Plans to turn a section of Memorial Drive into a pedestrian playground as part of a summer pilot project have a city alderman steaming.

Ald. Ric McIver said a scheme in the works to shut down the south lanes of the thoroughfare between 10 Street and 3 Street N.W. over four Sundays in August will breed commuter chaos.

“I can’t think of anything more ridiculous — I hope the idea isn’t to irritate Calgarians just because we can,” he said. “I’ve heard about this hare-brained scheme in other municipalities and I prayed that madness like this wouldn’t prevail in this city.”

Beth Gignac, the city’s manager of arts and culture, said cities around the world have embraced the idea of turning roads into pedestrian-friendly boulevards on slow days and nearby businesses and residents are eager to hit the street. “We’re hoping people come out and take advantage of the opportunity to roll and stroll on Memorial Drive.”

Gignac noted city traffic planners have said traffic flows on the normally jammed artery drop on Sundays in August so the impact on drivers, who will still be able to use the north lanes for two-way traffic, will be minimal.

Area Ald. Druh Farrell said Calgarians have been clamouring for ways to maximize their walking and cycling options and this could be the start of a trend that expands to other roads.“… If we were closing down Memorial, that would be another story, but this is a way to expand…,” she said.

Farrell, who will host a community meeting on the idea later this month, said there is already talk about expanding the weekend pedestrian promenade into Bridgeland and Chinatown if the pilot is successful.

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