The question we are asked most often [now that the Fish Creek Skills Park is rolling along] is, “when are more bike skills parks being built in Calgary?”.
We have asked representatives of the City of Calgary the same thing, and we were told that the City needs to see proof that more bike skills parks are needed in Calgary.
“Huge crowds of people every weekend at the Fish Creek skills park is evidence, right?” NO, IT’S NOT.
“There are skills parks all over the US, Europe, BC, with more and more being built all the time. Surely that counts!” NOOOOPE.
“I’ll make a Facebook page to support the skills park and get people to sign an online petition and…” CLOSER, BUT ALSO NO.
“So what does the City count as proof we need skills parks?” 311 SUBMISSIONS. SERIOUSLY.
The City of Calgary Loves 311
Since the City launched 311 back in ~2005, it has been very popular. Thousands of Calgarians have called in, used the mobile app or the website at some point. All those contacts are logged and archived. You can even search for past submissions [up to 3 or 4 years back]. 311 is used for everything, from reporting dead skunks to naked screaming guys. Every single submission is counted.
Using the 311 service is the best way to let the City know that you want a specific thing to happen. You can say that you want a bike skills park in your community. You can ask for somebody from the City to contact you directly regarding your submission. You’ll get a reference number, which you can use to check on the status of your submission. Some guidelines:
- Be nice. You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.
- Be specific. Using the phrase “I/we want a bike skills park in my community” consistently is more likely to get the City’s attention. The “service type” could be “Z – Report a Concern Not Listed or Contact Us”.
- Follow up. If you were expecting to hear back from somebody, and it doesn’t happen, make sure you contact 311 with your reference number and find out what’s going on.
The Next Step: Community Associations
You submitted a request via 311. What’s next? Almost every community in Calgary has a Community Association [CA]. The CA’s can have a fair bit of influence on what happens in your neighbourhood, such as the locations of playgrounds or other recreational facilities. They can also help determine what goes in those rec facilities. How can you work with your CA to promote a bike skills park in your area?
- Be nice. The way you approach your CA at the beginning will set the tone for everything that follows.
- Know what you’re asking for. Most CAs will have no idea what a bike skills park is, so you’ll likely need to explain it to them.
- Step up. Odds are, your CA has lots of stuff on the go and will need somebody to help push things forward, at least for the first while. It’s time to roll up your sleeves.
- Strength in numbers. Talk to your friends and neighbors – see if they’ll join you in supporting the skills park.
- Need help? Ask. The CMBA can help you with information on timelines, budget, locations, etc.
Every CA and situation are different, and things might not go smoothly at first. Persistence is key – stick with it! Even if they won’t support a bike skills park, you will learn why. Take that knowledge and see if some folks in the next community over might be interested.
The recommendation of a City Councillor can tip the scales in favour of a community bike skills park. Make it easy for them to support your project:
- Ducks in a row? Make sure you have the support of the CA first.
- Know your Councillor. If your Councillor hates bikes, it’s going to work out better if you stress the family-friendly recreation aspects of the skills park rather than the cycling aspects.
- Be nice. You might not agree with everything your Councillor does, but going on a rant about [insert thing you feel strongly about] will not help.
- Don’t expect miracles. The Councillor won’t utter “So let it be written, so let it be done!” and poof, you’ve got a bike skills park. They make recommendations, not decrees.
- Be nice.
- Call 311 and ask for a bike skills park in your community.
- Contact your community association and see if they’ll support a bike skills park.
- Seek the support of your Councillor.
Have questions? Need help? Contact the CMBA and we’ll do what we can to assist.