HITTING THE TRAIL- Experts and local officials take a walk to explore the good and the not-so-good of the City’s ‘walkability.’

HITTING THE TRAIL- Experts and local officials take a walk to explore the good and the not-so-good of the City’s ‘walkability.’

International experts visit Red Deer to evaluate ‘walkability’

Red Deer streets and communities were recently evaluated by a group of experts to determine possible changes to create a more foot-traffic friendly city.

Bronwen Thornton and Rodney Tolley, both of the United Kingdom, joined Jack Kennedy, director of Canada Walks, and the organization Walk 21 to complete their walkabout.

As a part of the Alberta Walkability Roadshow, the three experts joined Council members, health professionals, City staff and community members at a stakeholders’ meeting and a public workshop.

During this time people were asked what they thought about the compatibility of the City for cyclists, transit users, foot traffic and travel by vehicle.

“We had a tremendous response. On day one there were a variety of people in the room including planning engineers, health professionals, landscape architects and others,” said Tolley.

Tolley said the atmosphere in the room was that of a ‘can-do attitude’ and there were many ideas discussed as ways to improve the overall walkability in Red Deer.

“It wouldn’t be fair to say just one or two ideas were there. There were hundreds of ideas that came out including signage improvements, better crossings, ideas about reducing the width of roads for seating and cafes and greenery. It just went on.”

Tolley said during the three days they visited a number of communities and saw that Red Deer has already made great strides towards improved conditions for citizens walking to get around.

“Walking is rapidly becoming central to activities in many major cities of the world and Red Deer said that this was something they wanted to consider.”

Tolley said it is essential to make some changes here in the City and that he already sees what Red Deer has done with bike lanes and the realigning of downtown to improve pedestrian mobility.

“If you want to draw in the young people they will come if you are more walkable. It is really important for the economic stability in the long term.”

Part of the walking tour took the group of about 20 people across the Taylor Dr. bridge where they realized pedestrians are not favoured, as well as through downtown.

City councillors Paul Harris and Cindy Jefferies joined the group for this walk and noted how important the advice from the experts will be for the further development and upcoming changes for the City’s street structuring.

“I think of all of the communities we have visited Red Deer stands out as having enthusiasm and as having achieved a lot already,” said Tolley.

He also said that the improvements will require time, money, commitment and recognition by the people who live in Red Deer, but that it is achievable.

Getting in a car is not the ‘be all and end all’, said Tolley. If cities become more walkable children can play, adults can meet their neighbours and people can more easily sit and have a coffee and watch the world go by.

“There is a prospect here for tremendous success and we are delighted with all that has been achieved so far.”