City ‘walkability’

Just how ‘walkable’ is Red Deer?

That was the question during last week’s Alberta Walkability Roadshow when international experts teamed up with local officials and community stakeholders to gauge the City’s ‘walkability’.

The goal of the roadshow was to support change in the community that improves walkability and encourage citizens to choose to walk. It was also a part of the City’s ‘Integrated Movement Study’ which officials said will form the foundation of Red Deer’s continuing ‘transformation.’

A public workshop was also held in tandem with the walkabout. Ideas were floated about bicycling, taking transit, walking and driving in the City.

With the growing emphasis on going green, urban walkability is an increasingly vital part of City planning around the world. Red Deer already has a well-developed and sprawling trail system – a delight to walkers year-round.

But could more be done? The answer of course is virtually always ‘yes’. However, looking at things now Red Deer is well on its way and pretty much a leader in pedestrian-friendly development.

The vision was firmly established when work on Red Deer’s trail system first began a few decades ago. That system of including trails in City planning is really a given to this day. If it’s not there, City council will typically push for its inclusion in every plan.

The trail system makes for superior cross-City accessibility. And in the newer neighbourhoods, trails link up with sidewalks for stretches of pathways that are highly utilized by bikers, walkers, boarders, etc.

Meanwhile, downtown has seen a lot of changes over the past while, which have been in favour of pedestrians. ‘Little Gaetz Ave.’ is currently undergoing a huge transformation in that regard as well.

The timing of the walkability study ties in nicely with the recent introduction of bike lanes throughout Red Deer. Although in early development, on any given day many bikers can be seen utilizing the well-marked lanes. There’s no doubt they’ll be greatly expanded down the road, and plans are already being put together to that end.

Officials point out that greater walkability in urban centres is key for future growth – younger families are more attracted to communities with strong options for walking and different modes of transportation. The benefits are many – better overall health, it’s better for the environment and it brings people out and makes for a stronger, more connected community.

Looking ahead, it’s important to remember folks in our community who are disabled and rely on the use of wheelchairs and walkers. Walkability means making sure everyone is considered when it comes to enhancing walking options in a City.