New concert hall deadline

By Rachel Rowe

City officials are taking the first steps towards making Ottawa more pedestrian friendly.

The city held an open house last week to launch the development of a first-of-its-kind pedestrian plan for the City of Ottawa.

Increased pedestrian travel would help relieve the city’s traffic congestion problems and improve public health, says Gill Wilson, co-ordinator of the City of Ottawa’s pedestrian facilities.

“We’re almost preaching to the converted in Centretown,” she says, adding that the downtown core has the highest level of pedestrian activity.

Wilson says when it comes to pedestrian travel, Centretown’s sidewalks act as a positive example for other areas of the city.

The decision to create a pedestrian plan comes from the city’s Official Plan, adopted in 2003, which states “the city will emphasize the creation of pedestrian-friendly environments.”

The Official Plan aims to increase the share of peak-hour travel by pedestrians from 9.6 per cent to 10 per cent by 2021. This would mean an increase from 24,000 to 40,000 trips made by pedestrians during afternoon peak-hour travel.

The purpose of the open house was to get input from residents as to what makes an enjoyable pedestrian journey, Wilson says.

Residents who attended were encouraged to place stickers next to different categories they thought would improve pedestrian travel, such as cleaner streets, enhanced snow removal and improved street lighting.

Large maps of different areas of the city were available for the public to post suggestions on how to improve specific streets and areas for walking.

For areas like Centretown with already high levels of pedestrian travel, the plan would focus on how to enhance the existing environment for pedestrians, she says. Plans include adding more rest facilities, widening sidewalks and adding greenery.

City officials point out that such a project can already been seen in the Bank Street rehabilitation project. While the city continues its construction along Bank Street to replace aging underground pipes, workers are also installing new street lights, trees and wider sidewalks in some areas.

Construction along the stretch between Laurier Avenue West and Wellington Street has already been completed, says Richard Holder, the city’s senior project manager. The stretch between Wellington and Albert Streets should be completed by Dec. 1.

Along with promoting a healthier lifestyle for Ottawa residents, the city’s primary concern when creating the pedestrian plan will be to reduce reliance on automobiles for travel, says Wilson, particularly single-occupant trips.

“Roads are expensive to create and maintain,” she says, adding that the demand for roads far exceeds the supply.

“Where are we going to fit another road in the downtown core? It’s impossible.”

Jeff McIntosh attended the open house with his wife to give his suggestions on how to improve pedestrian travel in the city.

McIntosh, a retired public servant, says his No. 1 priority is to improve sidewalk conditions.

“It’s hard to get around with potholes everywhere,” he says. McIntosh says he feels the open house was a good idea to help point out specific areas of the city that need work, but says the majority of suggestions were common sense.

“I shouldn’t have to put a sticker next to ‘snow removal’ to let them know that clear sidewalks mean more pedestrians. That’s just obvious.”

After gathering public input the city is scheduled to release the pedestrian plan by June 2007. The estimated cost to develop the plan is $130,000.

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