John Hilton-O’Brien

What do you think are the benefits of active transportation (e.g. walking, riding a bicycle)?

Mostly? fun. My Ward is stuffed to the gills with amazing hiking and recreational biking oopportunities – and we can also bike to work downtown if the weather’s decent. I should also mention that I was one of the field researchers for this Sierra Club hiking guide:

Research recommends enabling biking and walking for transport as an important public health measure. What are your thoughts on the current state of the infrastructure for active transportation in the city? How will you increase the convenience and safety of all modes of transportation, including walking/using a wheelchair, riding a bike, and transit?

We have a problem with this in Calgary: winter. What we really need is to open up some of these trails for cross-country skiing when it snows. That means a City staffer on a skidoo, making trails on public paths and golf courses. Beyond that, we’re generally fairly good, although some areas (especially on the East side of the City) need decent sidewalks.

Lowering speeds to 30 kph in residential areas improves road safety for all users, especially children and seniors.  Calgary citizen groups in many communities are calling on the City to act against speeding. If elected, how will you work to reduce vehicle speeds in residential areas in Calgary?

The best thing we can do is adjust playground zone times to start at 7:30, so parents dropping off kids at schools with playground zones have something to protect the kids at that hour. About speed limits: if people speed when the limit is 50, lowering it to 30 won’t change much – they’ll go at the same pace, but pedestrians will expect them to be going slower. In truth, the conditions really determine the appropriateness of speed, and you cna receive a ticket for driving at an unsafe speed even if that speed is within the posted limit. Just lowering the speed limit isn’t going to help, and it WILL create a backlash. The idea is nice, but we must work with the citizens we have – not the ones we wish we had.

Vibrant communities depend upon everyday people using city streets to shop, eat, linger, and walk. Several factors play into the walkability of communities including: intensity, mixing of different types of uses, connectivity, and quality of the urban realm. If elected, how will you increase the walkability and vibrancy of Calgary’s communities?

Frankly, the developers will build this stuff any time the zoning allows for it, and they’ll happily make money doing it. Why? ‘Cause we want it. Council doesn’t need to force it in, we just need to allow it. We have to make that zoning work – those Area Redevelopment Plans need some adjusting. That’s what Councillors – and community associations – are for. I promise I’ll be glad to do my part.

Bicycle access to amenities (e.g. work, school, recreation) requires bicycle facilities that extend beyond our pathways. In addition, this summer we saw how reliance on a pathway network built primarily in a river floodplain resulted in a loss of viable travel routes for many Calgarians. Of its 18,000 lane-km of roads, Calgary has only 26 km of marked on-street bike routes. Given that 98% of Calgarians are uncomfortable riding in traffic, do you support reallocation of roadway space to provide people on bicycles with equitable, reliable, safe, comfortable, and efficient access to the amenities they need to reach?

I’m afraid not. Cycling will always be a seasonal activity, and we cannot reallocate permanent space for a seasonal activity. In the meantime, a bicycle is a vehicle, the same as any other. The bicycle takes up a whole lane, and motorists must respect this. I am in favour of taking strict action against motorists who endanger cyclists, because every lane should be safe for cyclists.

How will you increase the convenience and appeal of transit as a mode of choice, as well as facilitate the possibility of multi-modal trips (e.g. walking & transit, riding a bike & transit)?

I personally use transit as my daily transportation of choice. It seems reasonable to me to have areas on LRT cars made for hanging bicycles, and to expand the number of busses outfitted with bicycle racks. It is quite frustrating to have to wait several busses before one with a bike rack arrives!
Are you familiar with the New York experience from 2007-2013? How can we replicate most of that success here in the next five years?


Will you advocate for the prioritization of cold hard cash directed towards alternative transport options, and an urgent move to make on-the-ground changes immediately?

No. I dare not make particular spending promises, because the City is in a real cash crunch. In addition, the question is too vague to admit of a direct answer. That being said, I do not regard transit as “alternative transport”

One Comment on “John Hilton-O’Brien

  1. I find most of these reponses misinfomred and mildly annoying.

    1. Active transportation is not about “fun” any more than passive transportation is. Recreational opportunities around town are a whole other question. I cycle 5-6,000 km per year and very litte of that (<10%) is recreational; the rest is commuting to work, going shopping etc. The benefits of active transportation for me are: cost and reliability. Others will include health benefits, which I also enjoy but it is not the motivating factor.

    2. The snide "We have a problem with this in Calgary: winter." ain't gonna win my vote. Calgary winters are not nearly as cold or snowy as passive transportation users think. There are only a handful of days where it is cold enough or there is enough fresh snowful every year to hinder walking or biking. All that is required is some snow and ice control, just like that on the roads. Parks does a very good job keeping the pathways cleared and sanded and roads is improving with new attention being paid to bike lanes.

    3. Lowering speed limits. The "citizens that we have" don't want people in multi-ton steel boxes speeding past their homes and their children's schools. It the character of the road dictates the speed (which it does), then stop making roads that encourage speeding. Doesn't quality of life and safety trump a bit of backlash?

    4. "I’m afraid not. Cycling will always be a seasonal activity, and we cannot reallocate permanent space for a seasonal activity." Wherever cycle facilities get maintained in the winter, they are used. Cycling year round in Calgary is not the big deal that passive transport users think it is.

    Why is Calgary in such a cash crunch? Maybe its because we spend too much money making improvements for single occupant vehicle users?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: