Posted by: demianvpsn | November 17, 2010

Tips for making Vancouver a more Walkable City

Last month a few members of VPSN attended a seminar entitled “Walking the Talk” that was facilitated by Walk21’s Dr. Rodney Tolley.  Dr. Tolley is one of the giants in sustainable transportation research and has written a number of influential articles and books such as “The Greening of Urban Transport: Planning for Walking and Cycling in Western Cities” which is well worth a read!

The seminar had a variety of stakeholders from Translink, City of Vancouver, City of Victoria Pedestrian City and representatives from a variety of Community Health Organizations. The Community Health speakers talked about the health benefits of walking and being out in your community and the negative affects of not doing so.  The combination of planners with community health advocates made for an interesting dynamic as it provided radically different perspectives on the question of how to get more people walking in our cities.

While planner types concentrated on land use and design issues, community health advocates focused on community support and education.  The Community Health perspectives were particularly interesting.  Among the items that stuck out were the various ideas on how we get parents to stop driving their kids to school and instead sending them on their way by foot.  Another speaker related the story of Japanese school kids who still travel long distances to school but instead of being driven are helped along the way by various parents who take chaperone children through segments of their journey. Closer to home, there was a community health practitioner who was  frustrated at the need to drive her kids to school because her love for her children couldn’t allow her to send them on their way with their backpacks simply because there were no other pedestrians on the street.

The seminar broke out into working groups who conducting walking audits and came back and brainstormed ideas.  The enthusiasm in the room for pedestrian issues was inspiring.  Some of the ideas that came out included reducing speed limits to 30 km/h in residential zones, creating more truly mixed use land use planning and building up the community support to support a culture of walking.

Another brief but interesting topic was simply the potentially negative aspects of the word “pedestrian.”  Pedestrian in the academic sense means of course, boring, dry and uninspired.  Could it be that the negative connotation carries over to entrench the view that walking is “boring” and something to be avoided?  Perhaps we should start using new terms such as “walker” and simply “person on foot”.  Even “non-motorized transport” implies that something is missing that should be there.

In cities where nobody is walking, not only does it indicate a low quality of public space and quite possibly poor health but as Dr. Tolley put it “Walkers are the indicator species for quality of life”.  These are truly words to remember the whole host of benefits we would all receive if Vancouver becomes a top walking city.

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  1. […] 17 – Tips for making Vancouver a more walkable city Last month a few members of VPSN attended a seminar entitled “Walking the Talk” that was […]


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