All posts by Sally Reid

Walktober profile: @LovedayWalks

For our second Walktober profile of 2017, we’d like to present Jeremy Loveday, who goes by @LovedayWalks. His walking stats aren’t quite as impressive as @BobV’s, but he’s a councillor for the City of Victoria so we wanted to hear his thoughts on walking and walkability. Here’s the full scoop:

WOV: What is your favourite neighbourhood in Victoria to walk in, and why?

@LovedayWalks: That’s a tough question!  I love walking in all of Victoria’s neighbourhoods. If I had to choose, I’d say Vic West. The combination of waterfront paths, the industrial feel of the E&N rail trail, and the many beautiful character houses make Vic West a very enjoyable place to walk.

WOV: In your opinion, what is a key walkability issue that Victoria/Greater Victoria needs to work on?

@LovedayWalks: For a city to be truly walkable it must be safe for pedestrians. There are many streets and intersections that need new crosswalks or upgrades to include pedestrian activated signals. We’ve made some progress in the last few years but there is still lots of work to do.

WOV: There are many linkages between social justice and walkability–do you feel there a linkage that is especially relevant in Victoria, or especially relevant to the work you’re involved with?

@LovedayWalks: When I think about walkability, I think of safety, accessibility, and climate change. I’ve been pushing to make sure that all neighbourhoods receive equitable investments in pedestrian infrastructure. Upgrades and investments have historically come more quickly and more often to wealthier neighbourhoods. I passionately believe that walking should be safe and enjoyable in every neighbourhood in our City.

WOV: Why do you like to walk?

@LovedayWalks: Connection.  Walking allows me to experience a sense of connection with people and place. I enjoy having the time to experience the City through each of my senses, say hello to my neighbours, and appreciate the small things that make our city so special.

Walktober Profile: @BobV

You may have heard that Walktober 2017 gets underway October 1st, 2017. We encourage you to sign up (see our homepage for instructions).

If you participated in Walktober 2016, you may have noticed that one participant in particular walked an especially impressive number of steps. @BobV won the “High-Stepper” prize for walking a total of 839,419 steps throughout the month.

We interviewed him, hoping to learn his secrets.

WOV: What is your main motivation for walking?

@BobV: The simple answer is that I enjoy walking but that may be a result of knowing that walking is a great way to keep fit.  We gave up our car when we moved to Victoria 9 years ago so almost all our every day trips are on foot.

WOV: What walkability improvements would you most like to see in your neighbourhood or in Greater Victoria more generally?

@BobV: We are lucky to live in James Bay, perhaps one of the most walkable neighbourhoods in Canada.  A recent survey undertaken by the James Bay Neighbourhood Association found that 74% of trips within the neighbourhood are made on foot.  With this high number of walkers we need to have as much commitment to pedestrian safety as there currently is to cyclist safety. Top of my list would be a 30 km/h speed limit within residential neighbourhoods followed by additional and safer (and well maintained!) pedestrian crossings.

WOV: Last year you walked from Sidney to James Bay in one day! What’s your advice for people who want to start walking long distances?

@BobV: Actually, my walk started at Swartz Bay, something I had planned to do for some time – it was always to be next week, or when the weather improved or was not too hot; Walktober provided the incentive to do it now!  So, my advice would be: start the journey today, get a pedometer and gradually build up to a weekly average of at least 10,000 steps a day; don’t use the car for short distances and walk all or at least part of the way to work. Join a walking group, Victoria has several for all levels.

Walkers at all levels walk the Victoria half marathon in October so there’s absolutely no need to be concerned about your ability, sign up today!  And, of course, participation in Walktober is a great motivator.

WOV: What’s a walking highlight for you? Have you ever done a pilgrimage trail or other long-distance walking trip? A really scenic walk you would recommend to others?

@BobV: My longest recent one-day walk was the 55km Saints’ Way in Cornwall, UK. We have family in the UK and often visit Cornwall in the South West corner of England.  We love to walk the coastal path – a 630-mile path which hugs the rugged landscape.  We complete several sections on each visit with the long term aim of walking the whole of the Cornwall section.  Closer to home our favourites include East Sooke Park, Juan de Fuca trail, Gowlland Tod and Thetis Lake.

And if you’re looking to beat @BobV, you may be in luck this year. He’s set his sights a little bit lower:

“Last year I set myself a challenge to achieve a high daily step count – this year I’ll be happy with a 12-15,000 step average!”

Looks like there’s some hope for the rest of us!

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2017 Strategic Plan

For the past two years, the steering committee members of Walk On, Victoria (WOV) have come together in November to review our mission and vision and decide on strategic priorities for the coming year.

Much of our core focus will stay the same. We will continue to advocate for funding and policy decisions that support walkability, expand our membership and steering committee representation, and engage with the communities of Greater Victoria on pedestrian issues. This year, we will also add a focus on building partnerships with other organizations that a share common interests to achieve mutual goals.

Building off the success of last year’s events, WOV will again participate in the annual Jane’s Walk in May and Car Free Day in June. We will also again take a lead role in organizing Walktober in October, in partnership with the Capital Regional District’s People Power Program.

Community projects in 2017/18 include advocating for better walkability of the Douglas Street Corridor and Shelbourne Street, both of which are in the midst of redesign processes.  We will also be looking for opportunities to connect with developers to ensure new building projects and renovations take pedestrian needs into consideration. We are also hoping to expand our outreach by connecting with active transportation committees in communities throughout Greater Victoria, and organizing walks to bring fellow walking enthusiasts together.

Please look at our proposed strategic plan for 2017 and let us know what you think by emailing us or commenting through any of our social media platforms.  We are also looking for feedback on a draft policy paper one of our committee members put together on some common pedestrian issues.

If you would like to get involved with any of the projects, or are interested in joining the steering committee, please send us an email at: info@walkonvictoria.org

Walktober 2016 Wraps Up

Part of Walk On’s mandate is to pwalktober-wrap-up-graphicromote and celebrate walking as a form of transportation and recreation. Pedestrians may frequently go overlooked by policymakers and engineers, but we’re here to let you know that we appreciate every step you take! Whether you choose to walk because you love all the benefits, or whether you walk because it’s the cheapest or most convenient way to get around, we salute you for using an environmentally-friendly, community-enhancing, healthy form of transportation.

walktober-champion-b-desjardinsIn October, we hosted Walktober–an online step-counting challenge.  Participants were able to register using their FitBit, smartphone, or other fitness-tracking device to track their steps on a common platform. Participants were entered into a draw for every day they walked 10,000 stwalktober-champion-m-kirbyeps and also had a chance at additional prizes for special challenges. Overall, over 11 million steps were taken by participants–the distance from Vancouver to Toronto and back again! The participant who took the title of “Big Stepper” (most steps overall) walked over 800,000 steps during the month (including from Sidney to James Baywalktober-champion-l-helps in a single day!)

Special thanks to our Walktober Champions, who shared some of their thoughts about walking and walkability.

Next year we’ll be doing it again, only bigger and better. We look forward to seeing you on the sidewalk during Walktober 2017–if you want to participate, make sure to sign up for our mailing list using the “Become a Member/Contact Us” link above.

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Report on Pedestrian Advocacy

We’re very happy to introduce a report entitled “A Critical Path: Taking steps towards a more effective pedestrian advocacy organization”, an insightful report produced by the University of Victoria’s Master of Public Administration student Jeff Barber for Walk On, Victoria. To see the report, click here.

Thank you to the many pedestrian advocates from across North America who helped Jeff arrive at a very well-informed set of recommendations! Also, thanks to Jeff for taking on this project. We look forward to considering which of these great recommendations we should start putting to work over the next year and beyond.

Car Free Day 2016

June 19th was Victoria’s second annual Car Free Day. Once again the weather was great and people came out in droves to experience their city on foot. This year 220 people visited our booth and signed up to become part of our general membership–welcome and we look forward to getting to know you!

Car Free Day #5Our informal polls at the event gave us some information about the people we strive to represent. Here’s the results:

Car Free Day 2016 #1 Car Free Day 2016 #2 Car Free Day 2016 #3 Car Free Day 2016 #4The most common place that Greater Victorians walk is to the grocery store, followed by the park/beach, work/school, bus stop, restaurants, and other shopping. Other places we didn’t include in our list but were named by respondents were the library, community centre playgroups, and recreational walking areas.

Respondents are generally willing to walk quite far–with the majority saying “no distance is too far”! When asked how many hours per week they walk, almost half said they walk over eight hours.

Respondents had a lot of ideas about what the #1 walking improvement in their neighbourhood would be. More crosswalks got the most votes, but here’s some of the items respondents themselves came up with:

  • bus shelters
  • cyclists off the sidewalk
  • dog-friendly cafes
  • dogs on leash
  • better lighting
  • construction detours
  • beverage stop/food truck along Dallas Road
  • for drivers to be reminded that any pedestrian at a crosswalk has priority
  • less pavement
  • protected walkways
  • path between streets to connect our neighbourhood
  • less obstructions (e.g., overgrown plants)
  • improved sidewalk surface conditions for mobility devices (e.g., Fort Street)
  • a pedestrian precinct downtown (Government St.)
  • more trees for shade
  • sidewalks (Gorge-Tillicum)
  • washrooms
  • micro-parks and placemaking
  • more greenspaces

The wide variety of input reflects the diverse neighbourhoods and pedestrians of Greater Victoria.

Several people mentioned they’ve noticed overgrown shrubs in their neigbourhood blocking the sidewalks. Homeowners are required to keep those in check so sidewalks are accessible to all! If you find yourself stymied by an overgrown shrub or other obstruction, note the location/address and report it to your local government. Your fellow pedestrians will thank you!

Here’s where you can report obstructions for three of our local municipalities:

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Canada’s National Strategy for Walking

Canada’s first-ever national pedestrian advocacy campaign is underway.  Undertaken by Green Communities in Ontario, the concept has garnered endorsements from pro-pedestrian organizations coast to coast (including Walk On, Victoria).

Here’s what they hope to accomplish:

Over the coming months and years, we will:
• sign up Canadian organizations that want to create more
walkable communities
• engage government decision-makers in adopting supportive
policies and infrastructure investments
• help local organizations to promote walking and walkability in
their own communities
• facilitate information-sharing and networking to build a cohesive pan-national movement
• address research and resource needs
• hold Canada’s first national walking summit in September 2017

Here’s an excerpt from the campaign description, which is full of great information and infographics:

Over the past decades walking has been neglected as a mode of transportation. As a result, walking in many communities has often become unsafe, impractical, and unpleasant.

Walking—the most natural of all human activities—has been engineered out of our lives.

Pedestrian advocates know what’s needed to put walking back where it belongs, at the top of the transportation hierarchy:
• routes, connections, and crossings designed for all users,
including people using wheelchairs, walkers, and strollers
• a complete network of sidewalks and trails, bridges, and
crossings, including wayfinding (signage)
• walkable destinations, including shopping, services, places of
employment, schools, libraries, galleries, parks, and transit
• a great walking environment including shade, shelter,
seating, uncluttered walkways, greenery, street art, lively public
spaces and streetscapes, public washrooms
• celebration and promotion of walking, including festivals,
Open Streets, street performers
• school programs to remove barriers and promote active
transportation
• safety measures such as improved street design, reduced traffic speedsand enforcement

 

Walk On’s first ever strategic plan–please comment

The tricky thing about pedestrian advocacy is that there is no obvious way to do it. It’s tied to so many issues–health & safety, the environment, community vibrancy and social connections, and social justice–which means everyone has different reasons for being involved. Meanwhile, there are an infinite number of ways to work towards a more walkable city–do we focus on specific trouble-spots? Do we push for one type of improvement over another? Do we promote walking through events and campaigns? Do we attempt to educate pedestrians, road-users, and policymakers? Prioritizing between hundreds of potential projects is difficult but necessary, given our limited capacity.

Our steering committee has been grappling with these questions since the beginning and I think it’s safe to say now that we’ve come up with a few initial answers. I’m only one member, but here’s how I would explain them:

  1. As advocates, our main priority is to push for a more walkable city–mainly by expressing our views to city councils, developers, and others who make decisions affecting walkability.
  2. Focusing on a few key areas of town that many members use is one way to narrow down an otherwise overwhelming number of ideas and to see real impact.
  3. Greater Victoria is a city with a lot of sidewalks, crosswalks, pedestrians, and hazards–we don’t have the capacity to highlight and prioritize every problem spot or potential improvement. Instead, we hope to work with and support neighbourhood associations and residents to raise concerns related to walkability.  For individual residents, we plan on creating an Advocacy Toolkit to empower those who want to see a specific change in their neighbourhood.
  4. Promoting walking is not our first priority…but an annual event promoting walkability is a good way to promote the group, grow membership, and start a conversation.
  5. We are lucky to have a talented, connected, and diverse membership. By recognizing and leveraging what people bring to the table, we can take advantage of special opportunities to make an impact.
  6. It’s fun to learn about walkability and related urban design issues. We plan on participating in and promoting educational opportunities so that together we can all learn more about how we can make Greater Victoria a pedestrian paradise.

We’ll continue to ponder how we can maximize our impact given limited capacity. In the meantime, please have a look at our draft Strategic Plan and let us know what you think.

Click here to download the draft Strategic Plan:

Walk On, Victoria Draft Strategic Plan 2016-2017