The City of Kitchener has been designated a 2015 Silver WALK Friendly Community for its commitment to walkability through signing the Pedestrian Walking Charter and forming the Pedestrian Charter Steering Committee. The City has also developed and is implementing a number of plans and policies that support the needs and interests of walkers. Additionally, Kitchener includes walkability as its number one goal when it comes to community design – the impressive King Street reconstruction project is a prime example of Kitchener’s commitment to getting people out and walking.
Some highlights from Kitchener’s application include:
- The City of Kitchener has been committed to improving walkability since 2005 when the City’s Mayor at that time signed the Pedestrian Walking Charter. This action served to mobilize community members to create the Pedestrian Charter Steering Committee, a regional citizen’s group that encourages, monitors, and advocates for the implementation of the Charter in local municipalities.
- Kitchener collects important information about active travel through TravelWise and Transportation Tomorrow surveys. Data from these surveys is used to inform Transportation Demand Management strategies to overcome barriers and provide incentives that directly respond to identified needs.
- With a dedicated TDM coordinator in place, Kitchener has been steadily implementing its Transportation Demand Management Plan (TDM) since its adoption in 2011. The Plan is a key resource in getting people to shift from single occupancy vehicle trips to active modes of travel including transit. The Plan includes a number of potential strategies to get the community walking such as a subsidized corporate transit pass, promotional events and individualized marketing campaigns. The TDM Plan aligns with the City’s Strategic Plan and helps to address a number of strategic goals such as managing growth and development “with a view to the critical elements of a healthy community”. Kitchener has a dedicated Transportation Demand Management Coordinator, which has been critical to the success of the TDM Plan. The Plan was recently updated to address rapid transit station area and the City has taken on a co-op student to build capacity for its TDM initiatives.
- The City recently redesigned King Street in downtown Kitchener and this has been the most significant investment in walking to date. King Street has set a precedent for walkability within the city and boasts lower curbs, wider sidewalks, contemporary pedestrian scale street and accent lighting, and new granite-clad planter beds that also serve as comfortable seating. In addition, removable bollards that delineate on-street parking spaces are also used to close off the street to traffic or to convert on-street parking spaces into areas for outdoor cafes, patios, and restaurant seating. The King Street redesign has won a number of awards for its role in drawing people back downtown and is featured as an example of a Canadian Complete Street on Complete Streets for Canada.
- Kitchener is to be commended for some of its engineering design features used to calm traffic and create a safer environment for walkers. For example, having curb radius standards of 6 meters on all road types reduces the likelihood of rolling right hand turns at stop and signal controlled intersections. The City has also installed roughly 15 bulb outs (with more planned for the coming years) to minimize the crossing distance for pedestrians at intersections, and is using raised and textured crosswalks in places to help increase the visibility of people crossing at these locations.