Sunnyside residents look for alternatives to slow Memorial Drive cut-through traffic

Photo: KIRSTEN PHILLIPS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY Sunnyside residents say speeding along 2 Ave NW and 7 Ave NW has picked up recently

The closure of lanes along Memorial Drive NW has increased traffic in the Sunnyside area, prompting residents to take action.

Calgary implemented the adaptive roadways on Memorial Drive earlier this year as COVID-19 cases began to rise. It gives residents in the area additional safe space to get outdoors on foot, bike or other sets of wheels.

It’s created a bit of knock-on effect in neighbouring areas, with both volume and speed, according to residents. But they’re examining ways to calm the cut throughs.

Tim Schaefer, a resident of Sunnyside, said the partial closing of Memorial Drive due to COVID has increased neighbourhood cut-through traffic.

“I’ve always had concerns about the cut-through traffic and people driving too fast because they’re frustrated with Memorial,” said Schaefer.

He said when the Memorial lanes were re-opened to traffic, it helped the issue.

“When they closed up Memorial, it came back,” Schaefer said.

Christie Page, who’s lived in Sunnyside for 10 years, is a driving force behind one of the initiatives to help. She said speeding in the areas along 7 Avenue NW and 2 Avenue NW have been an issue in the community for years. 

One of Page’s proposed solutions is to have their own adaptive roadway pilot. It’s something she first heard about in the West Hillhurst community earlier this year.

Adaptive Roadways Program a possibility

The city’s webpage about the Adaptive Roadways Program explains that the program began as a way to “provide Calgarians with the space needed to safely walk, run, skateboard and cycle during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“It’s a great way to make change slowly as opposed to the city coming in and just throwing down pavement and then having people angry,” Page said.

One proposed adaptation to the road is to add bike lanes or wider sidewalks. Page says the area could use these given it’s popular location for pedestrian and bike traffic. The narrower cars lanes that come with it could slow drivers in the area.

She adds that COVID-19 is additional motivation for a wider pedestrian space to accommodate social distancing measures. 

Despite community support, including a video put together by Schaefer outlining the issue, Page says she’s unsure if a pilot will go forward.

The video below describes the issue in detail, including source of the cut-through traffic, it addresses land width and talks about possible solutions. There’s also a history lesson on the roads in the area, complete with trolley cars.

“I was told that the only way change could happen is to start by making 311 requests asking for it,” said Page.

“We need a large quantity of people to do that, plus they need to write letters to the councillor’s office.”

Alternative Solutions – reopen Memorial lanes to traffic

While Page pushes for an adaptive roadway, some community members feel there are better solutions.

Wayne Morrison lives along 5A Street, and says the adaptive roadway along Memorial has only increased the traffic through Sunnyside. 

“Traffic shortcuts throughout communities so that they’re not sitting in traffic… they’re typically speeding, you’re typically not stopping at stop signs.”

Morrison believes that narrowing the roads would decrease speeding, but that this could also be hazardous.

“If you’ve got a kid running out from between parked cars there’s no space anymore if you make the road narrow.”

Morrison also isn’t sold on the addition of a bike lane to the area.

“You’re still parking your car out in the roadway and you have to cross the bicycle lane to get to the sidewalk into your house. It makes zero sense to me,” he said.

Morrison said there’s a pretty straighforward solution.

“The adaptive roadway on Memorial must be opened up so that people don’t have to shortcut,” he said.

He also says the area needs to be enforced with a 30km/h speed limit and speed bumps.

Potential for changes

Currently the city is working on an Established Areas Growth and Change Project in the Hillhurst/Sunnyside area. 

Dan Borslein, the project manager, says that they’re in the process of conducting an engagement phase. The aim is to “get a better idea of what the community is prioritizing within the work.”

Borslein adds the next step on the project is to hire consultants to get a better picture of realistic solutions.

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