“Active transportation” is a broad term referring to non-motorized movement. Another commonly used term is “multi-modal transportation,” which is similar but not the same. This term refers to transportation networks that enable numerous modes (e.g. walking, cycling, transit, cars, etc.).
Across North America there have been increased pressures on all orders of government to invest in multi-modal transportation networks, with greater emphasis on getting people out of their cars.
More than ever, communities are being asked to separate modes of transportation for safety and enjoyment purposes. Tilikum Crossing Bridge in Portland, Oregon is one key example of a major investment in multi-modal transportation. This bridge is open for pedestrians, cyclists, streetcars and buses. Private automobile use is banned. It has been built as a safe place for multi-modal transportation. It is this kind of investment that is being requested by residents and tourists. This investment, in fact, is a driver for economic development.
One age-old planning principle is that transportation should be prioritized in the following order, from highest to lowest: pedestrian movement (and other active transportation), the movement of goods and services, followed by private vehicle use. Since the 1920’s, though, transportation investments have generally been prioritized in the opposite order. The practice was to solve traffic congestion by adding more lanes for traffic to flow through.
Many community and transportation planners argue that new traffic lanes induce demand by enabling easier private vehicle use for a short period. Following this initial period of greater ease and reduced congestion, the roadways fill up again with new vehicles and become congested. Then, users demand another lane or a new route be built to accommodate the traffic, not acknowledging that the process will only begin again with more cars, more traffic, and more costs to taxpayers. By changing the modes of transportation that we focus on as communities, we can induce demand for multi-modal and active transportation, rather than inducing demand for high cost, unsustainable private car use.
More and more we are seeing declining interest in car ownership in younger generations, with a number of studies indicating that fewer Millennials want a car. Rather, they are seeking to live in and move to communities that provide for comfortable and safe spaces for pedestrians, and accommodating routes for non-motorized commuters.
People are investing in communities that have well-connected trails/pathways, and can keep their commute times low. This is leading to new investments in communities where people can live in complete neighbourhoods with all amenities, services, work places, and homes within short distances. People are investing in areas where they can hop on a trail during the weekend and get outside. Real estate listings have been modified to reflect “walk scores.”
Multi-modal transportation is also linked to quality of life, community health, and long-term sustainability.
A sentiment from former Chief Planner of Vancouver Brent Toderian is paraphrased as “when we plan cities for cars, they fail for everyone.” Gil Penalosa, founder of 8 80 Cities, believes that if we plan communities for 8 year-olds and 80 year-olds (people-focussed), then they can be successful for everyone across the spectrum.
Richard Florida, in “The Rise of the Creative Class,” writes that professionals are increasingly locating in communities that have enhanced active transportation. Investment in communities with strong pedestrian and cyclist infrastructure is sparking business economic development. Overall, planners and urbanists are seeing active and multi-modal transportation as a key driver for quality of life in communities as well as its economic prosperity.
The District of Lake Country has been working for quite some time on strengthening its network of multi-modal and active transportation routes, including Main Street and Oyama Road along the isthmus, for example. Other examples in more recent years include active transportation improvements on Camp, Bond, Bottom Wood Lake and Lodge Roads.
Upcoming projects include extensions of active transportation on Bottom Wood Lake Road, Woodsdale Road, and investments on Greenhow, Sherman, and Carr’s Landing Roads. The recently adopted Transportation for Tomorrow plan places emphasis on connecting schools and neighbourhoods with amenities, so that people can move around the community in safe and enjoyable ways.
On top of this, Lake Country has been fortunate to have active volunteer groups like Walk Around Lake Country (WALC), which have invested their time and resources into creating and maintaining outstanding trails and paths throughout the community.
Pelmewash Parkway and the Okanagan Rail Corridor are also promising projects that will highlight the community as a destination for safe and enjoyable active transportation. Once Pelmewash Parkway is officially transferred to the District, and the Okanagan Rail Corridor is improved as a trail, Lake Country will be faced with endless opportunities to highlight these world-class active transportation routes. These will be highly attractive for tourists and locals looking for outdoor recreation opportunities.
These community projects will be a part of our economic success as a community. People are, more than ever, investing in communities that offer active and multi-modal connections. The initiatives are not being led in spite of the private automobile, but rather with emphasis on community health, sustainability, and economic development.
There is much to do in order to continuously improve multi-modal and active transportation, but the District is taking leaps to build a community that will be safe, prosperous, and fun. At the end of the day, this is the type of community that I want to call home. This is the type of community that I wish to develop.
Community Development Manager
District of Lake Country