Sunday, January 27, 2008

Leg It

What do you see when you go out your front door? I see a very traffic-heavy street. Indeed it is a highway, highway 99 (Governors Rd). It carries a none-stop sea of vehicles that thunder down the road to the suburbs beyond, or through the city to the 403.

But the good thing about my neighbourhood is that it is a 20 minute walk to local amenities in the area. There's a bakery, a library, a post office and drug store, a swimming pool, a health food store and grocery store all congregated in one main area- King Street (in Dundas).

I'm a walker. I prefer walking to a destination rather than taking the bus, driving or biking. If it's within reasonable walking distance (4km or so) then I'll walk it. So this set up suits me fine. Except when I have to go to Hamilton and getting there can be somewhat of a song and dance as the 5 Delaware bus service is erratic at the best of time and not at all on the weekend and holidays.

Still, I'm with the comedian Steven Wright who said, "You can walk anywhere- if you got the time." Uncommon as this view may be, walking is not a big deal; its part of my lifestyle and that of my family. My husband walks from our Dundas home to his office at McMaster- takes him about 45 minutes. It's a time for reflection and solitude. He takes the trail - the healthy highway and that makes it all the more pleasurable.

A walk down the street is a way of connecting to your neighbourhood and if you are really lucky as I am, the natural environment close by.

People know me and I know them. The standing joke in my family is that I always get back late from running errands because I speak to at least 3 people on my route! Running into people regularly is an indication that my neighbourhood is healthy and vibrant. It's the kind of place people want to live in!

Besides the dubious bus system there is still room for improvement. After a snow storm we pedestrians would appreciate ploughed side walks. We'd also like less traffic on our roads; many communities in Europe and North America have adopted a /close street policy/ in core areas- increasing shopping and business in the core as people find it more pleasant to walk. And I wouldn't mind a farmers market to get my locally grown veggies.

How about your neighbourhood? Why not grab a pair of walking shoes and get legging it?

Is your neighbourhood easy to get around in? Are there many amenities within walking or cycling distance? Is there a well serviced transit route?

Speak out!

Let your councillor know what you think will help create a better neighbourhood. Better still; invite him or her for a walk around the neighbourhood as did the folk from Transportation for Liveable Communities (TLC). Join a Transit Users Group (TUG) that can help you. Participate on municipal committees.

One of the best gauges to knowing if your community is walkable is considering whether it is safe for children. How fast are cars allowed to go down your street? What are the traffic calming measures on your street? Does you community center, banks etc have bike racks? What kind of stop lights/signals does your street have?

A community that supports walking supports health, safety and the vibrancy of that community. It's a walk/win situation!

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