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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

World Wide Wednesday: ghost bikes, Calatrava in Calgary, and Streets View

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Each week we will be focusing on blogs from around the world dealing specifically with urban environments. We’ll be on the lookout for websites outside the country that approach themes related to urban experiences and issues in Toronto.

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Is Calatrava compatible with Calgary?  The world-renowned Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava has come up with a bold new design for a pedestrian and bicycle bridge across the Bow River (pictured), one that is revealing a rift between the Calgarians fighting for vibrant, more cosmopolitan urban core and those uninterested in developing the downtown.

• In an interview with Blueprint America, current Chairman Jim Oberstrand of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee outlines what kind of an impact the newly proposed Surface Transportation Authorization Act of 2009 will have on the future of American transportation.

• With Portland’s popular Pioneer Courthouse Square in mind, the question arises: what is the key to making successful public spaces? In the case of Portland’s central urban plaza, the answer seems to be programming.

• The appearance of a mysterious child-sized ‘ghost bike’ in NYC has prompted the curiosity of the Washington Heights neighbourhood along with local cycling advocates.  Originating in St. Louis in 2003, ghost bikes – entirely white bicycles that mark where cyclists have been killed – can also be found in Toronto, among other cities around the world.

Google Street View has been up and running for over two years and will soon include Toronto in its growing list of cities available for viewing.  Once Toronto Street View is available, who knows what strange sights will be spotted by a growing group of users?  In Brooklyn, Google’s cameras seem to have captured a mystical stairway to heaven on a quiet residential street.

• There are few things more unpleasant than the ear-splitting noise of a subway car grinding its way around a bend.  While not all sounds that accompany the use of public transit are quite so abrasive, attempts to address the issue of noise on public transit has a long history.

• One of the heads of the Department of Environmental Science at Columbia University predicts that by 2017, it will be impossible to drive through any major city in the world without seeing large scale ‘vertical farms’ that feed a significant portion of the city’s population.  Whether this thought-provoking claim is fact or fiction hasn’t prevented hypothetical ideas for ‘vertical farms’ in Toronto from surfacing.



  1. The bridge over the rail alignment south of CityPlace will be even better looking – isn’t that right Councillor Vaughan? 🙂

  2. We’d hear the same fuss regarding that bridge, if not larger. We can’t even redo our most prominent square without howls about how wasteful it is. Where aren’t Canadians apathetic to good design in the public sphere? Montreal?

  3. I’m not sure the rift in Calgary is between those fighting for a cosmopolitan Calgary or not. I think most Calgarians are very keen on seeing their downtown improve and grow – as evidenced by pretty much universal support for many of the other big initiatives that are going on (and the big money that is being spent on them – such as the East Village) I’m a big fan of the bridge, but I think most of the objection came from its timing (immediately following a 20% tax hike and recession), how it was procured (sole-sourced to Calatrava) and its utter lack of an effective rationalization of its need and location by the City.

    Anyway, in the end, it will be GREAT for Calgary. There’s also an international design competition about to be launched for a second ped/cycle bridge to the east of this one. Should be interesting to watch.