Walkable Edmonton Toolkit promotes a more active community
A wealth of tips, strategies, advocacy ideas, design concepts and walkability tools, each with links to numerous other resources.
Download the 85-page Walkable Edmonton Toolkit (pdf 3.8 mb)
From the Walkable Edmonton Toolkit
Why make Edmonton more walkable?
Walkability adds strength and joy to the very fabric of community life. Out walking, we meet neighbours, get exercise, visit local shops, enjoy nearby public spaces— and discover reasons to want more of each. Out and about in a community we care about, we become a critical mass of "eyes on the street," enhancing safety and reducing crime. Choosing to walk and bike to work or play or school or church or the store, we help tip the balance away from the polluting, noisy, crash-prone transportation that now dominates our streets. Out walking, we vote with our feet for human-scale, visually pleasing, pedestrian friendly design that, in the end, benefits far more than it costs. In sum, the rewards of walkability reinforce each other in a way that almost miraculously improves quality of life.
Benefits of active transportation
Civic support for walkability
Hearing strong community desire for walkability, City Council has endorsed particular focus on this aspect of urban life. Recently launched initiatives such as Walkable Edmonton, Smart Choices, the Planning Academy, and Community Traffic Management Plans are helping to put that intent into action. Staff involved may be able to offer advice and assistance as you act on your own concerns . Find out more about civic initiatives in this section.
Destinations give us reasons to walk. We hope the following short list of Edmonton destinations will inspire you to build an even richer storehouse of purposeful, rejuvenating walks.
Group ventures Walking in a group offers companionship, motivation and the security of numbers. Longer term, walking groups add to the glue that helps communities weather the tough times and celebrate the good.
Advocating for Walkability
So you want to make your block, or your neighbourhood, or your city more walkable — friendlier for walking, biking, strollers, wheelchairs and any other people-powered movement you can envision. You want inviting places to roam and explore, places made safe by design and by the sheer number of people out and about. You want nearby shops, services and other destinations that make it easy to leave the car at home when shopping.
How can you turn that vision into reality? Seeing much that needs to be done, you may feel overwhelmed. But you don’t need to tackle the entire city at once. Small, local improvements are often much easier to implement than changes to an entire network. What’s more, the City of Edmonton is already showing civic support for walkability through numerous initiatives. Perhaps your most difficult decision will be where to plug in and whether to serve as catalyst, organizer, leader, trench worker or a combination of all.
Recognize from the outset that you can’t work in isolation. Making change requires many people and groups representing diverse disciplines. Champions for walkability need passion and a cohesive vision, plus the patience to consult with neighbours and other stakeholders at each step of the way. This route may feel circuitous sometimes, but it’s the best way to make lasting change. The more we listen to each other, respect divergent viewpoints, seek consensus and work together, the more we can accomplish.
Ten steps to walkability
1. Organize for advocacy. Find like-minded citizens who share your passion and commit to working together, perhaps through your community league or other active neighbourhood group. Advocating as an organized group increases your credibility, energy and staying power. It also clarifies the communication lines with City Hall. Case in point: Communities seeking a Community Traffic Management Plan to address traffic volumes, short-cutting and other such issues are more apt to be selected if they have a formed a community transportation committee.
2. Invite widespread participation. Build community ownership for a walkable neighbourhood by inviting all who live and work there to participate in evaluating current conditions and envisioning what could be. Some Edmonton neighbourhoods have done this through design charrettes, hands-on workshops complete with community walkabouts (see step 3) and opportunities for citizens to plot out specific improvements using maps and photos supplied by City staff. Such events also provide excellent opportunities to augment and solidify the advocacy team. Useful tools: A rich resource for planning charrettes is the website of Dan Burden, a U.S.-based walkability expert who has led several charrettes with Edmonton neighbourhoods. www.walkable.org
3. Do a community walkabout. Several Edmonton neighbourhoods have discovered the value of walking purposefully through the community, auditing its walkability. Invite councillors, civic staff, neighbourhood leaders, business owners and citizens of all ages and abilities to join the walkabout, making sure to include some wheelchairs and/or strollers. End the walkabout with opportunity to reflect on findings and discuss next steps.
4. Shop for the best strategies. Listen to advocates with frontline experience, check what’s already happening in Edmonton and browse a few of the web resources posted by consultants, organizations and cities that have taken significant steps toward walkability. What approaches worked for them? What didn’t work? What tools and strategies did they develop and/or use?
5. Develop a vision & doable plan. Create a shared vision of the walkable neighbourhood you’d all like to live in, then itemize the changes needed to make that future come true. Perhaps you’ll focus on certain concerns, such as the need for ramped sidewalks or safer crossings or reduced traffic impact. Perhaps you want to oppose a development that runs counter to walkability principles. Perhaps you envision numerous improvements all throughout the community. Perhaps you see a need for changes to civic codes and bylaws. Prioritize your goals, map out a timetable and determine who will take the lead in pushing the plan forward.
Many people believe that dealing with overweight and obesity is a personal responsibility. To some degree they are right, but it is also a community responsibility. When there are no safe, accessible places for children to play or adults to walk, jog or ride a bike that is a community responsibility. ~ David Satcher, Surgeon General, Call to Action to Prevent and Decrease Overweight and Obesity, 2001
6. Look for allies. What other groups might share your specific walkability concerns and willingly work with you? Possibilities include area schools, senior centres, local shops, community leagues, the Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues, revitalization zones, environmental and other advocacy groups, universities, design professionals, other Alberta cities. The media also can be important allies or at least conduits, helping to communicate or champion key concerns.
7. Work with city staff. Get to know the staff with appropriate expertise and ask for a specific outline of the steps needed to make the changes you’d like to see. What are the opportunities? For example, could your request be incorporated into work already planned for your neighbourhood? What are the barriers? Wherever feasible, tap civic expertise as your team plans its next steps. Staff may already have crucial traffic, safety or social data regarding your neighbourhood, for example, or may have the ability to help you collect that information.
8. Seek funding. Attach cost estimates to your priority projects and look for funding and/or people willing to donate time and expertise. Recognize that funds are limited, competition can be fierce and projects are often planned years in advance. Look for opportunities to piggyback on existing plans, for example by incorporating a bike lane into a street repaving or by ensuring that a new subdivision is thoroughly walkable from the start. The projects that have long-term champions are the ones that get implemented. ~ Increasing Physical Activity through Community Design, www.bikewalk.org
9. Involve City Councillors. Your elected representatives can serve as valuable allies, opening doors to civic staff and beyond. Besides contacting your ward councillors, ask who holds the portfolio focused on walkability and connect with that person.
Walkability is key to both revitalizing our original neighbourhoods and preventing urban sprawl. I envision an Edmonton where all citizens can walk to the store for milk, bread, books and other necessities of life, meeting people they know along the way. ~ Councillor Janice Melnychuk, Neighbourhood Revitalization Portfolio
10. Be persistent. Through such initiatives as Smart Choices and Walkable Edmonton, the City of Edmonton is publicly committed to walkability as a key design goal. Although budget constraints often limit what can be done, prudent persistence from communities can help accelerate the paradigm shift to pedestrian friendly design. Even when progress seems slow, stick with it! If your project is not selected the first time around, don’t despair; plans do change. When your project is approved and funded, keep in touch with the project manager and visit the site to ensure that decisions made in the field are consistent with original goals.
11. Celebrate success. When your community becomes more walkable, be generous in your thanks and vocal in your praise. Celebrate and publicize what you’ve accomplished! Salute the staff and take care of the volunteers involved. Use this success as a springboard to an even more walkable community, and take pride in joining the worldwide movement toward a saner, healthier pace of life.
Download the 85-page Walkable Edmonton Toolkit (pdf 3.8 mb)
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Updated December 23, 2008