Calling attention to the unintended consequences of patios along Stephen Avenue

Experienced urban analyst is wondering if the city has gone too far in its patio exemptions

By Krista Sylvester | June 10, 2022 |5:00 am

Urban analyst Richard White is calling attention to several patios along Stephen Avenue that he says are impeding the pedestrian and cyclist experience.

Photo: Submitted

Not ideal is how this decorated urban development analyst would describe the extended patios along Stephen Avenue. 

He’s calling attention to the poor placement of several patios along the 8th Avenue corridor — including at the Cactus Club, The Guild, and the patio in the 600 block of 8 Avenue SW which has the cycle track running through it. 

Richard White, who is the former executive director of the Calgary Downtown Association, also points to the Cactus Club patio taking away most of the sidewalk on 317 8 Avenue SW, a patio that is set up year-round but only used in the summer.

White also worries about the fact that The Guild’s patio, located at 200 8 Avenue SW, is fenced around the popular ‘Conversation’ statue of two men talking. He says the fence prohibits visitors from taking photos with it.

Have extended patios gone too far?

White, who also runs the blog Everyday Tourist, wonders if the rush to allow extended patios missed a few steps in the process. 

“I understand that they want to maximize the size of the patios,” he says, adding he isn’t opposed to them, but he wonders if the city has gone too far in its allowances of extending patios. 

“I think people on social media are calling them the ‘patio creep’ and maybe there are some unintended consequences of maximizing the patios.”

He’s also concerned about the lack of a sidewalk for pedestrians once cars are allowed on the street again at 11 p.m. each night. 

“There’s no way for people to walk on Stephen Avenue without walking on the road in several places. If you’re out at 11:30 p.m. or midnight, you’re going to be walking on the road,” White says. 

“I’m all for cars, bikes, and pedestrians sharing space. I know we can do that. We don’t necessarily all have to have our own space.”

Public art in a private space 

White’s concerns about The Guild patio focus on the public statue of the men talking, which he believes “deserves a little more respect than to fence it in and close it off.” 

“I think that is one of the most popular pieces, and it’s often a photo opportunity. You can still take a photo, but it’s not the same as getting up right beside the artwork.”

The Calgary Downtown Association (CDA) says they have heard the concerns and are looking into the issue of public art on private space. 

White believes the city and the CDA are experimenting on what works and he supports that, but he hopes they can find a happy medium when it comes to patios and pedestrian safety and experience. 

“When the patios are full, it makes Stephen Avenue a very vibrant place. I just don’t know that they need to be quite as big as they are, and I think we may have gone too far,” White adds. 

The CDA says they are looking into improving the accessibility and safety of the patios along the strip. The group did a walkabout along Stephen Avenue to view the areas that people have concerns about. 

Calling out year-round patios 

White also believes there is no need for year-round patios on Stephen Avenue since they are not open during the winter. 

“The idea that there are winter patios on Stephen Avenue makes no sense whatsoever. They should take that patio away in the winter, which is what we used to do. We had temporary patios and then put them back up in the spring.” 

The city says it’s aware of the concerns and will be monitoring the situation closely when it comes to the location in the 600 block of 8 Avenue SW, where the patio is adjacent to the cycle track.  

“We will be providing additional warning signage for cyclists and pedestrians to mitigate the issue,” Joanna Domarad, traffic engineer at the City of Calgary told Calgary Citizen. 

“We will also be monitoring the location for additional concerns and can make changes if needed. To assist restaurants with post-pandemic recovery we are balancing the needs of all users and making adjustments when required.”

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Krista Sylvester

Managing Editor at Calgary Citizen

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