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Calgary Herald, Motorcycle Friendly Calgary, by Greg Williams

UPDATE May 27, 2009: Note that Ride to Work Day is now the third Monday of June. Please disregard the date that is posted in this story. Thanks, Greg Williams.

When Brad Watson rides his motorcycle to work at the TransCanada PipeLines tower in downtown Calgary he says he arrives refreshed, and much happier.

“Any day that I can ride to work is a great day for me,” says Watson, a motorcyclist for more than 26 years.

Watson advocates the use of two-wheeled transport, especially when commuting into the downtown core.

And recent changes in downtown Calgary’s parking program will favour the use of smaller vehicles; motorcycles, scooters, and some cars included.

It’s not free, unlike a unique Toronto program that allows motorcycles and scooters to park on downtown streets gratis.

Says alderman Madeleine King: “It’s important that we reduce the cost of parking for scooters and motorcycles.

“And we’re at least making a start with the new parking program, with a 25 per cent reduction (in the cost of on-street parking.)”

To show his dedication to using motorcycles and scooters as everyday transportation, Watson has promoted Ride to Work Day for the past five years. Ride to Work is a non-profit organization based in the U.S. that views motorcycles and scooters as part of a transportation solution. With more motorcycles and scooters on the roads as opposed to cars and trucks there is less congestion, and there are fewer emissions.

Ride to Work Day dates back to 1992, when an editorial in a U.S.-based bike magazine advocated riders heed the slogan on garments made by a motorcycle-clothing manufacturer: Work to Ride — Ride to Work.

The first Ride to Work Day was July 22, 1992. For many years, both motorcycle and private companies promoted the day as a grassroots bike demonstration. It wasn’t until 2000 that the volunteer run, non-profit organization, Ride to Work Inc., was formed.

Now, the third Wednesday in July is Ride to Work Day. This year, Watson invited any interested downtown Calgary motorcycle riders to park on the concrete apron in front of the TransCanada tower.

‘We had 55 motorcycles in a fairly small space out in front of the building,” Watson says. “If we could only show how much space it takes to park 55 cars, it would be a very dramatic visual.”

King agrees. In regards to parking downtown, she says, “As we move forward, and realize how much we can encourage the smaller use of space, the better.”

She adds that she thinks motorcycles and scooters could play a large role in a more sustainable future, and that the City of Calgary is favouring alternative modes of transportation. King says, “It would be interesting to see some proposals from (motorcycle and scooter) users as to how they could contribute to a cleaner, greener Calgary, and help reduce our environmental footprint.”

Many downtown Calgary motorcyclists get discouraged because it seems as soon as they find a spot where they think it’s suitable to park, they are ticketed and chased out of the area.

“The motorcycle user group needs to follow the same rules of the road as everyone else,” says Calgary Parking Authority general manager Dale Fraser. “And we’re helping them understand that some of the parking areas might not have been appropriate.”

According to Watson, some of the more popular spots were under the Centre St. bridge; 7th St. between 8th and 9th Ave. S.W. beside the Enmax building; 5th Ave. between Tim Horton’s and Map Town; Barclay Mall along 3rd Ave.; and the west side of 4th St. between and 8th and 9th Ave.

“We’ve found over the years that some of those areas have become congested, and we’ve heard that that’s not what the area users want to see,” Fraser says. “Those types of uses continue today, sometimes with the goal of not having to pay, or for easier access.”

Fraser says three years ago the city didn’t offer any motorcycle parking. That’s changed, as monthly two-wheeler parking is now available in the City Centre, McDougall Centre, Civic Plaza, James Short and Centennial parkades.

“We’re recognizing that a motorcycle is taking less parking space, and we’re extending a benefit to riders,” Fraser says.

For example, Fraser cites the reduced cost of monthly parking for motorcyclists at the Civic Plaza parkade. It costs $260 a month for cars, or $80 for motorcycles.

And when the city introduces the new Park Plus system ( on Sept. 20, hourly parkers in downtown Calgary who ride motorcycles or drive smaller vehicles (those include the Smart car, Chevy Metro, Mini Cooper, Toyota Echo, Suzuki Swift and Honda Insight) will save 25 per cent. Park Plus will see the removal of all parking meters in the downtown core. Short-term parkers will activate a parking account through their cell phone, or parking can be paid for via cash or credit card at on-street terminals.

“By removing the parking meter post we’re removing a pre-determined stall length,” Fraser says. In a stretch where only 19 vehicles could park before, there is now room for 21. He adds, “And for the first time we can extend a discount to motorcycle users. We’ve been accused in the past of not being motorcycle friendly, but we applaud and support motorcyclists for their choice in transportation.”

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