Back from Calgary’s “Choke the traffic flow event”.

 Well, it’s a beautiful Sunday and I have been working hard and heavy on the by-election campaign all week. Poor Stewie (pictured below) has been feeling terribly neglected as of late and today felt like a perfect day to head on down and check out Druh Farrell’s anti-car event on Memorial Drive. The pictures taken are not of the best quality as they are vid-caps. I plan to get around to making another Youtube video but as you can understand dear reader, I am pretty tight for time for a bit.


 Well I have to give it to them, I was actually quite impressed with the “festival” There was a variety of booths and activities and people generally seemed to be having a good time. It was a nice little gathering for people to get out and about on a weekend.

 Why did I put festival in quotes you ask? Well for new arrivals to my blog I will give a bit of background on this one. You see, Druh Farrell bypassed council discussion and arranged to close two lanes of Memorial Drive for every Sunday in August. Druh intended to expand those closures in the future to possibly encompass the entire summer. At that point, there were no plans for any sort of festival or events. The goal was simply closing lanes on a busy road next to the river. Those familiar with Calgary know that Memorial Drive is one of the few major east/west routes through the city and it is always busy.

 When the public rightly became inflamed with this pointless idiocy, Druh was forced to back down and reduce this to simply one day in summer with hopes of expansion to more days in the future. Despite this concession, the public was still rightly revolted by the pointlessness of this move. Next a “festival” was slapped together in the last few weeks to try and justify this. Anybody and everybody was invited to show up and try to promote green things or something.

 Either way, there was a decent turnout of exhibitors and people presenting activities such as facepainting.

 Now, lets get to the important part; the closing of two lanes on a major road.

 It is August and it is hot out there. I am back early as Stewie had consumed 2 litres of water in a couple hours and he simply could not take more of the heat.

 Clearly people felt the same way.


 You see, all of the activity booths/tents were all set up in the shaded parkway and bike-paths that are right next to the road. While two lanes of important roadway were closed, virtually nobody utilized them. Why walk on blazing hot pavement next to thousands of drivers caught in a traffic-jam when there is a park right next to you? Didn’t we ask this question many months ago?


 Druh herself had to make an appearance of course. A few from the media were about too. It will be interesting to see Druh’s spin in trying to justify ruining the day of thousands of drivers.



 Yes, I am saying thousands of drivers and I mean it. The traffic jam was horrendous. This too of course was all predicted months ago and was ignored by Druh and a handful of her cronies.

 We all know that the traffic only gets worse as the day progresses. My shots were taken at noon and traffic was at a standstill as far as the eye can see in either direction. Drivers were clearly infuriated as they sat parked on a road in the summer heat while watching two empty but blocked lanes right next to them.


 An irony in all this is that Druh Farrell is usually front and center in trying to get anti-idling laws passed and banning drive-throughs and such in a misguided effort to curb automotive emissions. Now what sort of carbon footprint did Druh cause by making thousands of vehicles idle for an extra hour with their air-conditioning running at full blast?

 I have read and listened to a few apologists who are trying to frame anybody who opposed this idiotic event as being “anti-festival neanderthals” and such. Many of these people seem to be revolted with our city and constantly try to claim that we have no culture and such.

 Listen folks, there are a few festivals every weekend all summer. Music, food and cultural events are happening constantly and nobody is opposing them. This idiotic road-closure is not in the class of such festivals and anybody with common sense may oppose this free from guilt.

 Across the river we could hear the music of some sort of live band event going on. We also saw acres and acres of empty (and taxpayer funded) green-space that could have hosted this event next to the river without closing any major roads.


 People, this whole event was simply the actions of anti-vehicle extremists who wanted to thumb their noses at those Alberta heathens who dare utilize the combustion engine. There was no reason for this aside from making a point of delusional principle at the expense of taxpayers, drivers and the residents of this now congested neighborhood.

 You know what? I hope Druh does this again next summer. The next municipal election will be only a couple of months after the “event” and I really would like residents to have a fresh image of what their very well paid elected representative is doing with her time and our money.

13 thoughts on “Back from Calgary’s “Choke the traffic flow event”.

  1. I saw them setting up in the morning traffic jam on my way home from work.

    It looked so nice with the mess of pillions and barricades and no one actually walking on the road. It would not have been a traffic jam without the pillions and barricades.

    Nothing like working 12 hours over night and then having to sit in Sunday morning Druh induced traffic.

  2. Many of the points you make above are valid regarding how things were set up (shade vs. road, etc.). Not sure why those choices were made, and I’m sure they’ll re-evaluate if they do it again next year.

    But you’re REALLY exaggerating the impact on traffic. I live in the area and observed the corner of 10th Street and Memorial several times from about noon through 3pm. At no time did I see a “jam” at this intersection. Cars *did* slow down once they crossed 10th Street and headed into the narrowed street. A friend drove the stretch… it took 3 minutes. It didn’t take an “extra hour with air conditioning blasting.”

    Why go out of your way to fabricate a criticism when you made the perfectly valid ones earlier? Your pictures do not tell the proper story either. Yes, there was a line of cars, but they were all moving at a slow pace along Memorial, getting where they needed to go with very little delay.

    The only other thing I have to contribute is this: I’ve lived in Calgary for over 10 years, and have only rarely taken out my bike. I’ve had it for probably 20 years, its a bit junky… Today, my son and I went for a ride up and down the street a few times simply because of the novelty. I’m now thinking I might actually ride my bike to work when the weather is nice… so maybe over time, I’ll get more fit and perhaps that alone will lower my drain on society by a substantial margin more than this event cost.

    But, maybe not. I guess I like to see cities trying new and different things instead of stagnating (and there should be license to try!). I also like people getting out of their homes and meeting each other, building a sense of community.

    But for me, the jury is still out on the success of this event. I hope it doesn’t continue “just because,” but rather continues because in general it was a net contributor to quality of life in Calgary.

  3. Yea Terry I was impressed with my quality of life sitting in that traffic jam. It was for a lot longer than your friend’s 3 minutes.

  4. So that is what this was about, ‘novelty’. I feel sorry for you to live so close to the exstensive bike/pedestrian pathway along the river for what, 10 years? and never taken a ride along it. May I suggest you and your son would enjoy that a lot more than riding along a closed road a few times.

  5. A couple of points:

    – OK, longer than 3 minutes, but under 10. It was slow traffic for sure, but the intersection remained clear. Just saying there’s no need to exaggerate, that’s all.
    – Sometimes people get in a groove in their life and need something to jar them out of it. I admit I was one: forgot how much I like riding my bike. Now I will use the path more with my family. This event motivated me to get out and try.
    – The ONLY thing I support in this whole thing is the right to try something new. As I said, I think it probably wasn’t the success the proponents were looking for, nor was it the abject failure predicted. Cory’s on the right path when he points out all of the costs that were incurred, and that those should be weighed against the benefits. Prior to holding the event, all we had was speculation. Now we know. The fact that other cities close down major thoroughfares for similar events was reason enough to try it here. I don’t think it translated all that well, and so changes have to be made.

  6. They close down roads so that they are used. The biggest example used in the media is for a half-marathon. Well, guess what? When you have thousands of runners in one area then they do need more space to run than the current infrastructure. Not so here. Instead we had half a road shut down with cars congested on one side and a empty strip of pavement on the other.

    I’m sorry that you are such a sheep that you need someone to prod you to do anything new. Most people can look at the bike in their garage and the path outside their house and put 2 and 2 together.

    The overarching problem with this ‘festival’ is that it was held in an area that already has the infrastructure to hold it. On the north bank with multiple bike and pedestrian paths and the south bank has 20′ wide parades that easily handle kiosks, street performers, and large crowds of people. Instead a busy road was shut down for the sole purpose of shutting it down. It was utilized. Maybe in 5 or more years if this festival outgrows the existing facilities it would makes sense to expand it onto the road to make room.

  7. I will have to admit an hour is likely on the high side. Editorial postings can be prone to a degree of rhetoric 😉 As you said, conversly 3 minutes was surely well on the low side. One stark reality is that thousands of drivers were pointlessly delayed while the closed lanes remained empty aside from a very short period where a few people did a little walking parade.

    What I never want people to forget is that this was never planned initially as a festival. Druh simply wanted to close lanes for the sake of hindering traffic. Again, I am not anti-festival. I attend and enjoy many. There was no point or purpose to this one however. There is a reason to speak up on these issues. Druh is stating today that she wants to expand the days and length of the closure on this one despite it being proven to be rather pointless.

    Another note I am getting from reports on this is the number of people living in Sunnyside who are not amused with the amount of traffic that roared through their neighborhood in an attempt to bypass the traffic jam.

    This event was ill-conceived and was done simply for the sake of being able to do it. It is incumbent upon us to point it out and strongly when such things happen or these “representatives” will take it as a free pass to annoy Calgarians at great expense with every flighty whim that passes through their minds.

  8. You’re right, Terry. It didn’t translate well at all, and it hasn’t translated well since the idea was proposed. Instead of pissing off the majority of the electorate by forging ahead with a useless idea, it would have been wiser (and safer in terms of job security) for council to debate the idea, engage the public, and find a suitable location for such an event to occur.

    No one in Calgary says that another community event is a bad idea. However, closing down a major thoroughfare for pedestrian/cyclist use when such a pathway already exists just a few feet away, is ridiculous and has been the centre of the controversy all along.

    Druh’s supporters are trying to spin this into a ‘driver vs everyone else’ battle when that is absolutely not the case. People in Calgary are wise, and knew that this closure was absurd and would impact a number of people in a negative way. This is in addition to something so far reaching being forced upon the citizens of Calgary without any debate or input… hence the vehement opposition.

    The idea of the ‘Bow River Flow’ is great… the location & the foisting of this event upon the electorate is unacceptable.

  9. As an inner city resident, I find that the comments on the traffic back ups to be a bit disingenuous. I am often on Memorial going back and forth on the weekend, and for pretty much this entire summer the lanes available have been the same as what was available this past Sunday. That’s because of the construction closures of the left lane in both directions for the construction of the new planters on the median. This gives the same number of lanes available in each direction, so how is it possible that traffic is worse due to the Bow River Flow closure than it has been for large parts of the rest of the summer? And yet there has been no media or blogger commentary on the traffic backups due to this construction, most folks just accept that we have construction in the summer.

  10. People understand that construction is a neccesity in order to keep our roads going. The goal of construction is to improve traffic flow as opposed to this “festival” that had a prime goal of stunting traffic flow.

    Cars could have used those streets as we taxpayers have invested billions in constructing and maintaining them. We spend millions on our excellent areas of green-space. Why would it be so hard to utilize that space as so many other festivals do?

    No, closing lanes on Memorial did not bring the world to a crashing end. The bottom line though is that there simply was no purpose to the closure aside from the whim of an alderman who hates cars.

    How much did it cost to have city workers put out those hundreds of pylons anyway? I also noted that there were a pair of bylaw enforcement officers on hand for the entire day for some reason. Assuming and extra 15 minutes for each of the thousands and thousands of vehicles that were delayed, how much fuel was burned?

    People try to compare this to the Lilac Festival for example. That is nothing more than a red herring. The Lilac festival pays $50,000 to the city to hold that festival. This Bow Flow thing cost an undisclosed amount to the city.

    The Lilac Festival is lined with businesses that participate and benefit in the event. The Bow Flow thing had exactly zero businesses on it.

    The Lilac Festival closes a road that has many many alternative routes to bypass it. The Bow Flow thing closes a portion of one of the busiest arteries in the city. There are very few decent roads to cross the city going east/west and there really was no reason to hinder this one.

    The bottom line is that there was utterly no reason to close those lanes. Aside from a very short parade with a few doen people in it, the lanes were left empty for the day. Who the hell wants to walk on hot pavement next to pissed off drivers stuck in a traffic jam?

    The idea was simply stupid and poorly planned. As a taxpayer I am excersizing my right to call a spade a spade on this one.

  11. Giving it a bit more thought, it probably would have been better to just shut the entire stretch of Memorial Drive down and divert traffic through downtown. Being the weekend, 5th and 6th Avenue were empty so traffic would have actually flowed better. No more idling. Hopefully they will consider this next year.

    And really, the ongoing construction on Memorial this summer has had nothing to do with improving traffic flow or road conditions. It was all about replacing the medians with some lovely planters and new lighting.

  12. so you want to shut down the whole road for this simple act of shutting it down? It’s not like throngs of people will spill into the street just because it is closed. This has already been proven. So instead of saying it makes sense to keep it on the paths where everyone is, you feel it’s better to completely shut it down. Are we celebrating ghost towns now?

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