In Brockville we have committed volunteer groups and committees of council, and we have an activity-hungry populace. Yet as long as we have a city council with a passive-aggressive stance on becoming walk-friendly and bike-friendly (and age-friendly and youth-friendly), we will make little progress.
“If we want healthier communities, we must make it easier for individuals to feel good about physical activity in the context of their own lives. We are more likely to walk to services in our community if we have food security and appropriate shoes. We are more likely to attempt a new activity if we have the literacy and information centre to understand it better. We are more likely bike to work if we feel safe and comfortable in accessing our route. We are more likely to comply with exercises when values and promotions of our community support this.“
“The evidence shows us behaviour stems from the social, the economic and the political, much more so than from the personal.”
“residential streets are where families go for walks, where neighbours greet and chat with each other, and where kids ride their bikes to school and play games. If these are indeed legitimate uses for streets, its time that we recognize this, by humanizing the speed of vehicle movement along these roadways.”
A dozen weeks ago Brockville City Council voted to turn a long history of unfulfilled promises into a commitment to develop an active transportation plan. That initiated a contract with MTO to receive $183,000 of funding for cycling projects on the condition that the city develop and approve an active transportation plan. The city also entered into a $60,000 contract with an engineering consulting firm to lead the development of that plan, with $48,000 of the cost coming from the provincial grant and $12,000 of city capital earmarked for the cycling advisory committee’s projects.
There were many good reasons for undertaking this approach, all discussed at that council meeting. One of the factors was the opportunity to tap a subsequent three years of provincial cycling funding, an opportunity killed by the incoming provincial government. At a recent meeting of the Finance, Administration & Operations standing committee, committee members overrode Council’s decision by asking that a hold be put on the process of developing the active transportation plan.
As a reminder to council candidates for the upcoming municipal election, there are many good reasons for developing and implementing an active transportation plan. While the benefits of becoming more bike and walk friendly are widely understood, accepted and in evidence everywhere, the benefits of going through the process of developing the plan are often overlooked. With that in mind, here’s a brief summary of “A Dozen Good Reasons For Developing An Active Transportation Plan”.
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Walking is a slow and porous experience. The words we use to describe it—meandering, sauntering, strolling—have their own leisurely and gentle cadence and suggest a sort of unhurried enjoyment. But to walk is also to be vulnerable: it forces us into physical interaction with surrounding streets, homes, and people. This can delay us, annoy us, even put us in danger. But it connects us to community in a way that cars never can.
Read the essay here.
While we’ve posted several articles on walkability and its benefits (most recently for example here, here, and here), it remains difficult for many to describe just what a more walk-friendly community would look like and feel like. Here’s an article that describes walkability in terms of safety/risk, distances, convenience, and comfort. In addition to obvious risk mitigation measures like additional formal pedestrian crossings in Brockville, the article reasonably describes the sort of consideration that would go into the formulation of an active transportation plan for our city.
With Sudbury adopting a “complete streets” policy, residents join the 85% of Ontarians who live in a municipality where complete streets are either provincially mandated or have been adopted by local Council. As in other cities with a complete streets approach, public roads are designed and reconfigured to safely serve all members of the public – all ages, all abilities, all modes of transportation, for purpose or for pleasure.
Just as homeowners in residential areas benefit from quieter, family-friendlier streets and improved property values when streets are upgraded with bike lanes, the evidence is clear in case studies from across the continent that when streets through business districts are upgraded with bike lanes, then retail benefits big time, even though parking patterns may change.
“When faced with the prospect of losing some on-street parking outside a local business, it completely makes sense for business owners to be concerned about the impact on their customer base. But the on-the-ground evidence as well as nationwide data paints a very different picture. Rest assured that, if bike lanes are coming to your street and some parking spaces are disappearing in the process, local businesses shouldn’t see losses in profit. In fact, they’re likely to see gains.”
Think how downtown Brockville could benefit from wider sidewalks, bike lanes, more people traffic and more foot traffic through stores.
If you will be walking, cycling, or driving on Québec roads, be aware that a number of updates have recently been enacted in the Highway Safety Code. The changes to road use regulations and accompanying fines and demerit points are fairly extensive. This article in the Montréal Gazette summarizes the changes, while all the detail can be found on the provincial website.
The 5th Annual Eastern Ontario Active Transportation Summit, held in Brockville on May 10th & 11th, hosted over 100 participants from a variety of municipalities and organizations across Eastern Ontario. Presentation material from the Summit is posted online here.
Turning a long history of commitments into action, Brockville Council voted 5-3 to develop a long-awaited active transportation plan for the city. While most of the media attention has been focused on the much-loved Brock Trail, meaningful long term impact will largely stem from the process to develop and adopt the cycling components of the plan.
This vote is one step today, for the Brockville we want tomorrow.
Read the local news coverage here.
Read this author’s delegation to Council below.
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The long-overdue development of an active transportation plan for Brockville, first committed a decade ago in the Official Plan, finally gets underway. At this evening’s Finance Admin and Operations committee meeting (City Hall, 4:30 PM), an operations staff report outlining the results of the bid process will be presented and the committee will be asked to approve moving ahead with the selected bidder. That approval will then move forward in the FAO consent agenda to full Council on Tuesday, May 22.
Come out and show the committee and Council that you support moving ahead to develop, approve and then adopt an active transportation plan for the City. It’s also a great opportunity, with a municipal election coming in November, to listen to councilors comments and see who are supportive of Brockville’s residents gaining the health, social, environmental, and economic benefits of becoming a healthier, more active place to live, work, grow, and play.
In Brockville, our Brock Trail provides opportunities for a leisurely walk or roll in a green space, away from the noise and smell of the roads. Community trails like the Brock Trail also offer the opportunity to connect with friends and neighbours, and meet new friends. “Hike with Mike” is an opportunity created to encourage just that, on June 16 at 9 AM, starting at the trailhead beside Westminster Public School. Enjoy a leisurely stroll along the Trail to downtown, where you can tour the Tunnel or visit the Farmers Market for a well-earned snack. For details, on the attached poster.
Also in planning, are some leisurely, family-friendly “slow rides” along the trail. On your bike, you will be able to meet up with the group at various times and places along the Trail, starting at Laurier Blvd and ending downtown at the Farmers Market, once again for that well-earned snack. Stay tuned for more info.
The above picture can be clicked to expand full-size, and downloaded for reference. It shows the projects currently underway on the Brock Trail. Heavy equipment and other activity on the under-construction segments may limit passage. The two segments in particular where this is true include:
Perth to Stewart – expected to be completed by early June, the work here includes removal of a utility pole and its support cables near the Perth Street end; additional fill, drainage and grading of the central part of the segment and the short connector to Front St; paving; and a pedestrian crossover on Perth St.
Laurier to Centennial – construction is likely to continue into early summer on this segment. Work includes:
- bridge abutments, bridge installation, and connector trail to Aspen Dr
- paving of the trail from end to end
- a pedestrian crossover on Centennial road to the parking lot at the Mac Johnson Wildlife Area canoe launch
- at the Laurier Blvd end, a paved and curb-separated trail connection on the road shoulder to the intersection with Bridlewood; a pedestrian crosswalk across Bridlewood; a pedestrian crossover across Laurier Blvd;
- a new separated trail segment from the south side of Laurier at the crossover to the Fieldhouse and then across the existing bridge to connect with the existing Brock Trail segment.
When the Laurier to Centennial segment is completed, the Brock Trail will provide an off-road active transportation corridor from the Mac Johnson Wildlife Area all the way to downtown and waterfront, where it connects with the 3,000+ km Great Lakes Waterfront Trail network spanning Ontario.
Ontario already leads Canada in adoption of complete streets policies. Fully 84% of Ontarians live in a municipality where complete streets are either provincially mandated or have been adopted by local council. Sarnia is about to move up to that level of competing for families, talent and new business when their council moves to adopt a complete streets policy this month. As in other cities, the complete streets policy will ensure that public roads safely serve all members of the public – all ages, all abilities, all modes of transportation, for purpose and for pleasure.
Here are two articles about walkable communities. The first article asks whether your municipality is demonstrably unfriendly for walking, featuring many instances reflecting what we find in Brockville (as in the picture above). Read first article here.
The second article is “The Complete Guide to Creating More Walkable Streets”. The guide offers a diverse array of approaches to planning and implementing more walk-friendly access for a large variety of common streetscape situations. The guide also has numerous links to more detailed case studies of each example. Read the second article here.
Brockville will be designing and approving an Active Transportation Plan this year. Stay tuned for the public workshops and be prepared to come out and collaborate in building a plan that will provide policy and guidance, leading Brockville to become a more walk-friendly community.
For those who like to follow what’s happening in the leading, larger cities for practices that can be applied in places that are smaller and/or lagging way behind, there’s always lots to learn from Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary and Montréal. Vancouver’s journey has perhaps been the most successful across a broad set of measures. Fully 50% of trips in the City of Vancouver are made by bike, on foot, or by transit. A few notable highlights are captured in the images and you can read more here.
In his paper, “Mobility and Innovation: the New Transportation Paradigm”, Todd Litman, founder and executive director of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute, explores the economic, social and health imperatives behind the radical shifts in transportation policy and practices sweeping the developed world.
Recognizing that the major transportation innovations of the last few decades don’t help us get to places faster but instead more cheaply, more conveniently, and more safely, the author then notes that, “The human experience is increasingly urban. Cities are, by definition, places where many people and activities locate close together. This proximity facilitates positive interactions, both planned (accessing shops, services, jobs and entertainment) and unplanned (encountering old friends while walking on the street or riding in a bus, or seeing interesting products in a store window). As a result, urban living tends to increase our productivity and creativity, a phenomenon known as economies of agglomeration.”
That very process of agglomeration however, traditionally built around the automobile, spawns challenges of congestion, cost, pollution and declining health. The author then fully explores the dynamics of the new transportation and planning paradigms that have taken hold over the last decade, more focused on putting people first, and allowing people to move and interact conveniently, comfortably, and safely.
It’s a fascinating “big picture” read which you can find here.
The latest newsletter from Green Communities Canada on Active School Travel highlights funding for community projects, an updated website, and updates on bike to school week, a seminar on air pollution hazards around drop-off zones, and more. Check out the newsletter here, where you can also subscribe for updates.
As more cities try to improve walkability–from car-free “superblocks” in Barcelona to heat-protected walkways in Dubai–a new report outlines the reasons behind the shift, the actions that cities can take to move away from a car-centric world, and why walkability matters. Read more here.