People I’ve Met While Walking or Biking

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By Roxanne LeBlanc

One of the things I love the most about walking or biking are the people you meet and the things you can learn simply by saying “Hi” or “Good morning” or any other greeting and using some conversation starter such as “Isn’t the weather awesome/awful/weird….”.

People are usually quite happy to chat and tell you a bit about themselves. Here are a few of the wonderful people I’ve met in the last few weeks while I’ve been walking and biking around Calgary;

A few weeks ago I met a 70+-year-old woman outside the Peter Lougheed Hospital who was parking her bike and coming to visit her husband.  She cycles there every day to see him and loves it and would like to see more cycling infrastructure!  

I asked another young man who was pushing a recycling bin full of bottles across Memorial Drive, where he was going with this heavy load.  Turns out he was headed for the bottle depot on 10th Ave SE.  Since he lived up in Greenwood and was new to the city I suggested a closer location that would save him a lot of time and energy.  He also told me about his work and plans for the future to make a better life for himself and his family.  I thought, “just the type of person we need to make Calgary great!”

Another day I met a photographer at the Weir.  Someone had spotted a blue heron there and he was hoping it would return so that he could get some photos.  I didn’t think blue herons hung out in that area but I’ll certainly watch for them now, as well as pelicans.

I could go on and on with stories about the people I meet, but instead I will put out a challenge to all Calgarians to get out of your cars and walk, cycle or hop on the train or a bus, say “Hi” and start up a conversation.  You never know what will come of it.

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Painting the Streets: An Interview with Graffiti Expert Shaw Kinjo

 

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Who is Shaw Kinjo?

Shaw is an Industrial Designer who has become somewhat of a graffiti expert after completing his Masters in Environmental Design (Industrial Design) at the University of Calgary. During his thesis, Shaw focused on graffiti in the city however, rather than focusing on whether graffiti is good or bad, Shaw examined the interaction between this form of public art as it relates to individuals’ interaction with the built environment.

Shaw became interested in graffiti while studying in Barcelona. When he walked home late in the evening from his studio, he noticed that the shutters of store windows and doors were graffitied. What interested him was that this artwork could only be seen during certain times of the day and would often change from week to week.

Trinity Bell Woods

1. How does graffiti differ from other forms of public art in the ways people interact with the built environment, the city and their communities?

        I like to think of graffiti as a subversive form of art, an artistic way people interact with public space. Everyone sees public spaces in their own ways, however, graffiti is this direct way for people to look at and change a built environment. It also comes from the ground up. Graffiti is this form of artwork that doesn’t have to go through the bureaucracy of getting approved by a community and a municipality.

Graffiti often gets a bad rap, people see it as one of the flaws of urbanization or a representation of decay. However, it can also be seen as evidence that people are occupying those spaces between buildings at various times of the day and have a purpose while they’re in these public spaces. As Jane Jacobs pointed out, public spaces are safer when more people occupy them. Graffiti artists can be seen as eyes in a community, as people watching over public spaces during times of the day when these spaces may be more prone to crime.

Knitting Street Art

2. How does urban design and transportation play into graffiti and the ways people interact with their environment?

Public spaces are this shared history of different surfaces where people come together. These areas are canvases in which people occupying the spaces affect how the built environment is designed. In terms of graffiti, graffiti artists have a very significant impact on how public spaces are designed, and in turn, the design of public spaces affects how graffiti artists interact with these environments.

I think of graffiti as a kind of performance. The artist first chooses a space they want to bring attention to, the artist then has to get to their chosen spot and has to complete his or her artwork in a certain timeframe during a certain time of day. This is a whole different way of experiencing and affecting the built environment that most people don’t get to experience.

In terms of transportation, graffiti can often be seen as evidence of densification, and evidence that there are more people walking in the area rather than driving. When people are walking, moving slower through an area, they have more time to interact with the built environment. They may see more blank walls, or notice what the material buildings, fences or sidewalks are made of, which changes how they interact with this environment.

Graffiti in Calgary's gravel pits

Graffiti in Calgary’s gravel pits

3. What are your thoughts on municipalities’ attempts to control and manage graffiti and citizen-led public art?

I think cities’ attempt to control and manage subversive art is a good thing. It forces the government to be more inventive in how they design public spaces and it forces artists to be more inventive in how they interact with these spaces. If you look at the history of graffiti, it first started within the hip hop culture in New York during the 1970s. During this period, graffiti artists would only work in subways, however, as the New York municipality started cleaning up their subways and removing graffiti, artists were forced to start moving their graffiti to the streets and taking photo evidence of their work. These restrictions have made artists more innovative, they are forced to use different media, or go to locations that are more difficult for authorities to clean up. In Calgary, for example, the gravel pits in the south east are considered almost sanctioned areas for artists to paint in. Because the city doesn’t remove graffiti here, there is a layered history of graffiti from local Calgarian artists.

shaw interview

photo source: http://www.citylab.com/design/2012/08/text-yourself-public-art-show/2789/

4. What do you think is the best design intervention that interacts with the built environment and initiates dialogue with others living in the city?

I think projection art in public spaces is really interesting. Artists can project their art onto sides of buildings, fences, streets, and people can interact with these projections. There is a great example of projected art on buildings shown throughout Europe and North America a few years ago.

The Love Wall, in Kensington on 10th St NW is also a great design intervention, in which people are invited to write about something they love on a scrap piece of paper, then tack it to a blank wall. An anonymous artist has also added a small, painted bench by the wall.  

 

Want to see some of Calgary’s best graffiti? Check out our self guided graffiti walking tour here.

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Connecting Calgary’s Green Spaces: An Interview with Matt Knapik

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Who is Matt Knapik?

Matt has worked with Active Neighbourhoods Calgary for the past year helping to develop a design process that will encourage improvements for walking and cycling in Bridgeland. Matt has degrees in Architecture and Urban Design from the University of Calgary, which he puts to use at his studio, called kilometre. In his spare time he co-hosts a radio show called Charmer’s Almanac, which runs every other Thursday from 7-9 am on CJSW 90.9.

Creating more ecologically-integrated neighbourhoods is Matt’s Thing

        Built and natural environments are  systems that we often think of as separate. However, Matt says that natural and human systems cross over and depend on each other, and, depending on how we arrange these systems, their interactions can cause problems (think: floods destroying bridges) or be positive (think: parks attracting bees to pollinate flowers).

        These interactions happen on different levels. In Banff National Park, green bridges are helping wildlife cross the highway, creating both healthier natural systems and safer highways. In a similar sense, patches of native plants in the city can help attract song-birds, bugs and nutrients back into cities. Our backyard and patio gardens simply wouldn’t work if they were cut off from the birds and the bees.

        There are different approaches that city-builders have used to organize the built and natural environments;

        1) People conquer nature. This method really arrived in Canada with the European settlers, and there are still signs of this in a lot of our city planning. For instance, we still treat rainwater as a problem to solve, rather than an asset – most of our storm-water systems are based on the idea that water should be managed, directed, channeled.

        2) Nature should be preserved and protected from humans. Throughout the 1900s, city-builders realized the value of natural spaces. The idea was that development ‘wrecks’ nature, and so we should conserve natural spaces by creating parks and reserves. Although this approach is very important, it means we think and act as though nature can only work when it’s left alone.

        3) When Integrated Properly, humans and nature can both benefit. This model focuses on the ways that human and natural systems can work together to produce new and productive environments. This is where Matt’s thinking lands.

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How Can We Design Cities Where Human and Natural Systems Coexist?

There are many things that we try to do for our urban environments that nature does better – and for free. High-quality green space in cities helps clean our air and water, regulate temperature, and keeps pests under control. We could approach these problems with technical solutions, but natural spaces can achieve all of this while also providing cultural and recreational spaces for citizens.

        A recent example of this comes from New York City. They chose to invest $1.5 billion to preserve wetlands surrounding the city, saving $8-10 billion on the cost of a water treatment plant. Calgarians can use a similar approach on a much smaller scale: why pay for drinking water for your lawn when you can capture rainwater from your roof? Check out more stories like this in our Nature and Cities Blog post.

MK1How Does Active Transportation Fit Into All of This?

Matt believes that one of the best ways to reshape our city and build healthy urban environments is to link existing green spaces with green corridors. These corridors would create healthier, more connected spaces for wildlife, vegetation and water to move throughout the city. This kind of strategy also produces routes for active transportation. Green corridors would not only connect wildlife, water flow, and drainage areas, they would also connect pedestrians and cyclists throughout the city.

        Matt sees a big opportunity in the city’s ring road. Because the ring road is designed to be an uninterrupted corridor for vehicles, it provides a great opportunity to develop an uninterrupted green corridor for people and wildlife.

How Do We Design Calgary’s Human and Natural Systems to Work Together?

        So let’s get the bad news over first; many of Calgary’s  prime natural routes (like rivers and coulees) are currently filled with roads and many of our green spaces do not connect, meaning that we have created fragments that disrupt the flow of natural space.

        Now the good news; Matt believes there is a great deal of opportunity in our city to reconnect natural systems and still have existing human networks. Matt actually sees some of the best opportunities in Calgary’s outer suburbs; their large green spaces and non-gridded streets would be easy to renovate.

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The Take Away Points

Matt’s two take away points are;

1) Connect Green Spaces. In your neighbourhood, work to connect your public and private green spaces to one another and to the surrounding waterways and natural spaces.

2) Think about nature in the city differently. Parks, plants, creeks and ponds are not ‘things’ that we can just place anywhere in the city like Lego. When thinking about these elements, we need to consider how they fit into our city’s existing natural systems.

        You can follow Matt at @mpkna

 

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Fixing Calgary’s Food Waste

Photo Source_CIWM Journal

Photo source: http://www.ciwm-journal.co.uk/archives/7359

By Rebecca Dickson

Calgary is becoming a mecca of sorts for food lovers and consumers. In the past few decades our restaurant scene has flourished as the city’s growing diversity of palates infuses our local ingredients with international flavours and many of our top chefs create entire dining experiences centered on sustainable, locally-sourced menus.

However, while we focus on extolling the virtues of “farm to table” dining experiences, we miss the conversation about how our local food system and our consumer behaviours contribute to a less virtuous “farm to landfill” cycle. And this discussion on food waste is an important ingredient in the food security and sustainability recipe on local and national levels.

With the world’s population growth slated to reach 9 billion people by 2050, we will soon be facing an unprecedented global demand for food resulting in increased environment pressures, including increased competition for land, water, and energy[1]. Factor in agriculture’s contributions to climate change (an estimated one-third of greenhouse gas emissions is attributed to agriculture)[2] and how climate change, in turn, affects agricultural yields, and it becomes clear that mitigating food waste is a central factor to ensure we can feed the future’s hungry mouths.


A 2013 United Nations report[3] found that, while the world wastes 1.3 billion tons of food annually, more than 870 million people go hungry every day[4]. According to the 2014 Cut Waste, Grow Profit report published by VCMI, Canadians waste an estimated $31 billion in food products every year, 47% of which is generated at the individual household level. Accounting for the cost of the natural resources, energy and other factors associated with the production, manufacturing, and transportation of that wasted food, the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates Canada’s overall annual cost of food waste is in excess of $100 billion[5].

In Calgary, 23,165 households live in poverty, subsisting on an income of less than $20,000, and more than 3,500 people experienced homelessness in 2014[6]. Assuming Calgarians are on par with the average Canadian household, the ‘avoidable’ and ‘possibly avoidable’ components of our local food waste become a viable opportunity to provide desperately needed sustenance and nutrition for the thousands of families and individuals experiencing daily food insecurity.

 

Photo Source_Fresh Produce Journal

Photo source: http://www.fruitnet.com/fpj/article/162230/mps-demand-food-waste-to-landfill-ban

The positive news is that there are several organizations in Calgary already providing local solutions to reducing food waste:

  • LeftOvers Calgary was founded by Lourdes Juan that ‘rescues’ uneaten food from restaurants and grocers to deliver it to services agencies such as the Calgary Homeless Shelter. Check out their donation tracking page to see which of your favourite food vendors are taking part.
  • Hop Compost, founded by Kevin Davies, collects the food scraps from 40 Calgary food merchants and produces a clean fertilizer alternative sold back to local growers.
  • Alternate Root is a community organization founded by Carla Bitz and hosts food skills workshops to teach home cooks the strategies they need to prevent food waste.
  • RedHat, an Alberta co-operative of producers, launched a pilot project in 2014 at several Calgary Co-op stores to encourage consumers to buy aesthetically-displeasing fruits and vegetables under The Misfits label and at discounted prices.
Photo source:http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/how-to-tips-for-organizing-a-refrigerator-206864

Photo source:http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/how-to-tips-for-organizing-a-refrigerator-206864

What’s more, by implementing some of the habits listed below, you can begin to combat food waste at a micro level and encourage change from the bottom up:

1. Buy less, more often.

This is a common adage peppering lifestyle blogs and discussions around healthy eating and portion size, and it makes sense from the perspective of reducing food waste, too. If your routine allows for frequent visits to the grocery store throughout the week, this is the best way to learn how to buy what you need for the next couple of days.

Instead of loading up on a full bag of apples, purchase one or two for the next few days. Not only will it reduce the amount of food you throw out at the end of the week, it will allow you to introduce more variety and choice into your diet (those apples don’t have a chance of holding your attention until the end of the week).

2. If you can’t grocery shop frequently, plan ahead.

If heading to the store on a more frequent basis isn’t practical for you (maybe your daily schedule is too hectic or unpredictable or your nearest grocery store isn’t conveniently close to make the trip on a regular basis), establish a realistic weekly meal plan and take into account the nights you’ll be eating out.

This will not only reduce food waste, it can also save you money! When you buy groceries based only on the ingredients you will use in the next few days you’ll save the money you would have spent on food you end up tossing because you didn’t have a use for it in the first place.

3. Make smaller meals or freeze your leftovers.

Whether you’re cooking for a family or for yourself, re-examine your portion sizes and keep track of how many or how much of the ingredients you used to create the size of meal. If you boiled enough pasta to keep your neighbourhood Running Room club carb-loaded for a month, write down a third or a quarter of that amount to reference for next time. And while leftovers are great for lunches or quick dinners, make sure to account for them in your meal plan, too.

4. Keep your fridge organized and check your temperature settings.

Know what’s in your fridge and avoid the common pitfall of thinking a fridge with less food means you have nothing to make for dinner. This handy guide from David Suzuki’s Queen of Green offers several food storage solutions to maintain optimal fruit and vegetable freshness. Ideally, your fridge should be set to 4° C or lower to “keep your food out of the temperature danger zone”[7].

5. Labels are a guide, not a rule.

“Best before” doesn’t always equal “throw away”. I’m not advocating for everyone to open their fridge and eat the luncheon meat that’s several weeks old or happily consume food with visible signs of mold. I am suggesting we re-educate ourselves on the reasons and meanings behind best before labels and relearn how to use our five senses in the kitchen.

Wrinkled tomatoes and peppers that have lost their firmness may be past their prime for salads, but they make great additions to stews and soups. If your milk is a day past the date on the container, use a quick smell or taste test – you’d be surprised to find it didn’t sour at the stroke of midnight, so you can drink the last cup instead of pouring it down the drain.

6. Get creative with what you already have.

Stir frys, casseroles, frittatas, soups, and smoothies are all great DIY meals that don’t require a recipe and allow you to explore new flavour combinations while using up the last bits of vegetables and other items that can easily get left until it’s too late. If you do need a recipe, you can find plenty of delicious ideas online.

Consider posting on your fridge a few quick and easy recipes that encourage you to use up bountiful ingredients that you need to use up before they start to go bad (one of my favourite recipes for the extra celery that takes up room in my crisper is Kevin Kent’s The Best Way to Eat Celery featured in the Soup Sisters cookbook). If you need some ideas or don’t know where to start, sign up for an Alternative Root workshop.

Incorporating food waste reduction strategies into your relationship with food has clear financial, social, and environmental benefits. Combating food waste in small ways by applying intentional and consistent changes to our individual behaviours – at the supermarket, in our kitchens (specifically inside our fridges and pantries), and at the dinner table – is going to make the difference that will resonate in households across the globe and allow us to feed the future 9 billion.

 

Sources:

[1] Godfray, H. C. J., J. R. Beddington, I. R. Crute, L. Haddad, D. Lawrence, J. F. Muir, J. Pretty, S. Robinson, S. M. Thomas, and C. Toulmin. 2010. ‘Food Security: The Challenge Of Feeding 9 Billion People’. Science 327 (5967): 812-818. doi:10.1126/science.1185383.

[2] Gilbert, Natasha. 2012. ‘One-Third Of Our Greenhouse Gas Emissions Come From Agriculture’. Nature. doi:10.1038/nature.2012.11708.

[3] Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations,. 2013. Food Wastage Footprint: Impacts On Natural Resources. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. http://www.fao.org/docrep/018/i3347e/i3347e.pdf.

[4] United Nations,. 2013. UN Report: One-Third Of World’S Food Wasted Annually, At Great Economic, Environmental Cost. http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=45816#.Vc3-mFNVikr.

[5] Gooch, Dr. Martin V., and Dr. Abdel Felfel. 2014. “$27 Billion” Revisited: The Cost Of Canada’s Annual Food Waste. Value Chain Management International Inc. http://vcm-international.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Food-Waste-in-Canada-27-Billion-Revisited-Dec-10-2014.pdf.

[6] Calgaryhomeless.com,. 2015. ‘Calgary Homeless Foundation » Learn More’. http://calgaryhomeless.com/get-involved/learn-more/.

[7] Healthycanadians.gc.ca,. 2012. ‘Safe Food Handling In The Home’. http://www.healthycanadians.gc.ca/eating-nutrition/healthy-eating-saine-alimentation/safety-salubrite/tips-conseils/safety_home-maison_salubrite-eng.php.

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Snapshot: 2015 Urban Design Invitational, Bridgeland-Riverside ed.

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Active Neighbourhoods (ANC) has been engaging Bridgeland-Riverside since July 2014 to find out the good, the bad and the “meh” of its public spaces, engaging over 600 residents and business owners and 22 organizations.

Wednesday’s 2015 Urban Design Invitational, Bridgeland-Riverside edition, was the professional design workshop phase of the project. Using data and community feedback gathered by ANC, local designers and community members spent the day developing a series of design concepts, and discussed feasibility. Designers with ANC are now working to package these concepts, which will go back to Bridgeland residents at the Farmers’ Market in August 2015.  Residents will be asked to prioritize, provide feedback, and select at least one design project to move forward with.

Many thanks to those who donated their time and expertise to the 2015 Urban Design Invitational!  Bridgeland is fortunate and unique in its wealth of local design expertise, and is blessed with dedicated and passionate community members.

Thanks also to the Bridgeland Market, Black Pig Bistro and Cannibale for delicious food, hospitality, and insight on the neighbourhood, and to the 22 NHTV (Breda) students from Holland, who delivered an extra burst of energy and innovative design ideas – and seemed unphased by the threat of rain, wind, tornados and golf-ball sized hail.  Thank you Black Pig Bistro for saving them from the descending apocalypse.

Stay tuned for more on Active Neighbourhoods in Bridgeland-Riverside, and have a lovely weekend!

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Calgary’s Public Art Walking Tour

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By Sydney Honsberger-Grant
Photos By Grace Honsberger-Grant

Art: that elective you bemoaned in junior high, or the theme of all too many boring museums. It can sometimes be difficult to recognize the arts amidst pretentious critics and excessive air conditioning, but there is no denying that art can have a profound and positive value in society. Calgary’s Public Art Policy acknowledges this power, noting that art engages citizens with their urban environment by attracting creative folk and encouraging reflection. To put it plainly, overall enjoyment of our city relies heavily on the artwork within.

It is uplifting to know, then, that Calgary hosts an abundance of street art that challenge any preconceived ideas of art appreciation. You’ll find a wide range of sizes and styles painted on Calgary’s walls, and every piece embodies a refreshing sense of playfulness – a reminder that art can enliven communities without being confined to a museum. Enjoying street art is as simple as taking a post-work stroll or making a few stops on your bike ride home, and goes hand-in-hand with beautiful summer weather.

This short walk or bike from downtown highlights some of Calgary’s most notable pieces, including works from artists Earthfolk and Jarett Sitter. The route takes you through several interesting parts of town before ending in Kensington, where you can play your own version of art critic on the banks of the Bow.

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Keep an eye out for street art in other areas, too. Calgary is alive with alleyway artwork and overpass opuses, and it’s fun to spot street art in different neighborhoods. All it takes is a little creativity, proper footwear, and some free time, and you’ll forget you ever felt reluctant about art at all.

 

1425673_10153480407835145_136773090_nSydney is a recent graduate from the University of British Columbia, where she studied chemistry, math, and Earth sciences. She is now pursuing a career in the environmental field with hopes to return to the west coast. She fills her free time with coffee, novels, and watercolours.

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Review of Calgary’s New Cycle Tracks

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By Kate Beck

Calgary’s new cycle tracks through the downtown core have been a major topic of discussion this summer. There have been many positive reviews, some mixed reviews, and some negative reviews, so I decided to go check the new cycle tracks out for myself.

Like we’ve done in the past with some of our projects, I used Jan Gehl’s place observation method, which basically means spending a few hours observing the cycle tracks, taking notes, snapping photographs and having conversations with people. Here are my observations and thoughts.

Date: July 2, 2015
Time: 3:00-5:00 pm
Locations: 8th Avenue and 4th St SW, 8th Avenue and 5th St SW

A Conversation I Had

A photographer was taking photos of people on the same street corner I was doing my observations. He asked what I was doing, I asked what he was doing, and we started up a conversation about people, sidewalks and bike lanes, that sort of thing. A few interesting things came up in our conversation;

1) I asked the photographer what he thought of the new bike lanes, and he pointed to the wheel chair he was sitting in and explained how cracked and bumpy the sidewalks downtown are. He told me that it was pretty difficult to be a pedestrian in a wheelchair downtown. He seemed somewhat frustrated that the people on bicycles could now safely and rapidly get through the downtown core, while he was stuck with his wheels on the cracked sidewalks.

2) He asked me if I thought the cycle tracks were built for white middle class men to bike to and from work. I paused and thought about it for a while, because the comment made some sense. The cycle tracks don’t connect to Calgary’s industrial areas, they don’t pass by any schools, they pass by a few grocery stores. They really only seem to connect the business area in the downtown core with the existing river pathways.

I decided to count the number of men, women and children using the cycle tracks to see if the photographer’s comment was valid. Here’s what I found

Who is using the cycle tracks?
8th Ave and 5th St SW 4:30-5:00 pm

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So the majority of people biking on the cycle tracks seem to be men, however compared to the data collected by the City of Calgary in 2013, which states that 79% of people biking in the city were male, we seem to be seeing more women, youth and families using the cycle tracks even though the tracks are mainly connecting the business core. That’s pretty cool!

Why the diversity?

According to this research, young men are more likely to take risks, while women and people over the age of 65 are much more risk averse. Separated cycle tracks are safer, they reduce the risk of injury by 90% according to this study. More importantly, however, separated cycle tracks make women, elderly people and children feel safer, which means these groups are more likely to use them.

Here are my observations and photos of the array of people using Calgary’s downtown cycle tracks

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My Observations

On the cycle tracks

  • 1 couple on a tandem bike, the woman on the back of the bike had a broken arm
  • 1 man biking with a trailer full of bags of cans and bottles
  • 1 person in a handicap bike
  • 3 people biking with cowboy hats
  • 3 people skateboarding in the cycle tracks
  • 2 kids under the age of 10 biking

On the sidewalks and crosswalks

  • 4 people in wheel chairs
  • 7 people with strollers
  • 1 photographer
  • 6 people dressed up as Vikings
  • 3 people sitting on benches
  • 2 travellers trying to find a bus stop

 

People Breaking Rules

I’ve heard a lot of people say that even with the cycle tracks, cyclists are still riding on the roads and sidewalks, they’re still not stopping at 4 way intersections and they’re still not signalling when turning. I decided to record the number of cyclists “breaking the rules” at the intersections I was at, however, I soon realized that cyclists were not the only people on the roads and sidewalks “breaking the rules”.

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People Breaking Rules

  • 5 cyclists riding on the sidewalks
  • 1 pedestrian standing in the cycle track taking a photo (slowing bike traffic)
  • 2 people walking in the cycle tracks
  • 1 cyclist in the wrong bike lane
  • 1 pedestrian walking on through car traffic
  • 1 cyclist did an illegal turn to get on to the bike path
  • 1 car making an illegal right turn, nearly hitting 3 cyclists in the intersection who had the right of way

In all, I think it’s important to remember that the cycle tracks are new, Calgary has never really had anything like this before. It may take some time for cyclists, drivers and pedestrians to get used to the cycle tracks. When biking, walking or driving, I think it’s really important to remember this and allow for all of the road’s users to make a few mistakes without dangerous consequences.

Are They Worth It?

Firstly I should say that personally, I am a huge supporter of Calgary’s newest cycling additions.  I think they are really beneficial for the downtown community and so important in directing how are city grows.

However, when looking at these observations, conversations and some numbers, are the cycle tracks worth it? In terms of official counts, which state that cycling has increased by 44% compared to 2014 and currently 5000-8000 people use the cycle tracks per week (remember; this is potentially 44% fewer people driving and 5000-8000 fewer people a week driving downtown), I would say the cycle tracks are really doing their job!

Based on my observations and conversations I’ve had with people over the last month, I’m a little more critical of the new cycle tracks. Firstly, I think the photographer I was talking with may have a point, the cycle tracks may be more useful for those who work downtown, however a wider array of people seem to be biking downtown than before the cycle tracks were installed, which is really great! It’s also important to note that people go downtown for other reasons than just work. People go to shop, to the many restaurants, and for entertainment as well, so we can’t discount the importance of the cycle tracks for these uses. Secondly, I think the cycle tracks will take a while to get used to, and it’s important that people biking, driving and walking pay a little more attention to the roads than they did before. Thirdly, I think the photographer I was talking to was right about his other point, in the excitement cycling has generated in our city over the past year, we can’t forget about safety and wellbeing of our pedestrians.

 

Official CountsScreen Shot 2015-07-17 at 5.33.26 PM

Official Counts – Comparing Last year to this year on the Peace Bridge
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Got some feedback? Talk to the city directly by calling 3-1-1

Sources

Garrard, J., G. Rose, and S. Lo. “Promoting Transportation Cycling For Women: The Role Of Bicycle Infrastructure.” Preventive Medicine (2008): 55-59.

Halek, Martin, and Joseph G. Eisenhauer. “Demography of Risk Aversion.” The Journal of Risk and Insurance (2001)

Teschke, Kay, M. Anne Harris, Conor C. O. Reynolds, Meghan Winters, Shelina Babul, Mary Chipman, Michael D. Cusimano, Jeff R. Brubacher, Garth Hunte, Steven M. Friedman, Melody Monro, Hui Shen, Lee Vernich, and Peter A. Cripton. “Route Infrastructure and the Risk of Injuries to Bicyclists: A Case-Crossover Study.” American Journal of Public Health (2012): 2336-343.

Cycle Count information

7th Ave SW http://eco-public.com/public2/?id=100017181

Peace Bridge http://eco-public.com/public2/?id=100018487

Stephen Ave http://www.eco-public.com/public2/?id=100020243

 

Me ANCKate 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.

 

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Bridgeland – What is the Community Saying?

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“Bridgeland has more diversity, we fit in here as a family.”

For the last year, Active Neighbourhoods has been working with residents, business owners and the community association in Bridgeland to engage citizens in the planning and development occurring in the neighbourhood and improve the community’s access to active transportation options.

We have collected a number of photos and quotes from community members about what they thing the Bridgeland community needs more of.

Memorial Drive and Edmonton Trail

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“There should be a pedestrian and bike bridge across Memorial.”

“We need to add bike lanes, wider sidewalk, reduce [car] lanes in this intersection.”

“Bud’s Building [on Edmonton Trail near Memorial Drive] is covered in lots of graffiti, and feels dangerous. It’s actually a heritage building, could this be a reason to clean the building up?”

“All the cross walks between Memorial and the bottom of the hill on 4th Street NE feel dangerous because they are difficult to access for pedestrians and pedestrians are often not visible to cars”

The Bridgeland-Downtown Connection

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“Right now, the only pleasant way to walk or bike downtown [from Bridgeland] is to cross at the LRT station. The other bridges [4th Ave and 5th Ave] have too much traffic and feel pretty unsafe.”

“There should be a pedestrian and bike bridge across Memorial.”

“Its difficult and unattractive to access the river and the downtown core from Memorial”

“In 5 years, with the completion of East Village, I hope the East Village residents will feel engaged by Bridgeland, especially in the early days when there won’t be many businesses in East Village. If those residents don’t have a way to easily, quickly and safely walk to Bridgeland, then that is something that we will have to figure out, and that will increase walk-by traffic for our local businesses.”

1st Avenue North East

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“The pizza bar [916 1st Ave] is great, but do people know it’s there?”

“Luke’s Drug Mart does a great job with lighting and snow removal.  It contributes to safety and accessibility.”

“Blue Star has done a great job of bringing people and vibrancy to their block.”

“Because Starbucks is open late, walking [by the General Plaza on 1st Ave and 9th Street] feels safer.”

“1st Ave is quite wide near Langevin Elementary school, which often makes drivers feel like they can go faster. Narrowing the road will slow down traffic.”

“There are some long stretches without benches on 1st Ave, we need more benches for seniors to stop along the way.”

“As a business owner and resident, I’d like to see more outdoor patios. They put more life on the street. In general, we need more life on the street, whether that’s trees or plants or people. It’s the quickest and easiest way to have a big impact. Create outdoor spaces where people are going to go.”

“I want more roundabouts, in the neighbourhoods in general.  In Australia there are lots of roundabouts with gardens, where people sit and watch over the street.  [With roundabouts there is] less stopping and starting, and fewer emissions associated with this kind of intersection.”

“Cars on 1st Ave often don’t stop for pedestrians.”

“[As a business owner, it’s frustrating because] businesses aren’t allowed to put out signs.   We need permits, and even then, the locations we can put our signs are limited.  The businesses [on 1st Ave] need more visibility, but we also want to make sure it’s sensible signage, in terms of aesthetics”

“The parking lot across from the school on 1st Ave creates a long stretch of empty, dark space after 6:00pm. During the day the areas seems friendly, but at night it’s totally empty!”

9th Street North East and the LRT Station

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“The crosswalk to the C-Train station is so close to the turn-off from Memorial Drive, cars are moving really quickly.”

“On 9th Ave there isn’t anywhere else to go besides the train station. It’s sort of a dead zone.”

“The LRT Station feels unsafe, it would be great to create the station as an entrance to the Bridgeland community, to make it a destination with cafes or restaurants.”

“It would be great to make 9th Street more happening, it would be great to have more shops on the street?”

“We need better lighting and more people at C-train stop.  Seniors won’t take the LRT late at night.”

Bridgeland Community Centre and Community Park

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“It would be great to have more benches in the community centre area.”

“There is no ramp to the community centre, which makes it difficult to access for people in wheelchairs or with walkers or strollers”

“I wouldn’t walk through park by the community association at night, there are too many dips and bushes.”

“I love the Farmers’ Market, it has changed my lifestyle.  Many other seniors do too.”

“It would be great to have a shuttle bus from Bridgeland’s seniors’ homes that go to the Farmers’ Market every week.”

Tom Campbell Hill Park

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“On a nice day, you can find 100 people and their dogs, including dog-walking companies”

“Tom Campbell Park is a natural nesting area, we shouldn’t allow large off-leash areas except very limited fenced areas.  Natural nesting first!”

“Leave Tom Campbell Hill alone and natural.”

“Protect our limited green space!”

Pathways in Bridgeland

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“We need links/bridges to connect and expand pathways on the escarpment to Crescent Heights and Sunnyside.”

“The pathways along the Bow River, north of the Zoo need to respect ground nesters’ habitat!”

“No one is on the Bow River pathways at night. We need more restaurants and bars. People will attract people.”

South Bridgeland

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“Some of the intersections in this area feel unsafe, specifically 8th Street and 9th Ave SE intersection”

“Next to the Children’s Cottage and the tennis courts, it’s confusing as to where to walk. There are no lines painted, there’s a curb cut here and there, but the pedestrian path is not clearly marked.  It might be a good place for a shared space or change in texture?”

The Neighbourhood – Services, Amenities and Programming

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“We need annual events at St Patrick’s island.””Bridgeland definitely needs a skating rink.”

“The old General Hospital is a big part of our history.”

“There’s a natural amphitheatre by the Bridgeland Community Centre, it would be great to make this area into a better music venue.”

“Luke’s Drug Mart has done a fabulous job lighting up their storefront, and providing activities for different groups of people.”

 “The hubs of activity are not dispersed through the community enough. When new places go in, we need to think about dispersal.”

“We should be preserving our history better. The Bridgeland Bungalow, the Cecil Hotel, Langevin School, the firehall and the Lutheran Church are all important.”

Getting Around Bridgeland

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“There is good access to city transit with the Bus #9 and the c-train.”“Let’s leverage what already exists, like the wide sidewalks in the neighbourhood.  There’s great pedestrian potential in Bridgeland.”

“There’s really good access to the bikelanes from Bridgeland.”

“In the winter, there’s often snow in the way of the curbs, it’s especially difficult to cross if you have mobility issues, like with a walker or scooter. Why can’t this be shovelled or cleared?”

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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/

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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?

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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Calgary Slip and Slide

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

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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.

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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.

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