Complete Streets

Workshops in Your Community

For the past three years we have been delivering and custom designing Complete Street Workshops with the support of Transport Canada. We are now making our workshops available to any city or region in Canada. We work with you the municipal decision maker, the transportation advocate or other interest group to research and deliver an engaging, insightful and inspiring workshop that will take your region one step further down the road to creating more livable street in your community.

Contact Rebecca O’Brien for workshop opportunities in you region – This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Recently Delivered Workshops – Fall 2009:
  • Nov. 12th: Rocky Mountain House – contact Elly Martin
  • Nov. 24th: Town of Sylvan Lake – contact Tim Schmidt
  • Nov. 27th: City of Airdrie – contact Jennifer Stevenson

Complete Streets Workshops

Why is it that North Americans are so tied to our cars? Is it because of the distances we need to travel, or the challenges presented by our climate? Whatever the justifications for this dependency, the reality is that since the 1950s our communities have been engineered and planned around private vehicle use, and this has typically meant the sacrifice of other, more sustainable forms of transportation.

We are currently partnering with the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA) and Transport Canada to offer Complete Streets workshops to any regional community (population 5,000 to 100, 000) in Alberta.

The workshops are sponsored by Transport Canada, supported by the AUMA, designed and delivered by SAA with the needs of your community in mind. The success of the workshops is dependent on the local partner’s ability to distribute the message of the workshop to local participants. As well, all the municipalities we work with provide a facility, and sponsor a lunch and coffee break for the event. SAA’s funded workshops have already been snapped up for the fall of 2009, however we are available for workshops in the winter and spring of 2010. Fees depend on the distance required to travel, however keep in mind that SAA is a non-profit and expenses kept to a reasonable rate. Our goal is make the world a better place to live in!

As many towns in Alberta are struggling to keep up with the pressures of rapid growth, and the impact this has on sustainability and quality of life, our workshops provide an effective tool with which to consider approaches to the transportation component of sustainable growth.

This is a great opportunity for your community to collaborate on sustainable transportation solutions. While we are currently ‘sold out’ for the Fall 2009 workshops, please contact SAA at 403-294-0904 to book a winter 2010 workshop while there is still space! Download a sample invitation by clicking this link.

Typically, a municipal staff person within the Communications, Planning, Health Promotion, Engineering, or Communities in Bloom departments is designated as our contact person. An individual or committee with a specific interest in sustainability is ideal. Our one-day workshops are relevant from an environment, health, planning, and community development perspective.

Cities throughout the world, from Bogota, Montreal, New York and Calgary, are making radical changes to transportation policy and practice. The widespread recognition that moving people, not cars, is central to sustainable, healthy communities is transforming how communities are planned and retrofitted. The Sustainable Alberta Association supports the concept that the core of allowing all people to be safely and conveniently mobile – which is summed up neatly in the term ‘Complete Streets’. For more information on Complete Streets, go to or Transport Canada.

Over 75% of new retail development in Canada is ‘box box’, which relies on arterial roads, favoring the car over transit, walking and cycling. Our cities (and towns) have sprawled, with subdivisions offering double garages instead of a front door; services, institutions and work that is inconvenient and often unsafe for travel to and from other than by personal vehicle. The outcome of this is that demand and costs for ever- expanding road infrastructure have soared, our air is polluted, climate change is underway, and obesity rates have increased exponentially.

Since 2007 the Sustainable Alberta Association has successfully delivered over a dozen sustainable transportation workshops to communities in Alberta, including Pincher Creek, Medicine Hat, Red Deer, Okotoks, Grande Prairie, Cochrane, Peace River, Fort McMurray, Banff and Canmore. The workshop goal is to gather information regarding the current cycling, pedestrian, and transit infrastructure in the specific municipality, and look at ideas, barriers and successes that other Canadian communities (with similar climates and demographics) have initiated to improve this infrastructure. The workshop assists the host community in moving towards a model where Complete Street policies are integrated in transportation planning.

Purpose of the Complete Streets Workshop:

The purpose of our workshop is to provide decision-makers and community health advocates with an awareness of the benefits of Complete Street design from an economic, health and environmental perspective. The workshop participants will evaluate the current walking, cycling, transit and carpooling opportunities in their community and Sustainable Alberta Association will provide models of sustainable transportation design from municipalities with similar demographics and climates.

The Complete Street workshop will provide residents, community leaders, and municipal staff an opportunity to:

  • Be acquainted with the concept of Complete Street design
  • Assess the current conditions for sustainable transportation in their community and arrive at a common understanding of its strengths, weaknesses, and priorities
  • Be exposed to sustainable transportation initiatives taking place in communities across Canada
  • Be acquainted with the social marketing of sustainable transportation

Provide input on next steps for the improvement of the walk ability, bike ability and transit friendliness in their community.

Common Terms in Sustainable Transportation:

What are Complete Streets?

A Complete Street is safe, comfortable, and convenient for travel by automobile, foot, bicycle, wheelchair, and transit. Complete Streets are designed, built, operated and maintained taking in consideration the needs of all users (pedestrians, cyclists, transit users, car drivers, the disabled, seniors and children).

Why is sustainable transportation so relevant today?

Economics: In simple terms, the cost of oil is only going to increase, and the supply diminish!

Inactivity: Sustainable Transportation directly addresses one of the principal underlying societal conditions contributing to decreased physical activity and obesity: excessive and unnecessary use of the automobile. The existence of infrastructure that encourages reduced car use influences people in making healthy lifestyle choices when traveling to school, work, and elsewhere in their communities.

Climate Change: When we burn fossil fuels in our cars, we release carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide gases into the air. These are the “greenhouse gases,” which are primarily responsible for climate change. Emissions from transportation are the largest single source of greenhouse gases. The rate of global climate change is escalating rapidly.

Paving our green space: Up to 42% of the surface area of our region is dedicated to roads and parking. We are turning our wilderness and agricultural areas into blacktop and parking lots.

Automotive Waste: Only 18% of used tires are reused; 62% are simply discarded into landfills. Every year, in Canada,19.5 million tires are thrown into landfills. Non-metallic car components such as plastics, fluids, and rubber compose 25% of every vehicle; these are very difficult to recycle.

Air pollution: Air pollution escalates at a constantly increasing rate as more vehicles are put on the road. The result is smog: a toxic chemical mixture which irritates eyes, nose, and throat, and causes respiratory and cardiovascular problems. Children and elderly people are especially vulnerable to airborne emissions. Air pollution is a year-round threat to the heart health of Canadians yet only one in 10 people makes the connection between air pollution and cardiovascular disease, according to the 2008 Heart and Stroke Foundation Report Card on Canadians’ Health. The report card said there are 6,000 additional deaths in Canada each year due to short- and long-term exposure to air pollution – with nearly 70 per cent of deaths coming in the form of cardio and cerebrovascular disease.

Value of Participation to Communities:

A community’s participation will incorporate multiple components, including:

  • A one-day workshop in the community facilitated by one to two representatives from Sustainable Alberta Association.
  • A summary of the community’s evaluation of its current sustainable transportation infrastructure.
  • A summary of the recommendations from the participants and Sustainable Alberta on next steps to move on Complete Street design.

Sustainable Alberta will work with the communities involved to encourage them to take part in existing sustainable transportation programs such as the Commuter Challenge and Active and Safe Routes to School. We will provide resources, such as the excellent TDM Toolkit for Small and Midsize Communities, a resource prepared by the Fraser Basin Council. SAA staff will be available for ongoing consultation and support.

Who Should Attend?

This project is aimed at community leaders: political leaders, municipal staff, health-care professionals, youth, disability and senior advocates, parent representatives, and invited members of the public, especially those who have demonstrated an interest in health, environment and planning issues related to transportation.

What are the Community’s Responsibilities?

Local organization is essential to the success of the Complete Street Workshop. It is the local organizers who can identify and invite the participants; they arrange for the meeting space, publicize the event and take care of the details. Sustainable Alberta’s role is to design the workshop, assist with the local organizer, provide expertise, facilitate the workshop, and follow up with a summary that will be relevant to the community.

To ensure the success of the event the local organizer should undertake the following actions:

Arrange a Time and Place with SAA: try to avoid staff time conflicts, pick a location with easy access by foot, bike or transit; of the appropriate size and that has the necessary facilities.

Invite the Target Audiences: particularly community leaders – elected officials, department heads, PTA presidents, school board members, Chambers of Commerce, leading public health professionals, advisory boards and service club members and people involved in Active Transportation. Sustainable Alberta has an invitation template that the community liaison can use.

Event Logistics: ensure that there is a working computer, data projector and screen, a number of flip charts with the necessary markers and tape or tacks. Set out a place for attendees to register and where lunches can be served. Also ensure that there are workshop agendas and other pieces of information available for attendees. It is helpful if there is a photocopy machine close by to take care of any last minute coping needs.

Promotions and Publicity: the local organizers are best positioned to arrange for local promotion and to contact the local media. Brochures, posters and press releases can all be used; SAA can assist with the creation of these items. The SAA Program Advisor will also be available to be interviewed by the local media before, during and after the workshop.

Sponsorship of Lunch and Coffee Break: Sustainable Alberta Association provides for transportation, hotel, workshop design and delivery and follow up. As a non- profit organization, SAA’s budget is limited, so we ask that the host community sponsor the lunch and coffee breaks.

This workshop will provide community leaders and municipal staff an opportunity to:

  1. Become familiar with the concept of Complete Street Design and its critical importance to public health and environmental well-being;
  2. Share information on Sustainable Alberta Association (SAA)’s successful social marketing strategies, including the Calgary Commuter Challenge event;
  3. Assess the current conditions for sustainable transportation and arrive at a common understanding of its strengths, weaknesses, and priorities;
  4. Learn best practices for the design of pedestrian, cycling and transit facilities and view examples from other Canadian communities;
  5. Provide input on next steps for the improvement of the walkability, bikeability and transit options in the host community.
Who is Delivering the Workshop?

Rebecca O’Brien is the program Coordinator for the Sustainable Alberta Association (SAA).

Rebecca has been working in the sustainable transportation sector since 1999, when she initiated the TRAX program in Halifax, now one of the longest running sustainable transportation programs in Canada. Rebecca is committed to the principle that a healthy Canadian population requires vibrant, diverse communities that ensure quality of life and human dignity over automobile dependency. Rebecca currently serves on six committees and boards, and is the recipient of a number of awards for her work in implementing sustainable transportation infrastructure including the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal and Saint Mary ‘s University’s Harold J. Beazely Award. Rebecca has presented at conferences across the country, has had over a hundred print, radio, and television appearances. Since moving to Calgary in 2005, Rebecca has worked collaboratively to improve the sustainability of her own community in Calgary, including initiating playground naturalizations, recycling programs, a pesticide-free Calgary coalition Healthy Calgary, a school carpooling program School Pool and anti-idling campaigns. With her energy and focus, SAA has expanded from its role from administrating the Calgary Commuter Challenge to year-round trip reduction and sustainable transportation workshops throughout Alberta. Rebecca continues to increase awareness of the connection between health, education and environment. Rebecca walks, cycles and takes transit year-round in Calgary.

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