Perpetual Urban Planning

We constantly reimagine our cities. What’s next?

With growth projections that will see Calgary’s population double in the next 30 years, it’s always the right time to take a hard look at what’s working – or not working – in our city.

In a CBC feature video, “Do our Cities Still Work?”, former city planner (in Calgary and Vancouver) Brent Toderian, along with other experts, offers a hopeful perspective on how we can start making our cities better, starting now.

Canadian cities grew up in the age of the automobile, and were designed for cars. Toderian thinks we need to rethink that plan.

“When you design a city for cars, it fails everyone, including drivers.”

Of particular concern, beyond just traffic jams, is our own health. Dr. Karen Lee, a Canadian public health physician who has worked in cities like Atlanta and New York, addresses the ‘obesogenic environments’ we have created. Along with the advent of fast food, the disappearance of walking in most of our daily lives is taking its toll. Canada’s obesity rates are higher than ever.

But Dr. Lee also makes a great point: cities have historically been part of the solution to our health problems. Hundreds of years ago, infectious diseases were defeated by infrastructure improvements to sanitize water. Now, we need to think about how our cities can beat the epidemic of obesity and its costly related diseases. Everyone agrees that it’s imperative to re-engineer our cities, re-introducing more physical activity into our daily lives.

Calgary is already doing many things right. Newer communities reflect the desire of Calgary residents to walk to the store, to their job or out for dinner. Local developers are creating more than housing. New communities are inviting, mixed-use centres of activity for ‘live, work and play’ where more walking is made easy. Our city’s expansion is focused on creating ‘hubs’ or urban villages where residents aren’t forced into their cars to do everything. And older neighbourhoods are being retrofitted to offer a mix of housing types, retail opportunities and employment centres.

Toderian takes us on a tour of a city in Colombia that has been reimagined with impressive innovation in the last decade. Medellín won the inaugural round of “City of the Year”, a competition created in 2012 by Citi, the Marketing Services Department of Wall Street Journal Magazine and the Urban Land Institute. There, city officials found ways to repurpose old technology and implement other cost-saving measures to build walkable communities and boost prosperity.

What can Calgary learn from places like Medellín? Have a look at the video and see what you think. How ‘bout a gondola ride to work every day? 

March 12th, 2015
Updated: January 3rd, 2018

Moving towards more walkable - and livable - urban centres.