“Bike lanes are essential” Letter response to anti-bike lane article in Guelph Tribune

 

Image result for college avenue bike lanes guelphNot sure if everyone got to see this letter. It was posted in the Guelph MercuryTribune, August 22, 2016, but not re-posted on the internet. Since it was written by Guelph Coalition for Active Transportation, not why post it here?

      This letter is in response to “Why all the disruption for the minority?”,  August 18, 2016. Thank you very much for opening a discussion on bike lanes.
      Cities around the world, including Canada and the U.S., have recently been focussing on  healthy transportation infrastructure in order to increase the physical, financial and overall wellbeing of its citizens. Locally, cities increasing their cycling networks include Guelph, Kitchener-Waterloo, Hamilton, London, Georgetown, Toronto, as well as many others.
      In the letter, College Avenue West was described as a road that lost parking due to bike lanes.  Most sections of arterial roads such as College Avenue, as well as Gordon, Edinburgh, Speedvale, Woodlawn etc. have never had parking because they are meant to deliver traffic from collector roads to highways or expressways. Bike lanes have not impeded any parking on College Avenue West, at least between Gordon and the Hanlon, because there was never any there in the first place.
     Furthermore, College Avenue West is a great location for bike lanes.  With two high schools on one  end, and the University at the other, what better place to invite people to cycle than in an area with those least likely to own cars?. Hopefully in the future, separated or protected bike lanes will be included in key locations around the city to make cycling even safer.
     The letter also stated that “road diets” are not good for the neighbourhood. However, studies show that road diets actually reduce all types of crashes, including those for cyclists, pedestrians and motorists, so they are safer for neighbourhoods than four lane roads. Moreover, they do not impede traffic flow unless daily traffic volumes exceed 20,000 vehicles per day. College Avenue West does not even come close to this threshold.
      Cities that offer comprehensive cycling networks for their citizens do get more people on bikes for daily activities such as commuting to work or running errands. More people cycle in Guelph than before the cycling program was put in place, and is expected to continue to grow as the network gets completed. We need to encourage this economical, healthy, non-polluting transportation option.  Better education and enforcement for cyclists and motorists, as well as cooperation and goodwill between all road users can go a long way in making everyone comfortable with this newer addition to city streets.
Sincerely,
Yvette Tendick
Guelph Coalition for Active Transportation

 

Myra loves her cargo bike and being car free!

IMG_20160726_151314

I ran into Myra and her family on the Royal River Trail. You don’t often see someone riding a cargo bike with baby on board in Guelph.  I had to learn more, so I stopped her and asked her if I could interview her. She graciously accepted 🙂

How did you come into biking as a means of transportation?

As a kid I started off like anyone but I continued to ride a bike in high school. My bus route was long since I lived on a farm in Marden. It was quicker for me to bike to school than to take the bus. That continued into university because I still didn’t have a car.

How did you come to your current bike set-up?

I ride a Bakfiet.NL long – a two wheeled family cargo bike from the Netherlands.

We had a car when my partner Scott and I went on a trip to Barcelona. Scott spent 10 years of his life in Spain, and during his last 7 years there, he was a bike messenger. While we were there on vacation, he showed me his stomping grounds and we explored Barcelona by bike. They have a bike share there and ever-growing cycling infrastructure. It was a wonderful trip.
I returned to Canada before him. When I got back to the Park ‘n’ Fly, the car wouldn’t start. I jumped the battery and off I went. Meanwhile, the trip struck with me over the next couple of months.  I had a hard time seeing the car sitting in the driveway, draining our bank account and rarely being used (Scott doesn’t have his driving license). Then we got a huge cold snap in January 2014, and it froze the battery. I walked down the road,  got on the bus,and decided, I don’t want to scrape the windshield anymore or maintain the car. So we sold it February 1.

When I became pregnant with Lucy we decided we needed some other way to get around other than walking or the bus.  There is no way (that I know of) to transport a newborn except in a cargo bike. A cargo bike also holds up to 175 pounds and has a toddler seat and it will grow with her. There is an attachment for a car seat now. It was a large purchase so we held off and bought it in April. Lucy rode it for the first time at 4 months.

I was intimidated at first by the size of it; it is 8 feet long. I was concerned that  people would stare.

However, when the weather turned nice and I took it out, I got used to people staring at us.  Anyone who sees it loves it and asks questions. It’s great. I don’t have too many limitations; I can pretty much go anywhere that I need to. It can be difficult to go up hills, but it has 8 gears.  It just takes longer.  I can’t imagine our lives without it now.

IMG_20160726_151256How has cycling improved your life?

By not having a car, I feel more relaxed. I like that it takes longer to do things.  I don’t have a big metal box around me that keeps me from relating to my community. Financially it helps enormously and allows us spend our money differently. Also, having a bike and not having a car allows me to feel like I have fewer obligations. When having a car, you are expected to be everywhere and there are no boundaries. We don’t go out needlessly; we batch our trips. Location is also key, and we were drawn to the ward to be able to live car free.

Where do you go on the bike?

Pretty much everywhere but I would say the radius is around downtown.  With the cargo bike I don’t really go south of the Boathouse or west of Edinburgh or east of Watson. We try to follow the river trails when we can because they’re flatter, provide more shade, and are more scenic. When I don’t have my daughter, I go further afield.

When do you use the car?

We go to Costco with my mother in law once a month so that we can stock up on bulky items.  We might rent a car for a vacation. We also travel with family members and friends, if say, we have a wedding or event out of town. But 90% or our trips are by bike and bus.

What is the hardest thing about using the bike for transportation?

Winter.

How would you respond to people who feel a car is just safer?

Driving is definitely more dangerous, especially when you factor in the detrimental effects caused by emissions. I believe that the benefits of cycling outweigh any risks.

What needs to happen in Canada to make the culture, and eventually the roads, more bike friendly?

Separated bike lanes would be very nice.  Education and more cyclists on the road would help too. We all pay taxes and the road work is primarily geared toward the car.

Name the top four things you think people get out of utilitarian cycling?

Good health, enjoying and engaging with surroundings, saving money,  getting to where you are going faster sometimes, and with more pleasure.

I also have a blog that I hope will encourage people to look at transportation alternatives.

Describe your commute.

I use a cyclocross bike to go to work. I’ll take the Royal River Trail or York Road (now that it will have bike lanes), go up Morris to Elizabeth to Arthur N and go through Goldie Mill and follow the TransCanada trail, to Dufferin and then to Woolwich to the Cemetery.

What is the best part of your commute?

The trail, by far.

What is the worst part of your commute?

Crossing Eramosa at Arthur Street.

What infrastructure change would make your commute better?


Lights at Eramosa and Arthur (a pedestrian crossing). Alternatively, one where the trail crosses Eramosa, at the railway tracks.

IMG_20160802_180714What do you think Lucy  gets out of riding as a family?

I think that it gives Lucy a sense of exhilaration because we often take the long way and enjoy the sights and stops along the way. Every trip is an adventure.

What is challenging about riding with kids?

Having to go slower.

Tell a story about a special moment related to riding with Lucy.

I find the best part so far is seeing her smile and react to the world around her at a faster pace than I can walk with her. She faces me and I get to see her reactions and interact with her.  She likes it when we ride as a family so she can see the other parent on the bike in her view.

Have you ever felt judged by those who think you are irresponsible for transporting your kids by bike?

Someone asked me if she is allowed on the road. I think the overriding feeling  I get though, is how cool the bike is and what freedom we have with an infant.

What do you suppose Lucy is learning from this part of your lifestyle?

That it is totally possible and fun to go by bike.

What bit of advice would you like to share with new bike commuters?

That there is a really great feeling of being self sufficient. It feels great to get where you want to go by using your own energy. It is empowering.

A Community Celebration of Active Transportation!

IMG_20150715_181418A Parade to Celebrate Active Transportation in our Community
On Wednesday, July 13 at 5:30 pm, Guelph Coalition for Active Transportation, in partnership with the Junction Neighbourhood Group and the weekly Community potluck at 47 Meadowview Avenue, is hosting a Community Celebration of Active Transportation. Our mission is to increase the quantity, quality, safety, and fun of Active Transportation in Guelph.

Cyclists, walkers, even rollerbladers are welcome to join in our third annual  Active Transportation Parade.”  We will wind our way through the streets in the Junction neighbourhood.  Families are welcome to attend.

Celebrate your creativity by decorating your bikes and wearing costumes to celebrate your joy of community and Active Transportation!
Prizes will be awarded to the best decorated bicycle, as well as the best costume.
There will be a potluck meal after the event for those who wish to participate.

All are welcome. Children under 18 must wear helmets if cycling or rollerblading. All participants must sign a waiver in order to participate.

For more information, please contact GCAT at  activeguelph@gmail.com

 

Rain could not deter our cycling tour of Riverside Gardens….and a pint!!

On June 5, GCAT and 2Rivers Festival hosted a Cycling tour of Riverside Gardens…and a Pint.

IMG_20160605_141048 We knew rain might be a problem, but we sure weren’t expecting the deluge of rain 15 minutes before the event started! The decision to proceed was made by Stan Kozak, 2Rivers Festival organizer, who is definitely one not to be deterred by “a bit of weather.”

Co-organized by 2Rivers Festival sponsored by Wellington Water Watchers and GCAT, this event brings people together to celebrate their love of Guelph Rivers, gardens, and community.  Plenty of all three were to be had, with a group of 17 who came to enjoy conversation and camaraderie despite the threatening weather.

IMG_20160605_142644

The first stop was at Leigh Taylor’s garden, whose small plot of land hosts several varieties of fruits, veggies, hydroponic agriculture, and even aquaculture. No one had seen that many species of edible food grown in such a small space.Leigh’s project is truly the future of urban agriculture. We were able to have a good view before the rains came, and then luckily, stopped. The sun came out at that point and stayed with us for the rest of our voyage.

 

 

 

IMG_20160605_150957We continued our tour along the Royal River Trail, down Neeve Street, and up Arthur Street.  Here we enjoyed Stan and Leanne’s beautiful backyard river garden, complete with a gorgeous pond and a large variety of beautiful pollinating flowers. The participants were enjoying it so much that we eventually had to encourage them to keep moving as there were other gardens to see.

IMG_20160605_155903Our last stop was a very large vegetable garden that is visible along the Trans Canada Trail beside the Speed River. This labour of love by the Swantek family is arguably the biggest urban garden in Guelph. The family has worked tirelessly to get the land ready and now produces a mountain of seasonal vegetables every year.

During the whole event, there were many opportunities for casual conversation. It became obvious with each kilometre ridden that all participants had a passion for cycling, urban farming and meeting new people.

Our last stop was the Woolwich Arms, or the Wooly. Here, we hoisted a pint and some kombucha and talked about the great day. Thanks Stan for not cancelling the event because of rain.. We would have missed out on all that fun!

Now, what should we do for an encore?

 

 

Magnificent Magnolias on a Magnificent Ride!

magnolia ride forsey 2This year’s Magnificent Magnolia Ride held on Saturday May 7, was truly a sight to behold.  Not only were the Magnolia trees magnificent, but the number of people who came to ride was splendid as well.

magnolia ride forsey 1Organized by the Guelph Hiking Club and advertised as a part of the weekend’s series of Jane’s Walks, the ride this year drew in 55 people, ranging in ages from 1 to 70 something. Participants rode through mainly quiet residential streets, admiring the 50+ Magnolia trees along the way. Organizer Ned Coates,  inspired the riders with his love and knowledge of Magnolia trees.  20160507_134729_resizedAs well, Lise Burcher, from the school of environmental design and urban development at the University of Guelph landscape planning, gave a talk at her home, explaining that she actually chose to purchase the house she lives in partly because of the beautiful Magnolia tree adorning her front yard.

IMG_2830Another highlight was the garden party held at Bob and Anna’s on Arthur Street North.  Riders enjoyed cucumber cream cheese sandwiches on pink and green bread, as well as tea and other treats.  A great end to a great afternoon.

20160507_134705_resizedPrizes were awarded to Best Dressed, won by Ruth Tabata, Most Outlandish, won by Richelle Forsey, and best spring pants won by Victoria Coates.  Thank you to Speed River Cycle, Goldie Sherman pottery and Wike for the great prizes.

Come join us for a Magnificent Magnolia Ride on May 7!

16881198124_f94d41a32c_z
Magnificent Magnolia Ride, May 7, 1pm-3:30 pm
Come join The Guelph Hiking Club for a free, casual bike ride to kick off Spring and enjoy the Magnificent Magnolia trees in blossom. We will ride about 12km and visit several Magnolia trees and other spring blossoms in and around Downtown Guelph.  We will be riding mainly on quiet residential streets and trails. Make sure you pack your camera and get some beautiful shots!
17503836635_12b0219bc5_z
For added fun, we’re having a costume contest to brighten the day.  There will be prizes for: The Best Dressed Cyclist, The Most Outlandish Ensemble, and The Best Spring Bonnet, so get your best outfit ready!
The trip will begin at Speed River Bicycle at 135 Wyndham St. N. at 1pm and end on Arthur Street N., for a free garden party where refreshments will be served. There will also be lemonade along the way!
Prizes and refreshments courtesy of Speed River Bicycle, Wike, Goldie Sherman Pottery and Guelph Coalition for Active transportation.
Helmets are encouraged.
For more information, please contact activeguelph@gmail.com or wendygates243@gmail.com

 

 

 

James Gordon, Musician, City Councillor, Commuter Cyclist

IMG_20151227_133340

A few weeks ago, I caught up with James Gordon , City Councillor for Ward 2, who was bike riding to a gig with a guitar on his back. I knew that he was a very interesting guy, and thought I would get his perspective on cycling in Guelph. He was kind enough to do an interview with me. Here are some of the issues we discussed.

Why is riding a bike important to you?

I’ve been a musician my whole adult life. I tour by car. It feels like I drive for a living. The lifestyle of non- stop touring is pretty brutal on the body. You work for a few hours then get back in the car. It has become extra important to me personally, when not on the road, to keep the car in the driveway. The physical activity is important to me.

How has riding a bike changed your relationship with your community?

I connect with my surroundings more readily while on a bike. I’ve become more accessible; people stop me when I’m on my bike. Some people want to talk about my vintage bike. I think that since I and the bike are recognizable, it does make it a conversation starter.

Regularly riding a bike around Guelph has also been an awareness raiser for my job on council. Now, when issues come up related to bike trails and bike paths, I know what people are talking about. Near my place on Dufferin St. for example, at first I didn’t like that they paved the Trans-Canada Trail and put a big fence by the tracks, but now I realize that it does make an efficient bicycle highway. The TCT is an enabler for active transportation. It increased my awareness of its value.

What are the factors involved in deciding to use a car or a bike?

As a musician, I am usually lugging around sound equipment, so I need a car for this. I bike more now that my car died; only my wife has a car. For now, I’m seeing what it’s like to not get a new one. I now rent a car when I tour, and so far it seems to be a better deal than owning one.

IMG_20151227_133414

What is the hardest thing about using the bike for transportation?

Almost everywhere I cycle in Guelph, I become aware how inadequate bike safety is. So I sometimes take the sidewalks when I don’t feel like there is a safe option. In Guelph, we should have options so that you don’t feel like you have to go on the sidewalk to avoid getting killed. Also, with my 3 speed, the hills are hard!

Also, when my mother was in the hospital, and needed help, I noticed that I was limited on a bike by what I can carry and what I can get to.

Were there fears you had about city biking in the beginning that have been disproved? Any that have been proven valid?

I actually had a bike accident 10 years ago when I wasn’t a consistent helmet user. I was blown off the road by a transport on Elmira Road. I landed on my helmet and I lost a tooth. Now, I know better that you’ve got to watch out, and you’ve got to wear a helmet.

Do you find yourself trying to convert non-cyclists to utilitarian cycling?

I’m not that zealous about it. I do it by example. For instance, when there are council meetings, my bike is often the only one there, though councillors Allt and Hoffland often bike, and Mayor Guthrie rode his bike in a couple of times.

What kind of bike do you ride?

It’s a Raleigh Superbe, and it’s 40 years old. It still has the sticker of Forum Sports on Wyndham Street. As a Guelph history buff, it means a lot to me.

There is a cool story behind this bike. The bike was given to me by my dad when I was a teenager. Later, it was given back to me by my own kids after they fixed it up.

I notice that since I really like my bike, I bike a lot more. It suits my personality. I like how I can sit up on the bike rather than lean over. Having a great bike is like having a beautiful musical instrument. If you have a beautiful instrument, you will play it more.

It was a free bike and that was important too!

How would you respond to people who feel a car is just safer?

I think that I have a particular perspective, being on the road so much. It can be really dangerous riding a car. For example, especially in the US, there is a real macho car culture. It is very common to see a guy with his SUV, 4 wheel drive, think he is invincible. People like that get into accidents all the time. When on a bike, I am constantly aware of my surroundings and am very careful.

In Europe where they figured out the bike, they don’t have to have to wear helmets because they are safer riders and they have better infrastructure.

What needs to happen in Canada to make the culture, and eventually the roads, more bike friendly?

I think that in order for us to spend our energies on bike safety and make things more inviting, we have to reach a critical point where people think this car thing is no longer the best option. So far, only very aware activists think this way.

Ten years ago, the price of gas went up, so people were looking for options. Now, there is gridlock, so people often don’t get to work on time if they use the car.

Another point of advocacy is getting off consumerism. You don’t get any traction trying to get people to spend less. But if you get them to look at other communities, you see that switching to bikes is not a sacrifice. Now that we are getting bike infrastructure, it is no longer a valid argument that it is not good to go by bike.

As well, we need more people recreational cycling so that they can see that commuter cycling can be done. Car culture is so entrenched that we don’t even know that that we legally have a right to share the road. If you think that you are in the way of cars, you haven’t shifted your thinking.

What are the top 5 five things you think people get out of utilitarian cycling?

Cardiovascular exercise, community connection, the satisfaction of lowering your carbon footprint, having an economic advantage. Also, an urban biker feels more connection with nature than a car driver.

What bit of advice would you like to share with new bike commuters?

When you actually get on the bike, you can find your own comfort level. You will know what you can do and can’t do. Find that comfort zone. Do what you can, then work yourself up to greater distances if you want.

What kind of bicycle/pedestrian infrastructure would you like to see on York Road?

This design study is an opportunity to really think about what kind of bike/pedestrian infrastructure we want.

20160217_133253

York road east of Victoria Road. Please click on image for clearer view.

York Road between Victoria Road and Watson Road, is undergoing an Environmental design study, The purpose of the study is to improve the road for all users….those who drive cars, trucks, ride bikes, or use their sneakers to get around.

To save time and money, the original Environmental Assessment that was done in 2007, is being used to determine the design for the road.  This design will impact road use for the next several decades, so a closer look at the details are in order.

Here are the design improvements that are listed on the website:

  • Widening York Road from two to four traffic lanes
  • Adding a bicycle lane (1.5 metres wide), sidewalk, curb and gutter on the north side
  • Adding a bicycle lane (1.5 metres wide) and shoulder on the south side of York Road
  • Adding sidewalk, curb and gutter from Victoria Road to the Elizabeth Street intersection, and from the entrance at 919 York Road to the eastern City limits
  • Adding traffic lights at the intersection of York Road and Elizabeth Street, adding a southbound left turn lane and realigning Elizabeth Street to meet York Road at 90 degrees (perpendicular)
  • Closing the Beaumont Crescent entrances onto York Road (properties along Beaumont Crescent and Cityview Drive will access York Road via Elizabeth Street)

How is York Road being used now?

This section of York Road is unique.  It serves a purpose for just about everybody.

  • It serves as Highway 7 to get cars and trucks in and out of Guelph.

    https://i1.wp.com/media.zuza.com/5/e/5ee6943b-92db-42bd-aeac-de861c0d5b05/bb078c37428f97730e09a166417d_Content.jpeg?resize=360%2C237

    A gift to the city: Prison labour created much-loved ponds off York Road (Guelph Mercury)

  • It serves as a gateway to Guelph from Guelph-Eramosa Township.  Along the way, it passes alongside a “Provincially Significant” heritage property, known as the Ontario Reformatory, including a heritage stone wall constructed by the inmates. It is also home to some beautiful parkland, a couple of relaxing small ponds, and the scenic Clythe Creek.
  • This section of York Road will also host a commercial district located between Victoria and Elizabeth Street.
  •  York Road is also a gateway to the booming east end development that will significantly increase the density of the area.  While that means more vehicle traffic, it will (hopefully) increase foot traffic and bike traffic as well.

Bike lane as painted line, or is it time for something better?

So, how should we accommodate people on bikes in the area?

A painted line, as is currently planned,  is better than no bicycle infrastructure, for sure.  I ride on roads with painted bike lanes, but I admit to getting a little nervous riding beside big trucks, especially on a windy day.

https://i0.wp.com/secure.finishlinestudios.com/v3/clients/lakedelton_org/files/common/PARKS/mulit1.jpg?resize=434%2C345&ssl=1

An example of a multi-use path.

Now, what would stop the city from considering a multi-use path, particularly on the south side of York Road? There are almost no driveways to speak of to make it dangerous for bikes. A multi-use path in this location would allow for a scenic, pleasurable bike ride or stroll beside the creek or parkland. Right now, no pedestrian infrastructure is included on this side of York Road, so a multi use path could be considered for both.

https://i1.wp.com/www.ennisflint.com/getattachment/Products/Green-Bike-Lanes/PreMark-Bike-Lane-Green/PreMark_260.jpg?resize=414%2C155

An example of some “fresh kermit.”

The north side of York Road is a bit trickier to fit a multi-use path as there are more driveways. How about buffered lanes instead of just a painted line? Coloured demarcations aka “fresh kermit” paint could be of use too.

These issues are always complex and there are no easy answers. But at least we can let the City know that people on bikes and in sneakers want to ride and walk in safety and comfort. In so doing, road congestion can be reduced by riding and walking  instead of driving.

Perhaps you can help with your own creative suggestions for accommodating cycling and walking on this stretch of road!

Have your say

Please add your voice to this discussion in the comments.  Better yet, please come to the open house on Feb 23 at City Hall, 6-8pm.  If you can’t do that, follow the link to the bottom for other alternative to add your voice. http://guelph.ca/living/environment/environment-planning/environmental-assessments/york-road-environmental-design-study/

 

 

 

 

Woodlawn MUP to be extended in 2016

Have you been on the Multi-Use path on Woodlawn yet? Pretty cool indeed.  To see the side of Woodlawn Road go from an undignified goat path to a brand new, 10 foot off road “shared roadway” is like a cyclist’s/pedestrian’s/transit user’s dream. The area currently covered is from Nicklin Avenue to Silvercreek Parkway.  The even better news is that is going to be extended.

Guelph Coalition for Active Transportation and other individuals attended budget meeting after budget meeting explaining the importance of providing safer passage for individuals on this road.  With over 100 businesses, workplaces, restaurants, etc. on this busy stretch of road, it was mind boggling to see that the only people given proper access to these places were motorists.  Because of consistent public pressure, council decided to build to first phase in 2015, and actually extend it in 2016.  This year, the path will be built from Silvercreek Parkway to Imperial, crossing the Hanlan.

This stretch will be more complicated.  Storm water drainage, culverts and retaining walls will have to be constructed.  The city is budgeting $1.5 million dollars for this section, which also includes crossing the Hanlan Expressway.  A public open house will be held in the Spring, advising the public of the construction.

This project shows what can be done when individuals stand up and express their views on making Guelph more equitable, sustainable, and offering people transportation choices.  The real work in any city begins when citizens become engaged in making their city a better place to live.

The Transformative Power of Walking

The transformative power of walking

Guelph Mercury

Winter will soon be here, and for me, it is the season where I put my bike away, put on my warm winter boots, mitts, down coat and very long scarf, and start walking to the 3.5 kilometres to work. After reading “Born to Walk, The Transformative Power of a Pedestrian Act,” by Dan Rubenstein, I feel extra good about my choice of commuting by foot. There are so many benefits to walking, it’s mind boggling that it has not become a national pastime.

In his book, Rubenstein elegantly extols the benefits of walking from several perspectives. He amply describes how walking benefits not only the body, but also the mind, society, the economy, politics, creativity, spirit, and family. I’ll highlight some of these important ideas.

First of all, as Rubenstein states, walking normalizes the workings of the body. Humans were meant to keep active. It is not new news that walking protects us from obesity, coronary disease, Type 2 diabetes, and even Alzheimer’s disease. However, I had never thought about the thousands of interdependent internal mechanisms that keep us walking, and why they are crucial to our health. For example, our bodies contain synovial fluid, which is a yolk-like liquid in our knees, hips, ankles and shoulders. When we move, this “human motor oil” supplies oxygen and nutrients to the cells, and becomes more easily absorbed by cartilage. Without this cycle, the cartilage deteriorates, and our joints don’t operate as they should. This is but one example of why we need to keep moving.

A regular walking regimen might also be prescribed to ward off or to treat mild to moderate depression. I can personally attest to this benefit of walking, as my morning stroll definitely transforms me from a grumbly bear upon awakening, to a cheerful person by the time I start my work day. During my walk, I might mentally work through some problems I’m experiencing. Other times, I feel a sense of awe and wonder when enjoying the crisp wind on my face, or when witnessing the morning frost clinging to the trees.

Society itself also benefits when cities are designed to be pedestrian friendly. When we have meaningful places to walk to, we walk more, and in turn, we have more opportunities for casual encounters. These encounters help us develop a sense of belonging in our community. Walking also gives us opportunities to see or interact with people we don’t normally engage with in our work, or who aren’t part of our social circle. A walk downtown, for example, might remind us that there are fellow citizens out there who have lives that are much more difficult than our own. It is important to be reminded of this reality in order to feel more compassion toward the disadvantaged in our city.

Walking also contributes to a city’s economic viability, as property values are now increasing in walkable neighbourhoods that are close to useful amenities. Housing prices in areas with a good “Walk Score” remain much more stable during housing bubbles and real estate market shifts. Cities that have inviting, mixed use, walkable city centres draw people in to spend their money. These days, consumers are just an Amazon click away from a desired product. To entice people to spend locally instead, personal customer attention is key to staying afloat in the retail and restaurant business. Most small downtown businesses enjoy the pedestrian activity and offer these important perks.

I will end with comments from my favourite chapter in “Born to Walk.” Rubenstein leads us to consider how a walk with a friend or a family member can strengthen bonds. Many of us find it difficult to maintain eye contact while discussing a painful subject with a loved one. Rubenstein has a poetic way of describing how a walk together can ease this discomfort. “Alongside a friend or relative, or even casual acquaintance, your footfalls can settle into an unconscious synchronicity — an indicator of social interaction … Simultaneously soothed and stimulated by the motion, you are primed to open up, and to listen to what someone else has to say. An intimacy develops — between lovers or siblings or pals, or between parent and child but also a maturation of the relationship between you and your surroundings.”

Wow. I knew walking was good for me, but I didn’t know just how powerful the act of putting one foot in front of the other really is. Now I know. If you still need inspiration, read the book. You will surely be inspired to experience the transformational power of a walk as well.

Yvette Tendick is a member of the Guelph Mercury Community Editorial Board.