The federal and city governments are committing to nearly $5 million in funds to create separated cycling infrastructure in southwest Calgary through the Beltline.
Both 14 Avenue and 15 Avenue in southwest Calgary have painted bike lanes right now, but will soon be getting an upgrade.
Calgary Skyview MP George Chahal and Randy Boissonnault, minister of tourism and associate minister of finance, were in Calgary for the announcement of $4.9 million in joint funding for active transportation infrastructure improvements on Friday.
“This is probably the biggest investment in cycling and wheeling infrastructure in the city in a decade since the initial cycle track pilot network was launched,” said Peter Oliver, president of the Beltline Neighbourhoods Association.
“It’s identifying one of many remaining gaps in the active modes, infrastructure network that we have.”
The protected cycle track will be built along 15 Avenue between 12 Street S.W. and 1 Street S.E.
The funding will also pay for pedestrian infrastructure upgrades, such as curb extensions, marked crossings, lighting and widened sidewalks on both avenues.
“This is such a huge victory and great investment for the Beltline, but also towards the overall transformation of Calgary’s downtown to a more exciting destination and more liveable community,” Oliver said.
“This is a win even if you don’t visit the Beltline or live in the Beltline. This is an investment in more efficient infrastructure, which will ultimately make Calgary a more efficient city to operate and less expensive city to operate,” Oliver said.
Oliver said that there has been overwhelming support from residents and businesses for a protected mobility track and safety improvements on 14 Avenue and 15 Avenue.
The new lanes will be just south of one of Calgary’s busiest cycle tracks on 12 avenue. There have been calls for north east Calgary to get more walking and wheeling infrastructure too.
George Chahal, the MP for Calgary Skyview, said all Calgarians deserve to reach their destinations safely.
“It’s important we work together with the city. In northeast Calgary we see non-existing bike lanes and we need to invest more in north east Calgary. We need to make sure that infrastructure is enhanced and supported. Our government will be there to make sure that we support further investments in north east Calgary,” Chahal said.
Cyclists say the project will providing a more reliable cycling network for Calgarians and visitors.
“I think the funding announcement is amazing. People really need to get into that area of the city and it’s really underserved by what we have today,” said Kimberley Nelson, a former president of Bike Calgary.
She said the current painted lanes are not entirely safe.
“Not with the door zone. It’s not properly cleared with some of the snow in the winter. It’s tight and there’s a lot of unsafe passing that’s happening in those two lanes right now.
“If I’m looking for a comfortable ride, where I know exactly what to expect, the separated infrastructure is always going to be my go-to.
“If I were going to take children for a ride just to go to the local store, or to go get ice cream — there’s so much good ice cream and food down there — I wouldn’t want to take them on a painted road. I would certainly take them into the cycle track,” Nelson said.
The federal government is putting in $2.94 million from its Active Transportation Fund, while the city is contributing $1.96 million.
A timeline for construction will be announced at a later date.
Calgarians also participated in International Winter Bike Day on Saturday.
Bike Calgary held the event in the city in conjunction with the global Ride Together Day. The organization encouraged people to get out and bike to multiple designated destinations across the city.
Riders were encouraged to visit seven “hot spots” located around the city to get their “passport” stamped.
“It’s accessible to everybody and we are just having so much fun watching families bike through,” said Nelson. “We’ve created maps where there are seven hot spots throughout the city where people can come in get stamped, win some prizes and really find out how easy it is to bike four or five kilometres in a very short amount of time.”