Throughout the COVID-19 Crisis, Calgarians have heard Mayor Nenshi repeat his new mantra: “Clean hands, clear heads and open hearts.” Over these past several weeks, one of the better ways to keep a clear head is to get out of one’s home for some fresh air and walk, run or cycle.
The City of Montreal is temporarily widening sidewalks to allow for safer physical distancing during the covid-19 pandemic. (Globe and Mail)
You know that when you take time to go for a walk or a bike ride, you return home with a positive outlook, a more relaxed attitude, and a renewed commitment to doing your part to limit the spread of the virus by adhering to physical distancing. For my two daughters (aged one and four years), outside activities are a huge treat every day.
With the arrival of spring, more people are coming out and we are going to need more space so that we can enjoy the outdoors while staying at least two metres apart.
Many of our sidewalks and pathways are just not wide enough for people walking, running or cycling to maintain a safe distance. Of course, this is a problem not only for recreation, but also for necessary tasks, like grocery shopping, and for those in essential positions, going to work. Sidewalk users are often required to choose between reducing physical distance and stepping onto roadways.
Many Calgary sidewalks are too narrow or busy to maintain safe physical distancing during the covid-19 pandemic while adjacent roads are under-utilized.
The video below, created by Daniel Rotzstain in Toronto, provides a humourous illustration of how difficult it can be to maintain distance in urban areas.
The City of Calgary deserves credit for recognizing the need for additional space. The lane closures - which have been running from Friday to Sunday since March 27 - have been a popular and successful initiative to allow Calgarians in several neighbourhoods to get outside while staying two meters apart and a safe distance from cars. This is particularly important for families with young children, as playgrounds are closed and a walk or bike ride is often the only outdoor activity they can do together. Everywhere you look on Twitter, Instagram and even TikTok, there are pictures and videos of friends and family safely enjoying our city streets.
Widened pathway on Memorial Drive in Calgary has been a major success but opportunities like this are needed in more Calgary neighbourhoods.
Currently, the city’s lane closures are limited to a handful of central locations:
- Memorial Drive south carriageway from 9 Street W. to Centre Street lower deck
- Riverfront Drive between Reconciliation Bridge and Centre Street lower deck westbound curb lane
- 12 Street S.E. west side curb lane between 18 Avenue S.E. and the Zoo Bridge
- Elbow Drive S.W. east side curb lane between 38 Avenue S.W. and 4 Street S.W.
- Crowchild Trail S.W. between North Glenmore Park parking lot A to 66 Avenue S.W. east curb lane
- All lanes of the Centre Street bridge lower deck
These closures have been such a success that Mayor Nenshi has warned Calgarians that he does not condone travel from one neighbourhood to another in order to make use of the extra space in the six designated areas. While this is prudent advice, it reflects one glaring problem with these road closures - there are not enough of them!
We are calling for the City of Calgary to create more space for people walking, running or cycling in more neighbourhoods across the city by temporarily widening sidewalks so we can maintain safe physical distances this summer. This is an easy, low cost and responsible approach, which is particularly important during this time when people are forgoing other activities in order to limit the spread of the virus.
Cities across North America are temporarily closing lanes and streets to allow for more space for people to walk in their neighbourhoods. (New York Times)
Survey: What streets in your neighbourhood would you like to see the city create more space for people walking, running and cycling during the covid-19 pandemic?
About the author
Agustin Louro was raised in Calgary. He and his wife came back to Calgary after eight years living across Canada to raise their family here. As a professional engineer, Agustín has worked in the renewable energy industry since 2004 where he oversees projects for several of North America’s leading renewable energy developers, owners, and financiers. Agustín was president of Bike Calgary for three years and an organizer of Calgarians for Cycle Tracks.