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The Cycle Track Network: A Legacy for a Winter City

Today's article in the series about the Centre City Cycle Track Network comes from someone who will be familiar to fans of speedskating and the Winter Olympics. We are proud and excited to present four-time Olympic medallist, nine-time World Championships medallist, Calgarian Denny Morrison.

Calgary is a city I’ve been proud to call home since moving here almost 11 years ago to pursue my career in speed skating. Without this city and the world-class facilities that were built here for the 1988 Winter Olympics I may have never called myself a Calgarian, let alone been able to develop into the person I am today and perform for Canada at the top of the world stage in speed skating. The medals from Sochi that I was able to bring home are the product of many years of hard work but are also thanks to the visionary leaders that brought the Olympics to Calgary nearly three decades ago.

I look at our great city today and ask myself what decisions can we make now that will provide the same kind of positive impacts that last many years down the road.  What decisions can we make now, that will impact generations of Calgarians in a positive and meaningful way?  The proposed Cycle Track Network can have that effect on the future of Calgary, and I’m a big supporter.

A Cycle Track Network of separated bike lanes in the City Centre will make cycling an option for everyone, not just hardcore cyclists and athletes. Our City Council will be voting on the proposed plan later this month and I’d like to tell you what I think Calgarians, present and future, stand to gain from it.

First, the network will create a more active city. Obesity in Canada is expected to surpass smoking as the leading cause of preventable death. At the rate this epidemic is proceeding, the generation of children growing up today will have shorter lifespans than their parents. A 2005 study on obesity in Canada cited changes in urban planning as one of the causes behind this shift.

As an Olympic athlete, I’m called on to help serve as as a role model to our younger generation and encourage them to live active, healthy lives. That’s why I’m excited that the Cycle Track Network will give everyone the option to build exercise into their daily lives at a time when we seem to be moving away from this. City Council should not ignore the benefit this will bring to Calgarians.

Next, some people have said we shouldn’t build this network because we’re a “winter city.”  We are a winter city, I couldn’t agree more. And because of that I have a hard time believing Calgarians are afraid of facing winter.  Calgary may be the most likely city in the world to embrace winter cycling. We are a city of active outdoor enthusiasts that enjoy the great outdoors year-round:

  • We’ve hosted a Winter Olympics, and are home to many successful Winter Olympians.
  • We play out our national pastime on frozen ponds and skating rinks all winter long.
  • We regularly spend our winter weekends out in the mountains, where it’s even colder. Many people move here specifically for the outdoors!
  • Where snow storms shut down most major cities in the world, it's just business as usual for Calgarians.
  • Ultimately, Calgary lives up to Canada's 2014 Olympic slogan, #WeAreWinter, better than anyone, and this is a slogan we all embrace.

Lastly, Calgarians are not afraid of change, in fact, we thrive off of it. If that were not true, this city would have never hosted the wildly successful 1988 Winter Olympics. We would not have a wind-powered LRT system, among the most used on the continent. We would not have the fastest growing Car2Go car sharing system in the world. And in 2010 we would not have elected a guy nobody knew as mayor, based on a campaign of Better Ideas.

For the record, that guy’s Better Idea #9 said “invest in cycling and pedestrian infrastructure: a line drawing of a bicycle on the road is not enough. We need safe, grade separated bike lanes …to make cycling an option for people who don’t consider themselves hardcore cyclists.”

So let’s embrace change once more, Calgary. Let’s make a bold and visionary decision. Let's pass the Cycle Track Network and let's create an indisputably positive change for the future of our city.

You can connect with Denny Morrison on Twitter: @denny_morrrison

A message from Bike Calgary:

We need your help to get the Cycle Track Network passed! 

Contact your councillor and let them know that you support the Cycle Track Network. 

Contact the Mayor and let him know that you support the Cycle Track Network.

And don't forget to check out the Facebook page!

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