Calgary’s transportation network has centred on automobiles for decades, leaving many amenities and areas of the city inaccessible to people who do not drive a car. Multi-modal transportation options, including active transportation modes (cycling, walking, etc.), are not feasible or safe to use in all areas of the city.
Pathways and sidewalks are not just for recreational use; they are important transportation infrastructure year-round and for all people. Accessibility barriers like uncleared sidewalks, lack of lighting, lack of curb cuts, and pathway gaps reduce Calgarians’ employment opportunities, access to services, and participation in the community. A lack of safe and feasible multi-modal transportation options also impacts the city’s ability to reduce emissions, respond to crises, and advance its climate goals.
The City needs to improve existing infrastructure and ensure all future developments prioritize an active transportation network that is accessible to all.
The 5A Network
In order to provide safe, sustainable, affordable and accessible mobility options to all Calgarians, the City of Calgary must fully resource and implement the Always Available for All Ages & Abilities (5A) Network principles when making transportation decisions, and build out the 5A network as approved by Council. These principles include:
- Separate people by their speed: separation between people travelling at different speeds improves safety, predictability and comfort.
- Improve visibility: Lighting, signage and pavement markings to encourage use, improve visibility, and identify hazards
- Make it reliable: Well-maintained pathways and bikeways will encourage more people to use them throughout the year, regardless of the weather conditions.
- Be accessible for everyone: Accessible pathways and bikeways enable people of all abilities to travel around Calgary. This requires removal of barriers that currently exist across the network (off-set gates, major roadways, waterways, steep hills and uneven surfaces).
- Make it easy to use through improved signs and pavement markings
- All investments and services should be assessed based on each of these criteria and should be improved to meet most if not all of these standards. All future transportation plans and planning documents must adhere to these criteria.
- The City of Calgary document “5A Network Guiding Principles” includes a goal for Calgarians to have safe, accessible, affordable, year-round options for transportation and recreation.
- In addition to all ages and abilities, our active transportation network needs to prioritize access for vulnerable and marginalized communities.
- Some areas of the city currently are more accessible and have more mobility options than others. A 5A Network should be developed within and between all communities and employment centres.
This is not just about developing new active transportation networks, we also need to retrofit and improve existing ones.
96% of Calgarians think building and repairing pathways is important
(2021 Spring Pulse Survey, City of Calgary)
- Calgary has a good active transportation network in place in some areas. We are well positioned to take advantage of this infrastructure and extend it to reach more Calgarians.
- A good 5A network supports an inclusive community by enhancing access for people with mobility challenges. An inclusive Calgary means that participation in our communities is accessible to all.
A car should not be the price of admission to be a Calgarian
- Vulnerable populations, such as those who are racialized, those who have linguistic and social barriers, and those who live in poverty, are not distributed equally across the city - and neither is access to the active transportation network.
- Having a robust active transportation network will help the city (and the greater Calgary region) better accommodate the stresses associated with growth.
- A well used network will reduce stresses on roads which are expensive to build and maintain.
- We cannot blame drivers for using cars for transportation if there aren’t viable, efficient and safe active transportation options in their communities (or linking their homes to their workplaces).
- We should not assume that because the car is the most common form of transport in many Calgary communities, that it will continue to be the preferred mode of transport if other options are available.
Links and Resources
- City of Calgary: 5A Network Guiding Principles
- City of Calgary: City Pathway Safety Review Report
- 2021 Spring Pulse Survey, City of Calgary
- Where is the wayfinding? Advocates say Calgary pathways lack direction (CBC News | Aug 2020)
- Path to connectivity: Why northern Calgary residents want better ways to walk and bike (CBC News | Oct 2020)
- Techke, K. - Off-Street Bike Paths and Multi Use Paths (Landscapes Paysages article | 2018)