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Calgary extends partial closure of Memorial Drive through summer for pedestrians despite increasing traffic

Click to play video: 'Calgary extends partial closure of Memorial Drive through summer for pedestrians, cyclists despite increasing traffic' Calgary extends partial closure of Memorial Drive through summer for pedestrians, cyclists despite increasing traffic
WATCH: The City of Calgary has decided to extend the partial closures of Memorial Drive and the lower deck of the Centre Street Bridge, which have been in effect for the past four months to assist with social distancing. Carolyn Kury de Castillo reports on how that will work with the increase in traffic – Jul 25, 2020

Memorial Drive will continue to be open for pedestrians and cyclists this summer.

In late March, parts of the roadway were converted between Centre Street and 10 Street N.W. to allow for cyclists and pedestrians to take over as vehicle use dropped during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Several other roadways around the city have also had vehicle lanes reduced to accommodate non-motorized use.

“The information the city is collecting and the experiences people have told us that the lanes are really appreciated. When you build physically separated safe infrastructure like this, people want to use it,” Gary Millard, president of Bike Calgary, said.

Read more: Road closures planned for Calgary to give more room for pedestrians and cyclists

Millard said the lanes have been appealing to both experienced cyclists and families who feel safe riding where they are protected from cars.

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But congestion is increasing as traffic is slowly starting to pick up as more people go back to work.

“We are working with the community to keep the lanes open as long as we can, recognizing that there are competing demands for the system,” said Ryan Vanderputten, director of transportation planning with the City of Calgary.

“But we do see that increased usage throughout the summer for sure — on the river pathway network.”

Ward 7 Coun. Druh Farrell said the transportation department has recommended that the Memorial Drive adaptive lane and the lower deck of the Centre Street Bridge remain open for cyclists and pedestrians for the remainder of the summer.

“According to the transportation department the congestion is manageable at this point,” Farrell said. “So they are going to maintain it to provide people enough space to enjoy the outdoors.

“I think the lanes have been really well received and it shows we are being flexible and responsive to a pandemic.

“It also shows us that we can look at our infrastructure differently and be more adaptive when necessary,” Farrell said.

Farrell says the city will continue to monitor the numbers of both motorized and non-motorized users over the summer.

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“The recommendation is to keep these multi-use streets in place for now.  Not all of them will remain in place, but Memorial Drive certainly is the busiest,” Farrell said.

Read more: Coronavirus: Calgary group launches petition seeking more room for cyclists and pedestrians

“It won’t be indefinitely that we keep it open, but as we see COVID numbers increase — and we are still encouraging people to maintain proper physical distancing and get outside and enjoy the weather — there was a decision to keep it going in the meantime, over the summer,” Farrell said.

The has been some discussion among bike groups and the city regarding keeping the lanes open on weekends.

“What tends to happen is when you dedicate infrastructure like this to active transportation like cycling and walking, skateboarding and scooters — people really appreciate it and I want to keep it around,” Millard said.

Vanderputten said some pathways in Calgary have seen the number of users double compared to this time last year.

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