The Memorial Drive Pedestrian Plan

Posted on April 24, 2009

It seems that it's way easier to stick to the status quo instead of challenging it.  But I don't like to trust people unwilling to challenge the status quo, the ones who frequently tell us to 'stay the course', because to stay the course would imply that the course we are on can't be improved.  Now, that isn't to say I'm up for change just for the sake of change, but when someone presents an idea that's forward thinking and refreshing, with little to no down side, I'm in full support.

The city is proposing using a portion of Memorial Drive as a pedestrian area for a few Sundays in August.  This idea has many critics and even more people confused about the potential benefit of the idea, but regardless, it is definitely the type of forward thinking Calgary needs if we want to improve as a city.

This isn't the spot on Memorial drive that is being considered for being a pedestrian area on Sundays, so there's no real point to this picture, it just looks cool.

Some notable critics of the idea of converting Memorial Drive to a public space for a few days are Aldermen Ric McIver and Jim Stevenson, and here I thought Ric and Jim would use the opportunity to go and sell bottled water.  One of the reasons forward thinking isn't as encouraged as it should be is that it is always easier to be against someone else's idea than to propose one yourself.  Sometimes I think so many are inclined to stick to the status quo not because they think it's the best route to take, but because they're simply too lazy to challenge any ideas at all.  I mean, why try something new and have public space for going out and enjoying the city when you can have more lanes of traffic open for days when they aren't needed?

Well, here's why we should take back some public space: an example from New York City (Yes, I'm going to talk about New York City again, but how can you blame me?).  The following must-watch video shows what a little forward thinking can do when it comes to urban planning. Here are some transformations in New York City that serve as great examples of why taking back a bit of our urban space is a wonderful idea:

If you look at the plan to make part of Memorial drive a pedestrian area on Sundays at face value, then yes, I might be able to see how it can be considered unnecessary and inconvienient.  But if we're forward thinking instead of short-sighted it's easy to see the idea has the potential to be a completely welcome and overdue cultural shift for the city of Calgary: a little less time driving and a lot more time out and about, contributing to the identity, culture and sustainability so many of us accuse Calgary of lacking.

The idea may not be perfect (Memorial drive doesn't strike me as the best location for this), but we're learning, and we're making more people think about what we could do to improve our city and move forward, and I don't see how anyone can be against that.  The only possible downside is a slightly slower drive down Memorial on Sunday, and the possible upside is a completely transformative change for our city, where we take back the streets to have some fun.  I'm sure I'll be there (any excuse to enjoy our typically good weather month of August is a good one), so be sure to say hi!  After all, that's a lot easier to do when you're not stuck in your car.