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University of Calgary to host international conference on walking

Walk21 gathering in September 2017 will discuss and debate how to nurture a culture of walking in Calgary
October 6, 2016
The XVIII Walk21 International Conference on Walking and Liveable Communities will bring as many as 600 attendees from around the world to the University of Calgary campus.

The XVIII Walk21 International Conference on Walking and Liveable Communities will bring as many as 600 attendees from around the world to the University of Calgary campus.  

The University of Calgary has been chosen to host the XVIII Walk21 International Conference on Walking and Liveable Communities, in September 2017.

This unique gathering of some of the top minds in fields ranging from public health, to architecture, to urban planners will come together with citizens, politicians and policy-makers to debate and discuss how best to nurture a culture of walking in Calgary. The City of Calgary, a partner in next year’s Walk21, has developed a pedestrian strategy to promote walking as a means of transportation, recreation and as a fundamental part of a healthy lifestyle.

“The University of Calgary has the privilege of collaborating with Walk21 and the City of Calgary to promote the benefits of walking in our beautiful city,” says President Elizabeth Cannon. “We look forward to hosting international and local delegates, who will help shape this vital global conversation about creating healthier neighbourhoods and communities, as well as sustainable growth.”

Walk21, short for "Walking in the Twenty-First Century," celebrates the joy of walking and its ability to transform communities. The three-day event will bring together as many as 600 attendees from around the world. These delegates will experience Calgary’s emerging walkability, discuss how walking can transform rapidly growing cities, and be exposed to new ideas and recent evidence about how walking connects people and communities.

“Calgary is at a pivotal point in its development, where it’s looking at moving from a primarily car-based city to one that is more traditional, where walking and other transportation methods like public transit and cycling are coming to the fore,” says Walk21 steering committee co-chair, John Brown who is an associate dean in the Faculty of Environmental Design.

“It’s not just about making communities more walkable with nice sidewalks but also providing citizens with something to walk to: restaurants, retail stores, grocery stores. It’s about enhancing the vitality of communities.”

Walk21 co-chair Dr. Gavin McCormack, an associate professor in the Department of Community Health Services at the Cumming School of Medicine, says, “Hosting this conference will be a nice tie-in to the city’s pedestrian strategy. 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.”

Differing from a traditional conference with speakers leading participants through power point presentations in lecture halls, Walk21 also features “walkshops” with participants being led on guided tours through parts of the city to illustrate points about walkability.

“We are delighted to be bringing the conference back to Canada again, where the national commitment continues to strengthen and there is more energy than ever to pivot cities forward beyond their auto-centric past to a more walkable future,” says Jim Walker, founder of Walk21. “Calgary is a city that is ready to reinvent itself. Less dependent on the car, it has a community that wants to be better connected and healthier; and there is a world-renowned university bubbling with expertise and energy that wants to help it get there. It promises to be quite a journey and Walk21 will be there for every step of it. We look forward to sharing it with you too.”

Walk21 has been hosted in cities around the world, including Vancouver, Toronto, London, Barcelona, New York, Munich and Sydney. The 2016 conference ran this week in Hong Kong and featured a number of speakers from Calgary, including members of the Faculty of Environmental Design and the Cumming School of Medicine.

The City of Calgary sees Walk21 as an important way to shine a light on its pedestrian strategy, geared toward encouraging Calgarians to develop a culture of walking.

“I am very pleased that the University of Calgary will host the Walk 21 Conference in 2017,” says Naheed Nenshi, mayor of Calgary. “Creating a more walkable community is important to our citizens, and Walk 21 will help advance this goal in Calgary. We know that walking is the most sustainable form of transportation and The City of Calgary is implementing a pedestrian strategy to help Calgarians choose to walk more often.”

The relationship between Walk21 and the University of Calgary was encouraged by Dr. Peter Sargious, a physician and faculty member with the Cumming School of Medicine.

Recently appointed senior medical director for diabetes, obesity and nutrition with Alberta Health Services, Dr. Sargious worked with Walk21 to increase public health advocacy for walkable cities ahead of Walk21 Toronto (2007) and helped bring the conference to Vancouver in 2011. “Having Walk21 in Canada for our 150th birthday creates an incredible opportunity to weave walking, with all its benefits, into our national fabric.”

See more details about Walk21 2017 in Calgary.