New pilot policy aiming to make neighbourhood streets safer
In 2003, the camera phone was invented, a popular social networking service called MySpace was launched and the City of Calgary adopted its Traffic Calming Policy. A lot has changed since 2003. And that’s why The City took a new approach when it came to rewriting the Traffic Calming Policy, with the Neighbourhood Streets Pilot Policy.
“We were starting to serve communities in new ways; the interest in neighbourhood streets was expanding beyond speeding and shortcutting to include things like block parties and street murals, as well as pedestrian and accessibility improvements,” says Jen Malzer, Program Coordinator, Transportation Planning. “It seemed like a natural next step to develop a policy that could respond to such an evolving community demand.”
So, the project team started working to expand the vision for neighbourhood streets and develop a new approach to crafting policy.
The new approach started with examining how the policy is written, then continued into how it was shared with Council, and how to engage with Calgary’s public. A typical approach would be to host public engagement sessions on the policy after it had been prepared by a small group of experts. But for this policy, the project team did the opposite. When it came to Neighbourhood Streets, the project team knew there would be many perspectives to hear from.
“We knew we needed to be more inclusive,” reflects Jen. “We also knew that policy can be challenging to read or be excited about, so we wanted to find a way that was accessible.”
In the end, a co-design process was launched with support from The City’s Innovation Lab. Co-design allowed experts from across The City, from public art to equity to traffic experts, to share their best ideas. That version was then shared with Council with a message from Administration that said: this is our best first attempt. We would like to try this and share the results with communities. If communities like the results, we’ll take that as a sign that the policy is working. Council was supportive and a set of pilot projects was launched in different communities across the city, each with different needs.
The vision for this policy is to empower Administration, communities, and Council to partner to engage in activities that improve real and perceived safety on Calgary’s neighbourhood streets.
“The policy calls on Calgary leaders, designers, residents and decision makers to consider the unique needs of all users, to provide quality transportation choices and public spaces that benefit overall community health,” says Doug Morgan, General Manager of Transportation. “Our desired outcome is to enable an improved quality of life. That outcome requires us to work together with thoughtful policy and tools that enable neighbourhood streets to provide the best value to the communities they serve.”
Since 2020, the project team has been engaging with nine different communities to understand their needs. A set of solutions from the community projects can be seen in this infographic below. This image represents what Calgary communities could be looking for in great neighbourhood streets. You can also find out more about the pilot projects and solutions for neighbourhoods here.
“We hope that by sharing this infographic, Calgarians can tell us if there are any solutions missing and share what matters to them. This feedback will help us review the pilot policy and ensure it meets the needs of the broader city,” says Jen.
The project team is also meeting with community stakeholders, community associations and will be hosting two live sessions that are directed for Grade 6 students.
“The success of our Neighbourhood Streets Policy plays a huge role in how Calgary’s youth can participate and experience freedom of movement in their city. We know walk to school rates have been falling, and that’s a trend we want to reverse. Engaging with youth to hear their important perspectives empowers them to take greater leadership in their community.”
Alongside the development of a new policy is the creation of a new intake process that will be more transparent and equitable. This is in response to feedback from past participants. It is expected that new traffic calming projects will be announced in September 2022, but that other opportunities to enhance neighbourhood streets, including microgrants will be advertised through the Neighbourhood Streets Policy page.
"The ongoing collaborative effort between the City of Calgary and the community association is a successful example of a community presenting a concern to the City and then working through a process of engagement, dialogue, planning and implementation," says Willem Z., Rosemont Community Association Board Member and resident. "Rosemont community members are now seeing the results of this process through safer streets that are more useable for all modes of transport from walking to biking to driving. We now feel safer walking with our kids to school, which was one of our hopes for the neighbourhood."
Public engagement on the Neighbourhood Streets Pilot Policy is open until Dec. 17 at calgary.ca/neighbourhoodstreets. The engagement results will be incorporated into a final policy document that will be presented to Council in June 2022.