Alberta cities excel in urban change
FOR many years, the fast-growing cities of Calgary and Edmonton have been
the stereotype for sprawling, car-dominant urban planning, but recently
they have begun to shed that image and are in many ways becoming North
American leaders in progressive urban design and city building policy.
Other cities might take note.
Private vehicles have shaped our cities more than anything else over the
last century, but the environmental, economic, urban quality and social
equity impacts of cars has progressive cities looking to diversify mobility
options. Calgary and Edmonton both made the investment in light rail
transit more than 40 years ago, when they had less than two-thirds of
Winnipeg’s current population.
Today, broad public support is fuelling transit investment and expansion in
both cities. Backed with significant federal funding available to all
cities, current construction of the Valley Line in Edmonton will more than
double the city’s 24-kilometre- long LRT system by 2026, and Calgary will
soon begin construction on the 20-kilometer-long Green Line, adding to its
current 60 kilometres of rail transit. In Calgary, 45 per cent of people
who work downtown commute by train. The network is used by more than
300,000 people per day, making it one of the busiest LRT systems in North
America, second only to Guadalajara, Mexico.
Calgary has also demonstrated leadership in active transportation
development. In 2014, the city installed a complete, temporary downtown
grid of protected bike lanes, all at once. The network has since been made
permanent and the results have been significant, with more than 18,000
cyclists entering or leaving downtown daily, an increase of more than 300
per cent over 20 years.
The City of Edmonton is not only working to diversify mobility, they have
also committed to building safer streets for all road users, to calm
traffic, reduce collisions, promote walking and cycling, and create more
liveable, and healthier neighbourhoods. The city has implemented a Vision
Zero policy with the goal of eliminating all traffic fatalities by the year
2032. Funded by revenues from red light cameras and automated traffic
enforcement, the city has been building traffic-calming elements into
street design that intuitively slow drivers through changes in the physical
environment. This includes narrowing streets and lanes, adding speed bumps
and raised crosswalks, building protected bike lanes, and extending curbs
at intersections to shorten crossing distances for pedestrians. The city is
going even further, announcing that speed limits on all residential and
high-pedestrian main streets will be reduced to 40 km/h.
These initiatives have found success. Over the last five-year period
(pre-pandemic), Edmonton reduced vehicle collisions involving pedestrians
and cyclists by nearly 30 per cent, overall collision fatalities decreased
by 56 per cent and serious injuries declined by 30 per cent. The number of
trips taken by bicycle has also doubled in the last ten years across the
Urban mobility is one way Calgary and Edmonton are moving into the
future, reconsidering land-use policy is another. Calgary will hit the
ground running as we move out of the pandemic, recently releasing a
visionary, ten year, one billion dollar downtown plan. The urban
transformation road map will ensure economic and cultural prosperity for
the city centre long into the future. A $200-million initial investment
will be used to fund affordable housing and office tower conversions,
greenspace development, arts and culture, and public realm improvements,
focused on creating a liveable downtown neighbourhood that redefines the
business district into a vibrant, 24-7 centre of the city.
Edmonton’s land use policy has been the gold standard for promoting
neighbourhood densification, renewal, and infill development in mature
neighbourhoods. The city’s successful Infill Roadmap began in 2014 with
dedicated political buy-in from city council, which moved forward a
comprehensive network of guidelines that shape development, monitor
construction sites, encourage good design and promote clear dialogue
between all stakeholders. Its success has seen a public fear of change
evolve into a greater understanding of the economic, environmental, and
social benefits of higher-density growth and acceptance that neighbourhood
character and demographics can evolve without detriment to quality of life.
Last year, 30 per cent of all new development in Edmonton occurred as
infill in mature neighbourhoods, more than twice Winnipeg’s current levels.
Edmonton has not stopped with this success, recently becoming the first
city in Canada to eliminate minimum parking requirements for new
developments that stifle investment and lead to overbuilt parking in new
construction. The city is also working on a new zoning system that will
re-think the city’s entire land-use policy to prioritize economic and
environmental sustainability, social and housing equity, neighbourhood
mobility and walkability.
Implementing progressive urban change in Alberta’s cities should not be
dismissed as a function of wealth. It is not a matter of money; it is about
priorities and political will. Continuing the ideas of the past and moving
forward with apprehension will be a greater cost to other cities.
Calgary and Edmonton still struggle with urban sprawl, as most Canadian
cities do, but bold leadership is executing a progressive vision that will
push those cities into a prosperous future. Rethinking the urban mobility
and land-use ideas of the past is not radical, it is just what progressive
*Brent Bellamy is senior design architect for Number Ten Architectural
‘The toll on our roads’: report delves into deaths
THE flash of the fire truck’s lights ahead signalled for a slowdown while
cruising St. Mary’s Road with the windows down.
It was late March, but an unseasonably warm afternoon. School had just let
out. Teens and preteens from four schools flooded the area sidewalks.
Drivers rubbernecked as they passed the accident, only to catch a glimpse
of a blond boy, probably no older than 13 or 14, lying on the pavement,
next to his bicycle, in a marked crosswalk near the median.
The Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service later reported the adolescent cyclist
didn’t sustain any major injuries but was taken to hospital as a precaution.
The boy is one of hundreds of Manitoba cyclists and pedestrians who will be
injured or killed by drivers over the course of the year. Most such
incidents won’t make it into the news cycle.
On average, between 2012 and 2019, 260 pedestrians and cyclists were
injured or killed annually in vehicle accidents in Manitoba. The average
number of deaths in that time period is 15 per year.
While exact data for Winnipeg is difficult to distil from the statistics
provided by Manitoba Public Insurance, most of those accidents occurred in
urban settings. Winnipeg is Manitoba’s biggest urban centre.
One-hundred-and-twenty Manitobans died while walking or cycling between
2012 and 2019.
“Our approach to ground transportation has been to make it as safe as
possible for cars and for drivers, and everybody else is a secondary
consideration,” said Brian Pincott, executive director of Vélo Canada
“We are seeing the toll on our roads, and our streets, and our
neighbourhoods that that approach is bringing us — particularly as more and
more people are now looking to use other means than just driving
In 2019, MPI data show walking as the second-leading activity for a
vehicle-involved fatality (23 per cent). Head-on collisions between two
vehicles was No. 1.
The problem may be getting worse.
In 2018 and 2019, the number of pedestrians involved in car accidents
increased substantially from the averages seen previously. Between 2012 and
2017, the average number of pedestrians involved in accidents was 150 per
year. In 2018, it was 227; in 2019, it was 205.
The MPI analysis found that fatal collisions are most likely to occur on
weekdays between noon and 6 p.m.; they are most likely to involve teenagers
15 to 19 years old.
The 2019 statistics show a pedestrian was most likely to be involved in a
collision when walking in a marked crosswalk at an intersection, where they
have the right of way.
In other words, when they followed the rules of the road.
Meantime, convincing Winnipeggers to leave their cars at home and walk and
cycle is a critical part of the city’s climate plan to reduce emissions.
“I think it speaks to the need to build more protected infrastructure to
meet our climate goals,” said Coun. Matt Allard (St. Boniface).
“We’ve gone a long way from where things used to be, but we need to
prioritize active transportation more than we currently do in order to get
to those goals and to reduce injuries to our cyclists and pedestrians.”
Winnipeg currently has the fewest kilometres of bike trails of any large
Canadian city (307 km) — compared with 557 km in Toronto, 800 km in Ottawa,
and 1,290 km in Calgary.
However, Coun. Jeff Browaty (North Kildonan) says he’d like to see more
focus on the separation of cars from cyclists and pedestrians, with the
prioritization of car-only infrastructure. For example, the construction of
Chief Peguis Trail cleared a great deal of car traffic off residential
“Compared to other cities, a lot more of our traffic goes down arterials
that are shared, which aren’t as well-split as you’d find in some cities,”
He also advocated for better enforcement and public campaigns to address
the dangers of distracted driving and distracted walking, too.
Both Pincott and Allard disputed Browaty’s approach of continued investment
in car infrastructure.
“We’ve been focusing almost exclusively on car infrastructure for the last
100 years. I would say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing
over and over again expecting a different result,” Pincott offered.
“If you invest in road infrastructure, particularly if you invest in
expanding road networks, then you induce demand for more cars and more
congestion. And if you want to induce demand for active transportation, you
need to build more active transportation infrastructure,” Allard said.
Cyclists ready to hit Winnipeg’s ‘open’ roads
WINNIPEGGERS who are eagerly waiting to cycle down “open streets” this year
wish the city could have put its pedal to the metal.
On Wednesday, the city announced the long-awaited timeline to set up the
routes, which were popular last year.
Cyclist Zach Fleisher welcomed the move, but questioned why city council
and staff couldn’t have implemented the plan sooner.
“Especially during COVID, at this stage of the lockdown, there’s not much
else to do and it would have been really, really nice (to use these),” he
said. “For the life of me, I just can’t figure out why this isn’t a
City council recently approved a pilot project that will limit vehicle
traffic to one block on sections of 17 streets so cyclists have more room.
Now known as “enhanced summer bike routes,” these were slated to begin as
early as May 3 and last until Nov. 5, from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, except
for a few routes restricted to weekends and holidays.
That’s an extension from the 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily hours offered last year.
While none of the routes had the proper barricades and signs in place to
officially begin operating on Wednesday, a city official announced that
will soon change.
Jim Berezowsky, Winnipeg’s public works director, said eight of the routes
— on Rover Avenue, Scotia Street, Lyndale Drive, Wolseley Avenue, Kildonan
Drive, Wellington Avenue, Wellington Crescent, and Assiniboine Avenue —
will open by Saturday. The rest will be installed between May 17 and May 21.
Fleisher said the traffic-calmed routes offered a much-needed pandemic
reprieve last year, which he looks forward to using again under the current
“People don’t have a lot going on right now. You can’t go anywhere. You
can’t even go to a patio with friends or stay (with friends) in the
backyard,” he said. “Having the opportunity to ride my bike on weekends
with my kid… is one of the few things (I could do) right now.”
Julie Penner was also frustrated by the wait, as her family found biking
together on Wolseley Avenue to be a rare “highlight of the pandemic” last
“We’re already in mid-May, it’s going to be 23 C today. It’s the first day
of remote schooling, I have two little kids at home and (this is needed),”
said Penner on Wednesday morning.
She said she’s excited to learn a timeline to open the routes is in place,
especially after pandemic restrictions cut off sports and other activities
for her kids.
“Time is of the essence. People need things to do outside safely,” she
Berezowsky said the routes couldn’t open by May 3 because the city needed to
create new signs and education material to reflect key changes from last
year’s routes, which council finalized in a vote on April 29.
“This is a fundamental shift or change in understanding and we’ve got to
make sure we get it right or we’re going to create conflict,” he said.
Unlike last year’s “open streets,” the cycling routes won’t allow
pedestrians, since the city has since discovered that doing so violated the
Highway Traffic Act. The act prohibits pedestrians from walking on roadways
where a “reasonably passable” sidewalk is present.
The 2021 routes will also operate for longer hours.
“We’re providing that information, education and awareness to the community
about what’s happening, how you can use it and what you can’t do,” said
The city’s education efforts will include hand-delivered information to
homes near the routes.
Coun. Matt Allard, chairman of the public works committee, said council
approved the program as quickly as it could.
“I think council got the job done in plenty of time. We provided very clear
direction to the public service,” said Allard.
Ready to roll
THE following summer cycling routes will open by May 15:
● Lyndale Drive: Cromwell to Gauvin streets
● Scotia Street: Anderson (at St. Cross Street) to Armstrong avenues
(weekends, holidays only)
● Wellington Crescent: Academy Road to Guelph Street
● Wolseley Avenue: Raglan Road to Maryland Street
● Kildonan Drive: Helmsdale Avenue to Irving Place
● Rover Avenue — Hallet to Stephens streets (weekends, holidays only)
● Assiniboine Avenue: Parkside Drive to Ferry Road (weekends, holidays only)
● Wellington Avenue: Maryland to Strathcona streets (weekends, holidays
only) THE following routes will open between May 17 and May 21:
● Churchill Drive: Hay Street to Jubilee Avenue
● Egerton Road: Bank to Morier avenues
● Kilkenny Drive/Kings Drive: Burgess to Patricia avenues
● Alexander Avenue: Arlington to Princess streets
● Ravelston Avenue: Wayoata to Brewster streets
● Linwood Street: Portage to Silver avenues
● Harbison Avenue West: Henderson Highway to its eastern end
● Rose Lake Court, surrounding Rose Lake Green
● Youville Street: Eugenie Street to Haig Avenue (after reconstruction of
Des Meurons Street)
Corvallis transportation officials want you to give them a shortcut.
Or at least that’s what we’re calling them. The city of Corvallis, which
sometimes is a bit wordy, is calling them “active travel corridors.”
The concept works like this: There are routes folks take on bicycle and on
foot that are off-limits to motorists. A street dead-ends, but the sidewalk
continues, or a path exists through a park. Advantage active travelers!
Here are a couple of examples:
• Both Northwest Eighth Street and Northwest Seventh Street dead-end just
south of the Linn-Benton Community Benton Center. But paths and sidewalks
will take you right to the campus (see map).
• Northwest Tyler Avenue dead-ends tantalizingly short of Harrison
Boulevard. But a path exists to transport a cyclist or walker to Harrison.
• A bridge over Dixon Creek will get you from Northwest Arthur Avenue to
Northwest Arthur Place … and eventually to Kings Boulevard.
• Porter Park, meanwhile, provides a pleasant pathway for a cyclist or
pedestrian motivating between Garfield and Grant.
Corvallis is collecting the ATCs to put on an interactive map (see
information box for the link). Some of the routes even feature transit
“It’s a brand new transportation network that has been here for decades,”
said Josh Capps, the city’s active transportation program specialist.
“Throughout the years, Corvallis has been quietly developing neighborhood
shortcuts for people walking, rolling and biking. These cut-throughs
connect people to other valuable locations such as another street, a park,
or a school. They shorten the trip for people traversing by active modes
and enrich the travel experience.”
The idea, Capps said, came from a project supported by the International
Federation of Pedestrians “that really didn’t catch on. We took the initial
idea and tweaked it a bit.”
Capps says only Olympia, Washington, has a program anywhere near what
Corvallis is offering.
The city went live with its interactive map May 1 and began sifting through
recommendations from residents that arrived by the dozen. Participation by
the public was an important piece, Capps said.
“We found many of these connections, but we knew that we couldn't possibly
discover all of them on our own,” he said. “So, we wanted the community to
tell us where they were. This helps for local knowledge but also gives
people buy-in knowing they helped define the map.”
Capps said that the program has been “very well received. We really thought
that this was a campaign that would resonate with the community. We all
have areas we know, but we didn’t know the whole thing.”
The promotion is scheduled to end at the end of the month, but Capps said
“we may leave it up longer. We see this as a living document, since new
developments continue adding ATCs and we plan to keep the map as a
permanent fixture on the city website.
“Although it is developed as a stand-alone digital map, we are hoping to
provide the ability to overlay the ATC map onto the online bike network map
at some point to show how the two networks overlap and link up. There is a
chance we could also add signs below dead-end street signs, for example,
letting people know that a street continues for people walking and biking.
“Last, down the line, I could also see pocket-sized maps being produced.
But, we wouldn’t create these until only after our network is well
And if a short-cut looks too good to be true, it just might be that you are
encroaching on private property.
“We don’t want to point people toward private property," Capps said. "We
either view in person or use Google Streetview to look up each ATC that
comes in. We also use tax lot information to determine if it meets our
qualifications. If we find an ATC that cuts through private property, we
mark it on the map with a red negative symbol.
“This way it lets people know that we have seen the location, but we do not
recommend it because it hasn’t met our qualifications, which usually means
it is on private property.”
Just go to
anjd follow the directions. The city is giving away bike bandanas to 10
For more information email josh.capps(a)corvallisoregon.gov
Children’s charity seeks funding assistance to provide specialized bikes
AS the second summer without in-person fundraising and recreation programs
approaches, the Children’s Rehabilitation Foundation wait list for
specialized bikes built for children with disabilities has more than
There are 25 children currently waiting for bikes; on most years, the
number is around 10. Bikes can range from $1,500 to $6,500, are
custom-built, and often include alterations for support and mobility.
The bikes are worth every cent for the limitless opportunities they can
provide a child with disabilities, said Adell Gauthier, fund development
manager and event co-ordinator for the foundation.
“A bike ride down the street, or even when bikes are used at school in gym
class, they have incredible therapeutic benefits, physical benefits for
children with disabilities,” she said.
There’s an ever-present need for bike funding, as children grow and their
needs change, but the COVID-19 pandemic has brought a new urgency.
Fundraisers that would typically bring in thousands of dollars to the
program have been cancelled, and programs the children would typically
utilize in the summer have been shut down.
“In the year that we are in, with the lack of physical fundraising events
that we’ve been able to have, it’s been increasingly difficult to fund
these items as quickly as we could like,” Gauthier said.
For many of the families the foundation works with, picking up a standard
bike at a big-box store isn’t a feasible option — specialized units take
weeks to build, and as the weather gets warmer, the foundation’s hoping
more will be funded in time for kids to get outside.
“Part of our concern isn’t just about the funding, it’s about the
time. We don’t
want spring and summer to go by and for a child that’s been waiting for a
bike to receive it when they can’t be outside using it,” Gauthier said.
One family who knows the urgency all too well is Heather Lawless and her
six-year-old son, Nolan, who uses a customized bike funded by a donor to
the Children’s Rehabilitation Foundation.
Lawless said it was “heartbreaking” to learn more children are going
without what has been an invaluable resource for Nolan. “Whether you have
the means or not to buy your kid a standard bike, there’s many ways that
can happen for people of any means, but when it’s as specialized as this
bike, that’s just not a thing,” she said.
The bike Nolan uses is part of the therapy he receives, but its features
aren’t just physical — Lawless said it has helped him connect with
classmates, who will often join him on rides.
“It fills a gap in mobility he just does not have without the aid of this
type of equipment,” she said.
Enforcement should walk on the sensible side
EVEN for citizens who would never consider themselves to be scofflaws, some
laws seem to invite scoffing.
Beginning on Monday, motorized-vehicle traffic was restricted on sections
of 17 Winnipeg streets under an initiative that used to be called “Open
Streets,” when such sections were considered open to both pedestrians and
But city council recently changed the name to “enhanced summer cycling
routes,” reflecting the fact the roadways will continue to be open to
cyclists but, according to the letter of a law, pedestrians will instead
remain confined to sidewalks.
Pedestrians are sidelined by a previously disregarded clause in the Highway
Traffic Act that prohibits walking on roadways where a “reasonably
passable” sidewalk is present. Who knew? Clearly, not the city councillors
who last year approved the Open Streets pilot project that welcomed
pedestrians to pound the pavement normally dominated by motorized vehicles.
For the record, a check of local obituaries would likely show the thousands
of pedestrians who traversed the Open Streets last year all survived their
Sometime between then and now, however, a city administrator — in a display
of admirable but misdirected diligence — perused the legal intricacies of
the HTA and informed councillors the formerly open streets must be closed
to pedestrians. City officials are lobbying the province to amend the
relevant HTA section, but legal changes are notoriously slow, so
pedestrians won’t get legal authority to leave the sidewalk this summer.
Until the law is changed, the hope is that authorities will use reasonable
discretion and, frankly, pay no heed if a pedestrian happens to set foot on
a designated roadway. Such common-sense enforcement of laws has plenty of
For example, City of Winnipeg Bylaw 89 says people can’t spend more than 90
minutes in a city bus shelter, and no one in such shelters can smoke or
consume alcoholic beverages. This bylaw is flouted regularly as people
without homes cram into bus shelters, sometimes all night — a dire
situation overlooked by authorities who presumably excuse the shelter
occupancy as a consequence of larger social problems.
It’s also against the law in Winnipeg to strike a sidewalk with a
metal object, to go naked in your home if you leave the blinds up, or to
hum while aboard a city bus. Sensible discernment dictates that a bus
passenger’s illicit humming of Louis Armstrong’s What A Wonderful World should
not be prosecuted; such prudent judgment should also apply to pedestrians
ambling on streets formerly known as “open.”
In the disheartening event that an overzealous official tickets a
pedestrian, there would seem to be a strong legal defence. The relevant HTA
section prohibits walking on roadways where a “reasonably passable”
sidewalk is present. A case could be made that during a pandemic, when
people are warned to stay two metres apart, a sidewalk occupied by other
pedestrians is not “reasonably passable,” necessitating a temporary detour
onto the road.
Such a legal challenge should be unnecessary, however. Enforcement officers
shouldn’t actively seek out rogue pedestrians and, should they see one, the
best option might be to look the other way.
When Charles Dickens employed the expression “The law is an ass” in his
1838 novel Oliver Twist, he wasn’t referring to the seat of human anatomy,
but to the colloquial name for donkeys — which have traditionally been
characterized as stubborn and stupid, so the phrase refers to a senselessly
rigid application of a law.
To police the Open Streets concept with a section of the HTA that was never
intended for such a situation would warrant such a blunt Dickensian
description. Such enforcement would be asinine, indeed.