Enthusiastic response to Active Transportation Workshop

 Neil Carleton 2by Neil Carleton

In the context of municipal planning, active transportation refers to all human-powered forms of transportation, in particular walking and cycling.  It includes the use of mobility aids such as wheel chairs, and can also encompass other human-powered devices such as in-line skating, skateboarding, cross-country skiing, canoeing and kayaking.

 

Healthy living includes being physically active.  Many people enjoy biking, a form of active transportation.  Birders on Bikes, for the novice and expert alike, has been a popular June event each year in Mississippi Mills during Bicycle Month
Healthy living includes being physically active.  Many people enjoy biking, a form of active transportation.  Birders on Bikes, for the novice and expert alike, has been a popular June event each year in Mississippi Mills during Bicycle Month
Walking in town or exploring woodland trails are other good ways of being active.  A Monday morning hiking group posed for this photo in September.  
Walking in town or exploring woodland trails are other good ways of being active.  A Monday morning hiking group posed for this photo in September.

The promotion of active transportation is based primarily on the issues of health and economics.  Being physically active on a regular basis is good for our health.  The benefits can range from increasing flexibility and muscle strength to lowering blood pressure.  As individuals, we save money by walking or biking instead of driving.  Investments for residents and visitors in trails and pathways, connecting corridors and people friendly routes, produce economic benefits for the community.

The creation of an active transportation plan for Mississippi Mills was initiated in June when our municipality awarded Dillon Consulting the contract to undertake a transportation master plan.  This work, to study the Town’s transportation needs for the next 20 years, must include active transportation.  This, according to Ontario Ministry of Transportation guidelines, includes “sidewalks, on-road bicycle lanes and routes, multi-use pathways, bike parking, effective signage, and pedestrian crossings, as well as human-scaled and pedestrian-oriented development patterns.”

The award of the contract was preceded by the Eastern Ontario Active Transportation Summit, held at the Almonte Old Town Hall on May 29-30.  http://millstonenews.com/2014/06/health-and-economic-benefits-of-active-transportation-promoted-at-almonte-summit.html.  There was much forward thinking on both days of the Summit about supporting healthy living through active transportation.  This was of particular interest to Mississippi Mills as both had been identified as important economic drivers in our town’s strategic plan for economic development.

  • Prior to the Workshop, a variety of positive developments had been reported.
  • Lanark County is now adding paved shoulders to many County roads for cyclists.
  • Mississippi Mills intends to “harden” part of the road shoulder when paving or repaving rural roads where a wide enough gravel margin already exists.
  • Earlier in the year a bilingual cycling map of the Town was released by Mississippi Mills Bicycle Month.
  •  Last year a group of mountain bikers completed a single-track cycling and ski trail from Almonte to the Mill of Kintail across private land.
  •  Two counties, Lanark and Renfrew, plus the Township of Papineau-Cameron, are negotiating with Canadian Pacific to purchase the abandoned rail bed that runs from Smith Falls to Mattawa, with the intent to make a trail
Following a November e-survey, to gather information on how residents get around Mississippi Mills on foot, by bicycle, and other human-powered methods, the Active Transportation Workshop was held on December 3, from 6:00-8:30 p.m., at the Almonte Old Town Hall.  
Following a November e-survey, to gather information on how residents get around Mississippi Mills on foot, by bicycle, and other human-powered methods, the Active Transportation Workshop was held on December 3, from 6:00-8:30 p.m., at the Almonte Old Town Hall.
43 participants registered in advance for the Workshop at the Ron Caron Auditorium.  The Town of Mississippi Mills was represented by Mayor Shaun McLaughlin; Councilors Jill McCubbin and John Edwards; Chief Administrative Officer Diane Smithson; Town Clerk, Julie Oram; Director of Roads & Public Works Troy Dunlop;  Planner Stephen Stirling; Recreation Coordinator Calvin Murphy; and Community Economic & Cultural Coordinator Tiffany MacLaren.
43 participants registered in advance for the Workshop at the Ron Caron Auditorium.  The Town of Mississippi Mills was represented by Mayor Shaun McLaughlin; Councilors Jill McCubbin and John Edwards; Chief Administrative Officer Diane Smithson; Town Clerk, Julie Oram; Director of Roads & Public Works Troy Dunlop;  Planner Stephen Stirling; Recreation Coordinator Calvin Murphy; and Community Economic & Cultural Coordinator Tiffany MacLaren.

 

There was about an equal number of residents participating in the Workshop from rural and urban neighbourhoods in Mississippi Mills.
There was about an equal number of residents participating in the Workshop from rural and urban neighbourhoods in Mississippi Mills.
Participants in the Workshop were encouraged to contribute to the group discussions by sharing and reviewing ideas, making notes on the reference maps, and recording highlights on chart paper.
Participants in the Workshop were encouraged to contribute to the group discussions by sharing and reviewing ideas, making notes on the reference maps, and recording highlights on chart paper.
Under discussion during the evening at each of the Workshop tables were opportunities and challenges. It brought to mind the 8-to-80 concept from the Active Transportation Summit in May, in the very same room, where participants were asked to imagine a public space, possibly a busy city street or intersection, and consider whether it was suitable for young and old alike.
ATW 6 December 3 2014
The discussions ranged from the opportunities for green corridors and rail bed trails to how the municipality could reduce its carbon footprint through modest changes in operating procedures.
ATW 7 December 3 2014
Also on the agenda was identifying missing links and proposing priority projects which would enhance active transportation in Mississippi Mills.
ATW 8 December 3 2014
A recorder for each of the 4 groups made notes of the discussions on chart paper.  These were provided to the consulting firm at the conclusion of the Workshop.

Some common themes emerged during the oral presentations of group discussions.

  •  Connections  lack of connections between urban neighbourhoods (i.e. seniors’ residences to shopping), between communities (i.e. walking / hiking / cycling), etc.
  •  Safety  need to feel safer on our sidewalks, cycling a rural road, etc.
  •  Accessibility   easy access needed to on-road bicycle lanes and routes, sidewalks, multi-use pathways, pedestrian crossings, etc.
  •  Signage  clarity and consistency are important factors
  •  Communications  need to educate riders, drivers, trail users, planners, Councils, etc.
  •  Opportunities  many ways of moving forward (as recorded during group discussions) to create and promote opportunities in our community for active transportation

A recommended plan will be presented at a public open-house in the new year, possibly in February.  The Town will be looking for feedback on the:

(i)  objectives and visions for the transportation system;

(ii)  existing and planned conditions of the transportation network.

It’s the intent of the Town to have the transportation master plan completed by May / June 2015.

A variety of active transportation plans from across Ontario are available for viewing on-line.  Links to a few examples are included here.

Town of Oakville

http://www.oakville.ca/townhall/active-transportation-master-plan.html

Town of Ajax

http://www.ajax.ca/en/doingbusinessinajax/resources/AjaxPedestrianBicycleMasterPlanFinalReport.pdf

 

City of Orillia

http://www.orillia.ca/en/livinginorillia/activetransportation.asp?_mid_=5382