Walk ‘n’ Roll Rocks

Wellington X is deeply committed to pedestrian, transit and cycling infrastructure as a way to reduce our carbon footprint and traffic congestion, and to promote active, enjoyable living. We aim to live in a city where road building is an option of last resort after all other transportation and land use options are fully considered.

If you feel the same, you’ll want to know about the draft Active Transportation Master Plan (ATMP), Walk ’n’ Roll, that was released this past Friday, and the two upcoming information Open Houses:  4:30-7:30 pm, Wednesday, May 9, at the Invista Centre and next Monday, May 14, at Portsmouth Olympic Harbour. 

Walk ‘n’ Roll will be the Kingston’s first comprehensive Active Transportation Master Plan, developed in response to Council’s directive that 20% of all travel be via active transportation by 2034. Currently it’s about 12%. The downtown stats are better: over 50% of the working population in North King’s Town bike or walk to work. And over 75% in the downtown core and general Williamsville area do so. We hope that Council will prioritize implementation of the ATMP and achieve or surpass the 20% goal.

How Good is the Draft ATMP?

Overall, it looks good. Its implementation would significantly support active transportation in Kingston.

Here are a couple of positive points as examples of the plan’s strengths. It looks like the plan shows “In-Boulevard Trails” along Sir John A McDonald, Highway 15 and some other busy north/south roads. An In-Boulevard Trail is a separated space along a roadway instead of a sidewalk that accommodates both pedestrians and cyclists. (The explanations of the various terms for types of lanes and paths can be found in Section 3.4 of the Draft ATMP on page 63.) The plan for these in-boulevard trails is positive because separated lanes along busy roads are safe and could be used for commuting via e-bikes, as well as regular bikes. Also, some of these in-boulevard trails meet up with the K&P trail to the north, providing an enjoyable commuter or recreational route.

Section 4.4.1 suggests that the City’s development charges bylaw should be changed to allow these charges to be used to fund Active Transportation network improvements. Great suggestion!

However, there are aspects that need improvement. Poor resolution maps with similar colours used to designate very different types of bicycle lanes make things confusing, but we are concerned that downtown cycling is not sufficiently prioritized. This is definitely something to ask about. And, directly related to Wellington X’s home turf, we are concerned that there is not a strong enough commitment to retaining or enhancing the K&P Trail as an off-road trail. 

It looks like the plan shows no improvement planned for the bike paths downtown on Johnson and Brock Streets! Will we have the  same “signed roads with sharrows” (chevrons painted on the pavement in lanes shared with cars) rather than separate bike lanes on Johnson and Brock, and for Princess St., as well? It’s difficult to tell what, if any, biking infrastructure is planned for Queen Street. If we are interpreting the maps correctly, that could mean four parallel streets through downtown that all remain unsafe for bikes. Really? And they say they’re trying to encourage active transportation to downtown businesses?

Beyond the basic necessity for safety, the plan seems to fall short in encouraging cycling routes that are pleasant. Pleasure is implied in the image they’ve chosen for Walk ‘n’ Roll, but is not included in the vision or principles. It’s the combination of pleasure and safety that will attract new cyclists. Make it a nice experience and people will want to do it. For example, the city needs to be more aware of the newly-available pedal-assisted e-bikes. These bikes — which look like mountain bikes and require pedalling — have great potential for enhancing tourism and extending commutes (with no need to take a shower once one arrives). They are a moderate form of exercise accessible to adults of all ages with a wide range of abilities. Dockless pedal e-bike sharing systems are also now available at prices comparable to those for regular bikes. And they are really fun! Talk about motivating change to use active transportation. The ATMP should include pedal e-bikes and dockless sharing systems in Section 4.4.1, Additional Initiatives. 

There are a number of new urban trails specified in the ATMP (Great!), but nothing about the value of off-road trails is included, and there is nothing about protecting current off-road trails. It’s possible that this omission could result in off-road trails being removed from plans during the implementation stages.

The K&P trail is mentioned repeatedly in the ATMP, and is shown on the maps as primarily an off-road trail, including most of the urban portion, but there is no statement anywhere that promotes protecting the K&P trail as an off-road trail. The public, on the other hand, have explicitly and repeatedly stated that the urban K&P trail should be protected and that the Wellington Street Extension should not be built alongside it, as indicated in both of the feedback reports of the open houses.

The public has also suggested prioritizing a pedestrian bridge to connect the K&P trail to north of the train tracks safely. This is referred to in the ATMP, but only as “desired.” A strong case for this option should be included in the plan.

What should I do?

Go to one of the Open Houses:  4:30-7:30 pm, Wednesday, May 9, at the Invista Centre and next Monday, May 14, at Portsmouth Olympic Harbour.

And/or look at the Draft ATMP on the Walk ’n’ Roll website at https://www.cityofkingston.ca/city-hall/projects-construction/walk-roll-kingston and send your comments to the project team at walkroll@cityofkingston.ca.

Maps can be found in the Executive Summary between pages 8 and 9. Two key maps are labeled Map ES.2: Cycling Network by Facility Type (Urban Area) and Map ES.3: Pedestrian Network by Facility Type (Urban Area).

Tell them what you like about the draft ATMP and what you think should be improved. You will each have your own priorities, concerns, and ideas, and that is wonderful. The main thing they need to hear is that people want active transportation to be made more safe and more pleasant. 

Thank you!

— Mary McCollam

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Public Consultation Update: NKT Secondary Plan and Patry Tannery Project

Before events move on, here is a brief report on two meetings you might have had the pleasure of attending — or missing!

On February 28, there were several public meetings concerning the North King’s Town Secondary Plan at the Legion on Montreal Street — and in the days following, some drop-in events at Artillery Park. People were invited to hear about the Cultural Heritage, Land use, and Transportation Studies, and comment. We did not generally find the format very congenial — the full and complex documents were not available (in advance or at the event), it was really unclear what we were supposed to be responding to, and there was uneven facilitation and little chance to really clearly engage with or reach solid conclusions about the brand new material. Nonetheless, we are happy with the summary of responses available on the City website as it seems to represent a range of views we heard at the meetings and elsewhere. We await the next phase of discussions. The Planning Department will be at the Skeleton Park Arts Festival with a North King’s Town booth on Saturday June 23, and more community open houses are planned for September. It looks like the “workshop” format will continue to be part of the community consultations in the fall. And we want to thank Planning staff and the members of the Community Working Group who have been keeping us apprised of developments and offering a conduit to the work underway.

A few days after these meetings, at the Planning Committee of March 8, the public was able to comment on the IBI/Patry Tannery Lands proposal which we described earlier on this blog.

The meeting, which was chaired by a hired facilitator rather than the Planning Committee Chair, was notably polarized. When we arrived, 13 spots had already been claimed on the speakers’ list, many of them in the same handwriting. Eight of them identified as rowers or relatives of rowers, and they all argued for the proposal; the other five first speakers were also all in favour of the Patry proposal. (The proposal features a new Rowing Club boathouse, to which Jay Patry, a rower, would contribute handsomely.) All the spots in the Council Chambers had been claimed well in advance; almost all opponents to the plan were shunted off to Memorial Hall. Hence, the Planning Committee did not know until the fourteenth speaker that there was any opposition to the plan at all. Nonetheless, the committee did ultimately hear that loud and clear. Whatever the attractions of a new rowing club may be, it is a minor issue in the context of a massive development with enormous social and environmental impact. Almost all of the second half of the night’s speakers offered various critiques of the proposal. Here are some concerns they raised:

  • Kingston’s growth rate fell to 1% between 2011 and 2016 against a national average 5.9%, and a development of 1500 units is not warranted given the other developments in the pipeline
  • The development would endanger the UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Stripping the property of trees would increase runoff, and then capping/paving it as well; would this not increase pollution in the river, and/or is Ravensview equipped to process heavy metals and other toxins?
  • The parking is massively excessive and goes against Kingston’s claims and aims to being sustainable. Putting all those cars on the roads will bolster calls for the WSE, which would if built run adjacent to the new K&P trail, ruining its beauty and contradicting its intent of increasing active transportation
  • The CRCA and Parks Canada have grave concerns
  • The North King’s Town Planning process is not over. Approving a project that states clearly its need for the WSE when the NKT process was explicitly conceived to find alternatives to the WSE is a violation of public trust
  • Turtles and other animals would be put at grave risk by the development and the Environmental Impact Statement is shallow and inadequate
  • The proposal contravenes the Provincial Policy Statement and Official Plan concerning “ribbon of life” protection of waterfront
  • Taller buildings with a smaller footprint further from the water might be more appropriate
  • Why is land only considered “productive” when something is built on it? The greenspace is valueable as a carbon sink, and may be regenerating itself from the damage humans have already done to it.
  • Consultation with Indigenous parties is a legal duty and has not been followed.

It was further noted by a number of speakers that some pro-Tannery speakers were rude or derogatory in referring to the people who have been living on the Tannery lands, and that the facilitator should have recognized and responded to such comments, in keeping with the Public Engagement policy. It was not clear why there was a hired facilitator, but if this is going to become practice (which we do not recommend), facilitators must be fully trained in watching for and expecting respectful conduct, and discrimination based on income or housing status should not be tolerated.

We understand the Patry tannery lands application is now “in technical review.”

This enormous and highly problematic proposal needs extremely serious and deep analysis. We must insist that every dimension of it receives scrutiny. Presumably there will be more public consultation, but you don’t have to wait for that. If you have comments or questions regarding this development proposal please email them to Andrea Furniss, Senior Planner at the City of Kingston at afurniss@cityofkingston.ca. You can also read some comments already on the record here.

— Laura Murray