Walkable neighbourhoods, like Sunnyside, improve a community’s vibrancy and quality of life.

Rethinking Calgary’s car culture

Walk21 Conference to explore the city’s walkable future

Experts hope an upcoming international conference will boost efforts to make Calgary more walkable.

Hosted by the University of Calgary, the Walk21 International Conference on Walking and Livable Communities will see 600 local, national and international experts gather to discuss what they’re doing in their own communities, and how it could be applied to Calgary.

“(Calgary) is not the city that comes to mind when you say walking,” said John Brown, a professor and associate dean with the faculty of environmental design at the university and co-chair of the committee bringing Walk21 to Calgary.

“London, Barcelona, Vancouver, Sidney, Melbourne, New York, Montreal, Toronto – those are cities you think about as walking cities.”

In fact, when proposing Calgary as the location of the Walk21 conference – previously hosted by cities like Hong Kong, Vienna, and Sydney – the committee actually pitched the fact that Calgary is not known as a walkable city.

Brown says this is why Calgary may benefit most from the event.

“Calgary is at a pivot point as a relatively new city that grew up in the age of the automobile,” he said. “We aspire to integrate walking, and all the benefits that accrue to it, into our city.”

Being on the street of a neighbourhood like Mission, Bridgeland, Inglewood, or Kensington, where people want to go and congregate, is good for the economic development of the city.

Interdisciplinary in nature, conference delegates will include planners, architects, landscape architects, doctors, public health officials, health system administrators, engineers, and government officials from municipalities, provinces and states.

“Walkability, although it sounds very specific, actually cuts across a whole bunch of different concerns and areas of expertise,” said Brown, adding that the topic even touches on public health.

“If you have a walkable neighbourhood, people tend to be healthier and live longer.”

He says walkability not only improves a community’s vibrancy, but its quality of life, and even the economy.

“Being on the street of a neighbourhood like Mission, Bridgeland, Inglewood, or Kensington, where people want to go and congregate, is good for the economic development of the city,” said Brown.

Brown says having the conference in Calgary will provide valuable research information and give local university students an opportunity to learn from the best. It will also result in some legacy walkability projects.

While the details are not ready to be released yet, he says the university and some of its students will be collaborating with the City of Calgary to launch some improvements projects in preparation for Walk21.

“It’s a big feather in our cap,” said Brown, of hosting Walk21, “for the city, for the university, and for the community as a whole.”

Walk21 will run from Sept. 19-22 at the university.

 

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