Thunder Bay council tours pedestrian danger zones
Improving walkability is about making Thunder Bay accessible and inclusive, advocates say
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?”
“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.
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
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.
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.
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."