In the last post, I shared the importance of building safer roads for everyone. It focused on taking a Vision Zero approach to road safety and how protected bike lanes and a minimum grid for a cycle track can encourage more people to ride bikes more often.
This post continues with an emphasis on encouraging people to walk and how we can afford safer roads for everyone.
Encouraging people to walk
Our city and our neighbourhoods should be walkable. I led a Jane’s Walk in May that helped people determine how walkable their neighbourhood is. At a minimum, you should be able to walk to buy milk or a child should be able to walk to buy a popsicle. Your neighbourhood is most walkable if you can walk to work, to shop, to go to restaurants, entertainment and recreation. And what is too far to walk to is accessible by bike or public transit. Then you can live your life without a car or be a one car family. Perhaps with the help of a car share membership for when you need a car.
Time for a conversation on lower speed limits
To get more people walking though, we need to pay attention to safety. And that’s why we should have a conversation about lowering speed limits on residential roads. Studies have shown that when a vehicle hits a person at 50 km/h that 55% are likely to be killed and 85% if the vehicle is going 60 km/h. Reduce that to 40 km/h and more people survive and some areas set the speed limit at 30 km/h since only 5% of people hit are killed. So does it make sense for residential roads to have the same speed limits as arterial roads such as Courtland Avenue?
We also need to ensure that everyone can walk safely. For example, does a senior have enough time to cross at a light? Or is it timed for a healthy 25 year old? Or how about making intersections narrower? Or having the walk signal come on when the green light does instead of forcing someone to push a button.
Safer school zones
Around schools such as Wilson Public School or St. Aloysius, let’s consider photo radar once the province allows it and signs that show how fast you are driving.
Improving walking and mobility in winter
Walking is also not only a warm weather option. So the city needs to be taking greater responsibility for clearing sidewalks and paved trails of snow in the winter. I plan to vote in favour of the pilot project deferred to the spring for City Council to consider. Here are some pragmatic ideas I suggested that could be also be considered.
Kitchener has decided to be more proactive on bylaw enforcement this coming winter. I believe though it made a mistake in not considering revising the bylaw being enforced. Currently, property owners have 24 hours to clear their sidewalk but if it snows again, even a little, the clock is reset. So it can be several days before there is even an expectation of a clear sidewalk to be proactively enforced. That’s simply too long!
How can we afford these changes?
If we’re trying something out such as a new protected bike lane or bump outs at an intersection, costs can be kept to a minimum by using materials that are quick and easy to install and remove. Often we can use materials the city already has or could reuse such as traffic cones or planters. Residents can even be empowered to try out some of these ideas. This approach is known as tactical urbanism (and can be used to address a variety of ideas to make neighbourhoods and the city better).
At some point, we may want to make even temporary ideas permanent. There’s an interconnected set of ideas to answer how can we afford these changes.
In part, we can pay for these ideas by spending what we already spend differently. We can also piggyback on other projects so that the cost is cheaper than doing a standalone project.
More importantly, we need to start thinking and designing differently. Making changes in 2018 to Fallowfield Drive to slow down cars is more expensive than if the road had been designed so that it didn’t encourage drivers to go fast in the first place.
At the same time, keep in mind that budgets reflect a city’s priorities. If we are committed to improving our city so that more people ride bikes or walk, our budget for infrastructure to encourage active transportation needs to increase. That’s how we put our words into action and build safe roads for people.