With warmer weather, Calgarians took advantage of the temporary road closures to stretch their legs while keeping their social distance during the coronavirus public health measures.
The popular Memorial Drive which runs through the city along the northside of the Bow River has been reduced to two lanes in hopes of encouraging bikers, runners, and walkers to enjoy the outdoors and stay active from a distance.
Earlier this week, Calgary urban design company, O2 Design + Planning, also created conceptual designs for how citizens in dense urban areas could get out for some exercise and maintain social distance. Later the in the week, the city rolled out a solution.
Residents in the Sunnyside and Kensington neighbourhoods, directly north of Memorial Drive, appreciated the efforts being taken by the city.
Brad Allen recently moved into a new condo in Sunnyside, and took advantage of the space.
“Nice to see the city taking this seriously but also allowing space for us to get out and be active. I went for a run today and I felt safe. People still need to be cognizant of their distances when using the paths and road though,” said Allen.
In terms of social distancing, the Alberta government website says to protect yourself and others, “keep at least 6 feet (the length of a bicycle) from others.” This is consistent with the messaging posted on the paths and closed roads.
‘stay away from crowded places’ – Mayor Nenshi
Greg and Sherri MacMillan, along with their dog Chuck, walked along Memorial Drive in the early afternoon Sunday.
“It’s great to get out and know that we will be safe while doing so. As long as everyone respects each other’s space, this is an excellent initiative by the city,” said Greg MacMillan.
The lane closure along Memorial Drive begins at 9 street NW and stretches to the Centre street bridge underpass that crosses the river into Chinatown.
In addition to Memorial Drive, the city also closed sections of Riverfront Drive, Crowchild Trail SW, 12 Street SE and Elbow Drive SW this weekend.
A briefing note from Troy McLeod, City of Calgary director of roads, stated that even though this is a temporary pilot project encouraging Calgarians to get out and be active, people should still be adhering to the isolation recommendations set by the provincial and federal governments.
Calgary city councillor Druh Farrell said that this wasn’t about a big promotion of the areas for people to come down and treat it like a street festival.
“I thought in this first weekend people were really respecting each other’s space. Families were together but people were keeping their distance,” she said.
“I would still encourage people to stay in their own neighborhoods to walk if they can.”
These actions taken by the city of Calgary come less than a week after Prime Minister Trudeau’s stern and directed “enough is enough” speech in which he urged Canadians to take isolation seriously to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
While Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi recognized the need for more open spaces for Calgarians in certain areas, he had cautioned against people congregating in the new spaces.
“What I don’t want is I don’t want people to use that as an invitation to go to places that are already crowded,” the mayor said.
“Ultimately the number one thing is you should try and stay away from those crowded places.”