Talking, walking, seeing fall colours and catching up with friends and family - what's not to like about a visit to North America in September?
We started with the grand official opening of the Banff Commonwealth Walkway. It physically links several paths around this Rocky Mountain City. Virtually there is a link to other Commonwealth countries including our own capital where the markers were finished last year. I was moved by the indigenous welcome from Siksika Nation elder Tom Crane Bear.
Then onto Calgary for Walk21's 18th international conference on all aspects of walking - technical, advocacy, modal integration, and sheer inspiration. Calgary is a city that has great aspirations to be walk-friendly but has a way to go. That made a fascinating change from the incredibly walkable places Walk21 has been held before such as Vienna and Hong Kong. Due to its winter climate, they have developed the 15+ network - a network of enclosed public corridors connecting buildings fifteen feet up in the air. It's convenient not to have to put your boots on in winter for a lunch date but inimical to real street life. However they press boldly ahead with a new city library with zero parking - it's right next to their light rail.
One of the most inspirational speakers was Dr Stanley Vollant, an indigenous surgeon who had recovered from depression and led an anti-suicide campaign primarily by walking.
Presentations discussed the potential pros and cons of autonomous vehicles for people on foot. Depending on how much shared use there is, and what city policies are nade, it could be terrific - think reclaiming car parking for café seating, linear parks, getting good bike lanes so our footpaths are dedicated to peiple on foot, or terrible - think prohibition of jay-walking, people in separate bubbles unaware of their surroundings or neighbours, not walking even to the local shop or bus stop because pods are so cheap. I argued that there should be international exemplar policy that states or cities can easily adopt or the automobile industry will make it hard for pedestrians in cities with little public policy capacity.
The International Federation of Pedestrians, an umbrella advocacy group that is UN-accredited, met for its AGM and I represented Living Streets Aotearoa. Mario J. Alves was re-elected as President. There is a growing membership.
Then we went on to Portland and Vancouver to meet family. Both are well-known walking, cycling and public transport cities - though I'm pretty sure they don't match Wellington's walking mode share! Both cities are great downtown but suburbs and satellite towns are cursed with the “dead worm disease" i.e. many culs-de-sac that make walking a very much longer route than a crow flying.
My biggest take-away was the courtesy of drivers in Canada, Oregon and Washington. They legally have to give way to people on foot at intersections and do so with grace. They even stop if you try to cross a four-lane highway - we were really awaiting a gap in the traffic but didn't need to.
A most enjoyable three weeks included lots of recreational walking in National Parks, in snow and sun, eating wild huckleberries and windfall apples and generally trying to balance our calorific intake from great food and craft beer.
Warm regards | Nga mihi mahana