In the 21st Century Walking Matters - for our health, happiness and communities
Commentary: Jacky Kennedy, Director, Canada Walks, Green Communities Canada
Walking is fundamental to our well-being and to our transportation network and is a lifelong pastime. But do we really do enough to ensure pleasant and safe walking environments in Canada? We believe we can do much better, like the Netherlands who have increased daily walking trips to 25% (Canada's average is just 11%).
Sadly in 2012, the news across the country was often dominated by pedestrian fatalities. For this newsletter we tried to find out how many pedestrians have been killed across Canada over the last few years but there is no national coordination of this data, not since Transport Canada's last report from 1992-2001.
In Ontario, the Office of the Coroner conducted a review of 95 pedestrian deaths from 2010 and his recommendations were made public in September 2012 One key recommendation was the lowering of speed limits on high pedestrian routes, from 50 to 30 km/hr in residential neighbourhoods and from 50 to 40 km/hr on all other roads. Lower speeds have saved lives in other jurisdictions as the chance of survival increases from 5 to 80 per cent. However, in order to encourage our elected officials to take action on speeds we need to make our voices heard - many politicians are uncomfortable with this approach despite the evidence that supports the saving of lives.
It's time to change the conversation - we need to start a serious debate about the safety of all users of our public space, one that leads to mutual respect of the unique needs of all travel modes and recognizes the urgent need to share the space equitably to protect the most vulnerable.
Many of Canada's pedestrian deaths occur on arterial roads that are typically designed to carry high volumes of vehicle traffic at speeds of 50 to 70 km per hour. The function of arterial roads has traditionally been as thoroughfares moving traffic through quickly and with few stops; the primary consideration being the mobility and access for motor vehicle traffic. However, these roads are more than just thoroughfares for vehicles - they pass through many neighbourhoods where people live, go to school, work, shop, dine and play. We need to rethink our streets and their multiple uses and modify the built environment to suit the local needs.
Actions that we can all take:
- If you live in Ontario, familiarize yourself with Ontario's Chief Coroner's pedestrian death review report and recommendations
- Show your support for the Coroner's recommendations by writing or emailing your MPP and your local municipal leaders; request that the province create a 'Walking Strategy' with a goal to reduce pedestrian fatalities by 50%.
- Demand lower speeds and enforcement - in particular 30 km/hr in residential and school neighbourhoods.
- Urge provincial and local politicians to identify and fast track infrastructure funding programs that put pedestrians first.
- Municipal funding is available through the Green Municipal Fund of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. The funding, which needs to be matched, can be used for the planning and implementation of active and sustainable transportation projects.
- Get involved in the UN's global "Long Short Walk" this year and plan community events during the UN Global Safety Week (May 6-12). View video.
- Encourage your elected officials to apply for a Walk Friendly designation; as a first step have them sign the International Charter for Walking
Hold a walkability workshop for your community - contact us for details and ideas ...
Canada Walks provides many services that help to make communities walk friendly. Contact us for details about:
- Providing professional workshops to assist communities to achieve 'walk friendly' designations.
- Making the business case for walkability to key decision makers.
- Bringing together a diverse range of stakeholders to share common goals for walkability.
- Creating realistic action plans for communities.
- Utilizing internationally acclaimed speakers and Canadian walkability champions.
- Providing best practice case studies from Canadian communities.
- Hosting informative walkability webinars.
- Benchmarking communities to determine progress to date.
- Train-the-trainer workshops for your staff.
- Community forums to encourage citizen engagement.
"Thank you all so very much for sharing your passion, energy and knowledge with us...Bringing the mayor together with key decision makers in our community was essential to putting the issue on the agenda."
- Stasia Starr, RN, PHN, Thunder Bay District Health Unit.
International Walk to School (IWALK)
Winter Walk Day - February 6, 2013
Ready made posters and printable images are available here
Tips for keeping warm and being seen on colder and darker winter days:
|Walking to school is fun in the snow!|
- Keep hands and head covered to prevent heat loss
- On really cold days cover your face and mouth with a scarf, neck warmer or balaclava
- Wear warm, waterproof boots
- Wear a warm coat that deflects the wind or alternately layer clothes underneath a warm, windproof coat
- Woolen or synthetic fleece clothing helps to retain the heat
- Wear clothing or carry knapsacks with reflective material - it's important to be seen
- If possible, change wet clothes at school - tuck an extra pair of socks and mitts into knapsacks
- Below -25oC is considered too cold for walking so move your walk in-doors or select another day for outdoor activities or walking to school
There's No Such Thing as Bad Weather, Just the Wrong Clothing: Climate, Weather and Active School Transportation in Toronto, Canada
Raktim Mitra, PhD,1 Guy Faulkner, PhD2; University of Toronto; Can J Public Health 2012;103(Suppl. 3):S35-S41
The results of a study of 11-12 year olds in Toronto determined that climate and weather-related variables were not associated with school travel choice. Inner city children living outside of the City's sidewalk snow-plough zone were more likely to walk than children living in the inner-suburban areas within the snow-plough zone. Overall, the findings suggest that investments in the built environment to improve walking conditions are likely to be beneficial year-round and not just in the nicer weather.
What Happened to Walking?
Encouraging Active School Travel in Toronto
The University of Toronto's Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education Speaker Series hosted a public forum with keynote Jennifer Keesmaat, Chief Planner, City of Toronto. Facilitated by Christopher Hume, architecture critic and urban issues columnist, Toronto Star, and featuring presentations on the results of the 3 year Project Beat (Built Environment and Active Travel), from Co-Principal Investigators Guy Faulkner, Ron Buliung and Caroline Fusco. The public event was part of three days of knowledge translation and sharing of the BEAT findings by the University of Toronto and featured presentations from across Canada on the Children's Mobility, Health and Happiness project
Our iCANwalk to school...can you? campaign wraps up in May and we would like to see more schools take this active school travel challenge. It's simple: first make a commitment to walk/bike as often as possible i.e. participate in Winter Walk Day, Spring into Spring, promote Walk/Wheel on Wednesday, start a Walking School Bus or a Walking Buddies group. Next, register your school's active travel pledge for iCANwalk to school...can you?. And finally, start walking or biking! Each time your school completes an active school travel activity, log in to your userid and enter the kms travelled - the system keeps a tally of your school's progress. It's that simple. In May we will hold a prize draw, with prizes donated by the Heart and Stroke Foundation.
iCANwalk to school...can you? is an initiative of Green Communities Canada and the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario, with funding support from the Ontario Government's Healthy Communities Fund.
:as part of your walking challenge why not check out journalist Paul Salopek's Out of Eden Walk. Salopek plans to walk 34,000 kilometres across three continents over 7 years, from Ethiopia, through Eurasia to the top of Sough America.
WALK Friendly Ontario is a recognition program that encourages municipalities to create and improve spaces and places to walk by awarding Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum designations. In late Fall 2012, WALK Friendly Ontario (WFO) engaged 5 communities in a pilot of the comprehensive assessment tool that evaluates a community's "walk-friendliness". We sincerely thank the communities of Hamilton, London, Kingston, Thunder Bay and Fort Erie for their feedback on the assessment tool. In one community, 25 people, including municipal staff and community partners, assisted in completing the assessment. We also learned that it took our pilot communities
between 18-28 hours to complete the assessment. Overall the feedback was positive and many suggestions were offered to fine tune the tool, which will serve as the application for designation, for a spring roll out.
We are currently seeking corporate partners that share our interest in helping Ontario municipalities transform into healthy, vibrant, walkable communities. Please contact Mandy Johnson if you are interested in learning more about the benefits and opportunities that a partnership with WALK Friendly Ontario can offer.
The WFO Facebook and Twitter pages are rich with daily posts - articles, best practices, interesting examples, and great ideas - all to encourage and support more walking! Find out what other communities across the province are doing by following us on Facebook or Twitter
Canada Walks is presenting Walk Friendly communities at:
- Ontario Good Roads Assoc./Rural Ontario Municipal Association Conference - February 24-27
- Ontario Small Urban Municipalities (OSUM) conference - May 2-3
Alberta Walkability Work Expanding with Alberta Health Services
|Bill Given, Mayor, City of Grand Prairie and Graham Matsalla, Alberta health Services. Health Promotion Facilitator sign International Charter for Walking|Alberta Health Services continues to build on the momentum created through the 2011 Walkability Roadshow, with walkability workshops conducted in Grande Prairie, Camrose, Leduc and Okotoks, with more scheduled for 2013. Media response has been positive. Red Deer, one of the first five communities to participate in the Walkability Roadshow as part of their Integrated Movement Study, recently developed a Mobility Playbook with leading international consultants
8-80 Cities and Gehl Architects.
A chilly walkabout in Okotoks!
Wheeling to School Case Study now available!
Results from the 2011/12 Wheeling to School Case Study at four Ontario elementary schools to better understand the barriers to children cycling to school and identify realistic strategies to overcome those barriers. A joint project between Canada Walks and Share the Road
The Ontario Ministry of Transportation has a draft Cycling Strategy The Cycling Strategy is available on their web site for public comment. The last update to the province's Bicycle Policy was 1992 and this draft strategy incorporates recommendations from the Chief Coroner's Cycling Death Review.Let your voice be heard - submit your thoughts today.
Ontario's First Youth Bike Summit is now recruiting students for the Youth Advisory Committee
Share the Road is hosting Ontario's first Youth Bike Summit in Toronto, October 6-7, 2013. To find out you can get involved visit sharetheroad.ca and click on Youth Bike Summit.
Mark your 2013 calendars:
Tools of Change Landmark Case Studies Webinar Series:
Promoting best practices in social marketing and a healthier, more sustainable future - see website for more details:
- Bixi Bike Sharing System: February 27, 2013. Presenter Gian-Carlo Crivello, BIXI
- Smart Trips Welcome: March 27, 2013. Presenters Linda Ginenthal and Andrew Pelsma, Bureau of Transportation, City of Portland, Oregon
- Haliburton Communities in Action: April10, 2013. Presenters Sue Shikaze and Kate Hall, Haliburton Communities in Action
- Stepping It Up: Reversing the Trend in Active Transportation: May 1, 2013. Presenter Jennifer Lay, Metrolinx
Registration $50 - FREE for first 25 connecting locations that notify Tools of Change how they used information from past webinars or from the Tools of Change website.
Recent documents from our research file show that transportation planning and engineering officials are tuned in to the unique needs of walkers and cyclists, proving that we know how to create great public spaces - now we just need the political will to make them a reality:
- The City of Seattle implements traffic cameras in school zones to discourage speeding; revenue from speeding tickets to go towards funding traffic safety improvements around schools. Read article.
- The Pembina Institute's Behind the Wheel report offers practical ideas for Canadians to drive less, reduce pollution and save money.
- The Housing + Transportation Affordability Index - a great example that Canada could emulate.
- See the US National Association of City Transportation Officials Urban Street Design Guide that provides solid advice on Designing Streets as Public Spaces.
- Transportation Demand Management Institute's new web site brings together ideas and resources regarding international approaches to travel behaviour change.
Other recent research and resources that inspired us:
Incentive items for active school travel initiatives can be ordered through M.P. Russo & Associates www.mprusso.com.
Let them know you heard of them through us!
Canada Walks Walkolution News profiles actions across Canada undertaken by Green Communities Canada and our many local partners to help create communities where walking is safe, easy, enjoyable, and inviting. By making a donation to the Green Communities Foundation you can provide vital support for this work. Just click on the Donate Now button and indicate in the comments section that you'd like your gift to go to the work of Canada Walks.