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.
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. https://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
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
Town of Ajax
City of Orillia