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Calgary pathway mapping gaps cause flurry of snow clearing frustration for city cyclists

BikeBike Inc owner Sean Carter said it was puzzling to see a fully-cleared Calgary pathway in the east part of Eau Claire – and then a stretch that just… wasn’t.

The uncleared snow on that section had been pounded down by footsteps, bike tracks, stroller and wheelchair wheels. When he continued down the pathway to the east side of the Centre Street bridge it was cleared again.

He said there’s too many of these gaps in Calgary pathway snow clearing that are popping up.

“This year it seems more inconsistent than in previous years. That’s the frustration that myself and other people are feeling,” he said.

“For some reason this year seems to have more of these gaps.”

Carter also tagged LiveWire Calgary in a tweet showing the plight of another pathway user who had photographed a random stretch of snow-covered pathway that was near the intersection of another pathway. Everything else in the area had been cleared.

Ian Tucker, acting pathways and trails lead, Calgary Parks, said when city council approved the pilot project for additional snow clearing, the parks department undertook a massive summer Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping project to plot more than 1,100 kilometers of pathways and sidewalks in preparation for the new snow clearing task.

“It’s a big network and some of it got missed when we were doing our initial mapping,” Tucker said.

Right now, they’re relying on the 3-1-1 requests of Calgary pathway users to help them close up those gaps in the 500 kilometres of pathway they clear.

“We definitely want to know about these. We want our network to be snow cleared, to operate efficiently and to make sense and provide connectivity and provide those (transportation) options,” Tucker said.

Carter didn’t buy the response. He said he’s heard it before.

“It seems a bit behind the times and it’s kind of forcing the people that are riding during the winter to be constantly complaining all the time,” he said.

“It seems like a cop out, frankly.”

Carter suggested that they enable the contractors to use the technology they have and take a photo or plot a spot where they finished showing the fully mapped area. He also suggested getting the users themselves involved.

“I wish they could just get in front of this and say, ‘Hey, here’s a project for everybody. Please submit your gaps and we’ll add them to the GIS map,’ instead of complaining and then it doesn’t get added to the GIS map,” he said.

“They’d be inundated with all these little gaps that just need a blade or a brush to go over it.”

Tucker said of the 84 snow clearing routes, 74 are contracted out. They use the GIS mapping to have an accurate record of what’s been cleared, what might need to be revisited with salt or sand or another pass through.

“What I’d be afraid happening on the other end is that you’d get a request about some area being cleared and they’d have no idea if it was cleared in the first place,” he said, adding that with changes to contract staff, it’s best if they stick with the mapped routes.

They have included a reserve pathway budget capacity to accommodate these gaps in the initial mapping and with each addition, they’re ironing out the kinks in the new snow clearing program.


Tucker said there could be a variety of reasons some sections may not have been mapped to start, as they gathered info from a variety of resources and some could have been missed due to summertime pathway rehabilitation.

It’s also possible to get feedback from the contractors themselves, Tucker said.

Carter said the gaps need to be fixed soon as the city hosts the Winter Cycling Congress from Feb. 6 to 8, 2019.

“These things are going to be highlighted to our international delegates,” he said.

“Here’s an opportunity to learn and fix this.”