You can help get candidates talking about walking

There’s a city election coming up, and with your help, Walk Toronto is working to make sure all municipal candidates talk about walking as a key part of making a great city.

What Walk Toronto is doing

Walk Toronto has teamed up with other sustainable transportation groups to come up with a platform and election survey, “Building a Toronto that Moves,” that will ask every candidate where they stand on making Toronto a better city for walking.

It wasn’t easy to choose just 4 yes/no questions to ask about pedestrian issues, but, working with Canada Walks, we focused on “slow zones,”  widening Yonge St. sidewalks, sidewalk snow clearing, and safe walking to school.

You can see the complete platform on the Toronto Centre for Active Transportation website: http://www.tcat.ca/election_surveys_2014

Every candidate will receive a survey, and we’ll be publishing their answers in early October, so that voters can use them to help make a decision on election day.

What you can do

To get candidates talking about walking issues, one thing you can do is ask them a question when you see them campaigning on the street, at your doorstep, or at an all-candidates’ meeting.

One question you could ask is:

 “Last year, 40 pedestrians were killed by vehicles on Toronto’s streets, a 10-year high. What will you do to improve pedestrian safety in Toronto?”

Or ask them a question about any other walking issue that is close to your heart – the key is to get candidates talking about walking!

Thanks for helping to make walking better in Toronto,

“Building a Toronto that Moves” city election survey

Walk Toronto has teamed up with the Toronto Centre for Active Transportation (TCAT), Canada Walks, Cycle Toronto and the Toronto Environmental Alliance (TEA) to create an election survey for council and mayoral candidates in the upcoming civic elections.

The survey, called “Building a Toronto that Moves,” includes 4 questions each about walking, cycling and transit.

The survey was launched at a press conference this morning (Tuesday June 3) at City Hall.

The full document and the election questions can be found on the TCAT website. The survey results will be published in the fall close to the date of the election, to help Toronto voters make their decision about which candidates to support.

It was challenging to choose just 4 questions to ask, but here are the ones we came up with for walking:

1. Do you support enabling neighbourhoods to establish “slow zones” (with a maximum speed of 30 km/hr) on residential roads?

2. Do you support permanently widening sidewalks with high pedestrian activity in downtown Toronto, such as Yonge Street?

3. Do you support extending snow clearing to all residential sidewalks in Toronto, at an estimated cost of $10M per year?

4. Will you work with the Toronto area school boards to develop and implement School Travel Plans that will improve the safety and integrity of school walking routes?

More detailed background about each issue can be found in the full document.

 

Walk Toronto Jane’s Walks

Jane’s Walk weekend is fast approaching, and members of the Walk Toronto steering committee are presenting some of the walks.

Dylan Reid, Vivien Leong and Mike Jones are leading the Walkability Scavenger Hunt – Ward 30 on Sat. May 3 at 2:00 pm, with help from Sean Marshall.  The walk will test out the Jane’s Walk “Walkability Checklist” tool, looking for the elements that contribute to creating a good or bad walking environment.

Denise Pinto, who is Global Director of Jane’s Walk, will also be testing out the “Walkability Checklist” tool on Curb Cuts and Desire Lines: A Christie-Harbord Scavenger Hunt! on Fri. May 2 at 4:00 pm. The walk will lead in to the Jane’s Walk launch party that evening.

Further west, Lance Gleich will be leading Swansea, Past and Present on Sat. May 3 at 6:30 pm, on behalf of the Swansea Historical Society.

Geoff Kettel will be co-leading Layers of Thorncliffe Park on Fri. May 2 at 6:30 pm and Sat. May 3 at 10:00 am.

And of course there are many more walks being held across the city by all kinds of enthusiastic walk leaders. Be sure to get out and walk!

LEADING THE WAY: Understanding the World of Wayfinding

Leading the Way event

Walk Toronto is pleased to co-sponsor a talk about wayfinding with Phil Berczuk, who is leading the development of Toronto’s wayfinding strategy.

WHAT: Leading the Way: Understanding the World of Wayfinding
WHEN: Monday, May 5th, 6:30-9:00pm
WHERE: Eaton Lecture Theatre (RCC204), Ryerson University / 80 Gould St.
COST: free!
RSVP: You must RSVP at our Eventbrite page. Limited rush seating available night of event
FACEBOOK: Please share our event listing on Facebook

Many cities such as London, New York, Bogota and Vancouver have developed wayfinding strategies in response to significant transportation challenges and/or major events such as the Olympics. The City of Toronto is planning on rolling out a limited wayfinding system in time for the 2015 Pan/ParaPan Am Games.

At the “Leading the Way: Understanding the World of Wayfinding” event, you will get a global tour of what other cities are implementing on their streets, led by Phil Berczuk, the director of design at Steer Davies Gleave, who is also leading the design of Toronto’s wayfinding system. Berczuk’s presentation will be followed by a Q&A session with Spacing’s Matthew Blackett.

Walk Toronto calls on the City of Toronto to extend snow clearing to every sidewalk in the city

Walk Toronto is calling on the City of Toronto to commit to clearing the snow from every sidewalk in the City.

While the City ploughs sidewalks in suburban areas, 1,100 km of sidewalk in the parts of Toronto most heavily used by pedestrians are not cleared of snow by the City. Instead, in this “No-plough zone” residents are required to do so, with inconsistent results. As a consequence, ice and snow makes sidewalks throughout a large part of the City dangerous during the winter, especially for seniors and the disabled. Some may be unable to leave their house, and others may suffer life-threatening injuries. Meanwhile, the City pays out millions of dollars in insurance claims and struggles to enforce its own sidewalk clearance bylaws. The current policy simply does not meet the basic standards for creating a fully accessible city.

The full consequences of this City policy are laid out in a comprehensive report by Walk Toronto, “Keeping Sidewalks Safe in Winter” (PDF).

A new report from City of Toronto Transportation Services (PDF) claims that it is impossible for the City to clear narrow sidewalks in the “No-plough zone.” However, the Walk Toronto report demonstrates that in fact many cities already clear narrow sidewalks, and shows the kind of equipment that the city could purchase or contract to do so. Doing so is affordable as well – while Ottawa and Montreal’s budget for snow clearing comes to $0.44 per capita for every centimetre of snowfall they receive, Toronto only spends $0.27 per centimetre of snowfall per capita. Even the most expensive option would only bring that up to $0.30, and the cost should be much less.

The Transportation Services report will be discussed by the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee on Wednesday April 9. Walk Toronto is calling on the committee to direct Transportation Services staff to come up with a plan and a realistic budget to clear every sidewalk in the city. It is important for the City to act now, as the contracts for snow clearing will be coming up for renewal in 2015.

Good turnout for Jennifer Keesmaat talk about walking to school

Jennifer Keesmaat speaks at Walk Toronto event

On Feb. 12, 2014, Walk Toronto hosted a talk by the Chief Planner of the City of Toronto, Jennifer Keesmaat, about walking to school.

We had a good turnout of about 100 people at the University of Toronto Schools (Spadina and Bloor). Among the attendees was Globe and Mail columnist Elizabeth Renzetti, who wrote a great description of the talk in the paper (the print title was “Cities should worship the ground we walk on,” a sentiment Walk Toronto can certainly get behind).

Also attending were representatives from walk-to-school programs at Metrolinx, Canada Walks, and Toronto Public Health, who talked about their programs with attendees before and after the talk, as well as representatives from Jane’s Walk.

Attendees were encouraged to give a donation to Walk Toronto (to cover costs) that doubled as a vote on the best age for children to start walking to school without an adult. The “10 or under” category was the resounding winner. The vote results were as follows (rounded off):

10 or under: 51%
11: 31%
12:  2%
13+: 15%

Everyone who donated got one of our new Walk Toronto buttons. Those who donated $5 or more received one of our reflective buttons — a little contribution to safe walking at night.

You can listen to a recording of Jennifer Keesmaat’s talk here (mp3).

Signing in at Walk Toronto event

Walk Toronto buttons

Event photographs by Lance Gleich

Keynote talk: Jennifer Keesmat talk on walking to school

Walk Toronto is pleased to announce Walk Toronto’s 2014 general meeting, with a keynote talk by Jennifer Keesmaat, Chief Planner for the City of Toronto, on the subject of walking to school. Ms. Keesmaat speaks passionately on this important topic (including a widely-watched TEDx talk), and under her auspices the City has begun a project to both encourage walking to school and make it safer for students.

The talk and general meeting are free and open to the general public. Here are the event details:

Jennifer Keesmaat
“Walk this way: Transforming our City”
Wednesday February 12
7:00-8:00 pm (keynote talk and questions), 8:00-9:00 pm (general meeting)
University of Toronto Schools (UTS) Auditorium, 371 Bloor St. W.
(S-E corner of Bloor and Spadina)
Accessible entrance west of main doors
If you plan to attend, please RSVP through Eventbrite:

http://tinyurl.com/Eventbrite-Keesmaat

Following the keynote, the Walk Toronto general meeting will highlight current initiatives and describe our first year’s accomplishments, followed by an opportunity to connect with other walking advocates and talk to representatives of walk to school programs. Everyone is welcome to stay and participate.

Walk to School Resources

Several parents have contacted Walk Toronto to find out how they can make it easier and safer for their children to walk to school. There are programs in Toronto and the GTA, both from governments and NGOs, dedicated to increasing the number of students walking to school.

Active and Safe Routes to School is a program initiated by Green Communities Canada. They have developed a whole series of programs and resources, and they partner with municipalities and school boards. See for example the Canadian School Travel Planning Facilitator Guide (PDF).

Toronto Public Health has staff members dedicated to working on the Active and Safe Routes to School program. They are a good first point of contact to help organize activities and navigate the City and school bureaucracy to get changes made. They have recently added a “Walking to School” information page.

Toronto District School Board’s EcoSchools program has a Sustainable Transportation module (PDF) which students and teachers can use to connect with the right people at the Board and get started.

Metrolinx, the regional transportation agency for the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, is also very interested in promoting walking to school. Metrolinx conducted a large-scale School Travel Study (PDF) to identify the current state of school travel in the region and has published School Travel Planning in Action in Ontario (PDF) to feature some case studies of successful programs, with concrete examples of the measures taken in specific schools and the increase in walking to school that resulted.

It’s also helpful to get the local city councillor and school board trustee on board. They can help with working with staff, for example the area manager for City of Toronto Transportation Services, who are the ones who will implement changes. Most importantly, your local councillor will be the person who brings any proposals for changes to the streets to the local community council. When working with elected officials, it’s always more persuasive to have a group of parents supporting any initiative, rather than just working on an individual basis.

A good starting point is often to organize a walk along the route in question, including parents, children, the local councillor, possibly local police (who are in charge of the crossing guard program), and city staff.

If you know of other resources, or have experience with working on a walk to school initiative, please let us know in the comments.

Join us on the City of Toronto’s first “on the move” consultation walk

Walk Toronto is pleased to be co-host (with Jane’s Walk) of the City of Toronto’s first ever “on the move” public consultation — a chance to walk and talk with City staff to give them feedback on how to improve the walking experience in Toronto.

The walk takes place on Sunday, June 23 from 12:00-2:00 pm, starting at the North-West corner of Islington and Bloor. It will be led by Tim Laspa, Director of Transportation Planning at the City of Toronto. He will lead the discussion at major stops, where participants will have a chance to ask questions and share their thoughts about transportation planning. Several members of the Walk Toronto steering committee will be there to engage in informal talks with small groups of walkers as we move along the route and notice pedestrian issues.

The event is part of the City of Toronto’s “Feeling Congested?” consultations on developing a new transportation strategy. There will be simultaneous bike and transit “on the move” consultations.

The walk starts at the northwest corner of Islington Avenue and Bloor Street West, near the TTC entrance, and then moves through (or around) a pedestrian portal, through the community arts-influenced Mabelle Park, and then to Dundas Street West. It proceeds along Dundas St. W past newly built Michael Power Park, works its way through the Six Points Intersection (aka the Spaghetti Intersection) and ends at Kipling Subway Station.

Please join us for this opportunity to tell City staff directly how walking can get better in Toronto. Space is limited, so be sure to register for the walk if you plan to participate.

The details:

Title: Feeling Congested? A walk’n’talk about transportation in Toronto
Date:  Sunday, June 23, 2013
Time: 12:00 – 2:00 pm
Meeting place:  NW Corner of Islington and Bloor
Led by: Tim Laspa, Director of Transportation Planning, City of Toronto and Walk Toronto (TBC)
Registration: https://feelingcongestedwalking-eac2.eventbrite.ca/

Toronto Walking Resources

The City of Toronto has a wide range of policies related to walking, but it’s not always easy to know about them or to find them. This post provides a convenient list of links to these various policies, so that anyone who is interested can get an overview what the City is doing, or at least says it should be doing, to improve the pedestrian experience in Toronto.

List revised in Feb. 2014 to update links to new City of Toronto website.

Various non-municipal organizations also provide useful information about walking policy and programs:

If I’ve missed anything, please add them in the comments.