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Councillor pitches fix for access issues around Calgary pop-up patios

Quickly implemented temporary patios to aid restaurants and bars during increased COVID-19 restrictions left pedestrian mobility concerns on the back burner.

With pop-up patios in place and the reopening of inside dining, accessibility issues are being recognized.

Yesterday, Ward 7 Coun. Druh Farrell, who continues to advocate for pop-up patios, created an urgent notice of motion to improve pedestrian accessibility of mobility networks in the city.

“Accessibility shouldn’t be seen as optional,” Farrell said.

“There are easy solutions, and I recognize that the speed in which the pop-up patios were implemented, there could be some mistakes, but we’ve had plenty of time to fix them. And now it’s time to do it. It’s urgent.”

Temporary patios have been “lifesavers” for restaurants during the pandemic, but continuously problematic for pedestrians – specifically for people with disabilities, Farrell said.

While ramps have been put in place for those with mobility devices, the winding route around the patios creates other issues.

“We have people who are unable to travel down a street because of the impediments … and that’s not acceptable,” Farrell said.

According to the notice of motion, roughly 200,000 Calgarians over the age of 15 live with a disability.

Pop-up patios aren’t the only instigator of pedestrian problems. Construction, electric scooters, sandwich boards and signs have all impacted the way people move around the city.

Difficult navigation for sidewalk deviation

The notice of motion is a step in the right direction, Colleen Huston of the Disability Action Hall said.

“It’s just enhancing every citizens awareness that sidewalks are are not everybody can navigate those [by stepping] to the side and continuing on,” she said.

Pop-up patios forced pedestrians onto temporary sidewalks. KIRSTEN PHILLIPS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

The motion is dedicated to create and maintain pedestrian accessibility throughout Calgary, especially due to the City looking into permanent patio installations.

“I would love them to be a permanent feature of our city. … but it needs to be done better. There are examples around the world that show us it can be done better, and we can maintain accessibility,” Farrell said.

“We also need to recognize that these are customers, potential customers that can’t access the street. So let’s recognize the public realm is for everyone.”

While discussion of permanent patios continues, Mayor Naheed Nenshi suggested another way for patios to accommodate pedestrian traffic – moving the patio onto the street and keeping the sidewalk open.

“The reason we didn’t do that is because in pandemic times you don’t want the servers and the people on the patio really crossing and interacting with the pedestrians,” Nenshi said.

“In the meantime, administration does have direction to specifically look at access issues and make sure that people with disabilities are not being really unduly inconvenienced.”

The notice of motion is set to be discussed by City Council next Monday.