Calgary is recognized for its network of some 700 km of bike and pedestrian pathways across the city which are enjoyed by citizens of all ages and from all walks of life. Pathways are well used, with an average of 149 users per hour and almost 27,000 users per day in a recent study. Calgarians use their pathways for recreation, fitness, and transportation with cycling, walking, and running the most popular ways of getting around (1). Today we take the bike paths for granted, but it is interesting to look back at how the bike paths got started and the parallels to where skateparks are today.
The Calgary Herald’s Tom Babin reported that in 1971 a group of 40 U of C Physical Education students received a $56 800 grant from the Federal government to build the first bike path from the zoo to the Glenmore Reservoir along the Elbow River. Those pioneering Phys. Ed students wanted to see Calgarians live a more active and healthy lifestyle, and as many supporters as there were, not everyone understood. One critical comment quoted in Babin’s article was concerned that “Some areas of the river are dangerous because of deep water, I wouldn’t want to see young kids going for a bike ride there and ending up drowned.” Not much of an informed or reasoned argument against the bike paths as the bike paths would not have been planned for the water’s edge in the first place.
Fast forward to today when CASE has picked up the banner from the Fellowship of Calgary Skateboarders who had advocated to see Shaw Millennium Park built. Like the Phys Ed students of long ago, CASE has had to advocate for our cause with City Council, and we hear some ill informed, baseless, and at times irrational arguments against skateparks. There are those that think skateparks are noisy, messy, expensive wastes of space and money that only attract crime and violence to their communities. None of those objections are true of course, but like the individual that thought kids would be drowned on the bike paths, those who object to skateparks have a right to be heard too, so we need to respond positively and constructively to address their objections. The best way to respond to the concerns of those who don’t understand skateparks is with good factual information, rational explanations, a positive attitude, and hard work to advocate for the skateparks Calgary so badly needs. Contact CASE if you need information to advocate for skateparks, or if you want to help us push for more skateparks in Calgary.
(1) City of Calgary (2011). Pathway Safety Review Report 2011. Retrieved December 14, 2011 from http://www.calgary.ca/Transportation/TP/Documents/cycling/Cycling-Strategy/pathway-safety-review-report2011.pdf
(2) Tom Babin’s article in the Herald: http://www.calgaryherald.com/homes/Path+popularity+creating+planning+problem/5839722/story.html