Drivers are not happy with cyclists getting priority

Calgary’s major daily newspaper has criticized the city for recently giving on-street marked bicycle lanes priority one status – meaning snow will be removed within the first 24 hours.

The city and cyclists, however, said the changes are rather minimal. Although a political expert say the paper’s reaction could deter the city from pursuing similar measures in the future.

An editorial  published in the Calgary Herald slammed the announcement, writing “someone should have put the brakes on this political correctness run amok,” adding that, “there are typically only a handful of cyclists who pedal their way through winter.”

But the Calgary Herald’s editorial section editor did not respond to a request for comment.

In an earlier report in the Herald the announcement stated that, “at least 27 lane kilometers of marked bike routes” would be cleared within 24 hours of a snowfall.

Jennifer Thompson-Goldberg, communications advisor for Calgary Roads, said – “It’s not a huge change,” adding that 17 out of those 27 kilometers of bike lanes were already considered priority one. Meaning that only an additional 10 kilometers were being added to the list.

Calgary cyclists can partake year round now that the City of Calgary has declared all on street marked bicycle lanes a priority one for snow removal.
Photo courtesy of Richard Zach

“Even though it’s a small change,” Thompson-Goldberg said, “the message we’re trying to send is that we do encourage alternative modes of transportation.”

Richard Zach, the vice-president of Bike Calgary, said if he were to re-write the Herald’s stories he would have stated, “Roads to spend $0 more dollars and 0 more hours a year to clear [10] kilometers of bike lanes a little bit faster than they used to”

He said that the snow clearing changes will be a win-win for drivers and cyclists, “the cyclists will be more comfortable because they won’t have to watch the road and traffic, now they can just watch the road.”

“The cyclist-motorist conflict that you hear most about is drivers getting impatient because there is a cyclist in their way,” Zach said.

Now that marked bike lanes will be cleared within 24 hours means they will have their own place in commuter traffic – out of the way of vehicles.

There was an online uproar among Calgary drivers following the first reports of that policy.

Richard Zach said, “drivers couldn’t possibly get upset about the fact that (10) kilometers of road are now cleared one day before they would have been cleared last year. They are getting upset about something they imagine.”

However, the way the issue was covered, and the reaction of the citizens, could potentially deter the city from similar efforts in the future.

Daniel Fontaine, former chief of staff to Vancouver mayor Sam Sullivan, said, “whenever a major media outlet in town takes a contrary position to council on any issue,” whether it’s about bike clearing or anything else, “it does have an impact on the psyche of the politician as they are thinking about developing policy into the future.”

“They might change the way they communicate it out, they might change the tactics at which the policy is developed, or they might go as far as not implementing the policy at all.” Fontaine said, “They might just say, ‘it’s not worth it for us to go down this path again.’”

cclow@cjournal.ca