It’s Spring, and with Spring comes the annual round of Bike Summits to rejuvenate and re-stoke our interest in working for public roads that better serve the needs of the general public.
All of the summits draw elected representatives, professionals, advocates and other interested parties from public works, transportation, planning, consulting, economic development, education, tourism, recreation and other disciplines together.
As this piece from Strong Towns articulates, there is much to be gained from better and more productively engaging youth in community building, and ensuring their voice is heard. In our old-style local newspaper the few vocal “angry old folks” tend to dominate the reporting of new developments , after all they provide easy click bait fodder. What’s missing is the voice of youth – especially the young professionals – who tend to have a fairly clear picture of the kind of community in which they would like to live and create jobs. And in some key respects that isn’t the kind of community the fading generation would fight to preserve.
“Talent attraction and retention are buzzwords that we’re hearing all around the world right now. Communities are shifting their mindsets as they’ve come to realize that young people pick places before they pick jobs. They pick amenities over low property taxes. They pick walkability and quality public transportation over a confluence of interstate highways”
Another great article from Strong Towns highlighting the clear economic benefits of streets that are walkable — that feel safe, encourage people to walk and mingle, and provide retailers and other businesses with walk-in traffic. Read more here.
Of note, the Plan will cover cycling and walking as well as other forms of active transportation, will take into consideration work already done for the Official Plan, and since then by the Brock Trail and cycling advisory committees. The plan will include consideration for things like pedestrian crosswalks and crossovers, staged implementation, completion of the Brock Trail, and more.
Public engagement opportunities and development of the plan will include open public workshops at the design stage as well as an opportunity to review the proposed plans. It’s expected that the workshops will be open and welcoming to all members of the public, to work together to identify and prioritize opportunities to help build a community that better supports choices for healthy activity, both for purpose and for pleasure.
A pedestrian crossover (PXO) is a signed and sometimes signal-lighted crossing of a road at a location that does not have a traffic light or stop sign to regulate through traffic flow. (MTO reference)
For those driving or cycling: When you see a pedestrian with intent to cross, which may be indicated by flashing lights, come to a complete stop. Remain stopped while people are in the PXO. You may proceed when the person walking has left the road.
For those walking: Press the beg button to activate the lights. Stand facing the crossing, optionally with arm pointing to cross the road. Wait for vehicular traffic to stop, then cross the road.
For those cycling along the trail: Get off your bike. See above “for those walking”. Riding across a crossover or crosswalk is illegal.
More PXO’s have been approved by Council and will be installed along the Trail at crossings on Henry St, St Paul St, Cedar St, Laurier Blvd at Bridlewood, Centennial Rd, and Perth St, with more to come in following years.
The two existing crossovers and those listed above are part of projects initiated and driven by the Brock Trail committee and cycling advisory committee working together. In 2018, the City will be undertaking an Active Transportation Plan which will then be approved and adopted by Council. The public workshops that will be part of the development of the plan will be the opportunity to come out and help identify the many other locations across the city where crosswalks and crossovers are needed.
The linked article from the NY Times describes a simple tweak used to modify the timing of signals and intersections such that those walking are less that risk from those driving and making turns.
The intervention is a reprogramming of signal timing such that the pedestrian walk signal is activated several seconds before the green light for drivers. This allows those walking to get a head start in the crosswalk making them more visible. The result is demonstrable less risk, especially from more aggressive drivers.
“The National Association of City Transportation Officials has highlighted the measure — called a “leading pedestrian interval” by traffic engineers and urban planners — as a best practice in its urban street design guide, saying that it is one of the ways that “effectively decrease crashes and save lives on our cities’ streets.””
This signal tweak is one that any city, large or small, can use with benefit.
And, yet again, this is a clear example of how small cities, late starters like Brockville especially, can gain by following best demonstrated practices in larger cities.
The City of Vernon, BC, population 40,000, easily exceeds Brockville in terms of the pickup truck centric lifestyle core to a large cohort of residents. Yet despite that, Vernon’s city council and staff understand the economic development and other benefits as they join the competition to “create more livable and desirable communities”. Like Brockville, they’re a long way from being walk and bike friendly; however, they are on the path. Read more here.
The municipal leaders in this video understand the health and social benefits of parks and trails, as well as their direct contribution to economic development – attracting and retaining businesses, talent and families.
City parks are increasingly being viewed as critical community infrastructure – the lungs of the community. Shared-use trails running through and connecting them are the circulatory system. Together, they provide life – the social, health and transportation means to a more vital city.
Do your councilors understand this? Ask them! The municipal leaders in this video certainly do!
“Community green spaces are where communities come together to meet, talk and play – it’s where people find common ground and connect.
According to the new TD GreenSights Report, the majority of Canadians – 95 per cent – believe that access to community green space will be important to their quality of life in the future. However, there is room for improvement: three-quarters (77 per cent) say the green space closest to their home could be better.”
The report provides insights and a strong case for keeping our more natural green spaces undeveloped – spaces like St Lawrence Park, the Mac Johnson Wildlife Area, and the Brock Trail linking them.
Andre Picards’ opinion piece in the Globe and Mail summarizes quite nicely several years of research and case studies on the economic and health benefits of designing cities to be more walkable. His short and insightful piece summarizes our current state well: “Walking has to become a lever for social change, big and small – for everything from healthier neighbourhoods to a more sustainable planet – and walkability needs to be imbued into the DNA of urban planning.” Read the article here.
“Are Bike Lanes Good for Traffic?” is the title, yet the article is really a wide-ranging description of the progress being made everywhere as public roads are transformed to be safer for moving people regardless of choice of transportation. It was published in autotrader.ca and serves to both illuminate and describe the variety of approaches, designs, and social factors brought into play as roads built first for cars are now reshaped to serve moving people. Read the article here.
From the Alberta Centre for Active Living comes an updated summary of the diverse and many benefits of active transportation. It’s current, evidence based and complete with references to source case studies and research. Read and/or download below.
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.
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.