03 May Active Transportation in Canada’s Automotive Capital
You know walking, cycling, and public transit are now entirely in the mainstream when even Canada’s Automotive Capital initiates an active transportation master plan. 8 80 Cities is tickled pink to be back working in Windsor, Ontario, this time as part of a team with Urban Systems, conducting community engagement on how Windsorites want to walk, run, bike, and wheel their way across town. This new initiative, launched in April of 2018 is called Walk Wheel Windsor. It will see the Town, 8 80 Cities and Urban Systems spend the next 18 months working with residents and businesses on crafting an active transportation master plan to make walking, biking and public transit safe, comfortable and convenient options for all residents of the city.
Windsor has some key ingredients that give it so much potential for becoming an excellent city for active transportation. It’s relatively flat. It’s got a fantastic and well-loved trail system. The central waterfront is a magnificent series of connected parks dotted with sculpture and public art. Located just across the border from Detroit, Windsor saw 4.8 million tourists visiting the area in 2016 alone. Students from the University of Windsor and St. Clair College give Windsor a young, energetic vibe. Put all this together, and you realize that Windsor has a solid foundation for walking, biking, and public transit as primary modes of transportation.
We’re still in the early phases of the project, with step one focusing on community engagement. Some key themes have emerged thus far, however:
- Connectivity is Key. Residents have identified that the most significant barrier to walking or biking more is a sidewalk and bike lake network that isn’t connected. There are simply too many gaps where sidewalks and bike lanes don’t exist. Similarly, residents have stated that their most significant frustration with public transit is a bus network that doesn’t take them when and where they need to go with enough frequency.
- Safety, Safety, Safety. From separated cycling infrastructure to enhanced lighting on sidewalks and at bus stops to traffic calming and pedestrian-friendly intersections, residents have emphatically stated that safe infrastructure is needed to encourage them to engage in active transportation regularly.
- Maintenance over There’s a common belief the people won’t walk, ride their bike, or take a bus in winter because it’s too cold. Residents say otherwise. It’s not the temperature that keeps them in their cars, but a lack of snow removal and maintenance. Snow removal on sidewalks, bike lanes and around transit stops would go a long way in keeping residents engaged in active transportation all year round.
- Let them Sit. Windsorites love their city, and they’d like the chance to sit down outside for awhile and enjoy it! Benches and trees, whether at bus stops, sidewalks, intersections, or midblock connections would go a long way towards making residents feel more comfortable and more likely to engage in active transportation as part of their daily routine.
We’ll be back in Windsor in late June to dig deeper on how the city can best make active transportation as accessible as possible to the residents of Canada’s Automotive Capital, but one thing is for sure. Pretty soon, cars aren’t going to be the only way Windsorites get around town.