We asked the 5 communities participating in the WALK Friendly Ontario pilot to tell us their story. In particular we wanted to know:

~ What are you most proud of having achieved for people walking in your community and why?

~ What has been your most significant investment in walking in the past year?

It has been exciting to read about the accomplishments that these communities have achieved to date. We would like to share with you just a few examples from each community. We hope that you find interesting ideas and inspiration from the work that they are doing.

London (population 366,150)
Of London’s many walking achievements in 2012, the Healthy Communities Partnership Middlesex-London: Physical Activity Policy Action Team (a consortium of 17 community partners with leadership from the Middlesex-London Health Unit) was successful in having City Council endorse the Toronto Charter for Physical Activity which will serve as a policy framework. The Health Unit also produced a position paper called Healthy City – Active London: Evidence-Based Recommendations for Policies to Promote Walking & Biking, which has helped inform part of London’s Official Plan Review. This policy work lays a firm foundation from which to move forward on concrete action steps to make London more WALK Friendly! A companion piece is the fantastic Healthy City – Active London video.

Another excellent local initiative has been Walk to Shop, where the City provides funds to neighbourhood shopping districts to increase the number of people walking to, and shopping at, local stores.

Thunder Bay (population 108,359)
Thunder Bay is most excited about the momentum that has grown significantly since the Ontario Communities walkON project, which provided a community forum with international speaker Gil Penalosa, a train-the-trainer session, and a walkability workshop.  As a result of their involvement in walkON, Thunder Bay organized a walkability committee as a working group of the Active Transportation Committee of Council, with great support from city staff and public health.

The major outcome of this has been the support received from elected officials and municipal staff for the concepts of active transportation, walkability, and community design along with more dialogue and interest among the public and the media. Other accomplishments of note include a review of the Official Plan from a pedestrian safety perspective; a citizen survey on behaviour, knowledge, and attitudes and the retrofitting of two streets using Complete Streets design. The city has begun the process of remaking a city park as a superb “people place” and discussions have started for an Open Streets event in 2013!

Town of Fort Erie (population 29,960)
The Town recently created the Fort Erie Active Transportation (FEAT) Committee – what a GREAT acronym! We hope they live up to their name and accomplish great “feats” for those who use their feet for transportation.

The Fort Erie Friendship Trail extends 16 kms across the Town of Fort Erie, running parallel to the north shore of Lake Erie.  This relaxing and picturesque trail takes visitors and residents through lush farmland, quaint villages, pristine watersheds, and quiet residential areas as it leads to historic Old Fort Erie and the Niagara River Recreation Trail.

Hamilton (population 519,949)
Hamilton’s commitment to walking is demonstrated through various plans, policies and guidelines such as the Transportation Master Plan, Trails Master Plan, Cycling Master Plan, and Transit Oriented Design Guidelines, among others. The City’s commitment was strengthened through the 2008 signing of the International Charter for Walking. As a complement to these policies, pedestrian issues at the workplace have been addressed through the Smart Commute Hamilton program and events such as Walk to Work day and Clean Air Commute Week.

In 2009, Hamilton was involved in the Canada Walks Walking Master Class. More recently, the City has coordinated successful Active and Safe Routes to School initiatives and Metrolinx’s Stepping it Up School Travel Plan project.

All of this has lead to work in 2011 and 2012 on a Pedestrian Mobility Plan to establish a comprehensive city-wide framework that will guide on-going improvements in the future.  Overall, the work that has taken place in Hamilton over a few short years is poised to help make the City a more walkable and healthier community.

Kingston (population 123,363)
A powerful combination of the community, KFL&A Public Health, and the City of Kingston has made walking a priority in this city. This collaborative effort has resulted in policy initiatives such as a cycling and pathways study to inform the city’s Official Plan and Transportation Plan; development of an accessibility plan; council endorsement of the Active Living Charter of The City of Kingston; the signing of the International Charter for Walking; the adoption of an Integrated Community Sustainability Plan with performance indicators; and a Parks & Recreation plan highlighting connectivity between sidewalks, pathways, and green space.

Community action was strengthened by the establishment of KCAT (Kingston Coalition for Active Transportation) in 2008. KCAT has been the driving force behind projects and events that promote safe and accessible environments for residents walking on city streets. KFL&A Public Health and the City of Kingston have created supports for walking through volunteer led indoor walking programs, walking tours, and active and safe routes to school programs. Education and awareness has been increased through walking tour resources, online and print trail guides, and media campaigns.

“Is your community ready to apply for WALK Friendly designation?” Find out.