A Walkable Thunder Bay

Written by: Stasia Starr, Thunder Bay District Health Unit, public health nurse

I was recently in Las Vegas on holidays with my husband. What we enjoyed most was
the experience of walking the strip. As we wandered along, we were sort of mindlessly
swept along by the activity on the street. There were lots of shops to peek into, street
entertainment, music, bright lights, places to have a coffee or a snack and, of course, the
people.

When we returned, I thought about what would help to make Thunder Bay a more
walkable community. There are already lots of great local coffee shops and lunch
venues located along great walkable sections of town. Plus, in the warmer months you
are invited to enjoy your beverage outside on fun and interesting outdoor nooks. But
what could be improved is the street activity.

When streets are animated, we are far more likely to linger and enjoy. We need to create
a better balance between the space for vehicle use and for people wanting to walk or
cycle. For example, walkers feel unsafe when traffic speeds are high, so we can slow
traffic down by narrowing the streets and making the sidewalks larger. In order to make
a space feel more inviting, we can plant trees, use more plants and natural grasses, and
add benches to ensure pedestrians have a place to rest. We might also choose to close
streets to vehicles to give pedestrians clear and safe places to walk.

We need to stop and ask ourselves, “Are we building our cities for cars or for people?”
We need to act today to ensure that our children and grandchildren can walk or cycle
to their work, leisure or recreation spots and to build a sense of community for years to
come. This is what I want for my community – what do you want?