I have seen an interesting documentary this week, that analyses obesity and its sources in the USA. The documentary title was: “The weight of the nation” (you can watch parts also on Youtube). Two of the factors mentioned in the movie have been

  • a lack of walking, because
    1. people prefer to take their car for everything, and
    2. even in the office you do not need to walk much anymore with the advent of the desktop computer
  • missing playgrounds and parks for children in auto-oriented cities.

Looking at Calgary, I think I can say safely that Calgary’s neighborhoods have quite a wealth of parks and playgrounds – but please comment if I am wrong.  However, when looking at “walkability” in Calgary, then the situation seems to be not that good.

Although their are plenty of sidewalks downtown and we have even the beloved Prince’s Island Park. But when I look  into the Calgary Middle Ring and the outer neighborhoods the situation appears different. Just this winter I have been walking from West-Hillhurst/Kensington Street to the the Universities Main Campus in NW (about 35 min). First, I had to search for the best way to walk as I needed to pass Crowhchild without making bigger detours (Google Maps route direction tool helped here). Second, I needed to switch roads in at least two situations as my walk just ended.

Similarly I was walking for a week to the bus stop on Crowchild with  17th Ave SW to get the University, coming inbound (walking) on 17th (Btw. coordinates of the bus stop in Google: 51.037535,-114.113125). This walk was inconvenient as I had to switch to the other side due to a missing sidewalk, and I needed to walk over a green. And while walking I felt unsafe when crossing the ramp on Crowchild. No wonder that people don’t walk and don’t take the bus…

However, another reasons for people walking less is that everything for shopping seems to be out of distance for a short walk or stroll. Maybe you are lucky that a convenience store is just a 3 mins walk, but the way Calgarys neighborhoods are build is that the grocery stores are at the outer corners of the neighborhoods embracing main roads. Hence, if you go there, then you usually drive out of the community to its limits – and back. The only neighborhoods that seem to me convenient for a walk to get groceries are Kensington (if you live close to Sunnyside C-train Station) and Marda Loop. Also, lots of other small stores and bars/cafes can be found close by in those areas. For me and for many others some good spots to live. And it would be interesting to check how much people in these 2 neighborhoods walk for errands. Researchers say “more” than in lets say, uhm, Brentwood, Varsity, Banff Trail, or West Hillhurst (yes I lived in all of those..).

Making the loop back to our project, we actually have made plans for an online tool that evaluates were you can walk to in 10 minutes from a location you give. So hopefully in a few months we can offer a tool on our website that allows you to evaluate “walkability” in your neighborhood.

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2 Responses to Obesity, neighborhood design and walking – in Calgary

  1. Steven says:

    Ok, So I went to the meeting. There were lots of ppeloe.. It was organized well… We were in groups that were given large wedgwood maps to add our “vision” to with markers. The most agreed upon topics were sidewalks, a farmers market at Hunter Tree farm, the post office needs a better locale or drive thru, a new park (i guess the parks dept already is looking for a good spot in the wedge for a new park believe it or not it could be on west side of 35th around 89th or something ). more crosswalks across 35th, finding a town center or plaza and enhancing it.. growing veggies in our front yards!! for sale at the marker(love this), Public art, humanscale business fronts only…There were also some crazy ideas like adding a movie theatre and a burger joint, having a shuttle bus for just our hood ? All in all it seems the average attendee put forth a vision for our little wedge that seemed very reasonable.. I think the Urban Planners (Makers Architecture) got the picture about us. It was great, Thanks for telling me about it!

  2. stefans says:

    thanks for your positive feedback Steve! (although it isn’t related to this post 😉

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