During our work in the Bridgeland community over the last few months, we have heard a lot about difficulties residents face when walking in the neighbourhood during the winter, specifically difficulties seniors living in the neighbourhood face.
This past January we followed the same route a local group of seniors “walk-audited” last autumn in order to better understand some of the barriers to winter walking.
Conditions: sunny, -16C
As we walked along 9th Street by the Bridgeland-Riverside Community Centre, we noticed that there were only a few street lights in the area, all of which were directed at the street rather that at the sidewalks and pathways. We also noticed that the one crosswalk in the area was very dimly lit. During the darker winter months, it is critical that our sidewalks and crosswalks are better lit in order to make people feel safer and more comfortable walking in our neighbourhoods during all times of the day, even when it gets dark at 4 in the afternoon.
2) Snow removal
The sidewalks adjacent to seniors’ complexes were generally well-maintained, however the sidewalks leading to the Bridgeland’s main streets had major mobility barriers, including snow piled at intersection corners and unshoveled sections of the sidewalk. Snow removal is repeatedly mentioned by seniors as a key issue limiting their mobility in the winter, and from what we saw, it would be very difficult for those with walkers or in scooters to navigate these sidewalks.
While working in Bridgeland, we have repeatedly been told that the neighbourhood’s streets need more benches. We think this is a great request because it means that people actually want to spend time on sidewalks and streets rather than just quickly passing through. During our walk, we noticed that there were very few benches for walkers to pause and catch their breathes at, specifically around the neighbourhood’s retirement communities where there are more older walkers who may be more willing to walk if there are a few spots to rest along the way.
Throughout our walk, we noticed that crosswalks, sidewalks and pathways were not well marked for pedestrians or vehicles. Signs marking out crosswalks and sidewalks are often marked on the pavement, meaning that they are often covered in snow or ice during the winter. We noticed that there were some vertical signs marking crosswalks, however these signs were directed to the road and were not at eye level, meaning that they were designed to be seen by cars rather than pedestrians. We think Calgary’s sidewalks, crosswalks and pathways need more vertical markers that are walker-friendly.
5) Doors on the Streets
Many urban planners and community experts argue that the number of doors on the street affects the walkability of a neighbourhood in warmer months, and in the winter, these doors on the street act as warm places for walkers to warm up before continuing their walk through the neighbourhood, assuming that some of those doors lead to businesses, organizations or acquaintances. Along our route, we noticed that there were many businesses with doors on the street in which walkers could spend sometime in along the neighbourhood’s main street (9th Ave), however along other streets there were absolutely no warm places pedestrians would be able to spend time in (McDougall Road, and 12th Street).
Next up: our ideas, how you can suit up for the weather, and a survey of practices in other winter cities. Check out this link for a preview.