Making Thunder Bay more pedestrian-friendly was the focus of a community forum in Thunder Bay Tuesday night.
Many of the 70 people in attendance said improving infrastructure and improving connections between pedestrian routes was important.
“Try to go from the south ward to the Port Arthur ward,” Donna Zorzes said.
“Forget it. There's no sidewalk that is continuous. I might take the sidewalk down Edward, and then I'll come to a dead end. It's disjointed.”
Zorzes noted having no sidewalks along Balmoral is another concern.
"[There’s] no connectivity, no plan … in the sense to make sure that we are connected with sidewalks throughout the whole city,” she said.
"We need sidewalks. People with young kids, seniors — we need sidewalks."
But Scott Eckert disagreed. He said more people need to use what already exists to drive change.
“I think if people walked, the infrastructure would change,” he said.
“It's more of a cultural change, and a town like Thunder Bay is hard to deal with because there's so many different areas.”
Eckert suggested focusing on making certain areas more walkable, like downtown cores, to draw people there.
"The idea of this ... presentation is suggesting that Thunder Bay would be a better city if people walked, and I would tend to agree with that, because I enjoy walking myself,” he said. “It just makes the city more alive."
Walkers’ bill of rights?
Thunder Bay resident Ken Shields said he takes issue with some drivers' attitude toward pedestrians.
“Sometimes they don't give you enough time to get across the street,” he said.
“So [when] there's the red hand [on the traffic light] … drivers are thinking you're fair game.”
Ideas proposed at the meeting ranged from putting more money in city budgets for infrastructure, like sidewalks, to a walkers' bill of rights.
Many attendees said they felt the walking community needs to be more proactive in getting the ear of decision-makers. That notion pleased Anne Ostrom, the chair of Thunder Bay's walkability committee.
“We're hoping that the tools and the language that people get tonight … [will help them] become more vocal and speak out for change,” she said.
"If more people in the general public start asking for walkable infrastructure, like sidewalks and crosswalks and things like that ... hopefully council and the city will respond."
The guest speaker and facilitator at the meeting was Michael Haynes, an active transportation advocate. He was in Thunder Bay in 2007 to help develop the city’s current active transportation master plan.
During the meeting, people gathered into working groups to answer questions on how walkable they find Thunder Bay, and things they'd like to see moving forward.
Ostrom said her group will also use the feedback from the meeting to better inform its own goals.
The walkability committee is a sub-committee of EarthCare Thunder Bay, a city organization that deals with community sustainability.