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
Two recent articles on walk-friendly communities made recent note. The first is a CBC piece on Sudbury’s progress toward becoming walk-friendly, with development on several fronts. As Sudbury’s active transportation coordinator says, “We know younger generations are driving less, and there’s more interest in living a sustainable lifestyle. So I do believe it’s to the city’s benefit to invest in cycling and walking, to attract people to come here, live here, work here and start families here.” Read that article here.
A second article, from Public Health Ontario, highlights a recently published study that investigated the health benefits of integrating walking into everyday activity. This isn’t the first study in this area and it won’t be the last as the evidence continues to mount that designing walkability into our urban landscape results in healthier lifestyles. Of course, that in turn reduces future healthcare costs. “In this age group [30-44], people in the most walkable neighbourhoods averaged almost 15 minutes per day more moderate-to-vigorous physical activity than people in the least walkable neighbourhoods.” Read that article here.
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.
The updated Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe was released on May 18, 2017 and comes into effect July 1, 2017. (View or download here.) Significant new policy statements embedded in the update require that all road projects for new and renovated facilities will follow complete streets guidelines, and that active transportation is prioritized over private automobiles. Continue reading “Ontario Becomes First “Complete Streets” Province”
(June 15, 2017) Construction is progressing quickly on the active transportation link through Brockville’s 401 corridor. As described in earlier documents and shown in the diagram below, the link is a joint project between the Brockville cycling advisory committee and the Brock Trail committee. The link consists of sidewalks converted to boulevard trails, a pedestrian crossover at Bramshot, and a widening and resurfacing of the old trail through the Ormond Street Park. Expect this trail segment to be completed and open for use within a few weeks.
Once this segment and the new trail segment from Laurier to Centennial are completed, we’ll have an off-road trail route all the way from the waterfront to the Mac Johnson Wildlife Area.
Great idea: Rethinking parking – From coast to coast and in middle America, more sensible parking policies are taking hold and may be the quickest path to urban revitalization.
CNU’s “Public Square” editor Robert Steuteville interviewed Donald Shoup, UCLA professor and author of The High Cost of Free Parking, and Jeffrey Tumlin, director of strategy for Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates, transportation planners and engineers, on how new ways of thinking about parking are transforming the American landscape.
This wide-ranging interview describes how required provisions for automobile parking have shaped urban areas, especially downtowns, in ways that discourage and defeat walkability. Many examples serve to illustrate this quickly disappearing paradigm. The interviewees also highlight the rapidly increasing number of municipalities that are removing minimum parking requirements from zoning bylaws, and the upsurge in urban revitalization that follows.
In Canada, some cities are following suit in removing parking minimums, most notably around transit hubs. A discussion about removing parking minimums from developments around the downtown and waterfront area in Brockville could be of local benefit especially if coupled with a parking garage that would provide the convenience of “park once then walk”.
Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) is a US nonprofit organization with offices in Chicago and Washington.
“The Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) helps create vibrant and walkable cities, towns, and neighborhoods where people have diverse choices for how they live, work, shop, and get around. People want to live in well-designed places that are unique and authentic. CNU’s mission is to help build those places.”
The Safer School Zones Act gives municipalities more tools to fight speeding and dangerous driving in their communities, including:
- Automated speed enforcement (ASE) technology, which will help catch speeders. Municipalities will have the option to use this technology in school zones and also in community safety zones on roads with speed limits below 80 km/h.
- The ability to create zones with reduced speed limits to decrease the frequency and severity of pedestrian-vehicle collisions in urban areas.
- A streamlined process for municipalities to participate in Ontario’s effective Red Light Camera program without the need for lengthy regulatory approval.
Municipalities, police boards and road safety advocates from across Ontario have asked for these tools to help keep roads safe, particularly in areas with children and seniors. With the passage of this new legislation, municipalities will now have the option to implement road safety measures in a way that makes sense in their local communities.
Ontario’s roads have consistently ranked among the safest in North America, and these new tools will help make communities even safer for all vulnerable road users.
Read the full announcement, with links to further information, here.
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.
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.
(May 1) Following a review of the financing of Brock Trail projects, the proposal for the 2017 slate of crossings went back through FAO (Finance, Administration, Operations standing committee) and then through City Council last week, where the following motion was carried as part of the consent agenda:
THAT the attached report titled “Brock Trail Pedestrian Crossings/Crossovers (PXO’s)” produced on behalf of the Brock Trail Committee be approved for identifying locations for the installation of Pedestrian Crossovers; and
THAT the following Brock Trail pedestrian crossings be implemented in 2017: Henry Street at Brockville Museum, St. Paul Street at Butler’s Creek bridge, Cedar Street at Church Street, Ormond Street at Bramshot Avenue, Laurier Boulevard at Bridlewood Drive and Centennial Road at Buell’s Creek bridge; and
THAT By-Law 21-93, Traffic By-law be amended accordingly.
These six pedestrian crossovers, when completed this year, and added to the existing pedestrian crossover on King St West are all crossings at which those driving and cycling are required to come to a complete stop for those walking and signalling to cross. Drivers must remain stopped until those crossing are clear of the crossover.
(April 19) In regional news, Kingston has achieved yet another milestone in its vision to build “A Smart and Livable 21st Century City”, with an emphasis on active transportation as the guiding theme for all municipal projects. Kingston adds a Bronze designation as a Walk-Friendly Community to its previously awarded Bronze designation as as Bicycle Friendly Community. Kingston is cited for its engagement and encouragement of residents, province-leading participation rates in the annual commuter challenge, and an evidence-based approach to upgrading public facilities.
Read more about Kingston’s achievement here.
“At Kansas University, assistant professor of psychology Amber Watts is gearing up for a large study on how the walkability of neighborhoods impacts cognition–and maybe even dementia. An initial pilot study on 25 people she conducted with a fellow Alzheimer’s researcher and two architects found that the sample of older adults who lived in more “walkable” neighborhoods performed much better on cognition tests.”
Research and case studies have clearly shown that being immersed in a natural setting is beneficial for mental health. (See here.) Now, new research is uncovering the cognitive health benefits of navigating and interacting in walkable neighbourhoods. Read more here.
“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.”
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.
This op-ed piece from a Winnipeg writer outlines various ways to make our northern cities more enjoyable in the winter. “Walkability mitigates the most extreme climates by providing interesting places to warm up, linger, and connect. And plenty of options about how and where to turn around and circle back.” Read more here.
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.
Here’s a thorough exploration of making cities more livable, from the Knight Foundation, starting from the simple principle of “pedestrians first”. The article explores several pillars: walkability, bikeability, public spaces and public transit – all key to building more vibrant communities. Read more here.
And here’s a FastCo article on the same report.
This is a great summary piece that lists fifty different reasons why cities of all sizes need to pay more attention to design that puts people, community and walkability, and moving people in a way that creates interaction, ahead of moving cars. The list covers the gamut from physical and population physical and mental health, to social community, to economic factors. Read more here.
This article from the Sierra Club highlights the social and economic benefits found in neighbourhoods with higher walk scores. “People who could hoof it reported more trust and involvement, and are happier and healthier than those in less walkable neighborhoods.” As well, “A 2009 study by CEOs for Cities found that homes with an above-average Walk Score sold for up to $34,000 more than their no-sidewalk-in-sight counterparts.” That of course raises the issue of social equity. Should people have to pay more to live in a walkable neighbourhood, or should cities be designed to be put community first?
Read more (with links to research) here.