LETTER: Walking, cycling downtown makes the most sense, says reader

‘Encouraging a modal shift to more and safer active transportation is lowest in infrastructure cost to install as compared to vehicular infrastructure’

Guelph Today received the following letter to the editor from Mike Darmon, president of the Guelph Coalition for Active Transportation, regarding the city’s Downtown Renewal Plan:

The City of Guelph has initiated a Downtown Renewal Plan and it includes environmental assessments for Macdonell and Wyndham streets and the Allan dam structures. Most of the aging underground pipes that serve our drinking water and wastewater needs are in need of replacement and when all of the underground infrastructure is replaced we will have a fresh clean street canvas and an opportunity to design our downtown streets, including St Georges Square, into a truly spectacular destination.

The Open House for the public to see the concept drawings and options was on Nov. 2. The eventual design choice will determine how our downtown will look, feel and function for the next 50 years so its vitally important we get it right. The options include changes to our streets that will make our downtown a much more livable, equitable, accessible, connected and safer space. Imagine safely walking or cycling to downtown, and enjoying a meal and drink on a beautiful patio on a quiet tree shaded street? Driving will also be more enjoyable with a designated space for all users of the street. The current street designs in the Wyndham and Macdonell area do not have safe, connected and enjoyable active transportation (AT) infrastructure for cyclists or pedestrians. Protected and separated bike lanes, protected intersections, and lower speed limits are all proven to encourage more active transportation.

We at GCAT (Guelph Coalition for Active Transportation), are pleased that safer AT options are being considered for the Downtown Renewal plan. Our hope is that the plan will not only achieve the Community Plan vision of “creating a space for everyone,” but also that this “space” will be a more equitable, enjoyable and safe place for all users of the streets.

As reported in GuelphTodaywe are also extremely pleased that our city chief planner Krista Walkey invited world renowned urban planner Brent Toderian to Guelph in June of 2021 to advise and offer ideas on our City Master Plan objectives.

We hope his recommendations will be seriously considered in the Downtown Renewal plan.

Our recently updated Transportation Master Plan (TMP) data shows that the vast majority of trips made in Guelph are less than 5 km. Many of these trips can easily be done by walking or biking in 15 minutes or less. Data also shows that most people do not feel safe on our current AT infrastructure – and the almost complete lack of protected AT street infrastructure. We must improve this infrastructure to the level of safety and enjoyment where many citizens will actually begin to take short trips by AT.

Our downtown has a network of trails and on-street AT infrastructure connections. We need to connect them safely to the highest safety levels of AT design in our downtown. Our city interim and 2050 climate change targets and our official plan all lead us in a direction that we must follow if we are to have a sustainable future. Transportation is the second highest carbon emitter in our city. Encouraging a modal shift to more and safer AT for short trips of less than 5 km, which are the overall majority of trips in Guelph, is lowest in infrastructure cost to install as compared to vehicular infrastructure, and a sound investment in real climate action. This future, if we have the will to commit to these climate actions, will also lead us to a much more livable, equitable, and sustainable City of Guelph.

– Mike Darmon, president of GCAT (Guelph Coalition for Active Transportation)

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