It also has modern recreation centers, large shopping malls and a plethora of pubs, cafes and restaurants.
Calgary’s south side even has three farmer’s markets — Calgary Farmers’ Market, Kingsland Market and Crossroads Market.
Other than cultural activities such as theatre, art and music — which for many are not even a monthly activity — Calgary’s four suburban quadrants are self-contained “cities” that provide a very desirable lifestyle for most residents. Maybe they don’t have the “walk score” some planners and politicians say every community should have — referring to a walkability index that rates communities based on how many businesses, parks, theatres, schools and so on are within walking distance of any given starting point.
But when you are juggling kids’ activities, such as lessons, sports and school, with parents’ activities (work, groceries, appointments, dog walking and recreation) spread over a wide area of the city, there is little time for walking and transit. Every minute is precious; every trip is multi-purpose. As a result, in the suburbs, walking and cycling are recreational activities, not a means of transport.
Rather than a walk score, we need a “drive score” that measures how many daily and weekly family activities — such as school, groceries, liquor stores, shopping, recreation, libraries, restaurants and cafes — are within a 10-minute drive in each community.
The notion that families walk to the grocery store, or to their child’s recreational and cultural activities, is a romantic one that hasn’t really hap-
MFor other Richard White columns, visit our website under the heading: ‘More News and Views.’ pened in North America for more than 60 years.
Family grocery shopping is now a multi-bag activity with at least one four-litre jug of milk — not something you can easily walk home with.
And have you seen the equipment you need to lug to and from recreational activities such as hockey, swimming or gymnastics these days?
Let’s face reality — walking or cycling is not realistic for most Calgarians for their everyday activities.
Political and planner dilemma
Is it just me, or does it seem like politicians and planners are now blaming average Calgarians or local developers for our city’s enormous footprint?
Hmmm … isn’t it the politicians and planners who originally decided to annex the surrounding communities and farmland to feed Calgary’s growth during the past 30 or more years?
Can you blame them for making that choice? We needed to do something to house a population increase of 500,000 people during that time.
Would we have been better served if Calgary was more like Toronto or Vancouver, with the central city having a population of, say, 750,000 — and 10 satellite cities of 250,000, each with their own council and bureaucracy?
Isn’t it the politicians and planners who decided how newly-annexed land is now zoned in Calgary?
Isn’t it politicians and planners who determined the final area redevelopment plans that dictate the density and proximity of residential, commercial, office and industrial lands in each new suburban community?
Wasn’t it the politicians and planners who decided to have most of the employment centres on the east side of Deerfoot Trail — and most of the residential communities on the west of it?
Can you blame Calgarians for de- ciding to live where they can find the most affordable housing? Few can live in $350- to $400-per-square-foot homes in older communities, versus the $200-per-square foot homes in the new suburbs near the city’s edge.
Listen to the people
I loved the guest column by Calgary playwright Sharon Pollock that ran in the Calgary Herald on Nov. 10.
She shared her passion for her Marlborough Park community. She loves the diversity of people (17 different languages spoken), the working-class charm, the accessibility (walking, transit and vehicles) and schools, as well as things such as a local Vietnamese restaurant and a Lebanese grocery store.
She notes that while Marlborough Park is not on anyone’s list of trendy communities, and doesn’t make Calgary’s top 50-communities list, she loves living there.
When all is said and done, all that really matters is that Calgarians love their communities.
Last October in a Herald letter to the editor, Janice Bauer expressed her shock at Varsity’s low walk score, saying what she loves most about her community is its walkability.
She goes on to say how she can walk to three major malls and four grocery stores, as well as the community centre and library — along with numerous schools, parks and pathways.
She questions the validity of the pseudo science of the grading systems employed by sociologists and urban planners.
I think we should spend as much effort on how we can improve our “suburban cities” as we are in trying to create more “urban villages.”
My observation is that given Calgary’s demographics, we are a familyoriented city — which means the vast majority of us will probably want to live in the suburbs, where a more affordable home to accommodate four or more people (and their pets) can be had at a reasonable price.
Calgary has the potential to be a leader in creating suburban cities, whether it be new communities such as Seton, Mahogany and Watermark, or the evolution of established communities such as Lake Bonavista, Bowness and Forest Lawn.
Urban villages and European living is not for everyone. I can’t help but wonder if some planners and politicians are guilty of social engineering.
When I visit my friends in the suburbs or the outlying, low-density acreages, I am always impressed by their different lifestyle from mine in the inner city, and how content they are.
But I am not envious of their lifestyle — and they are not of mine.
I say, “Vive la difference!”