New guidelines aimed at encouraging travel by foot, bike and transit

A new policy approved by council could have more Calgarians ditching their daily drive in favour of greener transportation.

Seen as a way of encouraging Calgarians to travel by transit, bike or by walking, the Complete Streets Policy and Guide is expected to “improve both measurable and perceived safety, provide attractive streetscapes, provide transportation options, improve universal accessibility, promote economic well-being of both businesses and residents, and increase civic space” while reducing the total amount of paved space in the city, said council.

“We said, ‘We’re building a lot of roads in the suburbs to a level that’s not really accommodating pedestrians and cyclists and trees very well, so let’s look at the whole street pallet while we’re at it,’” said Joe Olson, manager of the City of Calgary Transportation Planning’s Liveable Streets Division.

Along with increasing the number of Calgarians walking, biking or taking transit, the new policy will also attempt to improve safety and security on city streets while promoting attractive streetscapes in both new and existing communities.

Outlined in a lengthy document available via the City of Calgary website, the changes include an increased priority on bike and transit lanes, more trees and greenery, more patios, wider sidewalks and pathways, more separated sidewalks and sidewalks on both sides of the street in more communities.

The new guidelines will also discourage one-way streets and turn restrictions, establish a “standard” block size between 150 and 175 metres in length and require multiple street connections between adjacent neighbourhoods.

While the new standards increase the cost of construction for new streets in the city (roughly $1,000 per home in new communities), the initial costs will be incurred by developers and not impact the City’s budget.

The policy comes on the heels of other new developments likely to increase the number of cyclists and pedestrians in downtown. Recent approval of additional cycle tracks and an increased number of pedestrian bridges has one of Calgary’s biggest cycling proponents with high hopes for what the new policy will mean to those outside the core.

“I think it’s a step in the direction toward making the city more accessible,” said Sean Carter, owner of BikeBike, a Calgary bike shop catering to commuters and “everyday” cyclists.

“I think the one part that could be really interesting is that as roads come up for repaving and resurfacing, if they’re not up to that complete streets standard, that standard would be applied. So perhaps adding more bike lanes and crosswalks and things like that. That’s what I think it exiting about it – just making things more multi-modal.”

The new guidelines also come as the City moves back to the familiar grid-pattern for new developments, meaning an end to the cul-de-sac heavy “curvilinear” communities constructed in recent years.

The impetus for both changes in policy stems from the same Plan It Calgary initiative. Developed in 2009, the initiative is aimed at increasing the number of Calgarians who either walk, cycle or take transit into downtown to 70 per cent by 2020. As of 2011, 61 per cent of core-bound Calgarians have ditched their cars for alternate modes of transportation.

As for how the success of the new Complete Streets policy will be judged, Olson said the City will re-examine its progress after the new guidelines are implemented.

“We’ll go back in three years, and look at how the policy has been doing and have there been any issues with it,” said Olson.