VANCOUVER ― Pedestrian deaths in Sweden have decreased 50 per cent since 2009. There are more people walking and more cars on the road than ever before, but Swedish streets are the least dangerous in the world because the country has placed safety at the centre of its planning process, part of a comprehensive program called Vision Zero that targets zero traffic deaths.
With memories fresh with the joys of taking to sidewalks for Halloween, the OneCity team and City Council candidate RJ Aquino are calling on Vancouver to walk faster and catch up to solutions that are saving lives and making communities healthier around the world. It starts with the formation of a Pedestrian Advisory Council to kickstart pedestrian-oriented community planning in Vancouver.
“Walking as a mode of transportation is central to public health, economic development, and social equality and inclusion,” City Council candidate RJ Aquino says. “But in its rush to develop pockets of the city, Vancouver is falling behind other jurisdictions that have made walkable, connected neighbourhoods a priority.”
According to Statistics Canada, commuting by foot in Vancouver is stagnating, remaining at 6.3 per cent since 2006 (compared to 71 per cent who commute by car and less than 2 per cent who bike).
Aquino and OneCity believe a Pedestrian Advisory Council, based on successful models such as Portland’s PAC, is the best tool to address City Hall’s current stop-and-go approach to walkability. The council will be volunteer-based and made up of representatives who reflect the diversity of Vancouver and its pedestrian potential, including seniors, neighbourhood and business improvement associations, and city agencies such as the fire and police departments and housing authority.
The advisory council will help the city better integrate pedestrian and walkability policies, programs and plans as Vancouver evolves. It begins with putting the safety of our walkers first, breaking down barriers to walking such as land-use patterns and too much density along arterial roads, and building truly connected communities where people are allowed the choice of getting to their destinations on foot.