TORONTO, May 2, 2012 /CNW/ - Canada Walks has proudly launched WALK Friendly Ontario (www.walkfriendly.ca), a designation program that will recognize and encourage communities that take steps to make walking safe, convenient and attractive. Starting in 2013, designations will be awarded at the bronze, silver, gold, and platinum levels.
Walk friendly communities are desirable places to live, work, play and do business because they are designed for people. "A recent study found that residents showed an overwhelming preference for neighbourhoods that are walkable", says Mandy Johnson, a consultant on the WFO project. Walk friendly communities encourage a healthy, active lifestyle and are essential to successful downtown revitalization strategies because they encourage people to linger, stroll and return again and again.
Communities that are walk friendly are inclusive, welcoming and accessible to all regardless of age, income level, or physical ability. This is important to the more than 30% of Ontarians that do not drive. Substituting the everyday short trips we make by automobile with a walking trip can also reduce our carbon footprint and improve air quality. Reduced speed limits are another feature of a walk friendly community. The province of Nova Scotia for example has implemented legislation to reduce speed limits in school zones from 50km/h to 30km/h.
"Walking is the most natural form of transportation and we sometimes take it for granted. The WALK Friendly Ontario initiative is a way for us to build on our pilot award program in 2010, and recognize communities for their efforts to create more walk friendly spaces and places," says project manager Kate Hall.
To participate in the WALK Friendly Ontario program, communities will complete an assessment that measures progress on a range of factors including safe road crossings, sidewalk networks, street furniture, supportive policies, action plans and more. The website www.walkfriendly.ca can help communities prepare for the program and is live now to give communities time to assemble teams, plan and make improvements prior to the first intake of applications that will take place in 2013.
WALK Friendly Ontario is an initiative of Canada Walks (www.canadawalks.ca), a department of Green Communities Canada, and is supported by a grant from the Ontario Government. Canada Walks was born out of the growing demand for knowledge, expertise and networks from organizations and communities across Canada. Over the past eight years our work has grown to include coordination of the Active & Safe Routes to School program; the creation of a model framework for School Travel Planning in Canada; partnering on the International Walk21 Conference held in Toronto in 2007; delivering Master Classes with municipalities across the country, and walkability workshops and train-the-trainer sessions throughout Ontario using the International Charter for Walking as a framework.
Green Communities Canada is a national association of non-profit organizations that deliver innovative, practical environmental solutions to Canadian households and communities (www.greencommunitiescanada.ca).
For further information:
Consultant, Green Communities Canada