Councillor Druh Farrell supports bike lane despite some constituents' views

chinatown1st Street SE between 1st Avenue and 3rd Avenue is the route many delivery trucks take to deliver goods to Chinatown. Photo by Travis BorstmayerCity council debated a controversial bike lane proposal last week that will see one of the automobile lanes on 1st Street SE converted into a bike lane. This is happening despite calls from Chinatown community advocate Annette Fung.

"My most concern is that when they congest that, it will affect business activity and also affect elderly safety around the area," Fung said.

Fung is a representative of the Calgary Chinese Elderly Citizens' Association, the Calgary Chinese Community Service Association, the Calgary Chinese Merchants Association, and the Chinatown Cycle Track Concerned Citizens group.

"If you hear on the radio that certain roads are congested, people will avoid the area and go different routes," Fung said. "When they avoid the area they aren't coming to downtown or Chinatown, they're avoiding the area, knowing it's congested.

"That will impact business, and when congestion happens, it will impact pedestrians as well."

Her concern comes in the wake of the death of an elderly woman on March 2nd, 2014 due to a collision with a motor vehicle, on Third Ave. and Centre St. N.

With over 700 senior citizens living in Chinatown, Fung feels the money could be better spent on signals and signage on major street corners to prevent another such incident from occurring.

Public relations and media expert Donn Lovett has also volunteered to advocate for Chinatown, as he is concerned that the new bike lane will detrimentally affect the economic opportunities for Chinatown.

"If that bike lane goes through Chinatown, it will destroy the perimeter, the vitality, and the economics of Chinatown," Lovett said. "Those bikers are not riding their bikes to come and shop in Chinatown, and it's going to cut down the lane where all of the trucks travel into, to deliver their goods to Chinatown. Proposed route1The proposed route of the bike lane runs south from Riverfront Avenue all the way to the Elbow River on Macleod Trail South.

"It's a $20 million expense that is not necessary given the potential upset in our budget in the city."

Ward 7 Councilor Druh Farrell isn't convinced. In a twitter response on March 11th to an inquiry about where she stands on the issue, she said that that "if done right, traffic moves more smoothly. Cyclists feel safer & get off the sidewalk. Drivers don't have to dodge bikes."

Councilor Farrell cited Rock Miller, a transportation planner and traffic engineer with Irving, Calif. based consulting firm Stantec, who was hired by the city to create a traffic report.

In a story posted on March 7th on the Calgary Herald website, Miller said dedicating one of the four lanes on First St SE into a bike lane will cause only a 30-60 second delay to commuters. Even that number might be a conservative estimate.

It appears the congestion in this case is not due to high traffic volume, but rather inefficient co-ordination of green and red lights. This, coupled with a lack of advance turning lights, is what Miller attributes most of the congestion on this stretch of road to.

Stantec was the same firm that the City of Vancouver hired to measure the impact of dedicated bike lanes on nearby businesses.

Lovett said that the Stantec report on Vancouver's bike lanes showed "a negative effect of $2.4 million a year annually on their businesses because of the bike track."

Whether or not the Vancouver numbers will be similar in Calgary is yet to be seen. City Council voted on March 10th to defer the decision to April 15th when they can look at the entire proposed dedicated bike lane network.

Fung said at that date she will be at city council making a statement against the proposal.

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