The Bridgeland-Riverside neighbourhood in Calgary is a great example of the snowball effect that is possible when collaborating with passionate residents and local leaders, and building on their good work.
Located to the immediate northeast of downtown Calgary, Bridgeland is a neighbourhood in flux, dating back at least to the demolition of the hospital. Currently it is experiencing substantial population growth, a surge in multi-family housing developments, and growing numbers of young children, millenials and boomers.
Mobilization pays off
Active Neighbourhoods reached hundreds of people, business owners and 22 organizations and helped spark significant mobilization in the neighbourhood. Collaboration with these groups and individuals over the course of a few years helped the community realize that it now had the data it needed in order to take action.
Since 2013, the Safer Calgary Coalition has been organizing the annual Safe and Smooth Symposium. In 2015, Bridgeland was featured as the case study for this conference. On this occasion, the City of Calgary volunteered to install pop-up traffic calming measures. In one intersection in Bridgeland, it was possible to host a full-size street hockey game without impeding vehicle traffic. As a result the city announced that the greater part of the street would become a permanent park the following year.
The Women’s Centre in Bridgeland organized a Women’s Safety Walk in 2015 and it has since become an annual activity.The walks help identify locations and design features that reduce women’s safety, leading to recommendations being made to the appropriate decision makers. Senior citizens groups lead a seniors walk audit and producing a report on their needs and challenges.
Some benefits from these mobilisations can already be quantified. Bicycle lanes have been installed to create much needed connections to the downtown core. The East Riverside Master Plan was drafted for the southeast part of the neighbourhood, which houses many elderly residents who felt isolated from the rest of the community; and design charrettes were organized by the City of Calgary with the goal of revitalizing an intersection identified as having safety issues. These last two activities focused on the four places identified as high priority by Bridgeland residents during a design workshop organized by Sustainable Calgary.
Proof that mobilization works and helps residents put their concerns on the agenda.