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20 Avenue NW cycle track work inspired by southeast Calgary multi-use pathway

Inspired by a southeast Calgary pathway project that will hopefully still be built this year, Calgarian Jarvis Schmid set about his own advocacy project.

Schmid, a regular cyclist up in the northwest Calgary communities of Capitol Hill, Mount Pleasant and Tuxedo Park, wants to have a cycle track built on 20 Avenue NW.

He’d been following the progress of Kevin Schlauch. Schlauch’s worked to get the 42 Avenue SE multi-use pathway project to the point where it’s scheduled for construction this year. Schmid’s ridden his bike down in the Barley Belt area and he saw how dangerous it could be for cyclists.

“I thought about how awful it was, and then I saw that he’d started the campaign, I signed the petition, etc. A year later, I see city council announced that they’ve approved funding for this,” Schmid told LiveWire Calgary.

“I thought… that really woke me up thinking, ‘how did he do this?’ It’s incredible that just activism could actually get some traction and get some legs.”

Not many safe cycling routes in the area, Schmid said

The route on 20 Avenue NW is dangerous, Schmid said. And there aren’t any other safe cycling routes in the area. So, he’s decided to take a page out of Schlauch’s book to see if he can get infrastructure built in his area.

“There’s good community support, I know that, and I thought why not just give it a try, garner some support,” said Schmid.

“It worked for Kevin. You never know what could happen here.”

An official community-led request for a 20 Avenue NW connector hasn’t yet been made, said Natalie Coombs with the City of Calgary. They are aware of it as a potential connector route. It was identified as an on-street bikeway in the original city pathways plan and is included in the city’s new 5A network.

Coombs said recent work done on the North Hill Local Area Growth Plan identified future needs for these transportation corridors. There are pathway and bike lane improvements planned in on 24 Avenue NW for the Banff Trail Area Improvements.

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“With the network improvements scheduled in the area, we know that 20 Avenue NW could make for a good connecting route,” said Coombs, via email.   

“At this point, there is no budget or official recommendation to move forward with a bike facility along 20 Avenue NW.”

Grass boulevard might make a perfect bike lane

Schmid said they’re looking for a separated bike lane, as he said painted lines have a dubious safety record.

“The two practical options that I see, one is to put down the small concrete curbs and the pylons similar to what we see downtown in the cycle track,” said Schmid.

It would eat into on-street parking in the area; Schmid is aware that might be a deal breaker for some.

The other option, he said, was to build the bike lane on a grass boulevard that stretches for at least 75 per cent of that route.

“That would be a great space for us to use for this project,” he said.

Schmid’s was looking to set up a team of people to help push the project forward in his area. They want to canvas the businesses in the area, along with residents. They want to meet with community associations, developers and schools. It’s an information gathering exercise at this point.

“That’s what we’re doing right now is we’re getting the people together. And then we’ll try to have a coordinated mobilization on that,” he said.

Work on the Calgary bike lane project is moving ahead

Now, even with COVID-19 in the mix, Schmid is pushing forward with his plan.

Schmid recognizes the work that being done on 24 Avenue NW and extending the multi-use pathway on 16 Avenue NW. He said it all needs to work as a part of a quality network. Schmid points to Northland Drive NW an example of a pathway that goes nowhere.

“People call it the last mile; you have to be able to get somewhere right?” Schmid said.

“A cycle network is only as good as its connections.”