Robert Bott's picture

Inter-urban Bicycle Infrastructure Connectivity

At the recent Bike Calgary Gala, I spoke briefly with Environment Minister Shannon Phillips about infrastructure connectivity, especially routes outside the major towns and cities. I followed up with a letter detailing my concerns (appended below) and today received the following reply--disappointing in some respects, possibly more hopeful in others. Not mentioned is the issue of trails also used by ATVs.

Sorry about all the HTML coding--couldn't figure out how to get rid of it. Just scroll down to read the correspondence. I'd be interested in hearing what others think:

 

 


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Dear Mr. Bott:

 

My colleague, the Honourable Shannon Phillips, Minister of Environment and Parks, forwarded your email of October 2, 2017, regarding inter-urban bicycle infrastructure connectivity. As Minister of Culture and Tourism, the lead ministry supporting Alberta TrailNet Society’s development of the Great Trail (formerly the Trans Canada Trail), I appreciate the opportunity to respond on behalf of the Government of Alberta.

 

Safe and sustainable cycle routes are important assets in building our communities and helping people live physically active, healthy lives. Ultimately, the determination of policy, along with planning and implementation of bike routes as a community amenity, is a municipal responsibility. However, outside of municipalities, trail development within highway rights-of-way or use of highway shoulders as trails is not encouraged due to safety reasons. Alberta Transportation works with government departments and municipalities to consider opportunities for trails within and outside of highway rights-of-way when guidelines and standards can be met.

 

To support regional trails, the province invested in the development of the Great Trail. When complete, we will have approximately 2,200 kilometres of recreation land trail for cyclists, hikers, horseback enthusiasts, and cross-country skiers. A number of the routes you mentioned are part of the Great Trail alignment. In 2017, progress was made on the Calgary-Airdrie-Edmonton and Cochrane-Canmore connections. The Bragg Creek to Canmore to Banff section has only a 3.5‑kilometre span left to construct. The Calgary to Airdrie to Red Deer to Edmonton section is also progressing as it ties together existing trails and low-use road connections.

 

My department has also been facilitating the development of cycling as a tourism product. Last year, Alberta Culture and Tourism supported Alberta Bikes to host the Fourth Annual Alberta Bikes Conference. The conference attracted over 100 individuals from communities and organizations across Alberta.

 

Alberta TrailNet is a registered charity that is the umbrella organization for provincial, regional, and community-based trail groups. In addition to leading the development of the Great Trail, Alberta TrailNet works with communities and community groups, provincial trail user group associations, and other stakeholders in support of their efforts toward planning, design, development, operations and management of trails. You may wish to contact this organization if you would like further information on the Great Trail and its progress, or on Alberta trails in general.

 

Thank you for writing.

 

Best Regards,

 

 

Ricardo Miranda

Minister of Culture and Tourism

 

cc:      Honourable Brian Mason, Minister of Transportation

Honourable Shannon Phillips, Minister of Environment and Parks

Honourable Shaye Anderson, Minister of Municipal Affairs

 



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Dear Minister Phillips,

It was a pleasure to meet and hear you Saturday night at the Bike Calgary Gala. I’d like to elaborate on something I raised in our brief chat.

 

As you are well aware, connectivity has become a big issue in our cities and towns as they expand cycling infrastructure. Too many pathways and designated routes end abruptly on busy thoroughfares, deterring many people (young, old, families, newbies) from getting on their bikes, whether for commuting, transportation, recreation, or tourism. It’s slowly being addressed, and I hope your government’s green funding can speed the process.

 

However, less attention has been paid to the issue of inter-urban infrastructure connectivity. This needs improvement at both the regional and provincial levels. At the regional level, we need safe routes from Calgary to Cochrane, Airdrie, Okotoks, and High River (similar to the routes connecting Edmonton to Sherwood Park and St. Albert). Provincially, the wide shoulders on many of our secondary roads make them very attractive to cyclists, but more could be done to eliminate bottlenecks and promote cycle tourism.

 

Two bottlenecks come to mind:

·         Calgary-Edmonton would be a very pleasant tour via Chestermere, Highways 9 and 21 (I did it about 15 years ago) but for about 20 km north of Delburne to the David Thompson Highway, the shoulder on Highway 21 is almost non-existent, and you are perilously close to traffic. The right-of-way is wide enough for a pathway if widening the shoulders is too expensive.

·         Cochrane-Canmore (i.e. Banff-Calgary) would also be a very popular tour on the 1A Highway if it were not for the 20 kilometres without shoulders through the Morley Reserve. I have heard that discussions are underway about widening, but I don’t know what progress has been made.

 

Alberta should learn from Quebec’s experience with Green Routes (http://routeverte.com/e/ ), which have been become tourism destinations for cyclists from around the world, supporting a network of restaurants, motels, and B&Bs sporting “Bienvenue Cyclistes” signs. My cycle touring has taken me to 29 U.S. states and eight Canadian provinces, and I have seen the benefits that dedicated infrastructure and tourism promotion can bring. In addition to Quebec, other examples include Prince Edward Island’s rail trails and Missouri’s KATY Trail. The Iron Horse Trail from St. Paul to Cold Lake could be such a tourism draw if it were not torn up by ATVs; perhaps a “bike lane” could be added to it.

 

As we move towards a greener future, I hope the government will give due consideration to the potential benefits of connected inter-urban bike infrastructure and cycle tourism.

 

Regards,

Bob Bott

(urban cyclist in Calgary since 1974, car-free since 2000)  

 

 

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bclark's picture

Some Further Info

Robert, you may find the following helpful, or at least interesting.

http://www.transportation.alberta.ca/Content/docType233/Production/Trail...

It's Alberta Transportations' 2015 document on Trails in Highway Rights-of-Way. When I read it, I found that, though it provides some very good guidance elements on trail development, the overall tone is discouraging towards the development of such trails.

Bike Calgary is currently involved as a stakeholder in the development of the Alberta Bicycle Facility Design Guide and one of our objectives is to push for the Guide to take a much more positive approach towards encouraging cycling and proper cycling accommodations.

There's more info at http://www.bikecalgary.org/alberta-bicycle-facility-design-guide if you are interested.