Members of two northwwest Calgary neighbourhoods marked the opening of a new raised wheeling infrastructure with a big celebration Saturday.
The communities of Banff Trail and Capitol Hill came together on Saturday to throw a bike party.
“I have three young kids so for us it’s great. Two of them are still learning how to bike properly on roads, so having those off road cycle paths is a big improvement,” said Owen McHugh, president of the Capitol Hill Community Association.
Construction of the new raised pathway along 24 Avenue N.W. took two years to complete and now provides an east-west connection from the University of Calgary to 14 Street.
The pathways are essentially upgraded and wider sidewalks that provide more protection than an on-street bike lane.
“I love the raised sidewalk. I love that it is separated from the road, because when I cycle on the road there’s always the possibility that somebody will park on my cycle track or will door me or will run over me,” said Carolyn Fisher with the Capitol Hill Community Association green initiatives committee.
While separate bike lanes have become a common sight in Calgary, the new elevated sidewalks are a newer addition to the city’s network of mobility lanes for walking and wheeling.
“It’s something that countries like Denmark have done a lot of. It provides that bit of separation from cars that makes people more comfortable. It keeps some of the snow and gravel and debris off the riding surface and it also raises people up a bit higher, especially small kids,” said Bike Calgary director Jon van Heyst.
He said where a bike lane is intended to be permanent, these lanes make sense because they look better than concrete blocks.
“I think when you have a corridor like 24th that is such a well used road already and a desired line for people to get places, then it’s great to have something that’s permanent and built right into the street,” van Heyst said.
Initially, concerns were raised about the loss of on-street parking, but Ward 7 Councillor Terry Wong says safety is a priority.
“I think these are the types of things that once we start utilizing them more often they become mainstream, so I think it’s an adjustment but it’s an adjustment we will accept,” said Wong.
Kerstin Plaxton with the Banff Trail Community Association grew up in Berlin and was used to riding her bike everywhere.
“I do really appreciate the separation of street and bike lane,” Plaxton said.
“There were some concerns because we are close to the train station and we are close to McMahon Stadium and there’s always parking issues and lots of people coming into the community to park, but so far I haven’t heard anything about struggles or troubles people are having.
“I have heard positive things about the bike lane with people appreciate having an east-west connector and I know that they hope there will be more coming,” Plaxton added.
As funding becomes available, the city will be identifying and prioritizing other walking and wheeling projects.
The infrastructure is part of the 5A Pathway and Bikeway Network.
The Always Available for All Ages & Abilities (5A) Network will be a city-wide mobility network aimed at people who walk and wheel consisting of off-street pathways and on-street bikeways.
According to the city, the way Calgarians get around is changing, with more people choosing to walk, scoot, skateboard, or cycle for their daily commute to work or school.
Under the Banff Trail Area Improvements Plan, several upgrades were made for walking and wheeling. One along 24 Avenue and another on the north side of 16 Avenue.