Calgary’s Bow River pathway detour through Chinatown raises concerns

Flood mitigation work along the Bow River in downtown Calgary is prompting a detour of the pathway system through Chinatown.

The affected section is between 8 Street S.W. and 1 Street S.E.

A map of the detour.
A map of the detour. Courtesy: City of Calgary

The plan is to take all the pathway traffic that now goes along the river and detour it along 3 Avenue.

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“We saw it also as an opportunity to connect all the various communities within downtown and hopefully create opportunities for people who are getting off the pathway, which is heavily used,” said Joyce Tang, program manager with the City of Calgary.

“We anticipate maybe 5,000 people will be pulling off that detour so they can now have this continuous route along 3 Avenue and maybe find a new business they didn’t know existed and do some shopping.”

Read more: Calgary extends partial closure of Memorial Drive through summer for pedestrians despite increasing traffic

The city has two options on the table.

One would see drivers and cyclists sharing the road and walkers and scooters on the sidewalk. All the parking on 3 Avenue through Chinatown would remain, according to Tang.

The other option is to build dedicated lanes for people not using cars. Around 37 parking spaces in the project area would be sacrificed. Part of the proposal would see 3 Avenue east of Centre Street turned into an eastbound one-way street.

Read more: New Calgary cycle track extension connects with Bow River Pathway

The head of the Chinatown Business Improvement Area said the business group is lobbying for a third option that would include a temporary detour on Riverfront Avenue, but Terry Wong said that idea got a lukewarm response from the city.

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“The one-way would kill Chinatown,” said Wong, executive director of the Chinatown BIA.

“We have heard from the city that cyclists like to run in a straight line, fast. We have heard from the city that we are doing this so that cyclists and pedestrians feel safer, which is fine, but in balance with the community, the balance is not there.”

Wong said any time bike lanes are introduced, parking is reduced and there would be a negative effect on the Chinatown community.

“Chinatown is a mixed, residential, commercial district that does not have back lanes. If you don’t have back lanes, you have to use the front of the street and taking away the front of the street for delivery vehicles and for loading zones and for people who want to drop off their elderly citizens to go into the apartment building, you’re taking away the vitality of a community,” Wong said.

According to the city’s website, the 3 Avenue South Walking and Wheeling Upgrades Project “aims to make it easier to walk and wheel along the corridor while providing vital east and west connections to our existing network.”

Read more: James Short Park: Councillor, community calls to rename park in Calgary’s Chinatown

Coun. Sean Chu shares Wong’s concerns about parking spots being removed.

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“As a city, we have to pick a lane. Are we doing stuff for business or are we just doing whatever we want?” Chu said.

The first round of public consultations has just started and another round is set for October.

“There are many different options so we are trying to find the best solution. We know there will be trade-offs,” Tang said.

The construction on the flood barrier could start by the end of this year and is expected to take two years to complete.

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