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Memorial Drive adaptive roadway to reopen this weekend

Work has already begun on transforming Memorial Drive to increase the capacity for walkers, bikers and scooters, as Calgary’s adaptive roadways are set to return this weekend.

Beginning Saturday, Memorial Drive and the lower deck of Centre Street bridge will open to other forms of traffic. The two eastbound lanes of Memorial Drive will be closed to vehicles between 9 Street NW and the Centre Street Bridge lower deck. In addition, the Centre Street lower deck from Riverfront Avenue to Memorial will be fully closed to vehicles.

They will remain as adaptive roadways seven days a week until the city’s state of local emergency is lifted.

This comes after Coun. Druh Farrell questioned administration on the roadways during a COVID-19 update to city council on Monday.

“We’re already in discussions about this weekend and whether we can up it up, even if it’s for a short time when the weather is great,” Transportation GM Doug Morgan told councillors.

Temperatures are forecast to reach plus double digits this weekend.  

Farrell told LiveWire Calgary work had already begun later in the afternoon of that council meeting.

“They we saw large numbers of Calgarians heading out for walks last weekend with the beautiful weather and there was significant crowding on the pathway system,” Farrell said.

“There is an acknowledgment that we needed to respond quickly because it’s going to be a beautiful weekend.”

There are adaptive roadways set ups in place in other areas, including Riverfront Avenue SE (westbound parking lane from 4 Street SE to 1 Street SE), Crescent Road NW (parking lane in eastbound lane between 7A Street NW and 1 Street NW) and 12 Street SE (southbound parking lane between 8 Avenue and 21 Avenue SE.

Lesson in being responsive

Last year, the Memorial Drive adaptive roadway was piloted with exceptional results.

Thousands of people used the area to get outdoors safely during the summer months. Coun. Farrell said it was a great example of a city being responsive – quickly – to citizen needs. Especially during a pandemic.

As foot and pedal traffic waned and winter drew nearer, the city opted to close the roadway.

Farrell said it was always the intent to reopen the adaptive roadways.

“What we’ve learned because of this pandemic is how to be nimble when it comes to how Calgarians use the city,” she said.

“The hope is that adaptive roadways will be much easier to do in the future, beyond COVID.”

The city is putting together criteria for further adaptive roadways. It will include: high use, feasibility (closed lane is possible), won’t negatively impact business (pick ups or delivery), transit can be maintained and is cost effective.

It also must provide up to 15 minutes of continuous walking area.

The city will be regularly reviewing data for any potential changes. Adaptive roadways aren’t included in the city’s seven-day snow clearing plan, though March can have heavy snowfall. These areas would be cleared around day two of that plan, the city has said.

The city will continue to communicate changes or new adaptive roadway locations via social media and their website. They’ve also included a 311 option so people can provide feedback.