Killarney-Glengarry Community Hall was home to the Great Soup Debate for Ward 8 on Saturday, where candidates distributed hot soup and debated hot issues, including bike lanes.
At the soup debate, audience members were asked to taste four mystery soups the candidates prepared, and to vote on their favourite.
Ward 8 candidates Evan Woolley, Chris Davis and Carter Thomson answered questions from constituents all afternoon. Though candidate Karla Charest’s soup was present, she had fallen ill prior to the event, and was not able to attend.
The city’s controversial downtown cycle track program drew some of the most heated debate. Incumbent Evan Woolley said the program was the “most measured and data-driven” project in the city’s history.
“They’re not annoying, and they’re working,” said Woolley. “The proposition was the majority of residents that live in the center city and the Beltline do not own cars.”
Woolley explained that residents who cycled didn’t feel safe and asked city council to set aside four cycle lanes to reach facilities like grocery stores and restaurants.
“There’s a huge and growing demographic of Calgarians that would like to cycle,” he said.
“What we’ve seen is actually a huge increase in seniors biking, there’s a massive increase in women biking and young people biking.”
Despite Woolley’s praise of the cycle track project, Davis and Thomson have concerns.
“There’s still a lot of places that are not safe,” Davis explained. “I think we could manage the bike lanes in a much more productive manner. I think we could utilize a lot more of our walkway space without having to sacrifice lanes on busy streets.”
Davis went on to propose a combination of bike lanes and shared pathways for bikes and pedestrians, like those near the city’s waterways. He said it could link up all parts of the city with fewer effects on the existing traffic lanes.
“I hope to see something like that, because it is great to ride your bike,” he said.
“I’m not against bikes, I’m not against bike lanes,” said Thomson. “We are a progressive city that recognizes that we have to have a balanced modal split.”
“We live on a cycle network, and when I shovel my walk off, as I’m supposed to by bylaw, and then the equipment comes by and cleans it and puts it back in my sidewalk, it’s a challenge.”
Thomson said the city is still very much car-centric, and it is unlikely to change soon. He believes deficiencies in the cycle track system have to be examined before any new sections are rolled out.
“I would be concerned about how we’ve delivered the system, not about dismantling it. I would also want to see the cost of operating this system 365 days a year,” he said.
Thomson raised concerns about whether the lanes were placed on the appropriate streets, and why Fourth and Fifth avenue’s newer construction projects weren’t looked at more closely for the cycle lane project.
At the end, Woolley’s potato and bacon soup won over the taste buds of the community hall, but he will still have to win over the community if he wants to retain his seat on city council.
Editor: Jolene Rudisuela | firstname.lastname@example.org