Contentious Chinatown detour designs released

The city has finalized and published its design for a contentious detour that will divert bike and foot traffic through Chinatown during construction in Eau Claire and along the Bow River pathway.

Plan features cycle track, shared street and some loss of parking

The city's final design includes a shared street, pictured, complete with speed humps and a koi fish mural. (Submitted by the City of Calgary)

The city has finalized and published its design for a contentious detour that will divert bike and foot traffic through Chinatown in downtown Calgary while crews do flood mitigation construction along the Bow River pathway and complete other projects in the Eau Claire area.

Last year, some stakeholders in Chinatown voiced concerns about plans for the multi-year detour through Third Avenue, arguing that the design could hurt business in the area by reducing parking along the east portion of the avenue. 

"We've done a lot of work with the community and there's still a long way to go," said project manager Dennis Hoffart.

"There is some excitement building in the community as well. I feel like we've addressed some of their concerns and look forward to working with them to complete the project." 

Calgary's Chinatown is an important culture district in the city. (Helen Pike/CBC)

An earlier proposal for a one-way stretch between Centre Street and First Street S.E. has turned into a 15-kilometre per hour shared roadway — shared in the sense that bikes, pedestrians, scooters and cars will all mingle on a two-way block. 

According to the city's design, the stretch could feature a koi mural.

It's something Chinatown District Business Revitalization Zone executive director Terry Wong is willing to try out. Parking and traffic both ways is being maintained, which he's happy about. But he's still unsure that a shared road is a good idea. 

"It'll be a test to see how safe that is with a lot of seniors in Chinatown, they will be leery about walking on the street with a car right behind them. But again, this is something we have to see," Wong said. 

He's hoping the project could act as a way to beautify the road and perhaps attract business. 

Along 3rd Avenue S.E., Chinatown's merchants say they depend on parking to load and unload deliveries. (Helen Pike/CBC)

"If there's a comparison, Stephen Avenue Mall, during the height of the summer season, pedestrians are walking around all over the place," Wong said. "If it brings people to Chinatown, that is a positive."

Hoffart says this one block in the detour plan is especially exciting.

"We're working with the community association and the BIA in the area to try to activate that street," he said. "All of the strategies put together are intended to slow traffic down and really create a safe environment for all users."

The detour is needed because the city is about to start construction of a flood barrier along the Bow River that will extend from the Peace Bridge to Reconciliation Bridge. The city is also set to redevelop Eau Claire plaza and the promenade east of that.

What are the changes? 

Zone A: 8th Street S.W. to 6th Street S.W.

  • Becomes a westbound one-way street for vehicles.
  • Includes a separated two-way cycle track.
  • Loses on-street parking on the north side of the street.
  • Some parking stalls will be relocated to Sixth Street S.W

Zone B: 6th Street S.W. to 1st Street S.W.

  • Separated one-way cycle tracks on north and south side.
  • Two-way traffic is maintained.
  • Parking maintained, except for the section between Second Street S.W. and First Street S.W.

Zone C: 1st Street S.W. to 1st Street S.E.

  • Shared traffic lanes between First Street S.E. and Centre Street.
  • Intersection improvements.
  • Traffic calming elements.

The final designs are available online. 

There are three zones, each with a number of options depending on limitations of the existing road. There could be shared lanes, or a cycle track. The city’s also looking at parking changes, like angle parking, to increase capacity.  (City of Calgary)

In terms of cycling infrastructure, Pratim Sengupta said Bike Calgary is happy to see separated lanes.

"I will say that the [lane] separation matters a lot, and I'm glad that the city is paying attention to that," Sengupta said.

He wants to underline that in a historic and culturally significant area, the conversation should centre around community first. 

"The detour is really a large strategy that we're using to coordinate several construction projects that are intended to build a lot of resiliency," Hoffart said.  

While the detour is meant to be temporary, Hoffart said the city plans to monitor use over its life and consult the community on what worked, and what didn't. Depending on the outcomes, aspects of the detour could become permanent. 

Wong hopes the city will continue to work with the BIA and other stakeholders to keep them abreast as they implement the detour. He's hoping once in place, the city will be flexible and make improvements if the community identifies problems. 

He's still concerned about losing parking west of Centre Street near office towers. 

Construction will begin in May once a contractor has been secured. Hoffart said the city is still finalizing aspects of the design. 

The goal is to open the detour by July.


Helen Pike


Helen Pike joined CBC Calgary as a reporter in 2018 after spending four years working as a print journalist focusing on urban issues and municipal affairs. You can find her on Twitter @helenipike.


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