Be Bold, Be Aspirational – A Roundup of the 2013 Complete Streets Forum
Guest dandyBLOG: by Emma Cohlmeyer
~ Published on May 31, 2013 ~
Hundreds of practitioners, professionals and advocates gathered for the 2013 Complete Streets Forum on Monday May 27, 2013, at Toronto’s Hyatt Regency Hotel. This sixth annual event was hosted by The Toronto Centre for Active Transportation (TCAT), a project of the Clean Air Partnership (CAP).
Each year, the forum brings together delegates from diverse sectors, from engineering, urban design, and transportation planning, to policy makers, cycling advocates and emerging student leaders. Participants came from the Greater Toronto Hamilton Area (GTHA) and beyond, and while diverse in expertise, share a common vision – to improve our urban communities by creating better cycling and pedestrian environments. This year’s program included sessions exploring real-world challenges and solutions to the implementation of Complete Streets, or roads designed for all ages, abilities, and modes of travel. A recurring theme from the day’s sessions, was the need to be bold, to be aspirational and to leverage Complete Streets to inspire complete communities.
Delegates take a guided tour of pedestrian improvements in Yorkville. Photo by Yvonne Bambrick
Morning workshops included a walking tour exploring Toronto’s visionary Green Line, a trip to Yorkville to explore the pedestrian improvements in the area, a guided bike tour of Toronto’s first cycle track on Sherbourne Street and a mobile workshop of Toronto’s contraflow bike lanes.
Participants build Complete Streets with scaled, movable blocks, representing different components of the street, including bike lanes, sidewalks, traffic lanes, streetcar tracks, trees and cafes. Photo by Chris Hardwicke
Less mobile, but equally hands-on, the Complete Streets Game was a crowd favourite. The workshop was a beta test of the game, developed by TCAT Steering Committee member Chris Hardwicke as an innovative community consultation tool. Participants were presented with a kit for designing a street cross-section. Groups worked to prioritize and redesign a busy downtown street, as well as a wider suburban street into a Complete Street.
Caption: Afternoon keynote presentation by Timothy Papandreou from San Francisco’s Municipal Transportation Agency. Photo by Yvonne Bambrick
Session leaders consistently spoke of the need to build a city where people have choices in how they get around. It is not about one or the other, but about building a multi-modal network. Interesting reference to the emerging sharing economy came into play. While Toronto grapples with future of its BIXI program – car sharing, transit-connector bike sharing, even scooter sharing programs are popping up in cities worldwide as convenient, equitable and highly-marketable solutions to complete transit networks.
Delegates at the Complete Streets Forum. Photo by Yvonne Bambrick
Gabe Klein, the Commissioner for Chicago’s Department of Transportation, shared his city’s ambitious plans to expand cycling infrastructure to include a 645-mile network of cycling facilities, provide bicycle accommodation within a half-mile of every Chicagoan and completely eliminate all pedestrian-vehicle traffic fatalities by 2022. A little closer to home, Loy Cheah, the Director of Transportation Planning for the Transportation and Community Planning Department for The Regional Municipality of York, shared the region’s hopeful plan to develop a Lake to Lake cycling route, connecting Lake Simcoe at the northern edge of the GTHA to Lake Ontario to the south. All of these plans are, without a doubt, bold.
Some more practical tools discussed included the necessity to collect good quality data on cycling, particularly to overcome resistance; the use of pop-up and pilot projects to test out and “socialize” ideas without large capital investment; the importance of streamlining communication, making use of marketing and messaging to “sell” ideas to the public; and the inclusion of behaviour change programs as an integral piece to cycling promotion.
Additional highlights from the Forum included the provincial launch of the WALK Friendly Ontario Designation Program and a presentation by Leslie Woo from Metrolinx of the much anticipated recommendations on how to fund the Big Move, the GTHA regional transportation plan. In support of this panel, TCAT researched and prepared a backgrounder on the need for investment and another on active transportation in the Big Move. TCAT Director Nancy Smith Lea and Share the Road Cycling Coalition CEO Eleanor McMahon also published a Toronto Star op-ed on the subject.
The Share the Road Cycling Coalition’s two-day Ontario Bike Summit followed the Complete Streets Forum, so here’s hoping that the momentum from this three-day event will carry forward in accelerating active transportation and the implementation of Complete Streets across Canada.
Emma is a recent graduate from the Urban Planning Masters degree program at U of T. With a socio-spatial background she fosters a strong interest in active transportation, the built form as it relates to public health and city-building at the strategic and local level. Emma is actively involved in the recently launched Toronto Cycling Think & Do Tank. As a researcher, she completed an extensive literature review exploring the ways in which behaviour change principles interact with cycling promotion, developing a toolkit to foster cycle-friendly behaviour.
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