The anti-“sprawl” crowd is a vocal group but in looking at our development patterns these people are clearly in a tiny minority. Despite efforts to stunt outward development and an almost cult-like subgroup of people screaming for and trying to shame people into dense downtown living, Canadians en masse are simply choosing to move away from the cores of cities.
Some recent number crunching has revealed that non-core areas have made up 97% of Calgary’s growth with similar numbers in cities accross Canada.
It is not that hard to figure out why this is a trend. When I was in my early 20s, I lived in downtown Calgary and I loved it. I could walk to pretty much anything I needed and while Calgary is not known for it’s exciting downtown nightlife, the downtown still provided many bars and such to be patronized. I was shopping for food for one and didn’t mind walking a couple blocks with some grocery bags and riding an elevator with them. Of course, my needs and preferences changed as I grew older. The main thing was having kids.
Suddenly grocery loads are a bigger deal and the need for a car is becoming more acute. While I was comfortable walking downtown streets at night as a young man, I really did not like walking with my kids past the seedy elements that are drawn to city centers. I wanted space. I wanted a yard for the kids to play in. I wanted a spread out neighborhood where I knew who lived next door. I wanted family to be able to visit without paying $20 in parking. To summarize, I like over 90% of Calgarians chose to live in the suburbs and have utterly no regrets.
I understand that some people manage to live downtown with kids and enjoy it. Well good for them. It doesn’t need to mean that the rest of us should have to.
I am tired of the near scorn being directed at suburban commuters for daring to choose to live in a cost-efficient comfort with their families. Nobody should be ashamed for not wanting to live in a crowded dense area. We have the space to grow outward and we are doing so. Good.
Now that we have established that the vast vast majority of Calgarians do not want to live downtown, can we start to model policies based on that reality? We don’t need more damn bike lanes. There is no screaming need for more bikes, there simply is a loudly screaming minority of bike riders. We are refusing to recognize where our population really is and are choking traffic to accommodate a tiny minority. Never will a large number of middle-aged folks suddenly decide to start riding bikes 20km to work downtown in January so let’s quit with the idiotic planning under the assumption that they will.
Those who are tired of smog and idling should look at reality here too. Choking traffic will not reduce this. People will simply get up earlier and sit idling longer as they have lost lanes to a handful of bike riders in winter. You want to reduce fuel consumption and idling? Speed up traffic flow then.
Our mayor and council love to blow millions on endless studies of everything under the sun. Well we don’t need to spend a pile here to see the trend. We are a prairie city that is growing quickly and it won’t be stopped. Lets start planning based on that reality instead of some unrealistic utopia of a densely packed downtown. People simply do not want to live like that.
Really folks, the urban density pictured below is hardly a noble goal to pursue.