Calgary: City of Pedestrian Bridges!

This blog started out as a portrait of pedestrian bridge #1111 - a rusty old bridge over 14th Street near 8th Avenue NW - but somewhere along the way it morphed into a portrait of Calgary’s pedestrian bridge culture.  

  Pedestrian Bridge #1111 over 14th St NW connects the west and east half of the Hillhurst community.

Pedestrian Bridge #1111 over 14th St NW connects the west and east half of the Hillhurst community.

Connecting Communities

I have been using #1111 regularly 13 years ago when I started practicing yoga at the Bodhi Tree located at the base of the stairs on the west side. It has a green-brown patina that resembles a weathered bronze sculpture that gets richer every year. Turns out the bridge was built in 1959 (thanks City of Calgary) so it is almost as old as I am.

#1111 is well-used bridge as the Hillhurst School, Hillhurst Community Centre and Riley Park are just a block to the east. There is also a bus stop on either side of the bridge, so it is poplar with transit users needing to cross 14th Street. Indeed, #1111 is a key connector between Hillhurst’s east and west sides.

I believe I have called the city at least once to ask about when #1111 might get a facelift, but it has been so long now I have forgotten if I did or didn’t. After returning from Berlin this past spring, where there are lots of rusty old bridges and derelict buildings and spaces, I thought perhaps we should just let #1111 age gracefully.

Backstory: I learned to love Berlin’s gritty lived-in look that seem more authentic after spending a month in its trendy Kreuzberg community.Link: Is Calgary too pristine?

A Bohdi Tree follower once told me “Calgary needs more grit and less glitter, to be a real city.” Perhaps this is true.

Recently as I was heading to the Bodhi Tree, the sun was beaming so strongly the old #1111 seemed to glow.  This inspired me to take these photos and create a portrait of this weathered and well-worn pedestrian bridge.

 

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City of Pedestrian Bridges

While Calgary may not have a world famous bridge like San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, over the past few years international award winning  new pedestrian bridges – Peace Bridge over the Bow at Eau Claire and George King Bridge in East Village (both are unique bridges with spectacular budgets $25M). 

Just a few days ago the 61st Ave SW pedestrian bridge aka Chinook Bridge opened over MacLeod Trail at cost of $13M (the City paid half and the owners of Chinook Centre paid the other half). It is estimated 2,000 people will use the bridge each day.

While the new bridges with the big price tags and prominent sites get all the attention, Calgary has many character pedestrian bridges scattered throughout the city. With two rivers, 5,2000 parks, numerous major roads and an active community, the need/demand for pedestrian bridges to connect people with places in Calgary is very high.

  Peace Bridge over Bow River connects Eau Claire with Sunnyside. 

Peace Bridge over Bow River connects Eau Claire with Sunnyside. 

  George C. King Bridge over the Bow River connects East Village to St. Patrick's Island and Memorial Drive. 

George C. King Bridge over the Bow River connects East Village to St. Patrick's Island and Memorial Drive. 

  New 61st Ave SW Bridge (photo credit: Neil Zeller/City of Calgary)

New 61st Ave SW Bridge (photo credit: Neil Zeller/City of Calgary)

Fun Facts (care of City of Calgary)

  • Calgary has 200 pedestrian bridges.
  • Calgary also has 85 +15 walkways, which the city considers an “enclosed” pedestrian bridge.
  • The oldest pedestrian bridge in Calgary is the John Hextall bridge in Bowness. It was built in 1910 and was converted to pedestrian use in 1987 when the new Shouldice bridge was built beside it.
  • A close second would be the old CNR bridge at Lindsay Park. It was built in 1912 and converted to pedestrian use in 1999.

Here are a few photos from my album of Calgary pedestrian bridges I have encountered on my everyday travels. It reflects just some of the diversity of bridges that call Calgary home.

  Bow Trail Bridge is a lovely gateway into downtown from the west.

Bow Trail Bridge is a lovely gateway into downtown from the west.

  Dave Freeze bridge under Crowchild Trail (currently closed while Crowchild Trail Bridge above is been expanded. 

Dave Freeze bridge under Crowchild Trail (currently closed while Crowchild Trail Bridge above is been expanded. 

  Centre Street Bridge accommodates both pedestrian and cars.

Centre Street Bridge accommodates both pedestrian and cars.

  West Hillhurst pedestrian bridge over Memorial Drive. 

West Hillhurst pedestrian bridge over Memorial Drive. 

  Bridge from park & ride to the Crowfoot LRT station.

Bridge from park & ride to the Crowfoot LRT station.

  New Sandy Beach bridge replaced the old bridge damage in the 2013 flood. 

New Sandy Beach bridge replaced the old bridge damage in the 2013 flood. 

  Calgary's oldest pedestrian bridge.

Calgary's oldest pedestrian bridge.

  Stampede/Saddledome pedestrian bridge/corridor.

Stampede/Saddledome pedestrian bridge/corridor.

  On of Downtown's 85 +15 bridges that create a 20+ km enclosed walkway that connects over 100 offices, hotels, museums, department stores and theatres.

On of Downtown's 85 +15 bridges that create a 20+ km enclosed walkway that connects over 100 offices, hotels, museums, department stores and theatres.

  Boothman Bridge aka Edworthy Park bridge

Boothman Bridge aka Edworthy Park bridge

  Sunnyside/Eau Claire double decker bridge, LRT above / pedestrians below

Sunnyside/Eau Claire double decker bridge, LRT above / pedestrians below

  Bridge over Crowchild Trail to McMahon Stadium

Bridge over Crowchild Trail to McMahon Stadium

  The Glenmore Dam built in 1932 also serves as a pedestrian bridge, with Sandy Beach on one side and the Glenmore Reservoir on the other.

The Glenmore Dam built in 1932 also serves as a pedestrian bridge, with Sandy Beach on one side and the Glenmore Reservoir on the other.

Last Word

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For me, every time I walk over a pedestrian bridge there is a moment when I look at the world a little differently. 

I glance down at the street, the river, the landscape, across at the vista or up at the sky and reflect a little differently on the world we share.

For me, pedestrian bridges frame the world a little differently than the sidewalk. 

So what do you think - should Calgary be branded “The City of Pedestrian Bridges.”

Send me a photo of your favourite pedestrian bridge (Calgary or elsewhere) tell me why it is your favourite and I will add it to this blog.
  There are five bridges at the east end of downtown over the Bow River. (photo credit:  Peak Aerials)

There are five bridges at the east end of downtown over the Bow River. (photo credit:  Peak Aerials)