Announcing Ontario Communities walkON!


    TORONTO, Jan. 6 /CNW/ - Today, Green Communities Canada, Walk and Bike
for Life and walkON are launching Ontario Communities walkON, a program that
will, over the next three years, help make 24 Ontario cities and towns more
walkable. A walkable community allows people to choose to walk to local
destinations, rather than take the car.
    Ontario Communities walkON is based on the success of walkON, six
community partnerships of the Ontario Heart Health Program who collaborate to
engage and support their communities to create environments that support
walking (www.walkon.ca). walkON works in partnership with politicians,
planners, engineers, and citizens from 17 community groups, using
comprehensive, easy-to-use resources and tools designed to educate, empower
and inspire community members.
    Brantford is one of the communities currently involved in walkON.
Brantford's Mayor Hancock states: "I am in complete support of the Ontario
Communities walkON program. A walkable community is more sociable, less
polluted, more relaxed, a healthier and more pleasant place to live. Building
a walkable community will encourage more people to make their lives richer
through walking."
    Jacky Kennedy, Director of Walking Programs for Green Communities Canada,
believes Ontario Communities walkON will be the catalyst for a much-needed
shift in transportation thinking across the province. "When given priority in
community plans, walking can play a significant role in meeting local
transportation demand management goals, by shifting motorized trips to active
travel," says Kennedy. "The implications for reducing traffic congestion are
huge and so are the associated benefits: boosting local economies, improving
human health through daily physical activity, and reducing greenhouse gas
emissions and other air pollutants."

    Ontario Communities walkON is generously supported by a three-year,
$248,500 grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation
(www.trilliumfoundation.org). The Foundation is an agency of the Government of
Ontario and works to help build healthy and vibrant communities by
strengthening the capacity of the voluntary sector through investments in
community-based initiatives.

    Green Communities Canada (www.gca.ca) is a national association of
non-profit organizations that deliver innovative, practical environmental
solutions to Canadian households and communities. In 2007, the organization
launched a Walkolution, with the coordination of the successful World Record
Walk event (www.worldrecordwalk.ca) and co-hosting the Walk21 Toronto 2007
conference with the City of Toronto (www.toronto.ca/walk21).

    Walk & Bike for Life (www.walkandbikeforlife.org) is a Canadian based
non-profit organization with an international outlook. The organization is
dedicated to promoting walking and bicycling as activities and urban parks and
trails as great public spaces. The goal of Walk and Bike for Life is to
contribute to the creation of vibrant cities and healthy communities where
there are great places that can be enjoyed by all.Ontario Communities walkON
                             Media Backgrounder

    What are Walkable Communities?

    Walkable communities are healthy, vibrant communities, where citizens rely
less on their cars and choose walking more often as a form of everyday
transportation.

    Walkable communities encourage walking by making it safe, convenient, and
attractive to do so, which is important for many reasons:

    -   Health - Regular, daily walking reduces health risks such as obesity,
        diabetes, and heart disease
        (http://www.active2010.ca/Documents/active2010-strategy-e.pdf);
        (http://www.heartandstroke.com/site/c.ikIQLcMWJtE/b.3820627/k.DB5D/Th
        e_built_environment_physical_activiy_heart_disease_and_stroke.htm);
        "Walking is the nearest activity to perfect exercise" - Professor
        J. Morris and Dr. Adrianne Hardman, 1997
        (http://www.ramblers.org.uk/info/factsandfigures/health.htm)
    -   Environment - Replacing short car trips with walking can improve
        local air quality and can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, helping
        Ontarians meet climate change objectives. A short trip on foot to
        school by 9 families participating in a 'walking school bus' can
        reduce greenhouse gases by 1,000 kg over one year
        (http://www.saferoutestoschool.ca/)
    -   Traffic - More people walking means less congestion on roads, reduced
        requirements for road infrastructure and maintenance, and more
        awareness of pedestrians by drivers thereby increasing pedestrian
        safety
        (http://www.railstotrails.org/resources/documents/whatwedo/atfa/ATFA_
        20081020.pdf)
    -   Community cohesion - More people walking encourages even more people
        to walk, increasing social interaction, lessening crime and vandalism
        due to more eyes on the streets, heightening the sense of community
        belonging, pride, and spirit (Leyden,K. Social Capital and the Built
        Environment: The Importance of Walkable Neighbourhoods, American
        Journal of Public Health 2003; 93: 1546 -51).
    -   Economy - When a population shift to walking occurs, health care
        costs are reduced as a result of the health benefits of walking; when
        business districts cater to walkers instead of drivers their
        prosperity increases; highly walkable districts are magnets for
        tourism (Go for Green, The Business Case for Active Transportation,
        March 2004)
    -   Fuel savings - Individuals save money by using their cars less, and
        demand for a dwindling supply of oil is lessened.
        (http://www.railstotrails.org/resources/documents/whatwedo/atfa/ATFA_
        20081020.pdf)The Development of walkON

    walkON (www.walkon.ca) was developed by staff from six Ontario Heart
Health: Taking Action for Health Living Projects and health units from Niagara
Region, Haldimand-Norfolk, Brant County, Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph, Halton
Region, and the Region of Waterloo.
    Working in partnership with politicians, planners, engineers, and
citizens from 17 community groups, walkON has created comprehensive,
easy-to-use resources and tools designed to educate, empower and inspire
community members.Examples of Walkable Community initiatives supported by walkON to date

    -   The highly visible "Blue Bridge" pedestrian bridge crossing highway
        403 in Brantford (http://www.healthylivingbrant.com/node/186);
    -   An innovative School Travel Planning pilot
        (http://www.saferoutestoschool.ca/schooltravel.asp) and a Walkability
        Working Group in the Region of Waterloo
        (http://www.region.waterloo.on.ca/web/health.nsf/0/3304018ABBFE6FB585
        25717F00640305/$file/Walkability_Report.pdf?openelement)
    -   The creation of beautiful murals along a previously depressing
        section of trail in Thorold (http://thoroldmurals.com/Home.html)
    -   Dufferin County Council has shown real leadership in taking
        responsibility for the creation of a Regional Trails/Active
        Transportation Master Plan and is partnering with Headwaters
        Communities in Action (a grass-roots citizen group who have
        championed trails)We Have a Long Way to Go

    Across Canada, only about 12% of trips to the grocery store, work, the
library or school are made on foot or by bicycle. While this is higher than
the 7% rate in the United States, it is much lower than in the Netherlands
(46%) and Denmark (41%) (Pucher J, Dijkstra L. Promoting safe walking and
cycling to improve public health: lessons from the Netherlands and Germany.
American Journal of Public Health 2003; 93(9):1509-1516).




For further information: Mandy Johnson, Program Consultant, Green
Communities Canada, (647) 448-6659, toll free: (877) 533-4098,
mjohnson@greencommunitiescanada.org