Research Round-up on Walking

Why you should hold your meetings on the move, drive less, and rally around good urban design.

While the benefits of walking have been hailed for centuries (see Frederic Gros’ “A Philosophy of Walking“) the peer-reviewed research is starting to add up, confirming Nietzsche’s heartfelt manifestos on the subject.  Walking really does enhance creativity – a great reason to take your brainstorming sessions outside.  University of Calgary researcher Gavin McCormack correlated hours spent driving to obesity - an important consideration given today’s increasingly sedentary lifestyles.  Meanwhile, walking more is positively correlated with better public health.

What’s design got to do with it?  According to Professors William Milczarski and Peter Tuckel, even people who aren’t that into walking will walk more in pedestrian-friendly environments.  This extends to cycling.  Brian Saelens and his fellow researchers show that urban environments that are more dense, encompass mixed land uses and have greater pathway connectivity, unsurprisingly, experience more walkers and cyclists.

How does Calgary fare when it comes to walking?

  • 4.96% of work commuters in Calgary were walking in 2014, slightly down from 2011
  • 2014 most pedestrian-friendly neighbourhood: Sunnyside
  • 2014 most walkable community: Beltline
  • Calgary was voted 10th (last) most walkable city in Canada in 2013
  • 73% of Albertans walked for leisure, transportation, or for work in 2013, but we don’t walk enough to attain a moderate level of physical activity, and the Alberta Centre for Active Living recommends we spend more time walking
  • The City of Calgary now prioritizes walking and transit through their Municipal Development Plan, Calgary Transportation Plan, and Complete Streets Guide

How can we design more walkable communities?  Check out these great visuals from Dan Burden via the City of Calgary.

Have a great afternoon, all, and don’t forget to take a… 

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Sustainability Book Club Is Back for Another Year!

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Long Weekend, Long Format

Whether you’re road-tripping or having a “staycation” this long weekend, we’ve found three enlightening podcasts related to walking, communities and sustainability – and one fun internet quiz from 1985! Sound perplexing? Just wait until you see your results.

Walking Matters, from Ideas on CBC Radio
Journalists, writers, a zookeeper and a family physician explore how our minds and bodies are engaged through walking. An insightful listen for a relaxing evening or… a long walk.

Social Optimism, from Space + Place on CJSW Radio
This always-enlightening urban design-focused program is produced right here in Calgary at CJSW 90.9FM. We’re partial to the program, having recently been featured on it for our work on Active Neighbourhoods. In this episode, author Justin McGuirk speaks about his book, Radical Cities and how a new optimistic generation of architects and planners are transforming social housing in Latin America.

Resilient Cities, from The Urbanist Podcast, Monocle Magazine
Recognize that voice? It’s Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi! Calgary, Hong Kong, Da Nang and San Francisco are all profiled in this episode on strong leadership, the right infrastructure and communities that weathered catastrophe.

Love internet quizes? Who doesn’t. We especially like this San Francisco gentrification quiz from 1985. Source: City Lab. 

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Buying Groceries, Bridgeland Jaunt and Your Input

Did you know that citizens attending the Bridgeland Farmers’ Market drive less on average than Ward 9 residents, and walk, carpool and drive more? Residents of Ward 9 (which encompasses other inner city neighbourhoods like Inglewood and Renfrew) in turn, walk and cycle more than the rest of Calgary on average. That being said, they still drive quite a lot, especially to access groceries.

Active Neighbourhoods Calgary in BridgelandIn late July, we asked citizens attending the Bridgeland Farmers’ Market to tell us how they travel within their community. We posed two questions to participants: how do you travel to work/school and how do you travel to buy groceries? Of the 29 participants, 45% were adults, 14% were seniors and the remaining 41% were children and the majority were Bridgeland residents. To track how they travel, participants were given ten marbles to divide amongst different modes of transportation. Here’s what we found out:

  • Participants reported driving to work 43% of the time, walking 25% of the time and using city transit 15% of the time.
  • Participants also reported driving to buy groceries 68% of the time, walking to buy groceries 22% of the time and using city transit 4% of the time.

What’s clear is that citizens are still relying predominantly on car transport to get to work and notably, to access the basics like groceries.

Here’s where we need your input

We’d like to explore this further and need your help: tell us what you think would help residents in your community shop for groceries by walking or biking.

Explore Bridgeland tonight à la Jane Jacobs

Tonight, join us at 7 pm for our Bridgeland Jaunt. Meet us at First Avenue Northeast, between 8 Street and 8A Street for an hour-long walk through the inner-city community. Sustainable Transportation specialist Ryan Martinson will lead the walk, à la Jane Jacobs, to swap ideas on what’s working, what isn’t, and what can be done about it – right now and in the future. bridgelandjaunt_poster_final

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Bridgeland Jaunt – August 27

What makes your neighbourhood great? What would you change, and why? And what does urban design have to do with it? To chat about these and many more questions, join Sustainable Transportation specialist Ryan Martinson for a walk through Bridgeland, à la Jane Jacobs, to swap ideas on what’s working, what isn’t, and what you can do about it – right now and in the future. Join us August 27, 2014 from 7pm until 8 pm. We’ll start and finish at First Avenue Northeast, between 8 Street and 8A Street.


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Active Neighbourhoods Profiled on Space + Place

Active Neighbourhoods was recently profiled on Space + Place, a weekly program covering architecture, the city and visual culture on CJSW 90.9FM. Space + Place is hosted by Amery Calvelli of D.Talks – a Calgary-based not-for-profit leading discussions on design and the built environment. Amery interviewed Active Neighbourhoods Lead Facilitator Celia Lee and Sustainable Calgary board member and Active Neighbourhoods steering committee member Ryan Martinson about the pilot project, it’s origins, goals and the concept of Active Transport. You can listen to the interview in the episode, “Landscape Lessons” here.

Active Neighbourhoods WalkTalk in Martindale.

Active Neighbourhoods WalkTalk in Martindale.

Ryan also spoke about Sustainable Calgary’s most recent WalkTalk, held in Martindale this past Spring. That edition focused on walkability and the health benefits of walking. Check back August 20th for more information on our next event, the Bridgeland Jaunt.

About D.Talks
D.Talks are a series conversations on design and the built environment in Calgary. Each event is focused on a  design topic and can include presentations, documentary screenings and exhibitions – all opening up a discussion about how the topic is relevant locally. Read more about D.Talks and upcoming events at

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Rain or Shine: 5 Podcasts for your Long Weekend

Whether watching summer storms or enjoying the hot sun and a cool breeze (who can say in this town??), relax to these five sustainability-related podcasts on neighbours, ordering on the internet, happiness, running for office, and bear love.

Neighbourhood Watch, Episode 420 of NPR’s “This American Life”: It’s amazing just how much drama can take place in the mini-universe of a neighborhood. This week we bring you stories of neighbors watching out for each other, for better and worse, including a story from CBC’s Wiretap.

Brown Box, January 28, 2014 on NPR’s “Radiolab”: You order some stuff on the Internet and it shows up three hours later. How could all the things that need to happen to make that happen happen so fast?

Say No To Happiness, May 21, 2014 on CBC’s “Ideas”: Life is about being happy, right? Just ask the Dalai Lama…or any of the best-selling authors on the subject…or the scientists who study the benefits of being happy. But are we losing something else along the way: the need for meaning in our lives?

Take the Money and Run for Office, Episode 461 of NPR’s “This American Life”: For anyone who has ever heard the term “Washington insider” and felt outside — we are with you. So this week, we go inside the rooms where the deals get made, to the actual moment that the checks change hands — and we ask the people writing and receiving the checks what, exactly, is the money buying?

Neanderthal Man, Plus Banff Bears Cross Bridges to Romance, Boning up on Zebrafish, and more, February 22, 2014 on CBC’s “Quirks and Quarks”: Bear Bridge To Love, No Discrimination Against Disabled Monkeys, Quirks Question Period: Heating With Refrigerators, Zebrafish Hold Key To Regrowing Limbs, Dating The Grand Canyon, Neanderthal Man.

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Map Your Neighbourhood

Weigh in on the best (and worst) places in your neighbourhood!  Where could you spend the whole day?  What are the best places to walk, cycle, or enjoy nature?  Which places hold the most memories?

Active Neighbourhoods asked Bridgeland these questions and more at the 2014 Relocalization Fair.  120 community members placed 136 stickers on a map of Bridgeland to show locations that were significant to them.  Here’s what they had to say:


  • The Bow River bike/walk Pathways, the Bridgleland Community Centre, and Tom Hopkin’s Hill Park are centres or “hearts” of the community. These locations had the most stickers placed on them
  • The Bow River bike/walk pathways are by far Bridgeland residents’ favourite place to bike and walk around the neighbourhood. Residents also enjoy biking and walking in Tom Campbell’s Hill Park
  • The Best places to enjoy nature or bird watch in Bridgeland are the Bow River pathways and Tom Campbell’s Hill Park

Stay tuned for more information about the Bridgeland community and active transportation! We will be collecting more data at upcoming community events throughout the summer.  

Don’t live in Bridgeland?  Weigh in on the best (and worst) places in your community here, and we’ll release the results next month.



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Find Us At The Farmers’ Market

Active Neighbourhoods Calgary in BridgelandJoin us today at the Bridgeland Riverside Farmers’ Market today and weigh in on your favourite hubs are in the community for dog-walking, recreation, coffee-drinking and more. Come find our table, we’d love to hear how you access and utilize services in your communities. Plus: check out vendors at the market and take home summer-fresh produce. The market runs 3:30 pm until 7 pm at the Bridgleand Riverside Community Association (917 Centre Ave SE) and you can find us there July 24, 31 and August 7.

For more updates on what we’re seeing and doing around Calgary, follow us on Instagram at @activeneighbourhoodsyyc and on Twitter at @SustainableYYC.

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Get2gether Neighbourhood Challenge

A call for citizen projects to transform your neighbourhood

Have you been mulling over a great project idea to help transform your neighbourhood? Are you ready to take the next step to make it a reality? Win a matching grant for your neighbourhood – up to $ 2,000.

The Montreal Urban Ecology Center, in partnership with the Center for a New American Dream is now launching the 2014 Get2gether Neighborhood Challenge all over Canada.

How It Works

  1. Submit a project, and create a short video to explain your idea;
  2. Attend two webinar trainings about crowdfunding;
  3. Raise funds for your project;
  4. Receive a grant matching what you have been able to raise, up to $2,000;
  5. Transform your neighbourhood!

Click here for details and registration!

Centre for American Dream

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