Opinions

The devil wears cycling shorts

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Cyclists are not the enemy. As a rule, they don't hunt down children or the elderly. They aren't a danger to the city's bike path users, and you shouldn't believe the city's media outlets when they paint them as monsters who hunt down pedestrians for sport.

Two recent bike path accidents have demonized cycling in a city already desperately behind the times when it comes to car-less commuting. People have become afraid of cyclists as a result of this unfair witchhunt.

By comparison, commuting by bike is far safer, environmentally sound and healthier than commuting by car. Unfortunately, Calgary and its car culture make it incredibly hard for this trend to spread.

Granted, Calgary has a substantial 550km network of multi-use bike paths throughout the city. But to the 80 per cent of total users who use the paths for commuting and exercise, the trails are functionally retarded.

Most sections of the paths have a posted speed limit of 20 km-h, while some drop down to 10 km-h. These speeds make it inconvenient time-wise for commuters, and next to impossible for anyone but the most unfit to break a sweat. As a result, it's not uncommon to see people blasting down the trails trying to get to work on time, or struggling to improve their maximum heart rate.

People see this and remember hearing about a child and an elderly person getting hit by a cyclist in the same month, and start screaming for heads. Hearing their call, the city is more than happy to answer in the cheapest and easiest way possible--a bike path crackdown using a handful of bylaw officers armed with radar guns.

Instead of taking the easy out, making it hard for people to commute and exercise by attacking pathway speeding, the city should address the real problem: Calgary's lack of bike-friendly infrastructure.

Calgary needs to make paths and roadways where cyclists can travel without fear of getting squashed by cars or bowling over pedestrians. Calgary needs dedicated bike trails separate from pedestrian paths, separate bike lanes on its major roads and dedicated bike streets with road blocks to hinder all but local car traffic. Vancouver has done it, why can't we?

Admittedly, these upgrades wouldn't be cheap, but the benefits of such a move are compelling. If more Calgarians are turned onto bike commuting, downtown congestion would be thinned out, our country-topping parking problem would be relieved, our air quality would improve and the overall health of a population group will skyrocket. The rest of the country has realized this, why can't we?

The next time you hear about an accident on the city's pathways don't be fooled into blaming the high speed of the cyclists. Instead, look towards the low speed of Calgary's progression towards healthy, car-free living.

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Comments

Finally, someone who shares my sentiments on the current and sudden state of Calgary bike bashing! I'm sick of hearing about little innocent children getting mowed down by big mean cyclists.

I commute everyday to work through sunshine, rain, and yes, snow (shame on you fair weather riders). I've been riding for years and have never hit a pedestrian.

However, a few cars driven by idiots on cell phones or putting on makeup have hit me. I've even cracked my front teeth because some parents couldn't control their kid while on the pathway. Reminder to all cyclists, using your mouth to break a fall is ill advised.

Sure I speed on the pathway, but who doesn't? A five year old on a tricycle can ride faster than 20 km/hr. And surely I can plead contributory negligence. Just look at the joggers who take up the entire pathway (yes, I'm talking to you Running Room freaks). Or parents, with those tanks they call baby strollers that have to walk ON the yellow line. And do not get me started on the Lulu Lemon rollerblading crowd.

I put up with the drivers who flip me the bird because they think they own the road. I can also deal with those who think its funny to tailgate me in their gas guzzling SUV's because I wear revealing tights.

But enough is enough. If the city is going to have 9 roaming radar units protecting the innocent pedestrians on the pathway system just waiting to hand out tickets then I have the perfect solution.

For as long as this stupid "crack down" is in effect, Memorial Drive East of 10th Street will be down to one lane sometime between 7 and 8am and 4:30 to 5:30pm, Monday to Friday. I will be taking up an entire lane of rush hour traffic on my way to and from work to ensure the safety of the pedestrians on the pathway system.

Commuters can pass me, honk at me, swear at me, and even throw their morning coffees at me but I will not give up my right to use the roadways as the city has effectively removed my right to use the pathway system.

later,
The Devil in tights.

Shouldn't serious commuters who are intrested in travelling at fast speeds use the roads? Our traffic laws allow for cyclists to use roads as cars do.

Actually Functionally Retarded, that was part of the point of the ediitorial. Calgary's roads aren't bycicle friendly by a long shot. Calgary's drivers aren't either.