Thunder Bay·Audio

Thunder Bay council tours pedestrian danger zones

Members of Thunder Bay's Walkability Committee hope council will help make the city more pedestrian-friendly.

Improving walkability is about making Thunder Bay accessible and inclusive, advocates say

Thunder Bay walkability advocates board a city bus during their tour of walkable and not-so-walkable neighbourhoods. (Heather Kitching/CBC)
The City's Walkability Committee hope city council will help make Thunder Bay more pedestrian-friendly. This after giving councillors a tour of our walkable and not so-walkable neighbourhoods yesterday. Heather Kitching talked with two walkers 4:50
Members of Thunder Bay's Walkability Committee hope council will help make the city more pedestrian-friendly.

After giving councillors a tour of the city’s walkable — and not-so-walkable — neighbourhoods on Tuesday, the chair of the committee said she hopes council will consider walkability the next time they're planning a new project.

"Some of the challenges that we highlighted included certain areas of the city that ... don't have sidewalks, but maybe they have bus stops,” Joanna Carastathis said.

“How do people who get off at those bus stops walk safely to their destinations and access essential services?”

During the tour, landscape architect Paul Young pointed out pedestrian danger-zones like Memorial Avenue.
Paul Young is a Thunder Bay landscape architect who served as a tour guide for city councillors who took part in the walk. (Heather Kitching/CBC)

“The Ontario coroner did a study looking at where most people get killed on roads and it's primarily on arterial roads like Memorial,” he said.

“It's primarily when people try and cross the road — people trying to cross mid-block and getting hit.”

Young said the city should look at lowering speed limits, calming traffic, and putting sidewalks on streets where there are none.

Opportunities?

City councillor Shelby Ch'ng took part in the tour.

Council has been trying to cut spending lately, but Ch'ing said improving walkability doesn't need to cost an arm and a leg.

“There are some opportunities that we can do and we can look at other municipalities and other organizations and see what we can do without making the taxes skyrocket,” she said.

Young added people who care about walkability need to lobby council to prioritize it.

During the tour, organizers took councillors on a bus, to visit various neighbourhoods.

In addition to trouble spots, they also visited pedestrian-friendly areas, such as Bay and Algoma Streets.

Different points of view

Several community experts joined them to provide commentary on different aspects of walkability.
Gwen O'Reilly of the Northwestern Ontario Women's Centre brought two large puppets in a strollerto demonstrate the challenges faced by mothers trying to get around by bus and on foot with strollers. (Heather Kitching/CBC)

Gwen O'Reilly of the Northwestern Ontario Women's Centre brought two large puppets in a stroller, in order to demonstrate the challenges faced by mothers trying to get around by bus and on foot with strollers and groceries in tow. 

"It was pretty bumpy," she said.

"I was glad that these kids don't actually have spines because they probably would've had an injury as I was bumping them off and on the bus." 

Improving walkability is about making the city accessible and inclusive of people who are low income or who have mobility impairments, O'Reilly added.

She said she'd like to see buses run much closer to major grocery stores and discount stores.

"You see piles of carts at the bus stations because [people have] had to wheel them from the door of the store to the bus stop," she said. 

‘Next Steps’

Following the tour, the Thunder Bay Walkability Committee held a public event called Next Steps to discuss walkability in the city.

Young gave a keynote address then divided the room up by ward and invited participants to think of ways to improve walkability in their neighbourhoods.

He also asked them to think of ways to engage their neighbours in the push for a more pedestrian-friendly city. 

Walkability Committee volunteer Susan Forbes, who lives in Red River Ward, said residents there are concerned about coordinating snow clearing on roads and sidewalks so that road clearing doesn't lead to sidewalks being covered in snow, she said.
Susan Forbes holds up some of suggestions Red River ward residents to improve walkability in their neighbourhoods. (Heather Kitching/CBC)

People also wanted to see lower speed limits and more cross-walks at major areas such as Grandview Mall and Red River Road, Forbes added.  

In response to the question about how to engage neighbours, Forbes said the Walkability Committee plans to start doing presentations about walkability at ward meetings, service clubs, and public events.

Another group at the event suggested presentations at farmers markets, Forbes said.

"What we heard from the councillors that took our bus ride with us today was that they need community involvement and feedback from the community in order to say that these infrastructure things are necessary," she said.

Young also said people need to voice their support for walkability.

"You can't expect those folks (referring to the city) to support walking with hard tax dollars unless people speak up. And thus far across North America most people have been complaining about you know the proverbial pot hole.  The squeaky wheel gets oil, as they say."

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

now