Walk21- XVIII: Calgary, Alberta, Canada
19-22 September, 2017
Places where people walk are places where people spend. Calgary is a typical car - orientated city that has suffered from sprawl, congestion and poor health but the authorities, businesses and developers are coalescing, inspired by the economic case for walking, and choosing a renaissance for walkability at the heart of their ‘make a living and make a life’ city priority. This is a choice that other cities can also make.
While touting walking as a mode of transport and a healthy activity is a start, lip service won’t do: No amount of health promotion will overcome a hostile environment. Cities are increasingly writing visionary Walking Strategies (Calgary has recently won an award for theirs) however often less than half of any walking vision gets implemented. The leadership at the University of Calgary has demonstrated that there is a practical role for universities to benchmark and monitor the implementation of good walking policy. For every 10% increase in implementing the vision for liveable neighbourhoods 50% more walking can be effected. A successful Town and Gown relationship can support a much more walkable community.
Healthy communities need to create a sense of space, of belonging. Equity is driving many investments in walkability – giving people what they need to enjoy full and healthy lives. Voices from ‘communities of concern’ including seniors, women and other ‘valuable pedestrians’ are increasingly demanding to be included in decisions and have their walking needs met. We need to see the potential of all people no matter what their ability , to think beyond our own abilities, and ensure our city environments support and promotes active living rather than disable people.
If we want people to walk, we have to invest in infrastructure such as wider sidewalks, street furniture and public toilets. We also have to make a commitment to mixed-use development (a mix of commercial, residential and cultural spaces) and build intersections that bring people together. In cold climates seasonal audits are needed as well to help keep sidewalks clear, space equitable and all walkers safe.
Streets are the original and ultimate social networks and they need to be constructed not only for commerce, but also for culture and community building. Sidewalks foster friendship and are essential if we are to combat the loneliness and isolation, which is increasing our mortality risk by a third. We can get depressed looking backwards and anxious if we look too far forwards, but we all know we can all feel better by walking today.
Click here to access the paper Walk21 Calgary - (re) Connecting community through walking written by Gavin R. McCormack, et.al. An overview of Calgary, insights and conclusions and presents the peer-reviewed abstracts accepted for the conference. Published in the Journal of Transport and Health.