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City piloting bike lane on 18 Street SE to address speed, traffic volume

Residents in a southeast Calgary community are concerned the pilot of an adaptive bike lane in their area won’t address speed and traffic volume issues.

The City of Calgary is beginning a three-week pilot project to add an adaptive bike lane to 18 Street SE between Quarry Park Blvd and Rivervalley Drive SE in the community of Riverbend.

The dedicated webpage shows that 18 Street SE will be reduced to one lane in each direction. The pilot will go from Aug. 19 to Sept. 12.

The city said the project comes in response to ongoing concerns about speed and traffic volume and safety along the corridor. They also hope it addresses volume and speed of cycling traffic on the Carburn Park pathway.

But there’s a litany of concerns strung to a Facebook post by the Riverbend Community Association raising neighbourhood awareness of the project. Many area residents aren’t convinced this is a good solution.

“Absolutely useless. Just enforce the speed limits on 18th street,” wrote Elvin Hultin.

“I predict it won’t be long until this causes a serious accident.”

A request for comment from the Riverbend Community Association has gone unanswered.

In their Facebook post, the RCA said that while they’ve been advocating for traffic safety on 18 Street SE, they weren’t “directly involved in the planning or implementation of this project.”

Trying an innovative approach

The city’s webpage says the pilot takes an “innovative” approach to potentially addressing several problems.

Ward 11 Coun. Kourtney Penner said that they didn’t go door-to-door with this option but felt that given the myriad concerns of Riverbend residents it was an apt plan.

“We’re asking people to try something for three weeks. And then we’re asking people to give their feedback,” she said.

She said they’ve synthesized the concerns of residents on multiple fronts, reviewed what’s been done in other areas of the city and how they could align with multiple emerging city policies. This was the proposed solution. 

Also, 18 Street SE was proposed to be repaved this year. Penner said people love driving fast on new pavement.

“Before we invest money into repaving something and exacerbating a problem, why don’t we explore what interventions could be a solution to three simultaneous challenges,” she said.

Give it a chance, gauge the impact

Penner said it’s not permanent.

“It’s just trying something. That is part of being an innovative city and that’s part of how we grow and change,” she said.

Penner also understands it’s not the perfect solution. There are connection questions, concerns on actual impact to the nearby pathway, and will it drive traffic to 24 Street SE as intended. There are also BRT considerations and there’s a speed change to 60 on the strip.

The reality is, Penner said, resources aren’t available to enforce the speed limit.

“It’s about driving a conversation. It’s about trying something to see how it works or doesn’t work,” Penner said.

Right now, the feedback that’s come through has come before the project’s even started, Penner said.

She wants residents to give it a chance, gauge the impact it has on the area, then provide their feedback. She’ll be doing the same as it’s a route she frequents to get to her parents.

The city is accepting feedback through the dedicated page. It will help inform future corridor safety improvements in the 2023-2026 budget.