Streets of Bridgeland
Roads are one of the leading causes of preventable disease, injury and death in Calgary and around the world. The built environment of the streetscape also exerts a silent but powerful influence on the livability, safety and economic health of our neighbourhoods. The mix of people, bicycles, cars and other means of moving around the urban space is one of the most crucial challenges that cities will face this century. The streets of any city are a massive percentage of the public space and they can either become centrepieces for vibrant urban living or sterile canyons of traffic that are hostile to people.
Safer Calgary, in conjunction with Sustainable Calgary’s Active Neighbourhoods project, and a number of our stakeholders, the University of Calgary and the NHTV University in the Netherlands is launched the Safe and Smooth initiative into its third year in November of 2014 with an introduction of the project and a trans-atlantic link up between the university in the Netherlands where dozens of final year students in transportation and land use planning are about to make the Calgary community of Bridgeland the sole focus of their studies. This will result in a number of prototype projects for the community to consider rapidly implementing beginning with a symposium of ideas in March of 2015 that will also include temporary changes to streets/spaces in Bridgeland.
Safe and Smooth started three years ago as a way of thinking about and acting on the transportation choices in Calgary. The two words in the title are very deliberate:
Safe – for all users and in the interactions between users. Zero harm is the goal.
Smooth – easy for all users. Less frustration, better connections. Clean implementation of changes
Worldwide, injuries and deaths resulting from transportation are the leading cause of preventable harm. As significant a burden as this is, it is often treated as a fact of life and doesn’t merit the attention of less frequent but more spectacular problems like personal violence and war. One of the most remarkable aspects of this problem is that the solutions for preventing much of this tragedy are well understood. They just need to be implemented. The World Health Organization – starting in 2011 – designated the next ten years as the ‘Decade of Action.’ Not the ‘Decade of Thinking About It’ or the ‘Decade of Awareness’ but ACTION to reduce the harm associated with roads and traffic. Calgary should be at the forefront of this effort. It won’t just reduce harm and tragedy, it will improve the quality of life in our city.
Locally, although the toll is not as high as it is in other parts of the world, it is still among the leading causes of preventable harm in our community (in fact, just looking at pedestrians interacting with cars there were three reported collisions every two days last year in the city). We shouldn’t be too smug about our relatively lower numbers as this may be partly due to the fact that there is less interaction between cars and other users in Calgary than there is in other cities. Put another way, there are very few spaces in Calgary that are heavily traveled by other users and that is just one sign of what the auto age has left us. An age with less space for other transportation modes and their associated destinations.
Mobility and the use of the automobile has become necessary for modern life but here have been steep costs. Costs reaching beyond the already mentioned toll in life and limb. It has altered our interaction with each other and the roots of our economic lives. It has contributed to losses of commercial diversity, increased costs to both the creation and maintenance of infrastructure. It has led to broad decreases in physical activity while increasing the volume of polluting emissions.