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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.

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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

53rd

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. 
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

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 http://www.calgary.ca/Transportation/TP/Documents/cycling/bikeway-improv...

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.  

f

 

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 http://www.bikecalgary.org/53-street-nw-bikeway-improvements, improvement plans for 53rd Street NW are posted at:

http://www.calgary.ca/Transportation/TP/Documents/cycling/Cycling-Route-....

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.