In Your Words, YYC is a regular CIA feature that allows awesome Calgarians to share their awesome views on our great city.
The way the media and critics talked about it during construction, it was Calgary’s enduring shame. A waste of money. A slap in the face to hard-working taxpayers. But forget all of that: the critics and curmudgeons are wrong-headed and small-minded on this one. The Peace Bridge is simply a treasure—and one of the things I love the most about Calgary.
It isn’t just an ordinary foot bridge across the Bow River. From the minute it was opened to the public, the Peace Bridge instantly became one of Calgary’s favourite public spaces. Dog walkers, wedding photographers, joggers, strollers with kids, seniors with canes—it seems that people just love being around it. The vibrant red-and-white color and distinctive design set it apart from everything else that is sometimes too grey, too beige, or too dusty in a Prairie town like Calgary.
Even before it was built, the Peace Bridge was doing its job: getting people engaged and caring about their city. Love it or hate it, most people had some strong thoughts about the bridge itself. Calgarians started to examine their urban environment. And even those who still conclude that it’s a waste of money had to stop and ask themselves: what kind of city do we want? Getting citizens to ask that question is half the battle in getting them to care.
Years (or maybe months) from now, people will forget the price tag. They’ll forget the sometimes flawed manner in which the project was debated and approved within City Hall. They’ll forget that there could have been better locations for the bridge. What we have will endure: a place where people love to hang out, be in community with each other, and enjoy life in Calgary.
Todd Hirsch is the Senior Economist at ATB Financial, and the author of “The Boiling Frog Dilemma: Saving Canada from Economic Decline.” He’s lived in Calgary since 1989.