Motion on increased bike speed rejected by city

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Calgary is known for its pathway system, but cyclists that use the paths think the speed restrictions are too slow for their needs.

Ward 12 alderman Ric McIver introduced a notice of motion in City Council February 22, asking for a report on the pathway system to see if there are any areas where the current 20 kilometre speed limit could be increased. The motion was defeated by a vote of 12-2.

"The perceived risk to pedestrians from increasing the speed was too high for most of the alderman," said Seth Petrie, Active and Sustainable Transportation Coordinator for Calgary Tour de Nuit Society, a group that collaborated with McIver on the proposal. "The main reason for it is that even though the notice of motion was really asking for a report they felt that the report would be useless because it wouldn't show that any part of the pathway network would be viable for increasing speed."

The group had hoped the report would look for things conducive to increasing the speed limit like separation of pedestrians and cyclists. Raising speeds during times of the day when there are fewer pedestrians, like the morning commute, was also considered.

"You can look at certain strategic locations along the pathways system that might benefit from a raised speed at certain times of the day. So the notice of motion specifically called for a review of, and a report on, the most used pathways to determine if there were any areas where . . . raising the speed might be beneficial or possible," said Petrie.

Petrie said that certain sections of the pathway, like in and around Prince's Island Park, have too many pedestrians to consider increasing the speed limit. He added there is more concern about pathways used by cyclists commuting from areas like Kincora further from the downtown core.

Fourth-year mechanical engineering student and Bike Route member Timothy Gladysz said he believes the speed limits are reasonable because there are a lot of children and parents as well as blind corners along the pathways. He added that if you increase the speed then there would probably be more injuries and more accidents.

During certain times of the year municipal bylaw officers ticket cyclists for exceeding the 20 kilometre per hour speed limit, which has been a concern for the Tour de Nuit Society said Petrie.

"I know with a tailwind you can . . . do 25 or 30 kilometers an hour pretty easy, especially on a road bike. Twenty kilometers an hour is almost like you're sitting there trying not to go fast," said Gladysz. "If you're new to cycling and you've ridden a mountain bike for most of your life and you hop on a 700c road bike or a commuter bike you'd be really surprised at how fast you're going. So without a speedometer you could be going too fast without even realizing it."

Some, like alderman Brian Pincott, argued that 20 kilometres an hour is more than enough said Petrie.

"There's been an awful lot of cyclists that really agree with wanting better infrastructure in general and also with saying 'okay pathway speeds are really low,' it would be nice to see this in the interim as a solution for the long distance commuter," said Petrie.