Monday, April 20, 2009

In support of a Sunday promenade on Memorial Drive

One of the latest examples, of the senselessly polarizing approach of some members of Calgary City Council, is the harsh disinformation they are putting out about the proposal to take a couple lanes of a short strip of Memorial Drive on a few Sundays this August, and make a temporary promenade for pedestrians, cyclists and local businesses.

The anti-civic minded councillors refer to it as a road closure — misleading people into thinking the whole road will be blocked off when there will still be two-way traffic in the north lanes (so, instead of 2 lanes of traffic in each direction, it will be 1 lane of traffic each). There are ridiculous cries of how terrible this will be for car traffic — when these same city councillors happily rubber-stamp practically every developer request to shut down multiple lanes of traffic for extended periods (not just on low-traffic Sundays) or even entire road closures requiring massive traffic diversions (such as for The Bow project downtown).

This is a shameful hypocrisy.

Sadly, much of our local media are going along with the false messages of these grandstanding councillors.

It doesn’t have to be this way. We can change the message.

Please Take Action

At CivicCamp this weekend, a proposal was brought forward for collective action, as a test of our ability “to change the public discourse on one topic, to see how much a group of committed citizens can do with small actions.”

The idea is to have a whole bunch of people contact city council and the local media in support of the Memorial Drive promenade proposal. The outcome we’re after is a shift in messaging away from the disinformation and toward the positives about the proposal.

I am asking everyone in Calgary who is reading this to do at least one quick thing to make this happen. Here are a few suggestions:
  1. Write a simple paragraph expressing your support for the temporary closure of Memorial Drive on Sundays in August. (There is some more background below that you can reference.) It does not have to be fancy, and it should be personal – you can talk about places you have lived or visited that do this kind of project, or about how you might use the space this summer, or about how it doesn’t hurt to experiment a little bit on issues around quality of life. For example, Byron is going to attach a picture of his last trip to Paris, showing a major street on the Seine converted into a beach.
  2. Send your paragraph around. You can submit it as a letter to the editor (under 150-200 words if you’d like to be published) or to a “talkback” feature on various media shows. Or you can write directly to politicians and bypass the media. All the email addresses you need are attached to this email.
  3. Let your friends know. Send your letter with a little note (“I just sent this letter to my alderman! Let me know what you think.”) to your email address book, post it on your Facebook profile, talk about it over coffee.
  4. Please Cc: the mayor ( and the aldermen ( on every message. Also, please Bcc:

Here’s what I wrote (please use your own words):

I am highly in favour of the proposal to turn a couple of lanes of Memorial Drive into a Sunday promenade this summer. It is a wonderful way to get people out into the community together, and a way to energize the city core which so often empties out outside of work hours.

I find the extreme negativity against this wonderful project by some members of council, and other commentators, to be very disappointing and misguided. We need only look at the examples of this type of thing in cities around the world to see how it benefits those communities, including their local businesses. I was fortunate to be able to attend a Sunday road closure in Ottawa back in the 1990’s (where they actually closed down the whole road to traffic, not just a couple lanes, and for a distance many times longer than is proposed for Memorial Drive) and it was amazing to see so many people out on foot, bicycle, skateboard — even wheelchairs — all enjoying a sunny stroll.

We need only to look at the annual Lilac Festival for an example of how closing a road to car traffic can bring Calgarians out in mass numbers.

Contact Information


All aldermen:

Individual aldermen in Ward order (See what ward you live in):
Ward 1:
Ward 2:
Ward 3:
Ward 4:
Ward 5:
Ward 6:
Ward 7:
Ward 8:
Ward 9:
Ward 10:
Ward 11:
Ward 12:
Ward 13:
Ward 14:

Letters to the Editor:
Calgary Herald:
Calgary Sun:
Metro: (no email address, but they have a website contact form)
FFWD: try

CBC Radio One:,,

AM 770 CHQR:,,,,

Other radio and tv (less likely to be published/broadcast, but may change the tone of media reports if you email them):,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

Background on Memorial Drive issue

  • It has been proposed that there be a street fair/block party atmosphere created for four Sunday mornings in August (a total of 16 hours) along the north side of the Bow River.
  • This includes closing two of four lanes of Memorial Drive for this time.
  • The event may include family activities, ice cream trucks, street vendors in a carnival atmosphere.
  • Cities all over the world do this in the summer. Examples include Ottawa, Winnipeg, New York (year-round roving flea markets in Manhattan), Los Angeles, etc. etc. etc. Paris has been building three artificial beaches along the Seine and closing roads since 2002.
  • Memorial Drive is often closed for events with minimal to no impact on traffic across the city. For example, it has been closed on the first Sunday of Stampede for the Calgary Marathon (now moved to late May). Indeed, for most of the last year, two lanes of traffic have been closed outside of rush hour for construction. A friend drove through this several times a week, and reports that he still made it to work on time.
  • There’s an audio clip (unfortunately, it requires RealAudio Player) from CBC’s Wildrose Country last week, where they talked about this issue. (This is the YouTube video they’re discussing. It will make you smile.)

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