Demand Growing For Walkable Neighbourhoods

The latest issue of “On Common Ground”, the quarterly publication of the National Association of Realtors (NAR) in the USA, is dedicated to the growing market demand for walkability as a key factor in location decisions.

NAR invests considerable resources in researching and understanding nascent and shifting trends in real estate, as well as providing news and case studies for members’ education and awareness.

Continue reading “Demand Growing For Walkable Neighbourhoods”

Toronto’s New Complete Streets Guide

As described in this release from the Toronto Centre for Active Transportation, the City of Toronto adopted a complete streets policy in 2014 and has now released it’s design guidelines document to support the program.

“The City of Toronto joins a number of other Canadian cities in publishing Complete Street Guidelines. Ajax, Halifax, Calgary, Ottawa, London, Edmonton, Waterloo, and York are some of the cities that are taking strides towards building more inclusive, multipurpose, and safe streets. ”

The document is available for download on the City of Toronto’s website here.

In Pursuit Of Paved Shoulders

Here’s an article in the local Gananoque Reporter which fairly summarizes the current quest for our county to implement a paved shoulders policy, accepting the established body of evidence on cost savings and safety gains for all road users.
Read the article here
. (link corrected Jan 19/17)
Read more posts about paved shoulders here.

Measuring What Matters

In today’s world it’s commonly accepted that public roads are a shared community resource for moving people and goods. This is a big step forward from a generation ago when planning focused on moving motorized vehicles with minimal delay. However, it’s taken a long time for traffic engineering to change measurement systems to match.  So it’s especially noteworthy to read that the U.S. DOT has concluded a multi-year process with a mandate that:

1. States will measure the movement of people, not just vehicles. Finally, a full bus will count as more than 1.

2. States will have to track their impact on carbon emissions.

3. People who choose to walk, bike or ride transit will be counted.

4. Free-flowing rush hour vehicular traffic is no longer the goal.

Measuring what matters is always important. When project planning and funding is based on more holistic measures, things change quickly!
Read more here.

Evaluating Active Transportation Benefits And Costs

The survey article recently posted (“The Simple Math Of Complex Cities“) provides a nice, quick overview of current findings that show the economic benefits of active mobility. For an exhaustive analysis of this field, the Victoria Transport Policy Institute, arguably Canada’s foremost centre for this research, has just published “Evaluating Active Transportation Benefits and Costs”. (download PDF)

The report “describes methods for evaluating the benefits and costs of active transport (walking, cycling, and their variants). It describes various types of benefits and costs and methods for measuring them. It discusses active transport demands and ways to increase walking and cycling activity.”

The report also includes an extensive bibliography of current research articles.

Ottawa’s Evolving Streetscapes

Churchill Ave in Ottawa – an award winning complete streets project

In this recent installment of a series of articles examining the evolving nature of Ottawa, Don Butler provides a thoughtful look at the evolving practice of upgrading streetscapes using complete streets approaches to better serve people and goods moving through neighbourhoods.  Many in the rearguard of normative change find the evolution troubling, yet the results speak for themselves. Read more here.

Greenways Link Neighbourhoods

You’ll soon hear discussion of “Neighbourhood Greenways” in Brockville. In design and function, they fit between off-road trails and complete streets, aimed at providing calm routes through low-traffic neighbourhoods, linking them to each other as well as to busier and more direct thoroughfares (spine/core routes) that need complete streets or protected bikeway treatment.  Continue reading “Greenways Link Neighbourhoods”

Shifting Paradigms

New bike lanes on King St W and Cty Rd 2 in Brockville (Oct 10, 2016)

Many questions and objections to safer roads for all modes of transport are raised frequently in Brockville and in every city moving to create a healthier place that competes to attract and retain families, and businesses that create jobs.

What’s often not well understood is that the paradigm for transportation infrastructure and services has changed irrevocably over the last decade. Municipal planning and transportation engineering was once focused on ensuring that people in private automobiles could get from point A to point B as quickly as possible. Over several decades, following that paradigm contributed to unsustainable cityscapes that contribute to social exclusion and inequity, pollution, obesity-related population health decline, constrained property values and other challenges.

Over the last decade, however, that paradigm has changed. Planning and transportation is now focused on providing sustainable and healthy options for people to move about cities. Municipalities are moving quickly to prioritize “all ages, all abilities” accessibility – helping people move around their cities, for purpose or for pleasure. This paradigm shift was described by Todd Litman of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute in this 2013 paper (pdf) for the Journal of the International Transportation Engineers.

The new paradigm has been embraced by governments at all levels across North America and Europe, as witnessed by the evidence presented in abundance in this site’s articles. Simply put, the priority now is on allowing people to travel safely, whether choosing to walk, cycle, skateboard, use transit, drive or some combination of any of those modes.

In Ontario, there are 12 ministries of the provincial government and dozens of stakeholder groups collaborating to accelerate this paradigm shift, with changes in the Provincial Policy Statement, changes in the Highway Traffic Act, updated highway design guidelines and requirements, and municipal funding. Almost all professional organizations understand the need for this shift and are supporting it.

The paradigm that led us once to say that someone can find a nice alternate route is no longer accepted. The question, for example, is not “why Laurier?”, but rather “why aren’t we moving quickly to make every street safe for all ages and all abilities?” The paradigm that led us once to say that, “the street is too dangerous” now leads us to say, “well, let’s make the street safe.”

The public workshops leading up to the creation of Brockville’s 2009 Official Plan recorded comments from many asking for improved walking and cycling support. The Official Plan commits the city to implement a cycling network. Council’s commitment was reinforced last September when it endorsed and adopted the Healthy Community Vision, including active transportation in support of, “All community members have the opportunity to make the choices that enable them to live a healthy life, regardless of income, education, or ability.”

This paradigm shift is not comfortable for everyone. There are some societal changes that some find difficult to accept, for any number of reasons. As witnessed in just about every city that evolves, those opposed to change mount campaigns based on fear, uncertainty and doubt. Yet cities do evolve and in almost every case, the benefits of safer roads for all conform and contribute to the growing evidence base. As with Brockville’s upgrades to Cty Rd 2 and King St W pictured above, the world does not end. We cannot shy away from moving ahead to create a healthier city.