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Collingwood's Draft Official Plan - Have Your Say!

The Town of Collingwood has released their Draft Official Plan for Public Comment - 138 pages of policy that is all but certain to put everyone except the most ardent of policy nerds to sleep.

Well lucky for you fine folks, I'm exactly that ardent a policy nerd.

So without further adieu, here are some thoughts, and some ways to get involved and make your voice heard. First and foremost, if you want to view the documents for yourself, you can find them here. The Town is requesting that you send your feedback to by the end of the day on Wednesday, August 17th, so time is a bit short. Here are the things that relate to the Streets for People Mandate that I noticed in the Draft.

First and foremost, the Plan has an admirable Vision and Community Values section. But when you get into the details, the key Values of the Plan, which were developed through a fairly extensive consultation process, just aren't supported by the details relating to implementation.

For example, in the Vision and Community Values Section, the Plan mentions building an All Ages and Abilities community, but never once mentions Children or Seniors in the specific policies in the Plan. A Plan for a Town like Collingwood should explicitly reference Child-Friendly Design practices, like the Global Designing Cities Initiative's excellent "Designing Streets For Kids" resource. Given the efforts made during the project to reach out specifically to Young Families, this seems like an easy way to improve the Plan. The same goes for making specific mention of planning and designing for people as the age - there is no mention of becoming an Age-Friendly Community and no recognition of how the OP can integrate the 8 dimensions of Age-Friendliness into its structure. Much of what makes an Age-Friendly Community is in the Plan, but it's never tied together nor mentioned as a priority. These seem like trivial matters, but they really make an impact when it comes to how future planning documents are developed in Town.

A Groupd of Children walking to School on a winter day
Children - seen here, but nowhere to be found in the Official Plan

The place where we see the most space for improvement is, unsurprisingly, in how the Plan talks about mobility. The Plan repeatedly says that it aims to 'prioritize active transportation' as a value, yet the implementation to support that is, essentially, more of the same. The Plan prioritizes parking in the downtown over enhanced public and private uses like patios, requests that new schools be built to accommodate automobile traffic for drop off and pick up and doesn't make efforts to move the town towards a high-comfort network of active transportation infrastructure. The Plan repeatedly mentions the term "multi-modal and integrated transportation system", which is a fancy way of saying that we'll build things like sidewalks, cycling facilities and transit routes AFTER we've built things out for the car. What we have now is a "multi-modal transportation system", where the overwhelming majority of our transportation dollars go towards projects for cars. If the objective is to PRIORITIZE active transportation, which is the language used in the Values of the Plan, then the implementation of the plan must also reflect that prioritization.

Maple Street Pilot in 2021 - Collingwood's first street that truly prioritized active transportation.

The Town's Transportation system should prioritize the development of an All Ages and Abilities Active Transportation Network. We should Strive for Design Excellence by going above and beyond what is mandated through design manuals and looking at international best practices to make it easier and more convenient to walk and bike. And we should not be afraid of saying that we will restrict car movement on our residential streets to create more walkable, bikeable and liveable communities.

A Protected Intersection in Ottawa, creating an All-Ages and Abilities (AAA) network link. This type of Design Excellence is not referenced in the Official Plan at all.

The evidence is clear when it comes to how to truly prioritize active transportation - you need to make it a bit harder, in some places, for people to drive. Whether that's through School Streets programs where the blocks in front of a school are closed to automobile traffic during pick up and drop off times, Slow Streets networks that allow cars, but treat them as guests rather than the primary audience or Open Streets events downtown where our most valuable public space can be utilized to its fullest extent, experience from around the globe shows that you can't prioritize active transportation without deprioritizing driving on some streets. This Draft Official Plan doesn't address that central contradiction, and so without changes to the policies, it will inevitably fail at creating better places for walking, cycling and wheeling and will not get even close to creating the conditions where active transportation is prioritized in any sense of the word.

So please, take a minute to submit your feedback on the Draft Plan. Ask that:

  • The Plan include best practices for designing for our most vulnerable citizens, particularly Children, Youth, Seniors and People with Disabilities.

  • The policies be modified to reflect the stated desire to prioritize active transportation, including more mentions of restricting driving on specific corridors.

  • Parking requirements for schools eliminate the requirement for drop off and pick up areas for private automobiles. School boards could still request these types of facilities, but mandating them when communities around North America are moving towards restricting vehicular access near schools does not align with global best practices now, much less in 20 years.

I've got more details that I will post here in the coming days, but for now please take a minute to send a quick email with your feedback - it really does matter!

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