Five Fast Facts – What Does our Aging Population Need?

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1. Our aging population needs better sidewalks and crosswalks

In this podcast David Foot, an economist and demographer at University of Toronto, addresses the need for longer pedestrian lights at crosswalks for older people who walk more slowly and tapered sidewalk curbs that reduce the chances of older adults tripping. These needs align with the concerns seniors in Bridgeland have expressed to us as part of our Active Neighbourhoods project. Specifically, Bridgeland’s seniors emphasize how crucial snow and ice removal on sidewalks and crosswalks is for moving around their neighbourhoods in the winter months.


2. Our aging population needs more secure and better lit streets

This study finds that safety is a key concern for older adults, specifically women, in terms of moving around and feeling at home in their community. Lighting in public areas directly contributes to how comfortable older adults feel in public spaces, as we found in our Women’s Safety Walk in Bridgeland.


3. Our aging population needs more affordable services, living areas and gathering places

In our conversations with seniors in Bridgeland, we found that the need for affordable services and gathering places is a common concern for aging adults in this community. For example, elderly residents are often concerned with the affordability of grocery located in the community. Inline with our findings, this study finds that as people age, they put a larger emphasis on access to affordable services and housing.


4. Our aging population needs better alternatives to driving

In this podcast Gil Peneloza, the founder of 8-80 City, talks about how many seniors are terrified of the day they lose their driver’s licenses, not because they love cars but because they love the mobility cars allow them. This study argues that we need to reorient our car-centric neighbourhoods to be more pedestrian and transit-focused as our population ages in order to improve mobility for those who no longer feel comfortable driving.


5. Our aging population needs living areas that are connected with surrounding communities

Aging in place is becoming a more common theme when addressing the needs of our aging population for a number of reasons. Firstly, according to this podcast, developing communities in which seniors can live and actively participate with other generations allows people, as they get older, to lead more productive and interesting lives. Secondly, according to this article, well connected communities with neighbours that actively care for one another can act as safety nets for elderly adults.  One key aspect of such neighbours is the presence of destinations that people can walk to, and in which they can socialize with a variety of community residents, such as affordable coffee shops – which seniors in Bridgeland say the community is lacking.



Bigonnesse, Catherine, Marie Beaulieu, and Suzanne Garon. “Meaning of Home in Later Life as a Concept to Understand Older Adults’ Housing Needs: Results from the 7 Age-Friendly Cities Pilot Project in Québec.” Journal of Housing for the Elderly, 2014, 357-82.

The Current. “How to Design Cities for an Aging Population.” CBC. February 13, 2015. Accessed February 21, 2015.

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Five Fast Facts – Commuting and Happiness


1. Commuting affects the shape and quality of our social networks

A study done in 2009 in Switzerland found that people who commute longer distances to work tend to have friends that live farther away from one another. This tends to mean these individuals’ friends are less likely to know each other and their social networks are more diffuse than the those who commute shorter distances.

2. We are happier when we are walking, riding a train or cycling to work

A study done at McGill University found that people who walk, ride the train or cycle to work are more satisfied with their commutes than those who drive, ride the metro or ride the bus.

3. We’re more likely to have successful relationships when we commute shorter distances

A study done by researchers at Umea University in Sweden found that married couples in which one spouse commutes for longer than 45 minutes are 40% more likely to divorce, suggesting that these individuals have less time to spend with loved ones and families and may have higher levels of stress than people who commute shorter distances.

4. We pay for long commutes

In this study Strutzer and Frey used marginal utility of income assessments to determine that people who commute one hour to work often need to earn 40% more money to be as happy as people who walk to the office.

5. Our commutes affect the happiness of our loved ones

Strutzer and Frey also researched the effects commuting has on family life.  They found that the more time individuals spend commuting, the less satisfied their family members are with their respective lives.


Want more on emotional wellbeing, commuting and urban design? Check out The Happy City by Charles Montgomery.


Lowrey, Annie. “Your Commute Is Killing You.” Slate. 1 May 2011. Web. 6 Feb. 2015.

Montgomery, Charles. Happy City. Doubleday Canada, Limited, 2013. Print.

St-Louisa, Evelyne, Kevin Manaughb, Dea Van Lieropc, and Ahmed El-Geneidya. “The Happy Commuter: A Comparison of Commuter Satisfaction Across Modes.” Transportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour 26 (2014): 160-70. Print.

Stutzer, Alois, and Bruno S. Frey. “Stress That Doesn’t Pay: The Commuting Paradox*.” Scandinavian Journal of Economics 110.2 (2008): 339-66. Print.

Kate2-150x150Kate Beck is an aspiring urban planner who’s passionate about streets, social justice, bicycles and rock climbing. She spent the summer helping to connect Active Neighbourhoods with the Bridgeland community. She has recently finished a degree in geography at University of British Columbia in Vancouver.



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Winterpalooza 2015 Starts This Week!


For its second year, the organizers of Cyclepalooza are bringing Calgary cyclists a celebration of biking and winter – Winterpalooza!

This year’s events include the Winterpalooza Photo Booth – stop by to get a portrait taken of you and your bicycle and organizers will provide you with warm cocoa, swag and a gift certificate to BikeBike. There’s also the Polar Run, a quick ride around the block in your bear (or bare!) essentials; the Winter Bike to Work Day organized by Bike Calgary, and many other events!

For a calendar of events and more information about the festival, please visit, chat us up at @cyclepalooza, or check out And keep an eye out – Cyclepalooza is returning for its fifth run July 10-19, 2015.

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Women’s Safety Walk, February 4 @5:30PM

Screen Shot 2015-01-29 at 10.57.31 AM

The Women’s Centre and Sustainable Calgary are partnering to run a Women’s Safety Walk on Winter Wak Day – Wednesday, February 4 at 5:30pm.  The purpose of the walk is to move through the community to identify specific places where women might feel unsafe, and talk about solutions. These recommendations will be used by Sustainable Calgary in their Active Neighbourhoods project in Bridgeland, to help make Bridgeland-Riverside more accessible for more active forms of transportation (walking, cycling, taking transit).

We will look at how to increase women’s safety in different ways, including at the individual, community, and societal/cultural level. Please join us! The walk will start at the Women’s Centre (39 4th Street NE) with a short introduction, we will walk through the community, and then we will return to the Women’s Centre to debrief about the walk. Food and drinks will be provided during the debrief. Everyone is welcome! The event is not limited to those who live in Bridgeland-Riverside – we would love to see anyone who works, plays or travels through the community at the walk.


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Emerging Innovations in Social Enterprise Course

ArushaSocial Enterprise has united people, planet, and profit by contributing to the economy and employing millions of people. This course explores emerging innovations in social enterprise an intersection of business, profit, non-profit, cooperative, and government to achieve a dynamic hybrid of new businesses and social opportunities. This course will survey collaborator support, financial intelligence, ecological judgment, and the range of skills that make social enterprises flourish.

Created by The Arusha Centre and Bow Valley College, the deadline for application is Friday, January 30, 2015. This distance-learning course runs February 9 – March 9.


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Five Fast Facts -Biking and Wellbeing


1. Cycling as a mode transportation meets recommended amounts of daily exercise
Stats Canada reports that 48% of Canadians are physically inactive, meaning they complete the equivalent of less than half an hour of walking per day, while another study finds that 41% of Albertans get recommended amounts of exercise per day. By cycling to and from work, school, or the grocery store for 30 minutes everyday, you will be meeting Health Canada’s suggested amount of daily exercise.

2. If you live near walking and cycling routes you are probably more active
A study evaluating new motor-traffic-free walking and cycling routes shows that people living near the routes were more physical active two years after the routes were installed compared to before the routes were installed.

3. Cycling improves your sleep
A study done by Stanford School of Medicine finds that when sedentary people suffering from insomnia began cycling for 20-30 minutes a day, the time required for the participants to fall asleep reduced by half, and their sleep time increased by an hour each night. 

4. Cycling as a mode of transportation helps you relieve stress
Studies measuring the effects cycling has on people’s emotions find that cycling helps to relieve stress and marks a transition between work and home life for cycling commuters.

5. The benefits of cycling are lower in environments with heavy automobile traffic
Studies have shown that in order to increase the emotional wellbeing of cycling for commuters, we need to create safe, relaxing cycling environments that can be used by commuters and not just recreational cyclists.



“30 Reasons to Take up Cycling – BikeRadar.” BikeRadar. 1 Jan. 2014. Web. 28 Dec. 2014. <>.

“Alberta Survey on Physical Activity A Concise Report.”Https:// Alberta Centre for Active Living. Web. 12 Jan. 2015.

Aldred, Rachel. “Benefits of Investing in Cycling.” British Cycling (2014): 1-23.

“Health Report -Activity Levels.” Stats Canada. Government of Canada, 1 Jan. 2014. Web. 28 Dec. 2014. <>.



Kate Beck is an aspiring urban planner who is passionate about streets, social justice, bicycles and rock climbing. She spent the summer helping to connect Active Neighbourhoods with the Bridgeland community. She has recently finished a degree in geography at University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

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Happy New Year!

We hope you had a lovely holiday season!

It’s been a busy first 6 months for Sustainable Calgary’s Active Neighbourhoods project in Bridgeland.  We’ve been collaborating with the Bridgeland-Riverside Community Association (and many others) to find out what residents think of Bridgeland’s capacity for walking, cycling and green space – with the ultimate goal of implementing pilot design projects.

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Our travelling map of Bridgeland (with stickers and sticky notes for resident feedback) has attended 6 Famers’ Markets and fairs, and spent 3 afternoons in Bridgeland’s General Plaza.  The clear winners of this exercise were the 3-5 year-olds, spending an average of 45 minutes each at the map, and engaging passers-by tirelessly.

The students of the University of Calgary’s faculty of Environmental Design became involved in the project in September, completing 1 Household Survey (120 households); 8 community Walk Audits and Emotional Mapping walks; 4 Location Observations (Memorial/Edmonton TrailLRT Station; General Plaza; 1st Ave/10th Street NE); 18 Empathy Walks; and 18 papers providing their feedback on the experience.

ANC staff are currently hard at work counting things in Bridgeland – pedestrians, cyclists, bike racks, benches, and bus shelters.  (If you like counting things, and would like to get involved, please be in touch at  All of the data we’re collecting will be summarized in a Bridgeland “Community Portrait”.

Approximately 70 students in the Netherlands are also currently working on 12 design projects for Bridgeland, grounded in the data we’ve collected, which they will present in March at Safer Calgary‘s Safe and Smooth Symposium.  Bridgeland residents, City planners, decision-makers and designers will then have the opportunity to weigh in on these designs – to draw out and shape concepts that can be implemented within 2 years.

And as we’re doing this, we’re also getting started with our next 3 communities!

We are really excited about the potential of this work, which, funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada, acknowledges the important links between urban form and public health.   We are also thrilled at the number of people who have expressed interest in volunteering, and we will send emails as opportunities arise.

Screen Shot 2015-01-09 at 12.55.43 AMThank you for your continued interest in the work of Sustainable Calgary, and we wish you all the best for 2015!


Celia Lee

Lead Facilitator, Active Neighbourhoods




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An Active Neighbourhood is a Neighbourhood Where People Live rather than Simply Travel on Streets

What is an Active Neighbourhood? Opinion Piece 3/3


photo courtesy of Mark Dreger from San Francisco-ize

An active Neighbourhood promotes physical activity and involves residents in community activities or causes. I have described what I think this means in terms of community parks, but how can this idea of “the active neighbourhood” translate into public spaces residents are obligated to use everyday? Community parks are exceedingly important to a person’s physical, social and emotional well-being, however, if a park does not meet a community’s needs, residents will choose to use the park less or avoid it altogether. Streets, on the other hand, cannot be as easily avoided.

The average Canadian spends 51 minutes each day on our streets commuting to and from work. The average Canadian also goes grocery shopping 2.2 times per week, driving about 11 minutes each way. So in total, each week we spend 5 hours and 3 minutes on streets, in our cars. If you were to spend 5 hours and 3 minutes a week in one place, wouldn’t you want it to be a stimulating, pleasant place to be? Why is it that we put so much time and thought into making our homes, schools and workplaces interesting and enjoyable places to spend time, but we do not hold our streets to the same standards?

So, I think in order to create an Active Neighbourhood, we need to focus on making our streets more stimulating, exciting places to spend time. We need to create streets where people can socially interact and be physically active rather than just travel through.


photo courtesy of Mark Dreger from San Francisco-ize


What kind of street do people like to spend time on?

Back in the 1950s an iconic woman named Jane Jacobs wrote a groundbreaking book about the importance of livable, walkable streets. However, since the 1980s, little attention has been placed on designing livable streets.  In fact planners have focused on designing the antithesis of walkable streets; long winding highways going through and circling city centres. In the last few years, walkable streets have come back in style, and more research is being done on the assets that make a street livable. The City of Calgary Transportation and Municipal Development department has now made it their priority to improvethe livability of Calgary’s streets through their Complete Streets Plan. According to this plan, these are the aspects needed to make a street more livable;


1) Trees and greenery

Trees and greenery serve a number of purposes on streets. Firstly, they improve perceived safety. Studies have shown that pedestrians and cyclists feel more safe and comfortable walking and cycling on streets lined with trees and plants. Trees and plants also visually narrow the street, which leads to reductions in vehicle speed. Secondly, they provide areas for snow storage in the winter and help to prevent erosion and flooding during the spring and summer by storing water run-off.


2) Wide, multi-use sidewalks and multiple crosswalks

One of the City of Calgary Complete Streets’ objectives is to provide transportation options for people of all ages, physical abilities and income levels. Increasing the width of the sidewalks and the number of street crossings allows people in wheelchairs, people pushing strollers and families with small children to use the sidewalk and cross the street more safely and comfortably.


3) Patios, benches and bike racks

By providing space for people to spend time on our streets rather than simply travel through these streets, we can increase civic space and encourage more social interaction while also enhancing safety and security. Studies have proven that people perceive streets as being safer when there are more people spending longer periods of time on streets, so by increasing the number of patios, benches and bike racks, we may also be increasing the safety of our streets.


4) Sheltered bus stops and buslanes

Using city transit in Calgary is usually considered a fringe activity, which doesn’t make a lot of sense because $346 million, or 15% of taxes collected by the city from residents like us, go to city transit. In order to increase citizens’ use of city transportation, the city needs to increase the efficiency of the system, however, we also need to make it easier for people to find and use our buses and c-train. We need better signage for bus stops, covered, comfortable bus shelters, and more designated bus lanes so transit trips can be made faster and affect the flow of traffic less.


5) Travel lanes for vehicles, parking and signage

As of now, cars have priority on our streets, and although the Complete Street model attempts to refocus attention onto other aspects of the street, cars are still understood as being essential parts of a street. Parking, well-paved lanes and good signage is necessary for a truly complete street.


6) Businesses, homes and good lighting

Lastly, streets can promote the economic well being of both businesses and residents by providing space for businesses and residential areas to be built together. By constructing buildings with the first floor dedicated to small businesses and the top floors dedicated to condos or apartments, the businesses work to serve the local community –those living above them – and the local community works to keep their local businesses thriving. Incorporating businesses, homes and good lighting into a street also allows for the street to be used by the community during all times of the day, which increases security in the area. Business owners and clients watch over the streets during the day, and residents watch over the street in the evenings and on weekends.




Sources Used

2014 Complete Streets Guide. City of Calgary <>

2008 Masterindex Report: Checking out the Canadian Grocery Shopping Experience. MasterCard Worldwide. <>

Approved Business Plans and Budgets 2012-2014. Calgary City Transportation. <



Kate2-150x150Kate Beck is an aspiring urban planner who is passionate about streets, social justice, bicycles and rock climbing. She spent the summer helping to connect Active Neighbourhoods with the Bridgeland community. She has recently finished a degree in geography at University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

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An Active Neighbourhood is a Neighbourhood Where People Live rather than Simply Spend Time in Parks

What is an Active Neighbourhood? Opinion Piece 2/3

pic4 In my last blog post, I defined Active Neighbourhoods as a neighbourhood that promotes physical activity, community involvement and encourages living, and not simply living in confined little boxes, but living within the larger community. In this blog post, I’m going to tell you about my dream park.

1. I want a Park that Accommodates the Needs of a Variety of People

I want a park that is accessible to everyone. I want a park outfitted with ramps to allow the area to be used by people with physical disabilities. I want a park where people of all ages with a variety of interests can share the same space. I want spaces where children of all ages can play beside a group of knitting and chess-playing seniors and picnicking parents. I want open soccer and baseball fields that can also be used as areas for the community to hold festivals and events. I want winding pathways through my park, some designated for walkers and runners, others for skateboarders and unicyclists, and others for trail runners, dirt bikers, cross-country skiers and snowshoers. In the middle of my park, I want a big gazebo where people can play music, host concerts or hold community dance classes.


Copenhagen, Denmark


2. I want a Park that I can Eat, Work and Celebrate in

I want a park with mixed-use spaces. I want spaces where people can be physically active, however I also want spaces where people can cook and eat together. I want spaces where I can work. I want quiet, pleasant corners where people can read books or meet for business lunches. I want my park to be used by people from dawn to dusk, and on special occasions,even later than dusk. I want my park to be a place where people celebrate. I want birthday parties, weddings, retirement parties and national holidays to be celebrated in my park.

pic2 Vancouver, BC


3. I want a Park that I can use 365 Days a Year

We have a lot of sunny weather parks in Calgary, however we don’t have a huge number of sunny, warm days to spend in these parks. Our city has very few parks to spend our six months of winter and few months of chilly spring and fall weather. So, I want my park to be winterized. I want my winding pathways to be lined with cross-country ski paths and snowshoe prints in the winter. I want a little skating rink where people can play hockey or hold neighbourhood skating parties, and I want a tobogganing hill. In order to create an area where people are comfortable and stay for longer periods of time during colder months, I want a few heat sources in my park, including communal fireplaces, shared pizza ovens or stand-up electric or natural gas heaters

pic3Bowness Park, Calgary

4. I want a Park that can be Creatively and Spontaneously Shaped by People

Most importantly, I want people to feel that this park is partly theirs to use and care for. I want people to feel that the park is really owned by the public, rather than paid for by the public but owned by the municipality. I want people to be able to find two trees and put a slack line between them, or find a grove and create an art installation in it. I want the playgrounds in my park to spark children’s imaginative sides rather than limit their playing to a limited number of activities. I want residents to hold spontaneous community barbeques, karate lessons or finger-painting classes in my park.

What is This All About?

For those who are questioning the practicality and cost of my dream park, you are completely right. We cannot implement all of these attributes and functions into all of Calgary’s parks. However, I think we can use these basic ideas to create public living spaces that can be used by a variety of people, for a variety of activities during every season. Our parks are not only spaces for physical activity, but also spaces for social interaction and community gathering. Our parks have the potential to be the living, beating hearts of our neighbourhoods. They are crucial aspects of our communities and the public sphere, and they are fundamental to the definition of an Active Neighbourhood.


Kate2-150x150Kate Beck is an aspiring urban planner who is passionate about streets, social justice, bicycles and rock climbing. She spent the summer helping to connect Active Neighbourhoods with the Bridgeland community. She is currently finishing her degree in geography at University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

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An Active Neighbourhood is a Neighbourhood that Promotes Living

What is an Active Neighbourhood?  Opinion Piece 1/3

By Kate Beck

For the last few years, I’ve been thinking a lot about streets and places. I’ve been thinking about why we enjoy spending time in some places but not in others, and why we care more about some streets more than others. I’ve picked some ideas up while having conversations with strangers at bus stops and others while biking from the grocery store late at night. I have picked up other ideas while playing in my neighbourhood’s annual glow-in-the-dark-snow-soccer games in the winter or baseball games in the summer.

Over the next few weeks, I will be posting a series of blog posts about my thoughts on what an active neighbourhood is. Firstly, I’m going to look at the definitions of the words “active” and “live” really mean. I know it sounds a little boring, but HOLD ON, it’s more interesting that you might think.

What Does “Active” Mean?

Meaning 1. engaging in physical activity.
In terms of physical activity, we think of the act of running laps in gym class or doing sit-ups at the gym, but these only make up one form of physical activity, intentional physical activity. Less-intentional physical activity, on the other hand, might include walking to get milk from the corner store, gardening or shovelling the walk, or biking to a restaurant for dinner. A neighbourhood must be able to accommodate both forms of physical activity. We need spaces to play sports, and trails to walk, run and bike on. We also need streets that allow people to walk, bike and take city transit to get to work, school or just to the grocery store.

Meaning 2. participating in rather than only giving support to a group or cause.
By this definition, an active neighbourhood must provide space for residents to actively be involved in the community. This may include formal community centres and community associations, but it can also be quite simple, such as shared gardens or streets that neighbours feel comfortable talking to each other on.


What does the verb “to live” mean?

Meaning 1. to spend time in a particular way.
By this definition a neighbourhood that is designed for living must be an area where diverse groups of people can spend time in different ways.

Meaning 2. to sustain oneself.
Although this definition of “to live” is more biologically focused, it can also apply to neighbourhoods. Livable neighbourhoods must allow their residents to sustain themselves by providing proximate supermarkets and corner stores, but also by providing space for alternative ways of sustaining oneself, including farmers’ markets, community gardens and urban agriculture.

Meaning 3. to make one’s home in a particular place.
In theory, all neighbourhoods provide space that allow people to make a home, however in practice, home-making is often limited and confined to a specific plot of land per family. Instead, we need neighbourhoods that encourage people to make their homes throughout the streets and in the green spaces of their neighbourhoods.


So, I think an active neighbourhood is a neighbourhood that promotes physical activity and social activity. However more importantly, I think an active neighbourhood promotes living, and not simply living in confined little boxes, but living within the larger community.

In the next few weeks, I will publish two more blogs in this series, one titled “An Active Neighbourhood is a Neighbourhood Where People Live rather than Simply Spend Time in Parks” and the other titled “An Active Neighbourhood is a Neighbourhood Where People Live rather than Simply Travel on Streets”.

Please feel free to comment on what active neighbourhood means to you.



Kate2-150x150Kate Beck is an aspiring urban planner who is passionate about streets, social justice, bicycles and rock climbing. She spent the summer helping to connect Active Neighbourhoods with the Bridgeland community. She is currently finishing her degree in geography at University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

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