Active transportation for a healthier Glebe

By Mark Redwood


Active transportation refers to any form of human-powered transportation, such as walking, cycling or using a wheelchair, as opposed to motorized transportation like cars. It has gained attention in recent years due to its many benefits. Several provinces have active transportation strategies, not-for-profit advocacy groups promote it (including the Canadian Automobile Association), and cities such as Ottawa have made active transportation central to its climate action strategy.

Being active helps maintain good health and prevent chronic diseases like obesity and heart disease. Walking or cycling improve cardiovascular and muscular health and boosts mental well-being. Active transportation produces no greenhouse gas emissions and reduces air and noise pollution. Meanwhile, investing in walking and cycling infrastructure can boost local economic activity by increasing pedestrian traffic, attracting businesses and enhancing property values.

In 2021, the federal government launched an ambitious National Active Transportation Strategy for 2021-26, signalling a policy push to improve community well-being, local economies, accessibility and health. A little over a year ago, the Transportation Committee of the Glebe Community Association (GCA) won a $50,000 grant from Infrastructure Canada’s Active Transportation Fund to conduct an active transportation study for our neighbourhood.

We felt that improvements could be made in the Glebe to increase the benefits of active transportation. We are lucky to live in a “15-minute” neighbourhood, where residents can easily access many services without having to drive. According to StatsCan, 37 per cent of trips in the Glebe are done by active transportation (walking or cycling) compared to an average of 10 per cent for the whole of Ottawa.

But questions remain: What should active transportation look like in the Glebe? How can the Glebe be better connected to other Central Ottawa neighbourhoods? How can active transportation be encouraged and accommodated safely with other traffic in the Glebe? What funding would be required for improvements?

To conduct the study, the GCA commissioned Momentum Transport Consultancy, a firm based in Montreal, to look at options for improving active transportation in the Glebe. Our study took place in three phases. First, Momentum did a context analysis with support from the GCA Transportation Committee. Together with the GCA, Momentum then hosted consultations, organized a survey and conducted several neighbourhood walks to identify challenges and opportunities. More than 360 people responded to the survey or participated in the consultations. Finally, after incorporating feedback, Momentum presented the results at an open meeting of the GCA. In February, Momentum’s final Action Plan was adopted by the GCA board.

We encourage you to download the Glebe Active Transportation Study Action Plan from the GCA website at (check News & Events). It should be seen as a menu of options to improve active transportation as opposed to a plan for specific projects. Nineteen project ideas were recommended to improve our neighbourhood. Each idea comes with examples from other cities and neighbourhoods where similar projects have been implemented. Some of the ideas are modest, but potentially impactful. For example: partial street closures around schools, the addition of more pedestrian crosswalks to bridge the Glebe with pathways along the canal and building bike hangers for long-stay residential cycle parking.

Other options are much more ambitious in scope. This includes the provision of active transportation improvements on Bank Street, the redesign of Bronson Avenue as a “complete” street and linking the segmented green spaces between Glebe Memorial Park and Patterson’s Creek to create a cohesive linear park.

There are barriers, of course. Not everyone is able to be active due to age and mobility challenges. Winter creates challenges for pedestrians, cyclists and wheelchair users. Some residents could resist an increase in active transportation promotion over car use. Planners are often still focused on car options versus non-motorized choices. We believe, however, that these barriers can be overcome. Safety is a concern: fatality risks per distance travelled for pedestrians and cyclists in the U.S. are 23 and 12 times higher than for those who travel by car. In Norway, which is more supportive of active transportation, the numbers are lower at 4 and 7.5 respectively, which shows that these changes can work. There is also evidence that the more active transportation users there are, the more safety risks decrease. This is termed “safety in numbers”.

We encourage all Glebe residents to review the Active Transportation Study Action Plan. The Action Plan should inspire ideas, conversations and interest. Importantly, the Glebe now has a clear set of choices to discuss, develop further and to advocate for to create the kind of community we believe it can be.


Mark Redwood is a Glebe resident and a member of the Glebe Community Association Transportation Committee

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