A Street for Everyone

Complete Streets mean more of us are getting around on our own two feet.

The City of Calgary wants to see more people walking, cycling and taking transit. It’s not that planners and other officials want people to get a little exercise as they get around town. The goal aligns with the Municipal Development Plan (MDP) and its companion, the Calgary Transportation Plan. The intent to create a more compact and connected city for environmental and fiscal sustainability. 

Part of the push for more areas with multiple modes of transport is The City’s Complete Streets Policy. As the name suggests, Complete Streets make sure cars aren’t the only owners of the road. They also accommodate travel by transit, bike and foot. Cars get less space, so traffic slows down. Patios and attractive street furniture invite pedestrians to do the same — even come to a complete stop. The sidewalk becomes a place to meet neighbours and even play. Streets become civic space.

The goal is to make it both possible and appealing to leave the car at home for some trips. It’s a simple goal but getting there is a bit complicated. The City knows that “most people have access to a variety of travel modes but will only choose one if it is safe, affordable and easy to use.” So Complete Streets are also about safety. Slower cars, wider sidewalks and bike lanes make walking and cycling safer and more attractive. 

Progress toward MDP goals is monitored regularly. The most recent report came out in late 2018 and contained some good news. Between 2012 and 2017, trips taken on foot or by bike increased by 5 percentage points. 

Getting around under our own steam now accounts for almost 18% of all trips.

Complete Streets, by definition, need to include attractive destinations. They’re also a mandatory part of planning and development both new and established communities. In a Complete Community, everything is close at hand for living, working and playing. They are neighbourhoods that feature parks, restaurants and other amenities.

A Complete Street even has something for Mother Nature. There are the environmental benefits of reducing car travel, and the green zone on the streets can also function as part of a city’s stormwater-management system. 

But the next time you take a stroll on a summer evening or hop on your bike to run an errand, you don’t need to think about any of this. You can just let your mind wander as you take in the surroundings.

April 22nd, 2019

Streets that accommodate more than cars lead to livable cities.