Saturday marked the grand opening of a street that’s been closed to vehicle traffic in Calgary.
The vehicles that used to drive down 10 Street by Connaught School have been replaced with ramps, bikes and kids playing.
The designers behind the road’s transformation are grade four students.
It all started when a Connaught School teacher who couldn’t take the kids on a field trip because of the pandemic, instead took her class for a walk down Stephen Avenue.
“We walked along 8 Avenue and their minds were blown that there is a whole road where no cars are allowed,” said Shayla Jaques at the block party on Saturday.
From there, the students worked with Sustainable Calgary on a vision to make getting to school safer, Jaques said.
“I’m really excited that there are fewer cars driving through this area because we’ve had all kinds of incidents,” she said. “The bus parks down here and there are kids trying to cross the street to get to their parents’ cars. It was a scary kind of place to be sometimes at the end of the day.”
The idea is to get more kids out of cars and pedalling or walking to school instead.
“It’s amazing,” said Natalie Sit, mother of a Connaught School student. “It’s a place to gather that is outside. It’s also going to provide more safety for kids who are biking or walking.
“It adds more parks. The Beltline is underserved in terms of parks, so it’s nice to have more places to hang out.”
Staff at Sustainable Calgary said some concerns have been raised about the road closure to vehicle traffic, but they pointed out that motorists can get around it by driving one block over.
“I would say, give it a shot and see if you like it,” said David Kowel, Sustainable Calgary project coordinator. “I know change can be hard but it’s very much a public space. It’s a space that can be used by anyone.”
Kowel said in a time when kids around the world are experiencing climate anxiety, it’s a chance for them to know they can make a difference.
“It also just shows the interventions that we can make to make biking and walking easy or simple and also that it’s fun to bike and walk.”
Ward 8 Coun. Courtney Walcott said he was impressed because the project was community-driven.
“The community building that has happened on that space that’s going to allow for these children to have an additional space to play,” Walcott said.
“There’s nothing better in this post-COVID world than to be able to create more space for children and more space for the community to come together.”
The project will remain in place until the end of October. Kowel said, depending on community feedback, there’s a potential for extension.
Block parties are planned at the Connaught Open Street project each Wednesday from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. throughout the summer.