Calgary’s First Cycling Coordinator

Tom Thivener and his daughter enjoy a bike ride. Photo from Tucson Velo

The City of Calgary has hired Tom Thivener from Tucson, Arizona to be its first cycling coordinator. His first day on the job will be June 4.

Thivener has spent the past five years in Tucson, working to improve conditions for active transportation in that city. While he was there, Tucson hit several cycling milestones:

  • Bicycle ridership increased 58% from 2009 to 2010. That increase moved Tucson from being #12 in the country for bicycle commuting to #6.
  • The number of women commuting by bicycle rose to 35% from 26.5% from 2009 to 2010.
  • Tucson was named one of the top towns to move to by Outdoor Magazine in part because of the planning and development of a network of Bicycle Boulevards
  • Tucson was named the Best Town for Road Biking by Outdoor Magazine in 2010
  • Aviation Bikeway, a multi-use path, was installed in 2010, extending from the southeast side of town to downtown

Bicycle Boulevards

More recently, Thivener and Tucson have been focusing on bicycle boulevards, similar to Vancouver’s on-street bike routes like 10th Avenue and Adanac. Bicycle boulevards incorporate traffic calming, prioritize bicycle traffic, and provide separate signage for cyclists.

10th Ave Bike Route, Vancouver. Photo from the City of Vancouver

In Vancouver, bicycle boulevards have been greatly successful. They allow cyclists to avoid arterial routes with heavy motor traffic, which reduces stress and increases safety. Because they generally run near the arterial routes, it’s easy to access amenities by traveling most of the way on bike routes and turning to the arterials for the last block or two.

Tucson, like Vancouver, is laid out as a grid, which allows the bike boulevards to cover long distances uninterrupted, and without forcing cyclists onto collector arterials.

We don’t yet know if Thivener will push for bike boulevards in Calgary or whether he’ll take a different approach. While the outer parts of Calgary largely use collector arterials to direct traffic, the inner core is largely laid out in a grid and is well suited to bike boulevards.

Pay Attention to Female Ridership

Women, Thivener says, are an “indicator species” when judging the bike-friendliness of streets. In a presentation delivered at the Arizona Planning Conference in 2011, Thivener quoted that “women were less likely than men to try on-street bike lanes and more likely to go out of their way to use bike boulevards”.

A high proportion of female riders, like in the Netherlands (55%) or Germany (49%), generally indicates that the streets present a safe and stress-free route for cyclists. Where there are women riding, there are also children and seniors riding.

Good Things in Store

In June 2011, the City of Calgary put forth a Cycling Strategy aimed at becoming “one of the premier cycling cities in North America”. One of the steps towards achieving that goal was hiring a cycling coordinator. He, along with the Bicycle Design Engineer, the Bicycle Planner, and the rest of City Hall, will be responsible for implementing the Cycling Strategy, which calls for $28-million of capital investments between 2012 and 2014.

All the best to Mr Thivener in Calgary!

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2 responses to “Calgary’s First Cycling Coordinator”

  1. Alex says :

    I think I might love this guy. Those are awesome results that Calgary could really really really really use. Plus I love that bike!

    • The Bike Route says :

      I’m with you on both counts. He started in Calgary last week, so we’ll see how things go over the next little while. And that is an extremely sweet bike! (Though I have it on good authority that Surly makes a pretty nice longtail as well.)

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