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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!”

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