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!
Our informal polls at the event gave us some information about the people we strive to represent. Here’s the results:
The 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:
cyclists off the sidewalk
dogs on leash
beverage stop/food truck along Dallas Road
for drivers to be reminded that any pedestrian at a crosswalk has priority
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
micro-parks and placemaking
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:
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
• 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
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
• safety measures such as improved street design, reduced traffic speedsand enforcement
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Walk On, Victoria is very happy to report that in response to recent pedestrian advocacy efforts, the City of Victoria has committed to spending an additional $200,000 on crosswalks over and above the amount named in the City’s Draft Financial Plan. Click here to read the Times Colonist article!
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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!
This past weekend Car Free Day was celebrated for the first time in Victoria, drawing huge crowds to downtown Douglas Street. The event was a success and so was Walk On, Victoria‘s booth at the event.
Hundreds of attendees shared their concerns and told us why they love walking. One-hundred and seventy-eight people signed up to be updated on Walk On news via email, far exceeding all our expectations. These individuals will be entered into a draw for a beautiful walking stick, donated by our generous sponsor Il Terrazzo.
We collected some informal feedback at the event that we’ll use to help guide our actions over the next year. As you can see from the photos below, fast-moving cars and narrow, uneven sidewalks topped the list of concerns. “Dog poop” was a concern we hadn’t even thought of…
A second poll suggested most people walk for health, happiness, and urban exploration:
A third poll showcased all of the great walking areas in Greater Victoria:
Walk On volunteers also recorded pages and pages of more specific concerns and ideas. Thank you to all those who came out and met us–it’s great to know there’s so many passionate pedestrians out there on the streets of Greater Victoria!
Walk On, Victoria is Greater Victoria’s pedestrian advocacy group. Formed as a volunteer-run non-profit in September of 2014, Walk On, Victoria aims to give a voice to pedestrians and ultimately to make Victoria a safer and more enjoyable place for everyone to walk.
Walking is a healthy and environmentally-friendly form of transportation and recreation that fosters vibrant communities and provides an enjoyable experience for residents and visitors alike. Despite these benefits and the popularity of walking among residents, the interests of pedestrians are often overlooked. Walk On, Victoria intends to change that through advocacy and events that promote walking and encourage policymakers to prioritize the interests of pedestrians.