Richard Z's picture

Downtown Cycling Jumps 20% in 2012

A year ago I reported on the results of the City of Calgary's annual cordon counts, where City staff stand at entrance points to the downtwon core and record number and travel mode of people crossing a screenline between 6 am and 10 pm.  The headline was: For the first time, the count of people riding bicycles in and out of Calgary's downtown topped 10,000 in 2011. A year later, that number has risen to 12,007! That's a 20% increase over last year, and an almost 40% increase over 2006, when the count was 8,618. (See an interactive infographic here.)

In the morning peak hour (7:15-8:15 am), of a total of 61,341 people entering the Central Business District (CBD), 1,365 did so on bicycle.  This makes the bicycle mode share of downtown commuters 2.23%, up from 2.05% in 2011 (an increase in the mode share of 8.6%). (Other modes: pedestrians 7.9%,  carpool 15.3%, driving alone 26%, public transit 48.3%).  In 2012, 1 in 10 downtown commuters got to the CBD by active transportation (walking or cycling).

During the peak hour, 22,788 vehicles entered the CBD. That makes the bicycle share of am peak hour vehicle traffic into the downtown almost 6%. Inother words, 1 in 17 vehicles in downtown rush hour traffic is now a bicycle. Yet, still 0 roads in or out of the downtown have bike lanes on them.

The Peace Bridge, which opened last March, is now the second most frequented bicycle connection to downtown, with 1,486 bicycles counted, behind the Bow River Pathway south of the river on the west (2,882 bicycles/day) and ahead of Prince's Island (1,187). These two old crossings saw increases in cycling traffic over 2011, and the other two river crossings near the Peace Bridge (Louise Bridge and the LRT Bridge lower deck) saw a decrease of only 150 bicycle crossings combined. In other words, the Peace Bridge has attracted an additional 650 commuter cyclists.

Together, 2,607 cyclists approach the downtown from the north-west corner every day, about twice as many as enter the downtown from the Beltline and almost44%of the total. Not all of them will enter into the CBD near there, but surely a large percentage of them will.  A safe, convenient connection into the downtown such as the planned cycle track on 7 Street will serve them well and is likely to attract even more bike commuters, especially from the "interested but concerned" segment, of whom 82% do not feel safe cycling in traffic.  Most bicycle collisions happen downtown (1/8 of the total, while the downtown core is about 1/800 the size of Calgary). And 1/6 of all downtown bicycle collisions happen within one block of that planned cycle track, so safe infrastructure is sorely needed in that part of the core.




DarrenB's picture



gyrospanner's picture


I'm gonna' hang that graphic in both the bike cage and the locker room.  It's kind of neat how the Peace Bridge "caught on" with people.  I have used it since day 1!

RTRT's picture

Love it!

Excellent Infographic! Really well put together.

2manybikes's picture

Access to downtown

Perhaps if less money had been wasted on the Peace Bridge boondoggle there would have been more money for additional bridges etc. to make access easier for bicycles. Studies of where our food comes from, ultra-expensive curbside recycling programs, and attempts to ban shark fins also come to mind. Having a bike lane on 7th St. isn't going to do you a lot of good if you've already landed in the hospital from dumping yourself on the unplowed ice-encrusted and rutted side streets in Calgary. Bicycle use in Calgary is always going to be a niche activity in winter.

jondub's picture

Bow River South pathway

Perhaps the most interesting part of this is that the Bow River south pathway to the West of Downtown is the most used way of getting in to the Downtown area. This is probably not a surpise to anyone who has been involved in the 'peleton' that forms along there in the morning (even in the middle of winter), but it is probably the worst designed section of pathway that I use (narrow, twisty, poor visability) and is clearly being used in excess of its capacity.

Despite all of this this I am not aware of any plans to improve it. 

Richard Z's picture

From the numbers, it looks

From the numbers, it looks like much of the 20% increase in cyclists on the NW side of downtown has been absorbed by the Peace Bridge getting people to the north side of the Bow River pathway already east of 10 Street rather than at Crowchild.

winterrider's picture

This is my route, and while I

This is my route, and while I agree that it's busy, I would rate upgrading this path as near the bottom of my cycling priority list.

In the afternoon I just go slow between 11st and Crowchild. I find if I just expect to be going slow that its a pleasant ride, the only exception being dangerous passing being done by other cyclists. But still highly preferable to a lot of on street cycling, and there is the north side path if you don't like the crowds.

I would much rather see more dedicated cycle lanes going in downtown as on 7th st.

mercator's picture


That section has some deficiencies, namely the bad grades along the guardrail section and the 14th st underpass sightlines, but there are a lot of much worse bits in the existing system.  If I was setting priorities, it would be pretty low on the list unless it could be done real cheap and easy.


edit to add, the people who race along there at rush hour and pass unsafely are dicks in need of education, upgrading the route because of them would just encourage that sort of behaviour.

bclark's picture

A key recommendations

Upgrades to the west Bow River pathway, from 9th St SW to Crowchild Trail was one of the five recommendations Bike Calgary and CPAC made as part of our Centre City Cycling Network input.  It has a high volume and diversity of use given the current pathway.

gyrospanner's picture

Do you mean from Crowchild Trail into the downtown?

I took that section for years (before the Peace Bridge) and I would agree with you.  Unfortunately, the windy, twisty nature is just a result of geography, whether it is the natural lay of the land or the 14th and 10th street underpasses.  Maybe it could be widened & straightened somewhat?  I always thought it might be nice to have some lighting in behind the pumphouse and the car dealership, as well. 

I know that would all cost money, but in the words of the Kokanee Ranger "Dare to Dream!"

soapygina's picture

Big numbers in the NW

Seems to prove that if you build it they will come.  I am always green with envy at the bike lanes in the NW - if we could now get some in the other quadrants I think we'd see the numbers jump even more.  Also it may be worth noting that no one is counting those of us who don't work downtown - I'm in Highfield and I now see many others cycling to work here even in winter whereas a few years ago I rarely saw any others. I'd be very interested in cordon counts to employment areas other than down town.

mercator's picture

Geography matters

The numbers posted above are encouraging, but it's important to recognize that the data is tightly focused on the downtown core and therefore doesn't capture people who ride to jobs (or school) in the beltline, industrial areas, or the suburbs.  I know there are a lot of jobs in the core, but I would guess that accounts for less than 40% of the population.

It would be very interesting to capture some long term bike counts throughout the city, since that will be the only way we'll know for sure if new infrastructure has any effect on transportation choices.  Cordon counts are difficult to do well though.

Richard Z's picture

True. About 25% of Calgary's

True. About 25% of Calgary's jobs are in the CBD.  City's working on a more distributed bike count to monitor long-term trends.  We should also get numbers this year from the transportation survey done last year and the 2011 census.