CALGARY – One in ten Calgarians walk to work downtown.
It’s a number the city wants to double in the coming years – but there’s a problem. The sidewalks have been neglected and are crumbling under the tens of thousands of feet.
That’s counting the sidewalks that remain open.
“We make it too easy for people to close sidewalks ‘temporarily’ and not reopen them for long, long periods of time,” says Mayor Naheed Nenshi.
Nenshi says there are also several busy areas of downtown that don’t cater to pedestrians; but the city is learning from its past.
While the Peace Bridge is behind schedule it may be ahead of it’s time for delivering pedestrians and cyclists to the core.
The East Village redevelopment project also has walking Calgarians in mind; the 4th Street underpass was designed with better lighting, a friendlier appearance and separate cycling lanes.
Compared to many other underpasses along 9th Avenue, most pedestrians feel it’s night and day.
“At night, definitely, it’s pretty scary when you have to walk under the paths,” says one passing Calgarian.
The 4th Street underpass is scheduled to open November 1st.
“We brought all stakeholders together, landowners, transportation, cycling groups, and talked about doing things differently and so what you see with 4th Street is very different that what you saw in the past,” says Michael Brown, President and CEO of the Calgary Municipal Land Corporation.
City Hall insiders say the mayor is asking transportation to give pedestrians a bigger piece of the pie during upcoming budget talks – but they mayor also wants to get a bigger pie.
“We do need, as with everything, a more sustainable finance mechanism to build the stuff people need. We can’t always be robbing Peter to pay Paul and I am looking forward to conversations, particularly with the new provincial government, of how we can figure out how we pay for infrastructure in the long term,” says Nenshi.