To Walk, or Not to Walk.

There is lots of talk about walkable neighbourhoods, 15 minute neighbourhoods, walking infrastructure, active transportation... Many of Ottawa's neighbourhoods are said to be walkable, and have high 'walk-scores'; but what do people mean when they call a neighbourhood 'walkable'? Do they mean it is pleasant to walk your dog there? Do they mean that it has nice walking paths through parkland? Are they remembering a nice walk down a traditional main street? Or a stroll under the dappled light of tree canopy?

Transitioning our neighbourhoods to be fully walkable would set Ottawa apart, as one of the most ecologically advanced cities in North America.

Walkable Ottawa defines a walkable neighbourhood as 'a neighbourhood in which most people can walk to at least 80% of their destinations, along walking routes that are safe and enjoyable'. But that's really setting the bar high. Some might say unnecessarily high – if getting people out for a walk is the goal; but Walkable Ottawa is not advocating for 'walking more'. There's a lot more at stake here than whether we all get out on foot from time to time.


We live in a city that is car-centric, meaning a city in which most people find it difficult, if not impossible, to live without a car, to go to school or work, to shop, to see friends, to take kids to activities without a car.

Walkable Ottawa defines a walkable neighbourhood as 'a neighbourhood in which most people can walk to at least 80% of their destinations, along walking routes that are safe and enjoyable'.

Walkable Ottawa is working to find real ways to transition our neighborhoods from car-centric places to places in which residents prefer to walk, because it's better than driving. A walkable neighborhood is a neighbourhood in which retired or young people can walk to a coffee shop to meet up with friends, a place where parents don't have to devote every weeknight to being chauffeurs, a pace where you can pick up the groceries you need for dinner on your walk home.


Our definition of 'walkable' matters! When we transition our neighbourhoods to be truly complete and delightfully walkable, our lives are measurably better, healthier, happier and safer. Changing our car-centric lifestyles into walkable lifestyles is the single greatest thing any one of us can do for the environment.


Let's be clear, this doesn't mean giving up our cars. Walkable Ottawa's neighbourhood analysis has demonstrated that we can transition to walkability whilst keeping more than 1.5 parking spaces per dwelling unit. We just wouldn't need (or want) to use our cars all the time.

Changing our car-centric lifestyles into walkable lifestyles is the single greatest thing any one of us can do for the environment.

Transitioning our neighbourhoods to be fully walkable would set Ottawa apart, as one of the most ecologically advanced cities in North America. And it's easy. And it's affordable. And it makes all our lives better. We just have to be willing to think about city building through this new lens, and we must keep the bar high when we define 'walkability' so that the question of 'to walk, or not to walk' is no longer in question.


~Rosaline Hill (Architect & Development Consultant)

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