At it’s regular monthly meeting today, Brockville’s “Finance Admin, Operations” standing committee received an update from John Taylor, chair of the Brock Trail committee, reviewing progress to date in completing the trail. While there is lots of work left to do, progress is significant, as anyone walking or rolling around town knows. Of special note, for every $1 spent by the city, the Brock Trail committee has raised an additional $2.46 from grants, donations, and in-kind. To date, expenditures total approximately $1.4million, the equivalent of 28 “jobs created” (a.k.a. “FTE-years”) as tallied by economic programs. The update is attached below.2017 07 18 Brock Trail Update
The push is on for a national active transportation strategy. Currently, 21 million Canadians, or about 58%, live in a region where transportation and development projects and practices conform to policies guided by active transportation plans, cycling plans, walk/bike/age/youth-friendly plans, Vision Zero initiatives, or complete streets plans. In fact, government funding programs are starting to become contingent on those plans being in place and current.
Now is the time to bring our country under a consistent set of practices and guidelines, at the same time enfolding and bringing into the current century those municipalities who to date have ignored the mounting evidence on benefits, including the clear economic necessity of stepping up to compete on a level playing field. Follow the links for more information.
“Cities are their streets. Great cities are those with great streets. Other things matter, of course — parks, buildings, transit — but it’s streets that bring a city to life, that make it a place people choose to live, visit, work, play . . .” Click through here to see a wonderful piece on how Toronto’s streets are coming alive as they’re reclaimed to put people first.
Communities across the continent are realizing the health, social, and economic benefits of designing neighbourhoods and cities, large and small, that encourage people to move themselves more often. This article explores the changes that are underway as paradigms continue to shift rapidly, and how different designs meet the needs of different types of activities. One compelling aspect of this article is the emphasis placed on the need for changes in thinking with respect to zoning, community design and political will. Read more here.
“Cycling Without Age” is an international program with 11 chapters in Canada, including Toronto, Ottawa and Winchester. The goal is to provide seniors or others with limited mobility the chance for casual outings at a leisurely pace. Launched in Copenhagen in 2012, there are now 8,000 volunteers worldwide helping others realize the simple pleasure of a leisurely outing. The bikes are a hybrid of a rickshaw and an e-bike. Imagine these in Brockville helping the mobility-challenged enjoy the Brock Trail and waterfront parks.
For the Cycling Without Age Facebook page, see here.
For an article on the Winnipeg launch, see here.
For the North American website, see here.
For the global website, see here.
For a TEDx Talk on the program, from 2014, see here.
An article published by the AARP under their “Livable Communities – Great Places for All Ages” banner enumerates ten ways that bicycle friendly communities are good for everyone. Yes, even those who may never get on a bike. While this may be yet another great summary of the ever-mounting evidence in support of the social, health and economic benefits, it goes a step further by linking the benefits to making a city more age friendly. Brockville, a city that to date has failed to be designated as bike friendly, walk friendly, age friendly or youth friendly could use some of this common sense. Read the article here.
It’s most evident at public meetings, where typically only the polarized show up. On one end of the spectrum are the few who are “confident cyclists”, content to tackle any street anytime. While no more than 1% of even a bike friendly community, their voices are generally ignored as those of a fringe element.
On the other end of the spectrum, public meetings are often overwhelmed with those opposed who come with strident arguments and misinformation showing their street is better left untouched, as unsafe as they might claim it is. Intimidation tactics are often used to push people to sign petitions. Municipal councillors are deluged with phone calls and email that’s downright nasty in tone and content. Sometimes, outright deceit is used, for example, meeting with the fire chief and learning that bike lanes pose no problem for emergency response, and then running ads and soliciting petition signatures based on the assertion that bike lanes will slow emergency response and cost lives.
The risk of course is that municipal councils be swayed by these vocal minorities, avoiding conflict, under-serving the majority of residents, and leaving the community languishing in the rearguard of economic progress.
In between those poles, however, lie the majority of the population who are “interested, but concerned”. Research repeatedly shows that this group will rarely attend a public meeting, wants to have the choice to ride a bike more for everyday getting around, or for recreation, and will shy away from having to mix with motorized traffic.
Being informed by this evidence from many municipal studies, the Brockville cycling advisory committee adopted as one of its design principle:
Everyday Cycling – The segment of the population targeted by the network is first and foremost the “everyday” cyclist – those people who would like to bike recreationally to start, perhaps with friends and family, and then venture to use their bike for everyday trips around town for appointments, work, school, shopping and visiting. Research shows this group is eager yet cautious – reluctant to mix with motorized traffic – and holds the greatest latent demand. Safety for all ages, all abilities is considered. The network will also serve, but is not specifically designed for, those comfortable with and skilled at mixing with traffic on Brockville’s busier roads.
Following the research and case studies, is an article posted on Planetizen by public engagement strategist Dave Biggs of MetroQuest, “The Wisdom of Engaging Nervous Cyclists“. He outlines the extensive outreach that Toronto did to engage people in that largely silent and less heard middle group. The results were outstanding and unequivocal, leading to design and plans much further reaching than might otherwise have happened.
“It was clear to the City of Toronto that engaging less confident cyclists that make up 60% of the population, yet seldom come to community meetings, might be the key to dramatic mode shifts in the city.”
And summarizing the results, “It’s useful to note that without careful consideration to the voices of the less confident cyclists, the results of the community engagement would have pointed to infrastructure suited to the 1% of the population who are already confident cyclists since they are highly engaged. Naturally it’s important to meet the needs of confident cyclists. By also accommodating those on the fence, planners can open up a massive opportunity for change.”
And an analogy worth keeping in mind, “A city without separated bike lanes and off-street cycling paths may be like a swimming pool with no shallow end. It’s fine for confident swimmers but intimidating for novices.”
“Small, rural communities have different realities than their urban counterparts, especially when it comes to active transportation. Most have limited financial resources, but extensive road infrastructure to maintain. Rural geography generally means large distances and low density. The prevailing attitudes regarding transportation may be quite focused on cars. Finally, most evidence on AT is urban based, leaving a gap in knowledge.”
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.
In a recent consultation in Toronto, Sweden’s manager of that country’s successful Vision Zero program highlighted the change in paradigm needed to improve road safety. A paradigm that accepts that people make mistakes, and that designs roads better to reduce the opportunity for and impact of those mistakes.
“You have to realize that you have young people, you have old people, you have all kinds of people. With a philosophy like Vision Zero, you take that for granted. Instead of starting to change them, you have to start to accommodate for them and design a system for humans.”
[To date, Vision Zero has been endorsed in Edmonton and Vancouver, with Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa circling closer and closer to adoption.]
Even while Ottawa’s formal “complete streets” policy takes root and projects quickly ramp up, small projects with a tactical urbanism flair are sweeping neighbourhoods and BIA’s. In the Quartier Vanier BIA, one of Ottawa’s approved “streetside spots” features a parking spot turned into a patio. This is one of eleven for this year, out of twenty five the city was prepared to approve.
Quartier Vanier BIA’s steetside spot on Beechwood Avenue features a wooden patio arrangement designed by Carleton University architecture students, and has proven to be an instance hit as a neighbourhood social spot. Read more here.
“Imagine yourself walking safely and conveniently from your home to work, shopping and entertainment. En route to these destinations on any given day you may meet neighbours walking their children to school, stop for a coffee at your favourite shop and visit with the owner, rest on a bench overlooking a garden with flowers blooming, and enjoy the public art along the way. You not only arrive relaxed, you take pleasure in the journey.”
Since the Walk Friendly Community program launch in 2013, ten Ontario communities, small to large, have received their Walk Friendly accreditation following an evaluation process similar to that for Bike Friendly Community. There are currently no efforts underway in Brockville to achieve this recognition.
The embedded pdf file provides a look at the program and highlights for each of the designated communities.WFO-Showcase-Mar-2015-final-low-res-for-web
“We are all heading on the same path that our grandparents were on. It is an inevitable journey of life. Cycling Without Age reminds us of that relationship with our elders and on our five guiding principles that we abide by.”
“It starts with the simple act of generosity. Give our time to them when they gave us their care and time. There are a lot of stories to be shared through storytelling from our elders, but also from us. They want to listen to us too and through this bridge we form relationships. We take our time, and the act of cycling slowly helps us take in the experience and appreciate it. Without age is the principle of how life does not end at a given age, but instead we can embrace what each generation has to offer through something as simple as cycling.”
Read more at their website.
Here’s an opinion piece from Hamilton that provides some personal reflection on what the research has been reporting over and over – that when cycling infrastructure provides safe passage around a city, people get out and start biking. This is especially true for women – the “indicator species” for measuring a cycling network’s success. The small number of disproportionately vocal anti-laners on Laurier Blvd need to take note. This blog and FB page is followed by twice as many women as men, supporting the evidence of latent demand for safer cycling infrastructure. Read more.
If “complete streets” is not in your lexicon, it’s time to start learning more about what they are and why they’re rapidly becoming the new paradigm in transportation and planning.
“A new policy proposed this week promises good things to come on Ontario’s streets. The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing released its Proposed Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH) 2016, as an update to the original 2006 version, and key changes include increased support for active transportation and a directive for municipalities to adopt a Complete Streets approach.”
For more details, see information page.
“Improving walkability means that communities are created or enhanced to make it safe and easy to walk and that pedestrian activity is encouraged for all people. The purpose of the Call to Action is to increase walking across the United States by calling for improved access to safe and convenient places to walk and wheelchair roll and by creating a culture that supports these activities for people of all ages and abilities.” This came from the US Surgeon General a few months ago, underscoring the need to create city spaces that encourage walking. Continue reading “Walkability Is About The Experience”
There are various initiatives in Brockville that have a common goal of creating an environment that’s conducive to active, healthy living for all ages. Groups supporting “youth friendly”, “age friendly”, “walk friendly”, “bike friendly” and “safe communities” are but a few of the many efforts underway.
As an aside, seniors are the fastest growing segment amongst those choosing to cycle, for both purpose and for pleasure! That’s why our design target for the Brockville Cycling Network is those aged 8 to 80.