Why This Conference Is Talking About Walking


As futurists imagine a world with self-driving cars and Hyperloop tubes, it’s easy to forget the most fundamental form of human transport: walking. From September 19–22 in Calgary, notions of robots at the wheels of ride-sharing service will fade into the background and getting around on foot will step into the spotlight at the 17th annual International Walk21 Conference. More than 600 leaders in public health, architecture, and urban planning will discuss the details of creating a successful strategy for enhanced walkability in Alberta’s biggest city. Being selected as the host destination is a badge of honor that signifies the city’s commitment to improving its quality of life by becoming more walking-friendly, and Calgary joins a list of past hosts including Hong Kong, Sydney, Vancouver, New York, and Barcelona.

“Hosting this conference will be a nice tie-in to the city’s pedestrian strategy,” said Gavin McCormack, Ph.D., associate professor at the University of Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine and co-chair of the conference. “Walk21 really encourages public involvement. It’s not just a group of academics talking about theory. This conference will be instrumental in helping to change the culture in Calgary, so that motor vehicles aren’t the only mode of transportation that people think of to get around. It’ll be a big boost to the momentum already going on here in Calgary to make the city more supportive of pedestrians.”

Building on the City’s Convention-District Success

Calgary’s downtown already boasts an impressive walkability score, and I put that score to use when I visited in 2015. (Side note: if you’ve never been to Calgary, I highly recommend discovering the city for yourself.) Now, as Calgary continues to build on its position as one of the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Top 10 best places to live in the world, the conference will aim to outline a strategy to help more of the city’s neighborhoods adopt a pedestrian-first mindset. It will benefit the local community, but it will also pay dividends for future attendees who come to Calgary for meetings and conferences. “Calgary’s commitment to low-impact transportation reiterates to attendees that our city continues to develop infrastructure that will help them easily explore the entire destination,” said Heather Lundy, director of marketing and communications at the Calgary TELUS Convention Centre.

One of the most crucial pieces of that infrastructure is already in place. Calgary’s airport recently completed a major renovation. Learn more about it here, and click here to see why more organizations are taking their meetings and events to Calgary.

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