Coun. Laurie Walters (centre) listens as walking and wheeling workshop participants talk about favoured biking and walking routes and problem hot spots that impede walking and wheeling.

Coun. Laurie Walters (centre) listens as walking and wheeling workshop participants talk about favoured biking and walking routes and problem hot spots that impede walking and wheeling.

Walking and wheeling forum helps to sort out community needs

About 30 people participated in the Walking and Wheeling in the Puddle: Active Transportation forum that took place Saturday.

About 30 people participated in the Walking and Wheeling in the Puddle: Active Transportation forum that took place Saturday, April 9 at Thompson Rivers University.

Working in groups facilitated by specialists from Interior Health, Active Transportation committee members and city planner Chris Hutton, participants outlined on maps their favourite walking and wheeling routes and identified hot spots where walking and wheeling access could be improved.

Wheeling includes all forms of human powered transportation: bicycles, wheelchairs, scooters, baby strollers, and skates to name a few.

Hutton talked about the city’s planning process and about the online walking and wheeling access survey which took place prior to the workshop.

He said 157 people filled out the survey which is a very good response. However he said the majority of respondents were healthy adults and it would be helpful to have more input from young people and people with disabilities.

A number of impediments to safe and easy walking and wheeling in the community were identified by the working groups.

There were concerns expressed about the lack of sidewalks and connectivity between sidewalks which make it difficult for people pushing baby strollers or using wheelchairs or scooters to get around easily.

There was also an expressed need for a dedicated walking and bike lane connecting the west side of the city on Highway 20 to the downtown core, particularly between the South Lakeside and Mackenzie Avenue intersections.

There were suggestions for a lighted crosswalk at the bottom of Comer Street across Mackenzie Avenue to link up with the Williams Lake River Valley trail head.

The lighted crosswalk that exists on Mackenzie Avenue at the bottom of Oliver Street to access the Station House Gallery was also described as “a little sketchy” as far as visibility goes.

A need for sidewalks or wider and smoother road shoulders along Broadway was also expressed.

Other suggestions included having more public washrooms in the downtown core, better lighting in Boitanio Park, creating a pamphlet showing bike routes, and educating drivers, walkers and wheelers on the rules of sharing the road, and promoting a park and walk campaign.

Concerns were expressed about people crossing four lanes of traffic on Highway 97 North above Boitanio Park rather than using the underpass or lights at the Carson Drive or “Y” intersection (Highway 97/20/Oliver Street).

Other needs were also expressed such as the need for clearing a bit more of the shoulder of roads in winter for walkers; more bike racks, improved routes for commuting by bicycle and better connectivity between the commuter bike routes and mountain bike trails.

It was also suggested that a dedicated route of Highway 97 South be created between the Tourism Discovery Centre and Scout Island.

It was noted that there is an underpass from the Tourism Discovery Centre to take visitors to the other side of the highway but once there they have to walk on the shoulder of the highway to get to Scout Island.

“Walking is the first thing that infants want to do and the last thing that seniors want to give up,” said Pam Moore, one of the Interior Health facilitators.

Coun. Laurie Walters attended the workshop and reported to council Tuesday evening how inspiring the event had been.

“Active transportation is walking, biking and wheeling and I guess this visionary planning got me really excited because the next day I took a three-hour walk around downtown with my dog and then did a two-hour bike ride in the afternoon. What is possible for Williams Lake is going to be really exciting and how it is all going to tie in with this whole idea of active transportation.”

People were encouraged to join the city’s Active Transportation Committee and/or give them their suggestions and concerns about areas where the city should improve walking and wheeling opportunities in the city.

For more information about the forum and Active Transportation Committee contact  airqualityscoutisland@shaw.ca.