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City opening up space for pedestrians as spring arrives

Last Updated Mar 4, 2021 at 6:28 am MDT

A sign showing a road that's been turned into a pedestrian and bike path is shown in Calgary in this handout photo. Fans of a decision by Calgary officials to block off some traffic lanes to give pedestrians and cyclists extra room for social distancing hope others cities will step up and do the same. THE CANADIAN PRESS - Greg Glatz

CALGARY (660 NEWS) — As it looks like warm weather is here to stay in Calgary, the city will be opening up some more space for pedestrians and cyclists.

The adaptive roads program will be returning yet again, blocking off a couple of lanes on Memorial Drive as well as the lower deck of the Centre Street Bridge.

It will first take effect on Mar. 6 and last seven days a week until the foreseeable future.

Ward 7 Councillor Druh Farrell said the program was a huge hit last year to accommodate higher volumes of people using the pathway system and support physical distancing efforts.

“We learned that people were wanting to enjoy their city, they were forced to stay in Calgary so more people were exploring their neighbourhoods and the river pathways and the parks. We did see crowding, and so we did respond very quickly,” she said.

During a council meeting on Monday, there was some desire to bring the program back and work was done quickly to establish it once more.

“I’m certainly hearing that people are blue and needing to get outside for their mental health. So, it will be all days and then we’ll re-evaluate when the state of (local) emergency is over.”

The situation is slightly different now compared to last spring and summer, as there are more cars on the roads with COVID-19 numbers largely stabilizing and more people returning to work downtown. Farrell said they will be mindful of the situation and safety has to be prioritized.

“The most important right now is safety and health, and that includes mental health,” Farrell said. “You could tell that this good weather is really benefiting people’s mental health, but we’ll have to balance that with congestion. There are lots of roads to spare, and right now we may need to share a little.”

Farrell said there’s a lot of pressure from higher-density communities with narrow sidewalks, as people may not feel as comfortable being around a high number of other pedestrians while the pandemic is still concerning. She added that transportation officials in the city will also look into closing off more lanes around the city to facilitate pedestrian traffic, as also happened last year.

This initiative could also spark a continued conversation about city planning, and if there should be more thoughtful considerations for pedestrians so they can increasingly enjoy their own communities and amenities such as pathways. Farrell said this is similar to the pop-up patio program which also improved capabilities for restaurants to serve people outdoors and is a much more streamlined process as a result of the pandemic.

“The same with these shared streets, on some days the traffic is lower and people are out walking, can we provide more comfortable space for them,” she said. “Cities around the world are changing because of what we’ve learned from the pandemic. And I think in some ways, we shouldn’t go back.”