GCAT - Guelph Coalition for Active Transportation

Kris and Mark, walking advocates


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Why is walking important to you?

Walking is a healthy activity.  It’s also autonomous. You get to determine the route that you want to go.  It also gives you opportunities to observe your environment.  It lets you happen upon things that are unexpected.

We love being out in the weather.   Rain and snow aren’t discouragements.

How has it changed your relationship with your community?
I think we are more aware of what’s in our immediate community. By walking, we enjoy a park across the way, natural areas like trails along the river. We enjoy walking in and around various neighbourhoods and in the downtown, observing the  architecture, people going about their business.  

You understand how an inner city works.  You get a sense of the history of the neighbourhood. You hear all the urban sounds.  I heard the bells ring at St George’s church and you hear the Go Trains coming and going and freight trains coming in the distance.

We like being in public spaces like Carden Street and City Hall. Plazas and public places are areas for people to walk, to interact and to engage in cultural activities.  

When walking downtown, you see people from  various walks of of life and backgrounds. We have become aware that we live in a diverse community.

When you’re walking around in the city, you notice that not everything is clean and organized.  There is more texture and grit to the city.

When you walk, you are aware of transitions, you see old industrial buildings in the Ward. There is also Willow Street area,  which is a starting point for new immigrants. Here, you see greater ethnic diversity.

Where do you go when you walk?

Where don’t we go?  We go to the market, shops downtown, cafes and restaurants, the pubs, the museum, the concert hall, the hockey rink, the library, the doctor and dentist, the bus depot, the railway station, friends and local dances at a neighbourhood church hall. We like to check out back alleys and laneways, discover new and old signage, and observe how nature can take hold in unexpected spaces.

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When do you use the car?

We use the car to go to the YMCA and to shop at a west-end grocery store.  When we use the car, we usually combine our errands in order to make fewer car trips. Sometimes our car remains unused for few days at time in our parking spot.

What is the hardest thing about walking for transportation?

The sidewalks and their uneven surfaces. The city has painted many of the sidewalk hazards orange, which is helpful.  Private owners who have allowed vegetation to grow out onto the sidewalk.  In the winter, the sidewalk snow clearance by the city can be slow and haphazard. In Guelph, there is no culture for residents for taking on responsibility to clear snow and ice on sidewalks in front of their houses. I fell twice this past winter.  People, especially seniors, are hesitant to walk outside in the winter.  

Timing of traffic light signals for pedestrians.  At the intersection of Woolwich, Norfolk and Norwich, there is often traffic making a left hand turn on Woolwich even though the pedestrian signal is indicating it’s OK to cross. You have to be mindful of this. A three to five second delay in the pedestrian signal would be helpful.
Drivers sometimes don’t stop when making a right hand turn on a red light when pedestrian is crossing because drivers think that they have the right of way.  You have to very alert as a pedestrian and err on the side of caution.

Has your enjoyment of walking influenced where you chose to live?

When one lives in the urban core, walking is a preferable option to driving. We chose to live in downtown where there are interesting and practical things close by.  

Where do you most like to walk?

We like to go to where there is life out on the street.  We like to get ice cream from the Sweet Shoppe downtown.  It is also pretty around Exhibition Park. We like walking through ol neighbourhoods and exploring trails along the rivers.

Where do you least like to walk?

I took the car to the Mazda dealership on Woodlawn Road and had to walk a distance down the goat path.  I went to the Royal City Nursery on Woodlawn and witnessed a woman pushing a stroller on the goat path. It is so unsafe and unpleasant.  I don’t like to walk next to high traffic roadways, where there are no sidewalks.

Any other comments?

In Raleigh North Carolina, there are wayfaring signs, such as “3 minutes to the art gallery” and “10 minutes to the train station.” I think it is a great idea.  Most signs in Guelph are signs for cars. There are very few for walkers.

More people walk than ride a bike.  Because the urban core is compact, it makes it appealing to walk. There are more people out on the street.  People on the street makes a safe, healthy, and vibrant community.  If you’re removed from interacting with your physical environment, you become estranged from it.  You have greater ownership and investment in your community if you walk.

When you drive a car, you take your livingroom with you and you don’t interact with other citizens except when you honk or you are on your cell phone.  That is another reason why we prefer the walking option.  For us, walking is frequently the journey, and not necessarily arriving at a destination.

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