Active Transportation, Complete Streets, and public health in Hamilton

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The SPRC at the Upwind Downwind 2014 conference

By Audrey Naluz, Social Planner Assistant

Two weeks ago, the City of Hamilton and Clean Air Hamilton co-hosted Upwind Downwind 2014, a city-wide conference attended by approximately 150 policy makers, academics, industry specialists dedicated to improving air quality in Hamilton’s community. This year, the conference was focused on two themes: 1) Air Quality Management & Planning; and, 2) Transportation & Compete Streets. SPRC staff participated both as participants and on a panel to report on our complete streets policy development work.

Active Transportation and Complete Streets were recognized as ways to help combat chronic diseases like obesity and diabetes

The keynote speaker was Dr. Karen Lee from New York City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. She spoke about integrating health, land use planning and transportation, identifying the need for complete streets infrastructure that supports active transportation, the need to decrease interruptions in the pedestrian environment, and the importance of pedestrian-friendly infrastructure, which is the most useful for most members of the community, since everyone is a pedestrian.

She emphasized that education alone is not sufficient enough for behaviour change to make us healthier. We need a supportive environment, but we don’t have it.

The take-away message from Karen Lee’s talk was this: we can create that supportive environment. Much like our use of city codes, planning and infrastructure as tools to combat infectious diseases in the 19th century, we can also use those same tools to combat chronic diseases today.

Getting hands-on with Complete Streets design and policy in Hamilton

In the afternoon session, City Staff, SPRC Hamilton, and Yes We Cannon participated in a Transportation & Complete Streets panel on the reports, plans, policies, and events which are helping facilitate active transportation and complete streets in Hamilton.

In particular, the City of Hamilton highlighted key actions to move towards Complete Streets, including the recently adopted Pedestrian Mobility Plan. These actions are being championed by many Hamilton actors, including Public Works and Public Health Services. The combined efforts within the city have resulted in a silver designation with Walk Friendly Ontario.

The SPRC was also commended by the City of Hamilton for our efforts to help develop the most robust Complete Streets policy in Canada. Sara Mayo, Social Planner with the SPRC, explained that the draft Complete Streets policy that was presented to Hamilton City Council has an emphasis on how complete streets can help to decrease health and economic disparities between neighbourhoods. The policy also contains important accountability mechanisms and draws from elements of Complete Streets best practices in Canada and the United States.

Telling your story about change, building relationships, and remaining positive were some of the lessons Justin Jones shared with the Transportation & Complete Streets stream. Jones worked on the successful Yes We Cannon campaign to improve cycling infrastructure by installing a bidirectional bike lane along the full length of Cannon Street.

After the presentations, Norma Moores from IBI Group, the only Complete Streets certified facilitator in Canada, facilitated hands-on workshops, with case studies of Hamilton street design and exercises for policy-making. SPRC’s Sara Mayo facilitated one of two policy-making workshops, in which participants worked together on “future planning” in Hamilton.

Support for a Complete Streets Policy clearly identified as one of the top four lessons learned in the Transportation & Complete Streets stream

At the end of the conference, the most talked about lessons learned in the Transportation & Complete Streets stream were:

1)    Need for engagement and education

2)    Importance of support for a Complete Streets Policy

3)    Importance of data collection and sharing

4)    Using Pan Am games as opportunity to talk about Complete Streets

The SPRC hopes to continue to contribute to putting Complete Streets on the public agenda and help all Hamilton’s neighbourhoods become safe and accessible for users of all transportation modes.

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