IV. Walkable urban places — Political benefits

Walking is increasingly a political agenda as cities fight to reduce cars, congestion and pollution while striving for a safer, healthier, more vibrant community of residents and visitors alike. A rising consciousness around the fundamental role of public space is leading cities to update out-dated regulations based around cars and parking in favour of a more holistic view of mobility and access. These and other policies are actively trying to get people back onto to the streets thanks to micro and temporary solutions.1

Walkability requires political will from local policymakers to use public resources to further that goal. It means adding walkability projects to budgets and prioritizing walkability over other issues competing for public resources. The political will to make those decisions will materialize only in response to a loud and influential constituency.

“An active city is a city with a chance. It’s a city with a future. It’s a place that’s designed for people to move throughout their day-to-day lives.”

Nike, Designed to move active cities, 2015

Robert Steuteville, editor of Public Square (a CNU Journal), has been publishing a series of articles based on the 2016 Cities Alive: Towards a walking world report, which shows the benefits of walkable cities – social, economic, environmental and political – and sets out measures for improving walkability.

This post itemizes the list from Steuteville’s article (link embedded in heading below), and includes additional details from the report.

Ten political benefits of walkable places

  1. Enhancing tax revenue
    Reoriented for pedestrians, neighbourhoods can thrive and diversify to better support local economies, raise quality of life indicators, and improve local and regional environmental conditions.
  2. Fostering competitiveness
    Investing in walkability raises cities’ competitiveness and their importance in the global cities network. Today, urban competitiveness is more than ever a central issue for local public policies due to globalisation and the integration of markets.
  3. Building public consensus
    Brave decisions may generate strong short-term resistance but build long-term consensus. If broad support for walking infrastructure and walking friendly environments can be achieved across the community, political support will naturally follow.
  4. Supporting urban centres
    Walking is better for the planet, better for your mind and better for your body. As it becomes more prevalent, cities are shifting their urban designs to incorporate public space and corridors and making them pleasant and safe at a human scale.
  5. Promoting citizen empowerment
    Empowerment is the process that enhances the individual and collective capacity to make choices and to transform them into concrete actions. Cities may empower their citizens’ responsibility promoting collaborative economic models.
  6. Promotes sustainable behaviour
    Cities are the main contributors to climate change, responsible for 75% of global CO2 emissions; they are vulnerable systems and their future wellbeing is strictly related to their ability to change negative transport habits, and turn towards a more sustainable future.
  7. Supporting regeneration processes
    Shaping a more walkable city involves redesigning the space in order to reduce car dominance and marks the pedestrian re-appropriation of the street. The addition of free and flexible pedestrian space created by the removal of cars fosters new opportunities for unprecedented urban transformation.
  8. Addressing city resilience
    Resilience is a crucial characteristic for all cities fighting to keep up with the rapid transformation that they are undergoing. Key elements of any walkable city – such as having multiple services within a short distance – make cities more resilient.
  9. Boosting flexibility and enabling micro-solutions
    Some studies have shown a strong correlation between walkable environments and the development of creative and innovative ideas and solutions.
  10. Promoting cultural heritage
    As processes of globalisation transform places, cities try to grasp onto their own unique characters. A city’s heritage helps to define the identity of a place, and it is a fundamental feature that enhances social cohesiveness, economic prosperity and competitiveness.

“A city’s ability to compete depends on an active population. The research is clear on this. Integrating physical activity into the places we work, live, learn, travel and play is the only way to ensure we move enough to thrive.”

Nike, Designed to move active cities, 2015

1 Excerpts from Cities Alive: Towards a walking world, a report published by Arup in 2016.


More on this topic:

Recent goings-on at City Hall (Part 1)

Friday, 30 April: Council Advisory Committee meeting

On Friday, 30 April, the Council Advisory Committee was asked by CAO Peter Kelley to consider abolishing requests for verbatim accounts of Council and Standing Committee meetings because (a) they take up too much of staff’s time, (b) no other municipality does this, and (c) citizens can view the video recordings on the City of Charlottetown YouTube channel.

Why is this request unacceptable and undemocratic?

  1. The poor quality of the video and audio technology in Council Chambers. 
    • The persons and presenters sitting at the “bottom of the screen” are not visible, so the viewer does not know who is speaking.
    • The words of a person speaking with a low, weak, or mumbling voice, or sitting far from the microphone, are not picked up. It is therefore difficult, if not impossible, for the viewer to hear what is being said when watching the meeting.
    • While the Closed Captioning (CC) feature is an option, it does not capture every word perfectly, and does not identify the speaker.
  2. Meeting packages for Special Council meetings are not available online.
  3. The federal and provincial governments use Hansard services to record official reports of proceeding and debates, while municipal governments’ proceedings and debates are either recorded online, e.g. Toronto, London, Regina, Halifax and/or reported by journalists in local newspapers. Media reporting of the City of Charlottetown Council and committee meetings are spotty at best. Moreover, neither The Guardian nor CBC have a full-time dedicated municipal affairs reporter. This leaves citizens to obtain information on their own, or to remain ignorant of decisions and debates that may directly affect them.
  4. The Council Code of Conduct Bylaw (#2020-CC-01) states under Part II – PRINCIPLES:

8.4. Members of Council are responsible for the decisions that they make. This responsibility includes acts of commission and acts of omission. In turn, decision-making processes must be transparent and subject to public scrutiny.

8.6. Members of Council must demonstrate and promote the principles of this Bylaw through their decisions, actions, and behaviour. Their behaviour must build and inspire the public’s trust and confidence in municipal government.

8.8. Members of Council have a duty to demonstrate openness and transparency about their decisions and actions.

Abolishing the long-established practice of verbatim account requests would contribute to not only eroding the public’s trust and confidence, but also making local government less transparent and accountable.

Monday, 10 May: Monthly Council Meeting

A slightly different version of the above text was sent in an e-mail to all councillors on the morning of 10 May.

That evening, Councillor Alanna Jankov – as Chair of the Council Advisory Committee – reported to Council:

“Youʼll also notice in our minutes that we did have a discussion around the requests for verbatim minutes and thatʼs just been tabled for future meeting with Council as we needed more information about what best practices are in municipalities.”

Councillor Jankov starts speaking at 1:03:45 (Video recording).

Charleston → Charlottetown: Coincidence?

Editorial in Charleston, NCʼs The Post and Courier published 24 January 2021: “Wait one minute. You want to do what to Charleston City Council minutes?” While Charlestonʼs meetings have been recorded verbatim in their entirety, Charlottetown councillors request verbatim accounts only occasionally for a specific segment of a meeting debate.

This month, Clerk of Council Jennifer Cook sought council’s permission to change the approach to those minutes from a verbatim account of what was said at the meeting to a summary approach. No doubt, the change would save on staff time, and anyone who wants to hear all the nitty-gritty details can (at least for now) easily find a recording of City Council meetings on the city’s YouTube site.

The Post and Courier, Charleston, NC

https://www.postandcourier.com/opinion/editorials/editorial-wait-one-minute-you-want-to-do-what-to-charleston-city-council-minutes/article_ce769d24-5b60-11eb-8690-83daf67d309c.html

Posted: 12 May 2021 at 7:52 am | Updated: 10 July 2021 at 20:15 pm

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