The Thing About Change...

I've become increasingly sedentary lately. A lot of us have...


Over the past few months I've come to the dawning realization that I must change; change my daily habits and routines. Change my covid-time habit of sitting down to breakfast, and then sitting at my desk, then sitting down for lunch... work... dinner... TV. I exaggerate but only a little. I do go for a walk or run each day, but all the rest is sitting. And it's time for change.

"You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” - Buckminster Fuller

But the thing about change is that it means letting go of what I've come to be so very used to. It means thinking outside the box. How can I integrate more movement into my day? What can I do differently? Change is hard. In this case it's intimidating and frustrating.



Walkable Ottawa has spent the last year talking through ideas for change in Ottawa's Neighbourhoods. This began with the realization that there is something wrong with the state of things: climate change, a housing shortage, escalating housing prices, unhealthy isolated sedentary lifestyles lived out in cars. And our solution of course: Walkable and Complete Neighbourhoods, where walking is so lovely and convenient that many people would prefer to walk or bike most of the time.

"Change that affects our homes and neighbourhoods is so scary that many of us panic at the thought."

This path to emissions reductions is the most significant and affordable solution for individuals and also for our City as a whole. In fact without walkable and complete neighbourhoods there is no way for Ottawa to reach it's emissions reductions targets. This change would result in dramatic improvements in our physical and mental health, pulling us out of the isolation of our cars and onto interesting, tree covered and animated neighbourhood streets. Sounds great! But... ...that brings us to that thing about change. Change is hard. In this case change is scary. Change that affects our homes and neighbourhoods is so scary that many of us panic at the thought.


"Walkable and Complete Neighbourhoods, where walking is so lovely and convenient that many people would prefer to walk or bike most of the time."

We probably underestimate our ability to change, to grow, and adapt. We actually do this all the time, but don't realize it. When change just happens, we get used to it and go with the flow.


Getting used to change is somewhat of a mindset issue. We have the ability to frame things, in our minds, to shift our perspective. We can (purposely) reframe things to help us adapt and overcome the power of inertia. We could decide to go down the other path and focus on fear of the unknown, but thinking of change in a more balanced way (as neither all good or all bad) is possible, and it keeps us flexible and motivated to work together - for change.

"We could decide to go down the other path and focus on fear of the unknown, but thinking of change in a more balanced way (as neither all good or all bad) is possible, and it keeps us flexible and motivated to work together - for change."


Walkable Ottawa has been working to combat the challenge of change using modeling. Modeling is the work of forecasting what change will be like, quantifying it, and qualifying it. Then stepping back, and assessing the proposed changes and the future they represent.


In this case our modeling has been two fold:


1. testing how new rules would play out over time, discerning what developers would build and at what rates.


2. modelling the impact of a City commitment to systematically assess neighbourhood assets, and then upgrade neighbourhoods to meet the needs of a growing walking population.


And what future does our modelling show us? An Ottawa with much fewer tall buildings and much less visual change than the draft Official Plan proposes.

An Ottawa with unique and vibrant neighbourhoods that are complete with all amenities and delightfully walkable. Definitely a change for the better...




But the thing about change... well change is not always easy as we all know, but it is inevitable. The real question is... will we change to move ahead eyes open, modelling and assessing options, or will fear of change blind us into making random and haphazard choices. As we move forward, let's dare to embrace change that makes our neighbourhoods happier, healthier, safer, greener, and smarter.




~ By ROSALINE HILL (architect and a founder of Walkable Ottawa) with special contribution by LISA NISBET (Ph.D., Trent University Psychology Department)