard to maintain sharing the road side-by-side at the corner
Crivak's picture


I took 53rd street from Varsity down to the pathway system leading to Home Road all last summer during the detour of Bowmont. 
During this time I had three observations:

  1. There were generally parked cars along the stretch of houses across from the school. Causes merging in and out of the bike lane and the motor lane a few times, with drivers warily watching under the assumption I won't shoulder check before merging. 
  2. During school pickup/drop off the bike lane on the school side is full of busses and thus non-functional.  
  3. The turn leading back into Varsity (estates drive) is right on a hill and hard to get a bike going again once stopped. Traffic both inbound and beside the bike lane don't seem to honor our right of way often, so not only can it be tough to get going again but we have to be double cautious of cars cutting us off. I have since been merging into the motor lane before the turn to assert my intentions. 
I also tried to take it once during the winter, then ditched the endeavour in favour of the reopened Bowmont path system. 
  1. The bike lane was uncleared, used for snow. 
  2. Its uphill, so I had to share a lane with cars while going much slower. Since there was only partial snow clearing there was no place for them to safely pass. 
  3. Again, turning was difficult getting into Varsity because of the grade and impatient car users attempting to go first. It was also hard to merge back into traffic to use the main lane as a "turning lane" because the cars were unhappy that I was able to roll past in a partially cleared bike lane (during one of the days the snow had been more clear, not recently plowed into the lane). 
One time I tried to get onto this bike lane from the MUP after coming off the Dalhousie train station. There was no clear way onto the road since the ramp had not been shoveled, and there didn't seem enough space to turn once on the ramp for the bike lane anyway. Wound up frowning and walking my bike to the crosswalk. 
So for me this bike lane is deterred from by:
  1. Unclear or unsafe turning into Varsity on an uphill grade generally ignored by car users.
  2. Nonfunctional during school pick up hours.
  3. Interferred with frequently by (improperly?) parked cars, causing car users stress from the unpredictable nature they feel bike users pose if merging unsafely.
  4. Non or semi functional in the winter when used for snow storage, lack of ramp clearing from the MUP. 
  5. Not enough sidewalk clearance to turn bike into bike lane from MUP. 
The Bowmont pathway is an exceptional alternative route in the winter, so I'm not sure my winter concerns are of high concern for me. I would still probably stick to the pathway during winter, unless I was coming from Market Mall or the shopping centre on Varsity Drive. 
On that note, there is no clear connection to Market Mall as the bike lane abruptly ends once it reconnects to the pathway system on the end of 53rd. 
Bike Calgary's picture

53rd Street NW Bikeway - City Announces Public Engagement

"Upcoming engagement events

Please join us at an open house on Thursday, May 7, 2015 at FE Osborne School (5315 Varsity Dr. N.W.) from 5 - 8 p.m. to provide feedback on proposed bikeway improvement options and speak with the project team. This is a drop-in session so feel free to come at a convenient time between 5 – 8 p.m."

Bike Calgary Comments:

Bike Calgary attended a stakeholder feedback a couple of weeks back.  The stakeholder feedback was well-attended, in particular by members of the Montgomery Community living along 52nd Street NW.  At this engagement, City staff and consultants reviewed the 52nd and 53rd Street NW bikeways, describing the rationale for each project and identifying a number of areas of concern with each bikeway.  The main purpose of the stakeholder engagement was to solicit feedback on the current design and ideas for improvements.  There were no concepts for improvements presented during the stakeholder feedback.  

Impressions from the stakeholder engagement:


  • 52nd Street NW - Community members/attendees presented very constructive and, from what I could tell, generally positive feedback about the bike lanes on this stretch of road and, in particular, their impact on helping to calm traffic.  Some functional concerns were expressed, in particular, the lack of a barrier at the corner on the north end (near the entrance to Bowmont).  Many concerns were around the form of the lane with suggestions that it be made to look less temporary.  Additional suggestions were made about improving traffic flow on nearby streets so as to provide additional alternatives to 52nd Street NW as a cut-through route.
  • 53rd Street NW - There seemed to be fewer attendees from areas affected by the 53rd Street bike lanes.  A number of ideas were given in terms of dealing with the parking vs. bike lane constraints on the west side of 53rd Street between Varisty Drive NW and 40th Avenue NW (i.e. in front of the houses).  There were also some concerns about the new roundabout on the north end, though more to do with the current condition of the asphalt and lack of markings.  

Concerns expressed by Bike Calgary members (as above) were also represented, though we encourage your attendance at the public open  house to ensure City staff are aware of these, and any other concerns/experiences you have with either corridor.

RichieRich's picture

53rd feedback

The northern part of 53rd has, as previous writers mentioned, numerous cracks, bumps and humps, many of which are due to the now-removed in-road traffic controls that were installed.  (I complained to the city prior to the installation of those that they were useless and should not be installed for safety reasons).  What isn't mentioned above is that dang center median doesn't help the situation at all - it's frustrating for all users.  Whether snow-covered and melting, or doesn't give motorists the space to safely pass a cyclist on their right who is up against a wall of snow.

The other issue is the entrance, and exit, to/from the green space to the south of 53rd.  Can't recall the name of it but it's been a subject of many comments over the years particularly focussing on northbound traffic.

bclark's picture

Traffic Calming

I think the vintage of the traffic calming medians was about the same as those on Charleswood Drive and neither really took into account the impact on cyclists.  I didn't get the impression tha those were up for discussion when talking to City staff, as removing them would likely be a significant expense.  Still, it's definitely worth pointing out the concern if you get a chance to attend the open house.

In terms of the pathway-bikeway intersection...that was a head-scratcher.  The suggestion was made to put in a more robust crossing in that area, however some people who drive that pointed out that it is already difficult to get started up the hill in winter and doing so could create additional traffic issues.  The alertnative suggested was to reroute the pathway (in some form) back north to the current three-way at Varsity Estates Drive and 53rd Street NW.  The problem with this suggestion is that it would then become a bit of an inconvenience for cyclists.  Certainly would be good to get thoughts on that area.

Regardless of what happens, the design for the intersection needs to account for the fact that cyclists will want to exit-enter the roadway (i.e. access the bike lanes) as vehicles.  The current ramps work decent in summer (in the winter I find I have to go shovel them myself in order to use them) and for adults, but I have a huge issue with this merge when riding with my kids in the area, especially exiting the pathway onto the road (tired of saying 'this is how we should do it, but this is how we are going to do it').

mikewarren's picture

charleswood and medians

The Charleswood medians went in as part of the "University area bike improvements" a couple years ago. Nobody would listen to any cyclists about how crappy those are (and they're for "traffic calming", allegedly). In any case, the "open" house was basically meaningless as they explicitly said they weren't willing to change more than "maybe a crosswalk location" as a result of the whole thing.

I think the 53rd ones are way older (if we're talking the ones near each 4-way-stop?). The giant median on 40th avenue was installed several years before Charleswood with similar problems: you literally can *never* pass a cyclist safely for the two blocks of the median -- even at 2am with no other traffic.

The Charleswood one is especially bad, because on the "downhill" way (southbound) there's a "door zone" bike lane so you *have* to take the lane for 3+ blocks or you'll get squeezed out into the parked cars. Uphill isn't as bad, but only because the speeds are lower for the cyclist...

bclark's picture

Did you go?

I didn't get a chance as another commitment superseded my attending.

Crivak's picture

Did not

I'm a bit of a hermit. Prefer typing :)

Bike Calgary's picture

53rd Street NW Bikeway - Concepts & Feedback

Concepts for 53rd Street NW improvements can be found here

The timeframe was pretty short on the survey so if you have additional feedback, my suggestion is to contact the Bicycle Projects team via 3-1-1.

Project overview display boards are at

bclark's picture

53rd Street - Some Comments

For the record, here's a copy of some (semi-formal) comments I sent to City Staff regarding 53rd Street Bikeway improvements both as a frequent user of the facility and on behalf of Bike Calgary;

"53rd Street NW as per

3-way Stop (Varsity Estates Drive & 53rd @ north end) - Like the crossride.  Looks like it might help with the pathway connection there.  Consider though that this segment of pathway is in really bad condition, so hopefully there are some plans to upgrade concurrent with development of the Groves of Varsity.

Roundabout - I think I like this idea, especially the crossride.  As with all multi-component bike infrastructure (i.e. pathway/roadway combinations) I'm concerned about maintenance and am not confident (based on experience) there is enough coordination between those designing it (i.e. you and the crew) and those maintaining it (i.e. Troy McLeod and the crew).  While we are getting better, I don't know that we are completely there yet.  Convince me!

Pathway Connection (Varsity Estates Drive) - Conceptual pathway aligns with crosswalk at Varsity Estates Drive, which does not necessarily accommodate need for cyclists to join onto the road as vehicles, i.e. how would a cyclist coming off the pathway turn southbound on 53rd?  Would they have to walk through the crosswalk?  Similarly, how would a cyclists carry on westbound on Varsity Estates Drive (or eastbound from said road onto the pathway)?  Again, the alignment would require using the crosswalk.

Varsity Estates Drive to Varsity Drive - Consider that the bike lane in the northbound direction has a certain width that was torn up and repaved.  The resulting uneven pavement constricts the functional width.  The bike lane should be resurfaced so that it is safe and wheel-grabbing ridges are mitigated (I can send pics if you like).

Varsity Drive to Valiant Drive - Like the addition of the buffer.  Need to consider maintenance in winter.  Right now the lane works in terms of clear space because it's wide and plowing manages to get snow far enough to the side of the lane to allow bikes passage...sort of.  With the narrower bike lanes and closer proximity to the curb, Roads will really have to ensure they plow right to the curb face so that the lane is clear and snow can melt and water flow into the gutters, as opposed to melting and flowing back onto the road and refreezing in the bike lane.

53rd Street & 40th Avenue Intersection - I'd suggest caution where narrowing of the road is conceptualized for the curb extensions on the west side (southbound bike lane).  This looks to be giving the turn a sharp angle that may encourage motorists to encroach into the bike lane.  I like the crossride at this location.  It will hopefully clarify operation, though my experience would suggest northbound travelling cyclists (entering the roadway from the pathway) would cut at an angle that takes them outside the crossride.

Overall, for 53rd, I would also strongly encourage that the City assess the placement and frequency of bicycle lane signs and the lack of bicycle lane stencils along this corridor.  I believe best-practice would encourage much more frequent signage and markings, specifically bicycle lane signage at the start of every block (this, along with the narrower profile and bolder markings will hopefully discourage parking in the bike lane). I would also suggest a serious chat with Roads in developing and clarifying the snow, ice and gravel control plan."


mikewarren's picture

connections, medians

53rd doesn't conenct to anything in the north. This should be fixed by extending the bike lanes to at least Dalhousie (which could then connect to the Northland Dr lanes). Ideally, it would connect further north across John Laurie so that you can get to the Sarcee pedestrian overpass.

The "official route" to this overpass is complete crap (and bonus points if anyone actually knows it ;) but nonetheless presumably at *some* point we might have a non-shitty way to get there. There is a nice CX-able singletrack trail that's good in the summer.

Also, keeping the southbound portion a "shared parking and bike lane" is just embarassing; they should put up no-parking signs and enforce this *or* widen the road and put a buffered-bike-lane if those 10 houses really need to be able to park 6 cars out front.

On 40th avenue, they built a big, wide median in the middle from 53rd for 2 blocks west. This makes it literally impossible to *ever* safely pass a cyclist (even if it's midnight and there's nobody else on the road). This is monumentally stupid, and Transportation should feel bad. Similar stupidity was put in (both as "traffic calming") on Charleswood Dr recently, too. Removing a portion of this would allow continuing the 53rd bike-lane at least as far as 42nd Street NW, where you can then enjoy the newly-traversible road barrier to get further south into Mongomery, or along the cliffs to the illegal but highly popular crossing a Children's Hospital (where the sidewalk *ahem* regional pathway dead-ends in the mud and fence).

SpeedyJ's picture

Traffic Claming

They did a similar thing on Mission Rd. It used to have wide lanes with sharrows, no awesome, but it was roomy enough to make co-existing with cars a possibility. Then they added a wide median that pused car traffic to the curb, polite drivers are now stuck behind riders going uphill while less then polite drivers will squeeze past riders. I stopped using the route completely after the renovation.

RichieRich's picture

Stupid 53rd median

Prior to putting in that dangerous median I even wrote and warned the City of the dangers of installing both the median and the sharrows they used to have.  No response of course.  Fortunately they removed those buffers a few years back but then the cycling route became a snow storage area and I stopped using that route choosing instead to either come down the greenway to the east or down via Silver Springs.

The city and their designers need to get it through their heads that when they commence design and subsequently Hazop a project they need to consider more than just perfect summer time riding.  Considering must be given for other seasonal, environental influences, snow storage, passing by vehicles and CT, parking, school zones, visibility, crossing locations, and of course obvious and/or well posted regional connections. 


Crivak's picture

Connection to Dalhousie

Here is the full map of the area, and why additional connections to Dalhousie will have to be planned carefully. 

Green = Pathway MUP
Blue = Marked / otherwise Bike Route with no on road lane
Yellow = Official Bike Lane
Orange = ambiguous roaduse that is primarily used by motor traffic

As you can see, there are lots of options for bikes to get around this area. 
However, similar to what you said, what I would like to see is the following:

  1. The pathway connection down on the south end of 53rd moved to the junction, so the blue and green lines meet, rather than the green line being a ramp into the middle of the road. I've had cars stop for me here thinking I have right of way, and nothing is spookier than a bunch of cars stopping on a decline in the dark where cars tend to speed. 
  2. Improved connection from the minimall parking lot to the train station MUP, marked by the dotted blue line. 
  3. Improved connection from the junction splitting from the bridge by the minimall where there is no bike lane (blue, orange, green junction). 
  4. Improved connection from Dalhousie station down to the yellow bike lane. It is currently orange. There is lots of green space on the side to expand the road and improve bike facilities to more clearly connect to the (IMO) very confusing bike exchange at shaganappi for the cycle track.  



When I am coming or going to Northland Mall / Dalhousie direction, I go one of two ways. If I'm coming from Silver Springs Gate, I use the north blue arch and pass by the orange junction to get onto the green pathway system behind the minimall. Then I ride over the far (second) pedestrian bridge to cross Crowchild. This puts me at Dalhousie station. If continuing, then I stay on the pathway system through Dalton Park and behind the Canadian Tire. Then cross the new pedestrian bridge across Shaganappi. 

However, if I'm coming from, say, Home Road, I stay on 53rd and turn left onto the Varisty Estates Park pathway system instead. The ramp there is good, until you try to come back this way. IMO this connection should stay, but there should be a section split that brings bikes to the junction so it can act like a 4 way stop [ok, cars will probably give us priority, but no biggie ;D]. 

bclark's picture

53rd Street NW Improvement Plans

As per the post on, improvement plans for 53rd Street NW are posted at:

Please take a look at provide feedback to the City as you see fit.  Thanks to barnecut for posting the information and contacts (see link above).

PS. Just wanted to make sure there was a record of it on this page as well.

Bike Calgary's picture

Update - 53rd Street NW Pathway Connection

Just a quick update. The City of Calgary is beginning work on a new pathway connection between the Varsity green space and 53rd Street NW at Varsity Estates Drive.

While this will result in some additional distance north to the new intersection, it will also formalized the transition between the pathway and on-street bikeway network. It appears the existing ramps will remain open for those wanting to use them.

The following is a screen shot of the email update from the City of Calgary.


mikewarren's picture


Why doesn't it go straight? (i.e. more easterly) Obviously, there will be a "desire line" within a season, but it seems pretty comically dumb to not build it properly to start -- and there's really no reason it can't, the whole thing is just a big grassy field!

I suppose this routing might get used by people coming *out* of the greenspace (but only if they're heading N or W afterwards).

Crivak's picture


Think it's because there's a bit of a slope or ridge from the intersection there, so it's easier to run it along the top of the slope then connect closer to the existing pathway. I agree that there should be a better angle when connecting to the pathway though and not just this 90 degree angle. 

Something like this. Though there is a pedestrian desire line that is along the orange line (what their image shows is planned). I don't know how much of that is contributed from the fencing (probably the bulk).

mikewarren's picture


...what you've drawn makes way more sense.

I couldn't remember what the slope was like east of that 4-way; thanks for the clarifications!

DarrenB's picture

Yep, big hill

Yes, I suspect Crivak's explanation is correct - there is a big hill directly east of the intersection (not visible on the aerial photo), and if you routed the pathway directly east, you would have to create a very long stretch of pathway to avoid the steep slope. A very long length of new pathway in that narrow little park would probably be (1) much more expensive to build and maintain (especially, think winter maintenance), and (2) draw a lot of complaints about aesthetics from the frequent users of the park who generally don't cycle, such as dog walkers. I suspect the decision to align the new pathway as a north-south extension of the existing pathway was a practical one, and I don't have a problem with it. In fact, if this design saved a bunch of money that could be put into pathway improvements/maintenance in new places elsewhere, I think this was a great compromise.

mikewarren's picture

Traffic Circle

Looking at the PDF for the whole "improvement" project, the traffic circle is a total fail. They *should* have made it big enough for a bike-lane (or cycle-track) when originally constructing it. Instead, they're going to make a ramp so "bikes can ride on the sidewalk". Yay? Pretty stupid.

DarrenB's picture


A bike lane within a traffic circle is deadly, IMO. Better to have the cyclists who don't want to cycle in traffic navigate the intersection on separated paths - they will appreciate that, even if it means yielding to vehicles when they cross the road. Actually, probably the majority of cyclists will choose to do this.

For the minority comfortable taking the lane and cycling with traffic, they can still take the roadway. Personally, I like this design far better - I like narrow roundabouts where you can take the lane and really control the traffic coming up from behind you. If there were an on-street bike lane there, too many motorists would expect you to stay in it, making it hard to take the lane without getting harassed.

bclark's picture


My understanding is that part of the rationale was to formalize the pathway-roadway intersection so that it worked for all types of cyclists that might be travelling between the green space pathway and the bike lanes on 53rd. I also recall that there wasn't much that could be done to formalize the intersection at the current ramps (i.e. provide signage, guidance, etc.) so they picked the closest roadway intersection at Varsity Estates Drive. I'm not sure that any of this was in the works when the pathway was lifecycled through the green space, so rerouting probably (I'm speculating) wasn't considered. I imagine a lot o of people will still use the existing ramps, but the new intersection may help in winter, when the existing ramps have questionable-to-no snow clearing. I'm interested to see how this works, but I do generally believe that more formal design's for pathway-roadway intersections are the way to go.

In terms of the traffic circle. I agree, the sharing of the sidewalk is definitely not an ideal solution, especially given how narrow they are in the area. I did chat with someone in the City about some concerns I had with the layout and there are a number of property constraints, which is unfortunate.