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Calgary downtown cycle track pilot to hit 1,000,000 trip milestone

The latest statistics show Calgary's downtown cycle track is attracting new users, but Coun. Sean Chu wants more statistics

City of Calgary administration is gearing up to celebrate 1,000,000 bike trips

Helen Pike/ Metro

City of Calgary administration is gearing up to celebrate 1,000,000 bike trips

One million.

It’s a nice round number for the downtown cycle track pilot, and one administration wasn’t sure they’d hit so soon.

On Wednesday, or sooner, the metaphorical odometer (made up of real bike counters) will go from over 980,000 trips on Thursday at the three main count locations, to 1,000,000.

Tom Thivener, the bike boss working at the City of Calgary, said this is only the start of what the city could see if the network continues to grow and become connected.

It’s a nice round number, but what does it mean? On it’s own, not much. But the City of Calgary has also released their 2016 cordon count, which is gathered each year in May.

The numbers show a 40 per cent increase of bike traffic over last year’s count and a 70 per cent increase over five years – it’s the first time the city can statistically prove that new cyclists are taking advantage of infrastructure in the core.

“This is the first proof that we’ve created new riders, and that’s also a very important step in this process,” Thivener said. “There’s more people biking, walking and taking transit into downtown than ever before; 60 per cent according to the cordon numbers.”

The pilot will finish up the data collection stage in September and move to a final council decision in December. But the numbers aren’t enough to sway one sceptic.

Coun. Sean Chu said he’s looking for solid data, in terms of how many drivers have quit using roadways to trade in gas guzzlers for the two-wheel view. And he’s not satisfied these numbers show anything but a mild winter – and extended bike season – let alone people giving up cars.

“It doesn’t tell me people are giving up driving,” said Coun. Sean Chu. He explained the pilot funnelled users from several different routes to a few key tracks in the core. “There’s a funnelling effect, of course numbers are going to go up.”

Agustin Louro, president of Bike Calgary, said it’s tough to tease out what’s happening with motorists.

“The cordon counts tell us auto use is up 3.3 per cent, while bike use is up 39.7 per cent, and the overall average is 3.5,” said Louro. “Auto use is increasing below the overall average while bike use is increasing above the overall average.”

And weather isn’t the only factor Bike Calgary is seeing when it comes to the 40 per cent hike in downtown cyclists. Louro said 2015 was a warm year too, and weather alone doesn’t explain the bump.

“If it was only the weather you’d expect numbers to be the same from one year to another; and they’re not,” said Louro. “We’ve got this marked increase.”

According to the recent census statistics, people biking to work has gone up by 101 per cent since 2011, and lone motorists down by 3.2 per cent. But driving alone to work still counts towards a majority of the pie in 2016, with 67 per cent of respondents.

Courtesy/ City of Calgary

Milestone celebration

The city will be holding a small event at the 5 Street underpass on Wednesday to commemorate the milestone from 4 to 6 p.m. There will be information, a free souvenir sticker and bike ambassadors handy to answer questions.

It’s a tight fit, so the city is asking people to slow down and take care as they pass, or join in on celebrations.

No word on confetti cannons, or other merriment – the city said it’s a surprise.

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