bclark's picture

IMPRESSIONS - 2017 CYCLING ACCOMMODATIONS (NW CALGARY)

I spent some time riding around checking out some new cycling accommodations in northwest Calgary (note, this time I’ll term them “accommodations” as last time I was called out for using the term “infrastructure” to describe lines...a fair point).


From comments on social media….and given the looming weather change, I was expecting to see a lot of finished product. What I actually saw, was a whole lot of…



Having said, that, here’s some (okay it’s a *bit* lengthy, but with lots of pics) of the highlights (in travel order…)...


Though these are my personal observations and biases, an aim in doing these types of posts is to encourage Bike Calgary members to add their own input to better help the organization frame its advocacy efforts, so feel free to comment!


53RD STREET NW


Last season, the City restriped the bike lanes on 53rd Street, which ‘re-opened’, a lot of parking that would have been off-limits following changes to Bylaw 26M96 (Section 36). Surprisingly, there was not much said about this “additional” parking.



Given the context of the roadway, the new striping feels to me like it’s working.


New in 2017 is work on a new pathway link and formalized intersection up at Varsity Estates Drive, with the intersection operating as a four-way stop “to provide a safe connection through the intersection for people biking” (Project Page).


Having ridden through with the family or when traffic is busy (steady?), I can see the benefit, though it’s definitely not as direct. Having said that, if clearing of the existing ramps remains as hit-and-miss as past winters, I’d probably give this option a go, provided it’s cleared.


More Bike Calgary forum content can be found here.


HOME ROAD


Poor sidewalks and crosswalks, concerns about vehicles turning illegally or unsafely into parking lots and lack of cycling connectivity were cited as reasons for changes to Home Road (Project Page). It looks like resurfacing, curb work and markings/signage are completed, with Home Road now having combination of sharrows (downhill) and bike lane (uphill).



Having ridden this way a number of times, I find it an improvement. For the context, gradient and rider type (mostly commuters) the sharrows seem to work southbound. Northbound, speed differential is greater, so the additional space with the bike lane is appreciated and so far I don’t find I’ve been travelling too fast for the proximity of the lane to parking.


One issue I have run into, is confusion over right-of-way at the 52nd Street crossing, as drivers will frequently stop for cyclists on the new asphalt turn area. A formalized crossride over Home Road, with markings and signage, could help.


Further south, I’ve found the buffered bike lanes promote a more ordered roadway and encourage motorists to give a bit of extra space. I just wish the signal at 16th Avenue wasn’t so long of a wait!


More commentary on Bike Calgary for Home Road here.

HEXTALL BRIDGE UNDERPASS


Good news for those of us using the pathways under the Hextall Bridge, it looks like progress is FINALLY (did I say finally loud enough?) being made to reopening them and they look pretty robust, so hopefully they hold together (no slumping) and are more resilient to high water.



BOWNESS ROAD


As many know, the City’s been working towards turning Bowness Road into a Complete Street, east of the CPR overpass to Montgomery (Project Page). This is another area I thought would be further ahead, but it looks like there’s still some work to do.



Above is the new jughandle turn by Mary’s Corner Store, where they’ve also left a through channel to the adjoining residential streets.



Above is the new westbound bike lane and eastbound parking-buffered bike lane.



For the “main street” stretch (above), bike lanes are discontinued and cyclists directed to adjacent side streets. Given that bike lanes on each end induce a travel path, and that side streets aren’t cleared of snow, I wouldn’t be surprised if many people just carry through as I did. My feeling is that there’s abundant road width even with angle parking and, watching motorists turn into parking, it seems a highly visible bike lane would provide a visual reminder to shoulder check for bikes coming up from behind.



While there’s still lots of work to be done, new multi-use pathways under the CPR appear to be one of the key improvements towards a more accessible travel corridor, though I hope the City provides right-of-way clarity through markings and signage at bike lane-pathway transitions. I’ll also be curious to see if snow clearing is done.


83RD STREET NW


I’m not sure how common a cycling route 83rd Street is, though I use it to access Eastlands for mountain biking and I find it’s definitely better with bike lanes (below).



Having said that, one thing that remains frustrating is the lack of bicycle accommodations through the new roundabouts that came with this $71.7 million (roundabouts and interchane at the TCH) project (Project Page).



Above is the new roundabout at Bowfort Road and 83rd Street. On one hand, there’s multi-use pathways on both sides of the road that cyclists can use (they are even ramped into the bike lanes on 83rd), but on the other hand, there’s no formal guidance for cyclists to navigate the roundabout, only pedestrian crosswalks!


To me, this runs counter to Complete Streets Policy for intersections (ref. Section 3.7.1)…



While it can be argued for cyclists to dismount and walk through the intersection, Ontario Traffic Manual - Book 18 (Section 1.5) provides a good explanation as to why this is problematic.



I find that, by not incorporating cycling into the intersection design is not only detrimental to bicycle travel, it also heightens uncertainty in interaction between all travel modes.


Unfortunately, the new overpass at 16th Avenue also appears lacking in guidance (markings, signage or signals) for bicycle travel along the pathway across the ramps.



SHOULDICE PARK


Back into Shouldice Park, I encountered another challenge to for cyclists though, given the context and alternative solutions, I’m not sure what requiring a dismount accomplishes.



Further along, the City did provide right-of-way clarity and, though I’d prefer a “Yield” sign in this context, at least there’s no requirement for cyclists to dismount.



Having said that, I was disappointed to see the safety hazard created by the removed bollard and I really wonder, if bollards can’t be used properly in this City, should they be used at all (I’d hate to run into that hard to see base as I’m entering or exiting the pathway)?!


NORTHMOUNT DRIVE, CAMBRIAN DRIVE AND 14TH STREET NW


Last up, the reconfigured intersection of Northmount, Cambrian and 14th. Previously, eastbound cyclists mixed with motorists in the rightmost through lane, or straddled lanes. The westbound abrupt end to the Cambrian (10th Street) bike lane left cyclists to force into often heavy right-turning traffic to take the rightmost through lane.  


The new layout retains dedicate left and right turn lanes as well as (mostly) two through lanes eastbound and adds a dedicated through lane for cyclists. Further east, there’s Jersey barriers and a dedicated turn for buses east on Northmount. Westbound, there’s full preservation of the existing traffic lanes, plus a through bike lane.



My experience is that, eastbound, it’s definitely an improvement. Westbound, I’m on the fence about the mixing area due to often high volumes of traffic turning north onto 14th Street. The bike lane space at the intersection itself is much better, though I still can feel sandwiched between traffic if waiting on red.


More Bike Calgary forum content here or check out the City’s Project Page.


A SLIGHTLY DIFFERENT APPROACH IN CANMORE?


I’m going to throw this one in because I find it an interesting example of doing things a bit differently and...perhaps...with a more European flavor.


The Town of Canmore, in conjunction with utility work and development of Spring Creek Village, is in the process of rebuilding the intersection of Main Street and Spring Creek Drive to include dedicated space for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists (Project Page).




One-way bicycle paths, designated by red concrete and the occasional bicycle stencil, are adjacent to sidewalks. Crossrides are marked by “elephants feet” (white squares), though cyclists must yield right-of-way to motorists. Basically it’s a protected intersection.



The theme carries along on Spring Creek Drive, with the bicycle pathways (essentially raised cycle tracks) adjacent to the sidewalk and grade separated from the narrow roadway.


To me, this looks to accomplish creating comfortable and (potentially) efficient cycling space in an integrated and visually appealing streetscape, particularly if compared to the (IMO) disjointed, though functional, streetscape created by the cycle tracks on our 8th Avenue SW, though with a caveat that these are likely not supportive of high (i.e. vehicular) bicycle speeds.


A couple challenges to consider are pedestrians mistaking cycling space for sidewalk (see also similar comments about Carral Street in Vancouver) and questions of whether cyclists grasp the “flow” of the intersection, at least initially .


OVERALL (slight edits)


While 2017 sees continued essential progress to better integrate cycling into our streets, many changes feel weighted to those already reasonably comfortable, as well as some of the more confident of the "Interested" demographic (see Cycling Strategy Fig 6.2). I see a long journey to opening up comprehensive year-round access for a broad range of Calgarians to move safely, efficiently, confidently and in a manner that’s clear to understand for all road users. Disturbingly (IMO), I also see ongoing lack of clarity in how cycling is accommodated through intersections having multi-use pathways.


Going-forward, its encouraging to see, conceptually at least, movement towards well-planned bicycle space within roadway corridors, as in the case of 17th Avenue SE, east of Stoney Trail (Bike Calgary Post).



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Crivak's picture

Canmore!

Time to move to Canmore .......... !  Take note Calgary.. European design > American design. 

 

Great photos and write up, thanks for doing it. Gave me a huge chuckle seeing that Shouldice sign. It's fully ignored, I've never seen anyone ever obey it aside from the very first time I took that route two years ago and promptly wondered what I was doing. As you mentioned it just needs yield signs for us. About a year or two ago they added more gravel and "patted down" the dirt there because complaints were coming in about the rockiness/slipperiness of the intersection. Apparently they wanted to encourage bicycles to dismount or cross with caution so they refused to pave it, opting for wheel unfriendly large rocks. I'm sure all the strollers LOVED that logic. 

The removed bollard was actually there a few days ago. It's laying in the grass in the photo. I assumed it was so the snow plow could get through today/friday but in retrospec the bobcat always just did two passes down the lanes so I'm not sure why it's out. Might have been damaged or done by a construction vehicle. 

mikewarren's picture

thanks

Thanks for the comprehensive write-up and pictures, Brent!

I am constantly frustrated by how much *better* all this could be right now if only we followed slightly more enlightened designs; feels like wasting the *very* limited money Transport will "allow" for bike-things.

For example, the entire 29th street at 16th Avenue intersection has been under contstruction all season and will receive NO bike upgrades (despite existing bike-lanes on the southern part of 29th Street NW). Very frustrating and a sad lack of vision from Transport.