Every October, Walk On, Victoria celebrates what makes walking great in our communities. This year looks a little different than previous years, as our community is facing many challenges due to the covid-19 pandemic. Many of us are working from home, distance learning, and have had our daily routines upended. Where our members may have walked to work or school, this has been replaced by a short commute between rooms. This has given us a new opportunity to explore the benefits of walking in other contexts, such as walking for exercise, stress relief, or just a way to get out of the house! Areas of our cities have been turned over the streets to pedestrians and our local businesses have taken advantage of this by creating patios.
This Walktober, we encourage you to reflect on what walking means to you, especially during this particularly difficult year. Have you been walking more or less than your normal routine? Have you found any unexpected benefits of walking? Most of all, we encourage you to get out and walk!
Stay tuned to our social medial channels for details on how you can win great prizes! Each week, we will post a challenge on our social media channels and will do a prize draw. Make sure to follow us to find out how you can win:
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Where to walk
While in the past, we have hosted some in-person walks, the pandemic has made this challenging. We have some suggestions for guided walks up on our Blog and will post additional walks during Walktober.
In previous years, we held a step-counting contest as part of Walktober but we are not able to host it this year. We have learned that ParticipACTION has launched a team challenge, running all October and featuring $20,000 in prizes. Some Walk On members have created our team, and we challenge you to an informal step challenge! https://www.participaction.com/en-ca/programs/app
How to make your neighbourhood more walkable
Residents and visitors alike have consistently rated the walkability of the area as one of the best things about Greater Victoria. However, we know that there are many challenges that pedestrians face- whether it is narrow sidewalks (or no sidewalks at all!), lack of crosswalks, debris, lighting, etc. At Walk On, Victoria, we advocate for pedestrians at all levels of government to make Greater Victoria a safer and more enjoyable place to walk.
One way you can learn more about the walkability of your neighbourhood is by doing a walk audit! A couple of our members did one for a Saanich neighbourhood in honour of Jane’s Walks:
We encourage you to report any issues you see to your local government. You can use our handy reporting tool to find out where to report issues (this tool directs you to the correct place to report and does not make a report on behalf of you).
Walk On, Victoria uses the word “walking” when referring to pedestrians (it’s even in our name!) To us, walking more than just moving on two feet, it includes all pedestrians, regardless of mobility. We aim to advocate for all pedestrians.
A walk along Pilot Street in James Bay will put smiles on the faces of youngsters and the young at heart. Many locals have created magical scenes at the bases of trees or in their yards along the one-block stretch of this residential street.
Strolling up and down both sides of the block will take about 20 to 30 minutes. Be sure to check all sides of the trees (look up, too), practice physical distancing and enjoy this special walk.
The photos are a preview only; there is lots more to discover on Pilot Street.
Jane Jacobs (1916-2006) was an urban activist who advocated for preservation of urban communities where a diverse population could live, work and walk to most the services they required.
Most years members of Walk On, Victoria participate in Jane’s Walk Weekend by leading several community walks. This year, because of social distancing necessary to help control the spread of Covid-19, we are offering suggestions for alternative virtual walks.
How Walkable Is Your Neighbourhood?
One way Walk On Victoria suggests celebrating Jane’s Walk Weekend this year is that pedestrians do a walking audit to assess the walkability of your own neighbourhood. Walking audits are a recommended part of all Jane’s Walks. Jacobs believed that a walkable neighbourhood is key to building community relationships and to keeping communities safe.
To do a walking audit, take your camera and a notepad and set out to rate the walking infrastructure you encounter along your walk.
You are encouraged to choose a walk that is not only recreational but that is also en route to where you carry out daily tasks, such as grocery shopping, banking, going to a pharmacy, the library, etc. If you don’t live within walking distance of any of these amenities, then do an audit of the route you usually walk to catch a bus or for exercise and recreation.
Here is a sample walking audit that two Walk On Victoria members completed for the segment of Richmond Road between Cedar Hill X-Road and Lansdowne:
Some of the factors to consider in doing your audit are:
Condition of the sidewalks: Is the pavement smooth or broken? Free of debris or littered with leaves, dirt, gravel, or trash? Is the pavement even or dangerously slanted? Is there room on the sidewalk (or pathway) for two people to walk side by side? Is the sidewalk wide enough that someone walking in the opposite direction is able to pass? Do obstacles such as parked cars, utility poles, signs, fire hydrants, bushes and shrubs or drains obstruct the path? Is the sidewalk wide enough for use by someone on a mobility scooter, wheelchair, or walker or someone pushing a baby stroller? What is the drainage like on the sidewalk? Are there pools of sitting water or mud that is slippery? In winter, are there places where snow and ice are not removed?
What about areas where sidewalk is absent? Is sidewalk continuous, or do you need to cross the street to get to sidewalk when sidewalk on one side of the street abruptly ends? Do you need to walk in the street to get around parked cars that pull onto the boulevard?
Safety of crosswalks: How many crosswalks are there on your route? What is the distance between crosswalks? Are crosswalks so far apart that pedestrians have little alternative other than to dash across the street mid-block? Are crosswalks located in a place that is clearly visible for motorists from a safe distance (not on a curve in the road)? Are the intersections wheelchair/stroller/scooter accessible?
Does walking along your route feel safe? Is there separation for pedestrians from the street or does the street abut directly with the sidewalk? What is the traffic speed limit? Does it feel like cars are moving by too close and too fast? Are there any traffic calming features on your route?
Bus stops: Are there crosswalks near bus stops, or does a pedestrian need to cross mid-block to get to the bus stop? What is the condition of the bus stop? Is there a bus shelter? A bench? Is the bus stop well-lighted? Is the bus stop just a sign on the edge of the road or on the front lawn of a residence?
Walking at night and in bad weather: Walking on a nice day in May is quite different from walking in heavy rain at 9 pm in November. In bad weather, are you likely to have water splashed on you by passing cars? Is the street lighting on your route adequate to make you visible to motorists? Are you able to see the pavement well enough to avoid tripping or slipping on debris on the sidewalk?
Places to rest: Are there any benches or places to rest along your route? If so, are they in good repair and easily accessible?
Natural environment: Is your route attractive? Are there trees and other greenery? Is the built environment along your route in good repair, and do business owners keep the sidewalk in front of their businesses clear of debris and obstacles?
Is there any art along your route? Any signage to help with directions?
What are some of your other observations about the walkability on your route? What changes need to happen to make your pedestrian experience safer and more pleasant?
If you want to do your own walk audit, please share it with us! You can also send a copy of your audit results to your local municipality to point out areas for improvement.
For a formal walk audit form that some members have used as an advocacy tool in the past, please click here.
Victoria’s James Bay neighbourhood is home to many historic buildings and a fine selection of late 19th century and early 20th century residences. Not all of the original buildings are still standing but many have been “preserved” in black and white wrap-around photographs on large utility boxes.
Join Walk On, Victoria (virtually) by strolling through history on May 2nd or 3rd, or any time this spring or summer. Just look for the large utility boxes, remember to be mindful of other pedestrians and physical distancing, and enjoy your walk!
This walk covers approximately 5 kilometres and takes just over one hour as it rambles along quiet streets. The route is a loop so it is possible to begin at any of the numbered stopping points.
Part of Walk On’s mandate is to promote and celebrate walking as a form of transportation and recreation. Pedestrians may frequently go overlooked by policymakers and engineers, but we’re here to let you know that we appreciate every step you take! Whether you choose to walk because you love all the benefits, or whether you walk because it’s the cheapest or most convenient way to get around, we salute you for using an environmentally-friendly, community-enhancing, healthy form of transportation.
In October, we hosted Walktober–an online step-counting challenge. Participants were able to register using their FitBit, smartphone, or other fitness-tracking device to track their steps on a common platform. Participants were entered into a draw for every day they walked 10,000 steps and also had a chance at additional prizes for special challenges. Overall, over 11 million steps were taken by participants–the distance from Vancouver to Toronto and back again! The participant who took the title of “Big Stepper” (most steps overall) walked over 800,000 steps during the month (including from Sidney to James Bay in a single day!)
Special thanks to our Walktober Champions, who shared some of their thoughts about walking and walkability.
Next year we’ll be doing it again, only bigger and better. We look forward to seeing you on the sidewalk during Walktober 2017–if you want to participate, make sure to sign up for our mailing list using the “Become a Member/Contact Us” link above.
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:
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 email@example.com. 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!