Letter to the Mayor: Centre City Cycle Track

By on April 19, 2014

April 16th, 2014

The City of Calgary
City Clerk
Office of the Mayor
Office of the Councillors (8001)
700 MacLeod Trail South
Calgary, AB T2G 2M3

Dear Councillors:

Re:  File #TT 2014 – 0150 Centre City Cycle Track – 1st Street SE

The citizens of Chinatown strongly object to the proposed Cycle Track being considered on 1st Street SE along the eastern border of Chinatown. In particular the Calgary Chinese Elderly Citizens’ Association, the Calgary Chinese Community Service Association, the Calgary Chinese Merchants Association and the Chinatown Cycle Track Concerned Citizens Group have come together to combine their voices in opposition to the proposed Cycle Track on 1st Street S.E.


Lack of Consultation

Chinatown is concerned there was no meaningful consultation prior to choosing the routes.  The routes were chosen by the City with no discussion with those most affected, Chinatown businesses, residents and in particular the seniors. Once the lanes were chosen, the City made a few attempts to sell the idea to Chinatown but there was never any real consultation and in particular prior to the decision to choose the routes. The City is ignoring the vitality of Chinatown.


Pedestrian Safety

Pedestrian safety has always been a concern in the Chinatown community due to the fact that we have many senior residences in the area with more than 700 seniors living there. This is particularly concerning with the gridlock near Riverfront Avenue and in Chinatown.

The City of Calgary Action Plan 2015-2018 is asking Calgarians for input on how the City should spend its money.  Perhaps the Council should consider spending the resources on improving pedestrian safety in and along the Chinatown area, rather than building the cycle track.   With all due respect to the wishes of the cyclists to have a better cycling network, commuting cyclists are still a minority and a cycle track is not a priority for the Chinatown area.  For the recreational cyclists, the City already has a beautiful bike path by the Bow River they can thoroughly enjoy!

For the safety of all those who work, live and visit Chinatown, we believe proper traffic calming measures, signals and signage such as “Caution, Elderly Crossing” and/or loud pulsating beeps for crossing signals at all the major street corners in and around Chinatown are more appropriate and urgent measures.

This concern is more pertinent in the wake of the death of an elderly woman on March 2nd, 2014.  She was hit by a small truck on Sunday morning around 10:00 am at the corner of Centre St and 3rd Ave SW.  She died of her injuries later that day.

Another pedestrian accident took place at this same corner 2 weeks later.


Traffic Congestion

We respectfully request the City stop any plans to design and/or construct the cycle track on 1st Street SE. The City is operating in opposition to its own policies.

A summary of reasons for the request are as follows:

A review of the Calgary Transportation Plan (CTP) submitted to Council in September 2009 (see here) lists under Policies in Section 3, page 3-5

e.    In areas where walking, cycling and transit cannot provide convenient and reliable travel choices, emphasis should be placed on mitigating congestion and improving capacity for private vehicles.

f.    The needs of emergency vehicles and large-scale evacuation equipment must be considered in the planning and design of all transportation infrastructure.

Delivery vehicles ranging from Cargo Vans to 5 ton trucks make their deliveries to businesses in Chinatown on a daily basis from 9am to 6pm.  Some days deliveries are as late as 7pm, with 5 ton trucks being the most frequent deliverers.  Removing a vehicle lane on 1st Street SE will have an extremely negative impact on these activities in Chinatown.

In the CTP Report under the heading « Trucks versus commercial vehicles” the Report clearly states;

Commercial vehicles are responsible for goods and services movement and include heavy trucks, medium truck, and light vehicles that are used for commercial purposes. Heavy and medium trucks are covered by The City’s bylaws, requiring them to use designated truck routes during transportation. Light commercial vehicles (e.g., small couriers, electricians, cable providers) provide small-scale goods and services movement, making up 50 per cent of the distance traveled for all commercial vehicles. It is critical for businesses to have a reliable network of roadways where light commercial vehicles and larger trucks can all travel efficiently between stops.

It may seem like a simple concern for traffic congestion or inconvenience; however, reducing one lane on 1st Street SE will leave only one vehicular lane between Riverfront Ave. and 4th Ave. SE. The road that most delivery trucks, tourist buses and motorists utilize to enter Chinatown.  That will lead to more congestion, longer delivery times, and inadvertently creating a fight for space between pedestrians and delivery trucks.

Transportation Goal #5

Promote economic development by ensuring the efficient movement of workers and goods. The transportation system must foster economic development by facilitation the efficient movement of workers and goods by roadway, rail and air. Transportation facilities must provide access to major industrial and employment locations.

The CTP recommends (on page 3-4) that the majority of the roads and streets built in Calgary be types that emphasize private vehicles and goods movement. This reflects both the existing infrastructure that has been built in Calgary, and the transportation needs for much of the city in the future

The CTP Report also says that “streets also have a major role in placemaking – creating places where people can meet, live, shop, work and play. Traditionally, streets were the centre of civic life, creating focal points for communities and businesses.”


Negative Impact on Business

In addition to pedestrian safety, the impact of bike paths/cycle tracks on local businesses is also a major concern.  With perceived traffic congestion and inadequate parking, it will only further deter visitors to Chinatown.

Recently the Calgary Economic Development (CED) claimed cycle-tracks that come at the expense of automotive lanes are good for local businesses. This is in fact not the case; businesses along 7th Street where a cycle track was installed reported a drastic decline in business and one business had to shut down.

The Downtown Business Association has already expressed concern for the aggressive and poorly planned expansion of bike tracks throughout downtown. BOMA also expressed their concerns.

The claim that bike lanes are good for business is without proof.  Actual businesses that are impacted reported declines in business when asked. These important voices should be listened to.

In Ottawa the stories are piling up on how bike lanes on Laurier have been detrimental to their businesses from restaurants to a copy shop (see here).

In Vancouver it was found that bike lanes reduced business revenues by 11%. A study completed by Stantec, the same consulting firm used by the City of Calgary, studied the impact of Vancouver’s bike lanes on local businesses (2011). It shows the cost of the lanes to local businesses was estimated at $2.4 million per year in sales (see here);

In Toronto restaurants are affected by bike lanes (see here);

In Halifax bike lanes have damaged small local businesses (see here);

Even in New York City, zealous cycle advocates have managed to get bike lanes on Broadway with catastrophic results. (See here)

If these bike lanes are so good for business why don’t we see these business owners out in the streets demanding them? The answer is that business owners are bound by the hard realities of making a profit rather than the fuzzy ideologies of the anti-car set.

The Stantec report on bike lane impacts on business is one of the most comprehensive of its kind that has followed up on the placements of separated bike lanes in Canada. Every Councillor should read it in full before considering accepting a bike plan that calls for closing a lane on Macleod Trail among other critical road lanes.


Permanent versus Pilot

We believe the City will be wasting our hard earned tax dollars by installing a so-called pilot. Further, we do not believe they will remove any structure once it is installed, regardless of how many cyclists use it. We question; will there be a mechanism that can ensure the data collected will not be fabricated to justify keeping the tracks?


Choices and Options

It appears the City will say one thing and do another. Our understanding was the cycle track committee were to come back with choices and options on the cycle track network for the Council and public to evaluate further.  But, the request turned out to be a pilot project of the full cycle track network to be rolled out at once. We are disappointed about this whole process; Citizens have no say.



There are reports from the media quoting the City Transportation Engineer saying that there were only 3 people who spoke out against the cycle track on 1st Street SE at the last Planning Committee meeting (Feb 19th).  The number was understated and these 3 who spoke up represent hundreds of stakeholders, including two business associations in the downtown/Chinatown area and one cyclist group.

Chinatown and downtown Calgary were devastated by last year’s flood.  Local businesses are slowly returning to normal, the whole of Chinatown is still very fragile.  We recommend to Council that flood mitigation plans should be considered the top priority for Chinatown right now rather than any cycle track development!

Since March 2014 Chinatown has conducted a random survey of more than 1,000 individuals and more than 100 businesses & organizations. We found almost 100% of those surveyed are opposed to the 1st Street SE Cycle Track. Copies are enclosed for reference.

Also enclosed are photos of the traffic congestion on 1st Street SE affecting the flow  in and out of Chinatown, business deliveries,  tourist activities, seniors with walkers and arrival of EMS reflects the true daily life in Chinatown.

According to Police records, there were 6 collision accidents in Chinatown last year, all happened at 220-1st street SE. (in front of the Harry Hays Building, where the proposed cycle track is planned). This does not include the fatality of an elderly person hit by a small truck. Imagine what would happen when a vehicular lane is taken away for the cycle track, allowing only one lane for motorists, trucks, tourist buses to travel in and out of Chinatown? More accidents!

If the Council members believe in listening to the voice of the people and working towards the greater good of the majority, please listen to the stakeholders – the ones that would be impacted most by the building of the 1st Street SE cycle track. Ridership does not support the proposed cycle track at this time.

Please consider an alternative route to balance the need of the cyclists and the Chinatown community. We believe that 1st Street SW or 4th Street SE are both possible options to evaluate.


Yours Sincerely,
Calgary Chinese Elderly Citizens’ Association,
Calgary Chinese Community Service Association,
Calgary Chinese Merchants Association, and
Chinatown Cycle Track Concerned Citizens (CCTCC)

Letter from concerned citizens issued 16 April 2014.