Calgary

Red Mile rethink urged by advocacy group

A group of Calgarians wants to engage the community in a conversation about how to bring the hum back to the Red Mile.

"It's never too late to have a conversation about what 17th Avenue can be to Calgarians"

An advocacy group hoping to revitalize 17th Avenue in Calgary wants to add a cycling track to the street, which is currently under construction. (17thave.ca)

A Calgary advocacy group wants to rethink the way the city thinks about the Red Mile.

Red Mile Complete Street Advocacy Group spokesperson Jeff Binks said in a Friday interview with CBC News that his group has a four point plan he hopes will start a conversation with Calgarians about the 16-block stretch of street that became famous during the Calgary Flames' 2004 run to the Stanley Cup finals.

The plan features a call for more off-street parking, including city-run parkades that would make the area more friendly for motorists. 

The Red Mile runs along 17th Avenue between Fourth Street and 14th Street S.W. 

Bike lanes

The group also calls for a cycle track along 17th Avenue, and calls for a three year long pilot project bike share program.

The final point is that in order to accommodate the increased traffic density a cycle track would create, the group would like to see lane reversals during rush hours.

In 2017, a $44 million re-construction of 17th Avenue got underway. It's scheduled to be completed in 2019.

Ten of thousands of hockey fans take over 17th avenue SW following a Calgary Flames playoff game in June, 2004. (Mike Sturk/Canadian Press)

Binks did acknowledge that with extensive road construction well underway, his group is a bit late to the debate.

"Although we are a little late in terms of trying to guide what happens with this road reconstruction, it's never too late to have a conversation about what 17th Avenue can be to Calgarians," Binks said.

"What we had hoped would happen and never did happen was a conversation with Calgarians about what 17th Avenue should and could be."

'Unbelievable amount of engagement'

Coun. Evan Woolley, who represents the Red Mile district, disputed that statement.

"There's been an unbelievable amount of engagement on this project," he said. "We've had a stakeholder group made up of all the community associations , and the BIA's [Business Improvement Areas]. We have a stakeholder group of business owners."

Woolley said he is unfamiliar with the group. 

"As far as I know, the gentleman leading it doesn't live in the neighbourhood, nor does he own a business in the neighbourhood -— and I don't know who he represents. Never heard of them before," he said. "And remember, this project has been planned and engaged in for the last four years.

"Never heard of them before. Who are they?"

The Red Mile Complete Street Advocacy Group wants to add off-street parkades, a cycling track, a bike share pilot program and reverse lanes during rush hour along 17th Avenue. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

Woolley also questioned the notion of building a cycle track on 17th Avenue.

"We have done the design. The construction project is underway," he said. "And we have bike lanes along 14th [Avenue] and 15th Avenue, so I don't know what this is about."

'Are they driving, are they walking?'

While acknowledging the City of Calgary is examining its street design through things like the Main Streets Program, Binks called for more studies to be done.

"We're asking the city to follow the lead of other major cities," he said. "Salt Lake, Ottawa, and Toronto — places like that, who have had similar streets and taken surveys about how people are arriving there, are they driving, are they walking, how much time they're spending while they're down there and how much money are they spending while they're down there?

"We're hoping people do see is the value of having this conversation, and meanwhile, we hope people will go down to the 17th Avenue and spend money. Support those businesses, but also look at the finished product and ask, is this good enough for 17th Avenue?"

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Stephen Hunt

Digital Writer

Stephen Hunt is a digital writer at the CBC in Calgary. Email: stephen.hunt@cbc.ca

Dave Will, CBC News

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