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Calgary, Beltline at odds on cycling plan over acceptable lane widths

The city and the Beltline Neighbourhoods Association are both in favour of bike lanes along 2 Street SW, but they don’t agree on how to do it.

The city is proposing unprotected, painted bike lanes along 2 Street SW from 10 Avenue and 26 Ave. To do so, they would have parking on the west side of 2 Street and then have bike lanes on both sides.

At issue appears to be the current lane width guidelines the city has set out for traffic. The current 3.3 metre lane width (6.6 metres for road width) requirement restricts the construction of a separated bike lane, according to the City of Calgary’s Cycling Coordinator, Tom Thivener.

“For the vehicles and the bike facility it’s very tight and so technically the lane widths that are required on that street right now make it so that we can’t have a cycle track,” Thivener said.

They have a bit of leftover money for the cycle track and Thivener said a north-south connection in the area was a priority.

He said 5 Street SW was an option, but they felt it required a larger capital spend to get it right.

“Second street has always been high on our list of facilities to improve because it’s substandard currently,” Thivener said.

“So, with a relatively small amount of money, a few hundred thousand dollars, we have a design to upgrade it, to add in some traffic calming, slow the speeds and add in bike lanes.”

The Beltline Neighbourhoods Association (BNA) says having the bike lane connection is good, and the city’s proposal is currently under review at public engagement sessions.  But they’d like to see separated bike lanes.

And BNA president Peter Oliver said they can be done, but the city is using antiquated lane width guidelines.

“What we have been referencing are new guidelines that are emerging… that recommends 3 metre lane widths as a safer width for urban environments like this one, actually,” Oliver said. He said not only are they wide enough, but they promote slower speeds in residential areas.

Traffic volumes in the downtown area. SCREENSHOT CITY OF CALGARY

The guidelines he’s referring to are from the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO), an association of 62 major cities from across North America who exchange transportation best practices.

It makes recommendations for separated bike lanes on streets with certain traffic volumes and posted speed limits.


The Beltline is using a 9,000 car a day number on their streets, which would fall under the dedicated bike lane category, but only half the stretch between 10 and 26 Avenues has that volume of traffic. The other half is 5,000 per day, according to 2017 City of Calgary traffic counts

There are also issues with lane width for buses, but Oliver says there are no bus routes in that area and Calgary Transit already runs buses on three metre (or less) lane width on the Mission Bridge.

“In the event that buses had to detour on to second street, a three-metre lane width will accommodate buses,” Oliver said.

Oliver said his community wants the city to take a closer look at how it could accommodate the changes, and better serve the area’s needs.

“Not necessarily going off their boilerplate standards for every street across Calgary,” Oliver said.

Thivener said even if they could narrow the lane widths, it presents other challenges.

“We have some technical stuff that we can’t get past at the moment in order to do a cycle track,” Thivener said.

“Even if we could narrow the travel lanes… it still may not be the greatest cycle track. It would be narrow – like the west end of eighth avenue. When it gets that narrow it also becomes a snow clearance challenge for us.”

There are two more dates for public engagement on the 2 Street SW cycling plan:

  • June 9 (11 a.m. to 2 p.m.) – 1221 2 St SW at Central Memorial Park
  • June 12 (3 p.m. to 6 p.m.) – 21 Avenue SW near the bridge toward Lindsay Park