WHAT MAKES A GOOD NEIGHBOURHOOD?

By Leanne Junnila | 4.15.2015

What makes a good neighbourhood? It seems we aren’t sure anymore. Much of the time that we could be spending enjoying leisure time is instead spent behind the wheel of a vehicle or in front of the television. We are forced to commute by vehicle to work and when we arrive home at the end of the day, our streets lack interesting features and amenities, so we gravitate toward staying home. Watching television is more destructive to social ties than employment-related time or money pressures[1]. The television has become the family’s primary connection with the outside world, and because it competes for leisure time, it is now the single biggest predictor of civic disengagement, across countries and races[2]. Second to the television is commuting by car[3].

Besides housing, neighbourhoods are essentially made up of ‘necessary’ and ‘optional’ activities[4]. Necessary activities could be going to the bank or the grocery store, and optional activities could be walking in a park, sitting at a café with friends, or watching an outdoor theatre performance. The best neighbourhoods have more optional activities, in other words people choose to spend time in public spaces in their neighbourhoods rather than leaving their homes only out of necessity. It creates an upward spiral in which the more optional activities people participate in, the more the quality of the neighbourhood improves, which creates even more optional activity, and so forth. The East Village in Calgary is a good example of this type of upward spiral. Better yet, this upward spiral is healthy for us; humans subconsciously gravitate toward other humans, and benefit from their proximity. When given the choice between a lively street or a quiet one, most people will choose the lively street because there are more people to be around[5]. People walking on the street don’t stop to look at shops that lack a human element, for example banks, but they often stop to look at children’s toys, photos, and items related to other people. In public areas, people mostly gravitate to areas where other people are participating in activities or where there are a number of shops with human related “artifacts [6]. City residents are happier when they feel connected to the people and places around them[7].

This feeling of connectedness to a social network is called ‘social capital’[8]. For example, in 2014 Avenue Magazine respondents rated the best neighbourhoods in Calgary to live and they were all selected based on the optional activities they offered (not how many banks and grocery stores they have): Arbour Lake for those looking for lake style amenities and walking paths, Hillhurst/Sunnyside for access to the pathway system and boutique shops, and Southwood for its shopping access and annual ‘Rhubarb Festival’, just to name a few.

Antonio Gomez-Palacio, a Principal at Dialog Design, found that a car-oriented neighbourhood has a 50% obesity rate and a pedestrian-oriented neighbourhood, a 10% obesity rate, give or take [9]. He says that pedestrians are an ‘indicator species’, meaning that in an urban “ecosystem” (a neighbourhood can be seen as a mini eco-system), more pedestrians equal a healthier ecosystem, and fewer pedestrians indicates a problem with that ecosystem. If developers design for people, the people will come (and so will the economic benefits). Calgarians need to demand a variety of amenities so that developers respond to the market. Start thinking about the types of amenities that might be lacking in your neighbourhood. Think big, Calgary. Let’s make this an even better city to live.

IMG_2262Leanne is currently completing a masters degree at the University of Calgary, Faculty of Environmental Design, on the public realm and how people interact in cities.

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Putnam, Robert (2000). “Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community”. Simon and Schuster, NY.

[2] Putnam, Robert (2000). “Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community”. Simon and Schuster, NY.

[3] Putnam, Robert (2000). “Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community”. Simon and Schuster, NY.

[4] Gehl, Jan (2006). “Life Between Buildings: Using Public Space”. Island Press.

[5] Gehl, Jan (2006). “Life Between Buildings: Using Public Space”. Island Press

[6] Gehl, Jan (2006). “Life Between Buildings: Using Public Space”. Island Press

[7][7] Leyden, Kevin, et.al (2011). “Understanding the Pursuit of Happiness in Ten Major Cities”. Urban Affairs Review. 47-6, 861-888.

[8] Grillo, Michae,l et.al (2010). “Residential Satisfaction and Civic Engagement: Understanding the Causes of Community Participation”. Social Indicators Research. 97-3, 451-456.

[9] Gomez-Palacio (2013). http://www.dialogdesign.ca/open-dialog/your-car-costs-more-than-your-house/

Posted in News | Leave a comment

Playable Cities: Where to Play in Calgary

 

Photo Source: https://wreckcityproject.wordpress.com/2013/05/08/wreck-city-through-mike-tans-camera/

Photo Source: https://wreckcityproject.wordpress.com/2013/05/08/wreck-city-through-mike-tans-camera/

Cities around the world are beginning to realize that playgrounds may not be enough to keep residents and visitors engaged and enjoying public life. We are beginning to see musical swings at bus stops in Montreal, an interactive play museum in St. Louis, and slip and slides down city streets in a number of cities around the world, but what does Calgary have to offer?

Chinook-Arc-1

The Chinook Arc at Barb Scott Park

The massive Chinook Arc art installation in Calgary’s Beltline lights up during the evening and changes colour in response to people moving around and touching the structure.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Wreck City

Wreck City was a community-based art project that redesigned a whole block of houses and garages that were scheduled for demolition into temporary art and performance spaces.

 

penguin car wash

Demo Tape

Demo Tape is a new project curated by the Wreck City Artist Collective and will align with the Sled Island Music Festival on June 19-28, 2015. The art installation will be held in the Penguin Car Wash in Ramsay neighbourhood.

1376225_lg

Calgary Slip and Slide

Slide the City will be hosting a slip and slide down Calgary’s streets on August 1st, 2015.

10378075_10152166054381546_6689696402616149001_n-96cd7f42

Lawn Chair Theatre

The City of Calgary hosts live entertainment in different community parks every Thursday evening in July and August. All you have to do is bring a lawn chair, some snacks to share, and be ready to either laugh, dance or cry with your neighbours. Check out show locations for this summer here.

IMG_2865-1024x768

Photo Source: http://www.openstreetscalgary.com/2014/10/07/parking-day-2014/

Park(ing) Day in Calgary

Each year Open Streets celebrates international Park(ing) Day by paying for a parking stall downtown and turning it into a mini park for the day. Park(ing) Day is the third Friday of September each year.

 

Kate2-150x150Kate Beck is an aspiring urban planner who’s passionate about streets, social justice, bicycles and rock climbing. She has recently finished a degree in geography at University of British Columbia in Vancouver and will be studying transportation planning at UC Berkeley beginning in September 2015.

Posted in Community, News, Projects, State of Our City | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Five Fast Facts – Playable Cities

 

playable city

1. Playable Cities Rethink the Purpose of Our Cities

Playable Cities is an idea that puts people and play at the heart of the design of the future city and encourages residents and visitors to rethink services, places and stories in our cities. Playable Cities breaks away from the idea that cities must focus only on the movement of people and products, and aims to build cities that allow residents and visitors to spend time, enjoy themselves and connect with one another.

swing-2

2. Playgrounds Aren’t Enough, Playable Cities Integrates Play into All Parts of Our City

In recent years, we have turned to computer and tv screens for entertainment and our cities’ playgrounds are getting used less frequently. The report “Using Behavioural Economics to create Playable Cities” suggests that instead of setting aside places for play we should integrate play into our streets, sides walks and communities. For example, these musical swings at bus stops allow people to play on their daily commute.

usmanhaque-openburble1

3. Playable Cities Empower Citizens to Create Happier, More Connected Urban Communities

Usman Haque, an urban designer who specializes in designing interactive environments, builds public installations that allow people to collaborate with neighbours and take collective ownership of their environments.  For example, his installation in Bradford’s City Park allows people to choreograph fountains and lights through movement.

city_museum_1

4. Playable Cities Intimately Connect Strangers

Most public spaces are designed to facilitate interaction, whether it be intersections that allow drivers to take turns, or park benches that allow strangers to sit beside one another. However playable cities are designed to facilitate very intimate forms of social interaction by getting strangers to play with one another. For example the City Museum in St. Louis, Missouri, initiates play between museum visitors by designing tunnel hallways, slideabe staircases and interactive exhibits that visitors cannot fully experience unless they do so with one another.

C8RX6T Before I die I want interactive public art project

5. Playable Cities are a Movement Away from Technology-Focused Cities

Smart cities, cities that use technology to improve performance and wellbeing and reduce costs and the use of resources  by engaging with citizens, have been criticised for cutting off those who cannot or choose not to manage cities using technology. Playable cities aim to create simple opportunities for all citizens to playfully participate in our public spaces, such as this Before I Die Wall that invited people to write or draw in chalk on a public blackboard.

 

More on Playable Cities

http://www.theguardian.com/cities/2014/sep/04/playable-cities-the-city-that-plays-together-stays-together

http://www.theguardian.com/cities/2014/sep/04/playable-cities-the-city-that-plays-together-stays-together

https://media.kaboom.org/pdf/Using_Behavioral_Economics_to_Create_Playable_Cities-Full.pdf

 

Kate2-150x150Kate Beck is an aspiring urban planner who’s passionate about streets, social justice, bicycles and rock climbing. She has recently finished a degree in geography at University of British Columbia in Vancouver and will be studying transportation planning at UC Berkeley beginning in September 2015.

Posted in Active Neighbourhoods, Community, Research, State of Our City | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Part 3 of 3: What can Calgary learn from Edmonton’s WinterCity Strategy?

edmonton

Photo Credit: Edmonton Journal http://www.edmontonjournal.com/news/Edmonton+adopts+winter+city+strategy/7479071/story.html

Calgarians don’t like to admit that Edmonton has us beat in some respects, but in terms of designing a city strategy that aims to create a vibrant, well-functioning winter city, we think Calgary could take a few pointers from our rival to the North.

Edmonton’s WinterCity Strategy

The City of Edmonton’s WinterCity Strategy explores the potential that winter can offer the city’s residents, businesses, industry and visitors in terms of creating a more inviting, vibrant and prosperous city during the winter. From street hockey tournaments and signature winter drinks to building public gathering places designed to capture sunlight and block the wind, the City of Edmonton aims to create a more vibrant and authentically Edmonton winter city by focusing on 10 goals that call for social, cultural and economic change.

Check out 25 Reasons to Love Edmonton's Winters http://www.avenueedmonton.com/December-2011/25-Reasons-to-Love-Edmonton-Winters/

Check out 25 Reasons to Love Edmonton’s Winters
http://www.avenueedmonton.com/December-2011/25-Reasons-to-Love-Edmonton-Winters/

Screen Shot 2015-05-17 at 11.41.15 AM

Screen Shot 2015-05-17 at 11.41.47 AM

 

Check out Edmonton's Freezeway Proposal https://sourceable.net/edmonton-freezeway-encourages-active-winter-lifestyle/

Check out Edmonton’s Freezeway Proposal https://sourceable.net/edmonton-freezeway-encourages-active-winter-lifestyle/

Screen Shot 2015-05-17 at 11.42.17 AMScreen Shot 2015-05-17 at 11.42.32 AM

 

photo credit: http://www.makesomethingedmonton.ca/news/a-lot-to-like-about-edmonton-winters/

IllumiNITE Edmonton Sculpture Competition http://eote.ca/illuminite photo credit: http://www.makesomethingedmonton.ca/news/a-lot-to-like-about-edmonton-winters/

Screen Shot 2015-05-17 at 11.42.47 AMScreen Shot 2015-05-17 at 11.43.03 AMScreen Shot 2015-05-17 at 11.43.27 AM

Check out Edmonton's Ski to the LRT Plan http://globalnews.ca/news/1804903/taking-lrt-you-can-now-ski-to-the-century-park-station/

Check out Edmonton’s Ski to the LRT Plan http://globalnews.ca/news/1804903/taking-lrt-you-can-now-ski-to-the-century-park-station/

 

Screen Shot 2015-05-17 at 11.43.44 AMScreen Shot 2015-05-17 at 11.44.24 AMScreen Shot 2015-05-17 at 11.44.44 AM

 

Check out Edmonton’s WinterCity Implementation Plan herehttp://www.edmonton.ca/city_government/documents/TheLoveofWinter-ImplementationPlan.pdf or follow WinterCity Edmonton on twitter herehttps://twitter.com/wintercityyeg

Posted in News | Leave a comment

4 Great Reasons to Invest in Cities’ Natural Environments

Screen Shot 2015-05-26 at 12.32.41 AM

1. Investing in Surrounding Wetlands can save Cities Billions of Dollars in Water Purification
The City of New York invested $1.5 billion over 10 years into protecting their water sources, which meant they were able to avoid building a water treatment plant that would have cost the city $8-$10 billion.

2. Investing in Rivers and Coastal Wetlands Reduces Cities’ Storm Protection Costs
The City of Calgary is investing in protecting and restoring the city’s river ecosystems through it’s Riparian Strategy because they have found that protecting these areas helps to protect the city from floods and erosion, and improves water quality.

Studies have also found that coastal wetlands can reduce the severity of impacts from hurricanes in the United States, providing storm protection services with an estimated value of US$23.2 billion per year.

3. Integrating The Natural Environment into Hospitals Reduces Healthcare Costs
A study published in Science by Richard S. Ulrich in 1984 found that patients recovering from surgery in rooms with windows facing a natural setting had shorter hospital stays and took less pain medicine than patients whose windows faced a brick wall.

4. Investing in Outdoor Trail Systems Supports Local Economies
The City of Toronto’s Natural Environment Trail Strategy found that well-maintained recreational trail systems encourage spending by trail users at surrounding local businesses. https://www.cip-icu.ca/Files/Awards/Planning-Excellence/City-of-Toronto-Natural-Environment-Trail-Strategy.aspx

Posted in Active Neighbourhoods, Community, Research | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Calgary’s Wild Berry Patches

Screen Shot 2015-05-25 at 10.44.37 AM

Photo Credit: Cabin Organic http://cabinorganic.com/tag/berries/

One of our favourite parts about Calgary summers are the Saskatoon berries and wild raspberries, and we aren’t just talking about the famous Saskatoon berry pie from Pearson Berry Farms sold at Calgary’s Farmer’s Market. Active Neighbourhood’s Roxanne LeBlanc has shared a number of her secret wild berry patches around our city. Do you have some wild berry patch locations you would like to add to the map? Email us at katembeck@hotmail.com or leave a comment below.

Please be well informed about which plants are edible and which are not when picking wild berries. Check out this website to read up on edible berries in Alberta!  http://northernbushcraft.com/guide.php?ctgy=edible_berries&region=ab

Saskatoon Berries
Saskatoon berries grow along riverbanks of the Bow and Elbow, as well as on hillsides.  They begin to ripen in mid to late June, depending on the location and can be found right through until early to mid August.  Bushes located further south will ripen soonest.

Watch for Saskatoon bushes along the bikepath above Beaverdam flats, the river pathway through Inglewood and Stanley Park. There are even a couple of bushes right next to the Trans Canada Trail pavilion at Eau Claire.

Chokecherries
Chokecherry bushes can be found in even more locations than Saskatoons and ripen a bit later in the year.

Raspberries
Raspberry bushes, although not as common, are out there for the picking as well.

 

Screen Shot 2015-05-22 at 10.36.22 PM

 1. Paskapoo Slopes
Paskapoo slopes is home to an array of berries, the most prevalent being Saskatoon berries, chokecherries and gooseberries.

2. Edworthy Park
Edworthy Park has an abundance of Saskatoon berries along the banks of the Bow River.

3. Stanley Park
Stanley Park’s river pathway has many Saskatoon berries.

 4. Inglewood Riverside
There are a number of Saskatoon berries along the Inglewood River Pathway.

5.  Beaverdam Flats
The Beaverdam Flats bike paths have a number of Saskatoon berry bushes.

 

Posted in Community, News, State of Our City | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

30X30 Challenge – A Diary

IMG_6436

Thirty minutes of nature, for thirty days – the 30X30 Challenge.

by Celia Lee

Day 1: Yamnuska trail. Look up to find I’ve walked into herd of mule deer. Flash back to horror story from my youth about evil deer. Creep silently away. Overcome great fear of falling on icy rocks, am filled with sweet, sweet adrenaline. Wild turkey tries to exert dominance. Eat copious amounts of cheese. Sleep deeply.

IMG_6539Day 3: Middle Lake. First selfie. :/

Day 7:  10:00AM. Stare at blinker on screen. Glance at empty notebook. Experience mounting malaise. Get up. Put on kettle. Eat rice cracker. Sit. Stare at blinker. Feel sinking weight of failure. Check Twitter. Make list. Feel better. Sit back at computer. Check email. Stare at blinker.

11:00AM Sit at ContainR park in Kensington. Contextualize relevance of blog I’m trying to write within scope of universe. 

xander_basementSigh, release shoulders, squint at sun. Transcribe two interviews in 1.5 hours. Back to office. Catch up on all email. To quote Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “Oh, the pain. The pain… is GONE.” 

 

 

 

Day 15: Montreal, winning at parks.  

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Day 20: Mississauga, Ontario – place of birth. Go for run. Notice how pretty river is. 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Find this cat:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Find these birds:

Find this birdie:

IMG_6468

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jogging soundtrack (to drown out all that nature racket): Beyonce, Chet Baker (Coool Jazz Moods) 

All that nature racket:

 

(First person to name all the birds in this clip gets a free car. Juuuuust kidding. You’ll have to settle for our measly respect and admiration. Also, I don’t know what kind they are, so I’ll have to take your word for it. Check out the Audubon Society for bird species and bird calls, like this Song Sparrow.)

Minutes spent actually running: 5

Day 22: Get locked out of apartment. Forced to wait on rooftop with the trees and the birds, waiting for locksmith. 

IMG_6528

Day 23: Run errands. Procrastinate. Sit down at computer. Check Facebook. Stare at blinker.

DUDE. You know the drill.

Take notebook and pen outside in sun. Leave cell phone behind. Stare into space. Chat with person who walks by. Fall into flow in less than a minute.

 

 

Reflections:

One more week left, and hoping I keep this up beyond the Challenge. The toughest thing isn’t spending the full 30 minutes outside – I’ve gone well over every time  – it’s realizing that getting out into nature isn’t procrastination.

Being in nature has always given me perspective. In this case, it would seem the world doesn’t hinge on me making that one phone call, or completing that one blog – which makes it way less intimidating to pick up the phone, or put pen to page. A wise person I know repeatedly tells me, “Family first. Then exercise. Then work.” The idea is that exercise makes the work more efficient and enjoyable. Great advice. Now I would add that that exercise is best performed in or around nature, or, if you’re in the City, around, or preferably under, trees, preferably pine trees. Which is great food for thought for City and Provincial policies and funding streams… but then that’s a whole other blog.

For more on the benefits of nature, check out this David Suzuki Foundation infographic.

If you’re still reading, I’ll finish off with this collection of pictures of places I like:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

And this soundclip of an indignant cow:

 

Happy spring!

 

Posted in News | Leave a comment

THE SURREAL, THE STRANGE, AND THE AVANT-GARDE COULD SAVE OUR CITIES

By Leanne Junnila | 5.19.2015

44. Cavernous Isolata III

Photo Credit: Daniel Kirk, http://www.danieljkirk.ca/content/cavernous-isolata-iii

That’s right, I think the avant-garde, oddity, and spectacle should be celebrated and even included as a strategy for the design of our cities. Now that just sounds crazy. Let me explain. Humans have had a long love affair with oddity and spectacle. Attracting visitors to peculiar attractions evolved from PT Barnum’s American Museum and the circus sideshow acts of the mid-1800s[1]. The social willingness and attraction of people to pay for the experience of a ‘spectacle’ is still alive and well, and we need only look at the Las Vegas strip to see it in action.

Okay, I’m not suggesting that our cities should be reorganized to mimic a three ring circus (although some might argue they already do a perfect job of just that!). Much of North America was built at a time when purely functional architecture was popular and cities were constructed without many public plazas and squares. But these days, crazy, fantastical things are so easily found on television and online that I think there is a need for elements of whimsy, surprise, and even shock in the public realm just to get us out the door. For example, street performers, temporary art installations, or pop-up markets can do this. In Calgary, many people went to see “the giant head” sculpture in front of the Bow Building when it was installed because it was an oddity, something interesting and worth checking out. Celebrating the fringe, the surreal, and the strange gets us talking. The increasingly popular Market Collective and Beakerhead are other types of local events that celebrate the fringe. They support local artisans, revitalize underutilized spaces around Calgary, and offer playful opportunities to interact with the environment.

Sometimes small installations actually have a big impact on a city. They’re called ‘micro-spatial urban practices’[2] and they also include things like: guerrilla and community gardening, housing and retail co-ops, flash mobbing, bartering economies, street art, and Parkour. As these small projects accumulate they can build more vibrant streets (either temporarily or permanently).

So if creating ‘micro-spatial’ urban projects makes our communities more vibrant, where and how do we start? I believe a few friends and neighbours can get together and do something in their communities (for example, the ‘Calgary Bench Project’ or Park(Ing) Day), and community associations can look for small project funding to experiment with design projects (I’m sure the Faculty of Environmental Design students at the UofC have plenty of ideas to share in the community). Calgary Dollars grants support these types of projects. Dream up an idea and see if your community association will support it! For example, a group of Calgary citizens created the ‘Vibrant Village Society’ in Inglewood and now have really great events like the Summer Inglewood Night Market. These urban projects could be temporary or permanent. It’s up to us to grow Calgary into the type of city we want for our children, and I think Calgary has enough great things going for it that it’s worth the effort to make it just a little bit better. Perhaps you’ll see something strange and interesting while you’re here.

 

IMG_2262Leanne is currently completing a masters degree at the University of Calgary, Faculty of Environmental Design, on the public realm and how people interact in cities.

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Levin, Amy (2007). “Defining Memory: Local Museums and the Construction of History in America’s Changing Communities”. Altamira Press, UK.

[2] Iveson, Kurt (2013). “Cities Within the City: Do-It-Yourself Urbanism and the Right to the City”. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 37-3, 941-56.

Posted in News | Leave a comment

Your Sustainable Guide to Calgary’s Festivals – 2015

It is beginning to feel a lot more like summer in Calgary. The cherry and crab apple trees are bloomnig, the Bow River bike paths are beginning to fill with more cyclists and Canada Goose Goslings, and our calendars are beginning to fill with festivals festivals festivals! Calgary has a wide variety of summer festivals throughout the city, and many of them are beginning to make sustainability a priority.

This summer, we are compiling a list of the green initiatives Calgary’s festivals are taking this year. The list of festivals will be updated periodically throughout the summer.

14650612810_0d5061f876_h

Photo credit: Calgary Folk Fest 2014

May Festivals
Calgary International Children’s Festival
May 20-23 2015
-Accessible by bike and transit

Lilac Festival
May 31 2015
-accessible by bike and transit
-bike racks provided at each intersection, bike valet provided at 19th Ave
-Diverted 45% of waste in 2014
-Goal of 75% waste diversion from landfills in 2015
-Styrofoam free

 

June Festivals
Sled Island
June 24 -28 2015
-cycle racks at most venues
-bike valets at outdoor venues
-promotes helmet use by partnering with Prohab Helmet Society
– 88% waste diversion from landfills in 2014
– Goal of 90% waste diversion from landfills in 2015
-Obtains volunteer shirts from eco-friendly vendors

 

July Festivals
Calgary Stampede
July 3-12, 2015
-accessible by bike and transit
-twice as many bike racks available compared to 2014
-extended bus and LRT hours
-many Car2Go parking locations adjacent to venues

Calgary Feistival
July 17-19 2015
-accessible by bike and transit
-supervised waste disposal sites

Calgary Folk Fest
July 23-26 2015
-free, secure bike lock stations
-accessible by bike and transit
-carpooling boards and resources posted on website
-water bottle free
-uses compostable dishware and cutlery

Calgary International Blues Festival
July 27 – Aug 2 2015
-recycling provided at event

 

August Festivals
Inglewood Sun Festival
Aug 1st 2015
-Accessible by bike and transit
-Diverted 62% of waste in 2014
-Goal of 75% waste diversion from landfills in 2015
-Styrofoam free

Calgary Reggae Fest
Aug 14 -16 2015
-styrofoam free
-all recyclable/compostable products
-supervised disposal sites
-on site bike racks
-accessible by bike and transit

Global Fest
August 20-29 2015
-accessible by bike and transit
-provides shuttle services to and from events

 

If you would like us to add a festival to this list, please comment below or email us at katembeck@hotmail.com.

 

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.

 

Posted in News | Leave a comment

Six Fast Facts – What Kids Need in Cities

In recent decades, our cities and our ideas around childhood and parenting have changed a lot, however, one of the most significant changes is that children are disappearing from our cities’ public places and outdoor spaces.

BitaJam (53)

1) Kids Need Cities They can Explore On Their Own

This article, mentions Free-Range Parenting, a type of parenting that gives children more freedom to explore their communities without constant adult supervision.  Research is also beginning to show that over-protective parenting may be one cause of increased anxiety and depression in youth. What better reason to develop more walkable, bikeable, slower-traffic streets?

 

2) Kids Need Cities with Less Vehicle Traffic and Fewer Parking Lots

In a project done with over 1000 schools and recreation groups, children said traffic and parking was one of the biggest things stopping them from going outdoors and into public spaces. Mark Francis and Ray Lorenzo, two researchers who have led many urban design projects with kids, agree that our cities need more narrow, shared streets, where cars are slowed to around 16 km/hr by the presence of more trees, planters or other objects on the street.

 

3) Kids Need Schools Close Enough to Walk or Bike to

We know that the number of children walking and biking to school has been dropping, and we are now beginning to understand the effects this has on children’s health, on air quality where children spend their time and on traffic problems. The Public Health Agency of Canada finds that only 1 out of 10  children and youth  meet Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines,  and 20% of morning rush hour traffic is due to parents driving children to school. Check out Calgary’s upcoming Bike to School DayMayor Nenshi’s Walk or Roll to School Challenge or the Walking School Bus concept  for some interesting ways to get kids walking to school.

 

4) Kids Need to Help Manage The Spaces in Cities That are Dedicated to Them

Francis and Lorenzo, found that children and youth want to help in designing and building playgrounds, parks, art centres and community centres, but most notably, they want to be involved in managing these spaces and deciding how they are used.

 

5) Kids Need a Say in How Our Cities are Designed

City planning used to be a very political and technical process, however in recent decades, we have started to understand city planning as being a social and cultural process and have begun to include communities, groups and individuals in design conversations. Because children have some unique needs compared to other age groups, it is important to involve them in all levels of decision-making. Check out these 5 methods on how to involve youth in community and transportation planning.

 

6) We Need a Culture Shift

When researching what kids need in our cities, it became increasingly clear that urban design changes can only do so much.  We also need to shift our understandings of children’s independence and safety. This article argues that we are unwilling to give children freedom to explore neighbourhoods on their own because of fears of abduction or crime.  Crime, however, has declined a lot in the last two decades, while the number of children killed as as passengers or pedestrians has increased. In order to involve children in decision-making processes and have their needs recognized, we need to change the way we think about safety and children’s independence in our cities.

 

Want to Learn More?

UNICEF’s Child Friendly Cities Initiative – http://childfriendlycities.org/

The Canadian Institute of Planner’s Kids Guide to Building Great Communities https://www.cip-icu.ca/Files/Resources/kidsguide.aspx

Parachute’s Child Pedestrian injuries report http://www.parachutecanada.org/downloads/injurytopics/ChildPed_Report_07:08.pdf

Posted in Active Neighbourhoods, Active Transportation, Community, Projects, Research, State of Our City | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment