Each year the Town of Canmore invests money into the transportation network of the community.
Roadwork very clearly is the responsibility of a municipality in the province of Alberta – from the utility infrastructure underneath the ground to the design of what streets and roads in the community should look like.
For many, the past several years have seen significant changes to how the Town of Canmore has approached the design of roads.
With an update to the 2014 Integrated Transportation Plan accepted by council in 2018, residents and visitors of the community can expect a progressive approach to incorporating cycling and pedestrians into how roads are designed to continue.
This year, the project that will demonstrate those changes is planned for the connection between Palliser Trail and Benchlands Trail, going across the overpass and toward the intersection with Bow Valley Trail.
These are going to be changes that some are uncomfortable with and other welcome with open arms. The plans include installing separated bike lanes and reducing the number of lanes on the overpass for vehicles from four to three to make room. There are also plans to move bus stops on Palliser and create better pedestrian crossings throughout. Two lanes of vehicle traffic on Palliser will be removed to accommodate the new design and slow traffic down on the busy roadway.
At a total cost of $1.3 million, it is expected to be complete by 2020.
But when it comes to changing the roads in the community for bike lanes, it might be worthwhile to consider creating how pilot projects can contribute toward successfully redesigning how vehicles and people move around.
The Town of Banff used a pilot project to consider separated bike lanes on Banff Avenue. The pilot encountered significant issues with the design, and by using temporary installations saved taxpayers the expense of installing permanent infrastructure and then discovering it didn’t function how it was initially intended.
Canmore had a successful traffic calming pilot project last year along Benchlands Trail where it intersects with Cougar Creek Drive. It was successful because municipal engineers were able to use data collected during the pilot to determine if the strategies to slow traffic down were effective. They were not, and the pilot ended without the Town moving forward with the permanent project.
Both are examples of evidence based decision making. A problem is identified, a solution proposed, the idea is tested and evaluated before making a decision on it becoming a permanent change.
Given that the transportation system changes Canmore can expect to see over the next 10-20 years are significant, it might be worthwhile for council to consider how it could use pilots or trials to better understand how these changes will function in the real world.
Without incorporating a pilot into the upcoming Palliser/Benchlands project, it is likely too late to do so now. When it comes to getting the community on board with creating space on our streets and roads for other users than just vehicles, we would suggest that baby steps could help.
Changing our behaviours is hard, especially when it is just so easy to hop in your car and drive to where you need to go.