Lisa Grace Marr, The Hamilton Spectator
(Feb 22, 2010)
Hamilton's got walkability potential.
That's according to a Canada Walks Master Class case study conducted by an international team of experts that will be submitted to the city's Board of Health today.
Hamilton was one of only five Canadian communities chosen for the study last year.
In 2008, Hamilton city council applied to participate in the project and signed the International Charter for Walking.
The charter's principles are to increase mobility, design and manage spaces and places for people, improve integration of networks, support land use and spatial planning, reduce road danger, have less crime and fear of crime, have more supportive authorities (like city council) and create a culture of walking.
Sharon MacKinnon, a public health nurse and case study participant, said city staff from various departments were given a chance to talk about walkability and hear from community groups.
"Our city has a reputation of being a Steel City. We have so many things to celebrate, the waterfront, the escarpment, the neighbourhoods," she said.
"There needs to be more awareness raising around the great places we do have to walk."
The report found while Hamilton has plenty of beautiful natural areas and villages to walk in, like many other North American cities, it is designed for cars and trucks.
Councillor Brian McHattie said the city can easily implement several of the report's recommendations, such as creating signage to link great walking areas such as the waterfront and James Street North.
He said the thrust of the report is to make walkability as important as road work when redeveloping or developing areas of the city.
"We don't think about the sidewalks -- maintenance or how wide they are -- these are just not discussed.
"We can't afford not to do it, even just from an obesity perspective. But it's also important for sustainability."
STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE TO WALKABILITY
Key findings of the Canadian Walking Master Class 2009 to make Hamilton more walkable:
* Identify areas to match walking opportunities to the local population. Example: extend crossing times at lights near a seniors' home.
* Identify local neighbourhood centres (such as Dundas, Westdale, James Street North) and make pedestrian access a priority.
* Redesignate part of York Boulevard as a pedestrian street; stop trucks from travelling there to make a better environment for the Farmers Market.
* Retrofit big-box developments such as Ancaster Meadowlands to make them more inviting and accessible to pedestrians.
* Make sure walking is a priority when planning and provide spaces for pedestrians to enjoy existing streetscapes with special events in the streets.
* Reduce traffic volumes and speed throughout the city, especially the downtown, key shopping streets, around schools and residential areas.
* Consider turning one-way streets into two-way streets.
* Ensure good lighting and create areas that are not only safe, but appear safe to walk around.
* Develop local walking maps and design a distinctive signage system to support that, especially to link "walking oases" such as James Street North and the Waterfront.
* Commission and install public art and historical plaques along key walking routes to promote and enhance walking.