All posts by Sally Reid

Car Free Day 2016

June 19th was Victoria’s second annual Car Free Day. Once again the weather was great and people came out in droves to experience their city on foot. This year 220 people visited our booth and signed up to become part of our general membership–welcome and we look forward to getting to know you!

Car Free Day #5Our informal polls at the event gave us some information about the people we strive to represent. Here’s the results:

Car Free Day 2016 #1 Car Free Day 2016 #2 Car Free Day 2016 #3 Car Free Day 2016 #4The most common place that Greater Victorians walk is to the grocery store, followed by the park/beach, work/school, bus stop, restaurants, and other shopping. Other places we didn’t include in our list but were named by respondents were the library, community centre playgroups, and recreational walking areas.

Respondents are generally willing to walk quite far–with the majority saying “no distance is too far”! When asked how many hours per week they walk, almost half said they walk over eight hours.

Respondents had a lot of ideas about what the #1 walking improvement in their neighbourhood would be. More crosswalks got the most votes, but here’s some of the items respondents themselves came up with:

  • bus shelters
  • cyclists off the sidewalk
  • dog-friendly cafes
  • dogs on leash
  • better lighting
  • construction detours
  • beverage stop/food truck along Dallas Road
  • for drivers to be reminded that any pedestrian at a crosswalk has priority
  • less pavement
  • protected walkways
  • path between streets to connect our neighbourhood
  • less obstructions (e.g., overgrown plants)
  • improved sidewalk surface conditions for mobility devices (e.g., Fort Street)
  • a pedestrian precinct downtown (Government St.)
  • more trees for shade
  • sidewalks (Gorge-Tillicum)
  • washrooms
  • micro-parks and placemaking
  • more greenspaces

The wide variety of input reflects the diverse neighbourhoods and pedestrians of Greater Victoria.

Several people mentioned they’ve noticed overgrown shrubs in their neigbourhood blocking the sidewalks. Homeowners are required to keep those in check so sidewalks are accessible to all! If you find yourself stymied by an overgrown shrub or other obstruction, note the location/address and report it to your local government. Your fellow pedestrians will thank you!

Here’s where you can report obstructions for three of our local municipalities:

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Canada’s National Strategy for Walking

Canada’s first-ever national pedestrian advocacy campaign is underway.  Undertaken by Green Communities in Ontario, the concept has garnered endorsements from pro-pedestrian organizations coast to coast (including Walk On, Victoria).

Here’s what they hope to accomplish:

Over the coming months and years, we will:
• sign up Canadian organizations that want to create more
walkable communities
• engage government decision-makers in adopting supportive
policies and infrastructure investments
• help local organizations to promote walking and walkability in
their own communities
• facilitate information-sharing and networking to build a cohesive pan-national movement
• address research and resource needs
• hold Canada’s first national walking summit in September 2017

Here’s an excerpt from the campaign description, which is full of great information and infographics:

Over the past decades walking has been neglected as a mode of transportation. As a result, walking in many communities has often become unsafe, impractical, and unpleasant.

Walking—the most natural of all human activities—has been engineered out of our lives.

Pedestrian advocates know what’s needed to put walking back where it belongs, at the top of the transportation hierarchy:
• routes, connections, and crossings designed for all users,
including people using wheelchairs, walkers, and strollers
• a complete network of sidewalks and trails, bridges, and
crossings, including wayfinding (signage)
• walkable destinations, including shopping, services, places of
employment, schools, libraries, galleries, parks, and transit
• a great walking environment including shade, shelter,
seating, uncluttered walkways, greenery, street art, lively public
spaces and streetscapes, public washrooms
• celebration and promotion of walking, including festivals,
Open Streets, street performers
• school programs to remove barriers and promote active
transportation
• safety measures such as improved street design, reduced traffic speedsand enforcement

 

Walk On’s first ever strategic plan–please comment

The tricky thing about pedestrian advocacy is that there is no obvious way to do it. It’s tied to so many issues–health & safety, the environment, community vibrancy and social connections, and social justice–which means everyone has different reasons for being involved. Meanwhile, there are an infinite number of ways to work towards a more walkable city–do we focus on specific trouble-spots? Do we push for one type of improvement over another? Do we promote walking through events and campaigns? Do we attempt to educate pedestrians, road-users, and policymakers? Prioritizing between hundreds of potential projects is difficult but necessary, given our limited capacity.

Our steering committee has been grappling with these questions since the beginning and I think it’s safe to say now that we’ve come up with a few initial answers. I’m only one member, but here’s how I would explain them:

  1. As advocates, our main priority is to push for a more walkable city–mainly by expressing our views to city councils, developers, and others who make decisions affecting walkability.
  2. Focusing on a few key areas of town that many members use is one way to narrow down an otherwise overwhelming number of ideas and to see real impact.
  3. Greater Victoria is a city with a lot of sidewalks, crosswalks, pedestrians, and hazards–we don’t have the capacity to highlight and prioritize every problem spot or potential improvement. Instead, we hope to work with and support neighbourhood associations and residents to raise concerns related to walkability.  For individual residents, we plan on creating an Advocacy Toolkit to empower those who want to see a specific change in their neighbourhood.
  4. Promoting walking is not our first priority…but an annual event promoting walkability is a good way to promote the group, grow membership, and start a conversation.
  5. We are lucky to have a talented, connected, and diverse membership. By recognizing and leveraging what people bring to the table, we can take advantage of special opportunities to make an impact.
  6. It’s fun to learn about walkability and related urban design issues. We plan on participating in and promoting educational opportunities so that together we can all learn more about how we can make Greater Victoria a pedestrian paradise.

We’ll continue to ponder how we can maximize our impact given limited capacity. In the meantime, please have a look at our draft Strategic Plan and let us know what you think.

Click here to download the draft Strategic Plan:

Walk On, Victoria Draft Strategic Plan 2016-2017

 

Member survey results

At the end of 2015 we asked our growing membership what they wanted from Walk On, Victoria. We surveyed them online about their biggest concerns as pedestrians and asked them to describe the types of work they see Walk On doing to further their interests.2015 Survey summary 1

One survey result suggests that downtown is likely the most important for pedestrians, many of whom live, work, shop, and play downtown. Another was that safety is top-of-mind for many of our members.Survey result graphic 2Survey graphic 3

Walk On, Victoria strives to represent Greater Victoria’s pedestrians–what’s important to you is important to us. The survey results will help shape our plans for 2016 and will help us understand what part our general membership wants to play.  Survey graphic 4

Walk On Week–Thank You!

The first ever Walk On Week has drawn to a close. Walk On, Victoria would like to thank all participants, sponsors, and helpers. In particular:

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WOW Launch Sally Arielle CarolynWOW launch 2IMG_9275

Urban exploration

At Victoria’s first Car Free Day, many of the visitors to the “Walk On, Victoria” table voted “exploring my neighbourhood” as one of the top reasons you walk. So, Walk On wants to encourage you to explore your urban environment and bring your friends. It’s a great way to connect with your community and you’ll be part of a long tradition of urban exploration. This post will suggest activities for people of all ages that you can do alone or as a group–maybe you’ll even inspire others to explore!

The most famous urban explorers* in recent history are (debatably) the Situationalists who explored Paris in the 1960s. They used techniques they labeled collectively “psychogeography” as a new way to map and explore the city. Now you know the Situationalists were on the right track as the Situationist International formed at a “conference,” attended by a total of eight people, in an Italian bar.

Like many of us, the Situationalists noticed that when walking with no purpose in the city, you may feel pulled along different streets to new areas as if by an unseen river. They thought by following these currents in formal walks and recording their results, they could uncover new information about the city. Unfortunately, these early psychographic walks didn’t go anywhere (literally) and eventually the Situationalists moved on. Find out more in Psychogeography (2010) by Merlin Coverley.

The Situationalist changed how we explore the city and now you can pick up a map and begin where they stopped. Walking the city still has the potential to create new paths and connections, especially when you bring groups of people together to do it. This has been done, quite well in Canada by Shawn Micallef and recorded in his book Stroll: Psychogeographic Walking Tours of Toronto (2010). Don’t worry, you don’t have to write a book to join in.

You can participate in urban exploration today! Now! Social media sites like Facebook and Instagram make it easy to connect with others who want to join you and share your experience. Technology has the potential to create huge, continuous walks!

To get you started, here are some ideas for kids and adults:

  • Meet once a week or once a month with friends and friends of friends. Walk along a street. Tell each other stories about your history on the street and the streets history. Stay focused on where you are. (Idea from Stroll)
  • Trade “cool spots” with a friend. Share your secret spot with a friend, then visit their spot. Swap stories too.
  • Grab your camera and go for a photo walk with friends and share your photos. My friends like to do this!
  • Make a map of somewhere based on what you smell, hear or touch there. Start by drawing an extremely simple map of your location with lots of blank space. Then, mark where you sensed something. You can even rub textures right onto the map. Don’t forget to make a legend for the map so others can interpret your drawing. Pass the map along to someone else and see if they can navigate where you went.
  • An original psychogeography technique can be fun too! Put away your smart phone and use a paper map of somewhere else to navigate the place you are. For example, I’m going to explore Vancouver with a map of San Francisco. Explore a place you’ve always wanted to visit but never had a chance.
  • Use a different kind of map like a topographic map or map of buried streams. Visit the top of hills you’ve never noticed!
  • Activity especially for kids: write ideas on slips of paper for challenges that can be done on short walks. You might write ‘pick up 5 leaves bigger than your hand,’ ‘jump on one foot for a whole block’ or ‘spot one creature smaller than your front teeth.’ Have the kid(s) you are walking with pick a challenge out before you go. See if you can complete the challenge!
  • Join in the Instagram scavenger hunt I’m having following me on Instagram at @planningtoride. If I use the hashtage #canyoufindit on a photo, see if you can find it. Most of my photos are in Vancouver, but there are some in Victoria. (I marked the city with a hashtag as well.) You can even join in and tag your own special finds with the tag #canyoufindit.

A couple more thing before you set off!

  • Wherever you explore, remember whose land you are exploring. Almost everywhere you’ll go in Canada is on unceded territory that was explored by Canadian Aboriginal People before you ever took your first step. Be respectful of sacred spaces and traditional hunting/gathering/cultivating spaces wherever you go.
  • The term “urban exploration” is also used to describe a specific subculture full of people who like to explore off limits or hard to get to places, like the tops of bridges, unused subway stations and big storm drains. I would encourage you NOT to do this type of exploring as it is dangerous and could get you arrested (although I won’t tell anyone if I see you doing this). If you do choose to do this type of exploration, DO NOT bring kids and DO your research. If you’re curious about this subculture, I’d suggest Moses’ Gates “Hidden Cities” (2013).

Okay, you’re ready to set off! Good luck!

Vancouver1

“satellite images/maps and blueprints/of the whole world,/of every city//we could look it up and know what’s there/in someone else’s words,//or we could get wicked drunk/and just go.” – E Horne and J Comeau, A Softer World 340

Cail Smith is a Masters Student at UBC’s School of Community and Regional Planning and would rather walk than wait for the bus. Contact Cail through planningtoride.com

 

Seeking walking groups

 

Walk On Week 2015

Mark your calendars! Walk On Week 2015 happens October 5th-11th. This inaugural week-long celebration of walking will raise the profile of Greater Victoria pedestrians and highlight recreational walking opportunities.

The launch event (sponsored by the City of Victoria) happens October 5th, from 7:30am-9:00am in Centennial Square. Walk On, Victoria welcomes non-profit walking groups to operate a booth at the event–so if you want to share information about your walking group, please get in touch at info@walkonvictoria.og. We also welcome you to tell us about any free public walks your group is hosting throughout the week of October 5th-11th so that we can promote them via our Walk On Week 2015 calendar!

Design for all

Walk On, Victoria is working with the Township of Esquimalt to gather input about walkability and urban design more generally from focus groups who might not otherwise be heard in the design process.

Walk On members will be hosting two sessions later this month with people who identify with the following groups:

  • Seniors
  • People with disabilities and physical mobility challenges
  • Parents of young children

These groups are likely to have special concerns relating to safety and accessibility. Input will to be taken into consideration by planners during the drafting of new West Bay Design Guidelines and upcoming review of the Official Community Plan.

If you live in West Bay and identify as belonging to one of these groups, please let us know! Sessions will be held:

  • Tuesday,  August 25th from 7:00pm-8:30pm in the Viewfield Room at Esquimalt Recreation Centre
  • Friday, August 28th from 10:00am-11:30am in the Viewfield Room at the Esquimalt Recreation Centre

Email us at info@walkonvictoria.org for information!