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Committee approves new approach to Calgary’s neighbourhood streets

Calgary wants to put more tools in the toolbox for communities to create vibrant streets while calming traffic in their area.

The Neighbourhood Streets Policy was presented at Friday’s Infrastructure and Planning committee meeting, as a replacement for the 19-year-old Traffic Calming Policy. Committee approved the policy, and it heads to a full meeting of council for final approval.

After a 10-year review of the policy showed shortcomings in the existing policy, administration worked with communities to see how they could enhance neighbourhood streets.

Admin said the policy goes beyond traffic calming. It looks at mobility but also seeks a balance with place. While part of the goal is still speed reduction, they also want accessibility improvements, art and activations and new design approaches.

“We know this broad work is important, that communities have different needs,” said Jen Malzer with the City of Calgary.

“And by partnering and offering permissive space, we can make a big difference on our more than 12,000 kilometres of neighbourhood streets.”

Administration has been working with different communities to pilot calming solutions that are also community activations.

Ali McMillan, who is the community engagement and planning coordinator for Hillhurst Sunnyside Community Association, and also volunteers with the Bridgeland Riverside Community Association, said one of the top requests her communities get from residents is traffic calming.

She said people want more livable streets where they feel safe walking, riding or playing.

“Streets take up a lot of our city and modern best practices and urban design have showed us creative ways to maximize these assets,” McMillan said.  

“Streets ultimately are for people.”

Barriers existed

Leslie Evans, executive director of the Federation of Calgary Communities said this policy is absolutely needed.

In the five years they’ve been doing Activate YYC projects, she said they’ve run into barriers along the way.

“We as an organization haven’t been able to move some of the barriers to doing really creative, fun things on the streetscape to help calm traffic, to help engage people to create safe places where kids can start playing and people can start visiting in the street and we can roll in safety,” she said.

Coun. Jasmine Mian said this was an amazing evolution of the earlier traffic calming policy. One of her communities – Panorama Hills – was one of the pilot areas.

Mian said other communities wanted to get involved, too. She added that it was interesting to see stats showing the increase in active mobility correspond with an increase in active mobility investment.

“I think so much of this policy, and the built environment, shapes behaviour, and people don’t always walk or wheel or try to go get places in new ways if they can’t,” she said.

Coun. Sonya Sharp was worried this was a document with “an identity crisis.” She said it’s one thing to want traffic calming or wheeling lanes, but completely another to add vibrancy to a street.

“We love animating our spaces, and but you can’t animate, let’s just say, Silver Springs Boulevard. That’s a traffic calming measure.”

For Coun. Andre Chabot it was a chicken and egg question. His residents have said excessive speeding prevents them from allowing kids to play in the front around the streets.  He said activating those streets would require traffic calming first.

Admin said the policy doesn’t eliminate traffic calming.

The item will come to the July 5 full meeting of council.