OTTAWA, 29 July 2020—The Healthy Transportation Coalition is asking that any federal stimulus money be invested in healthy transportation projects and affordable housing, and not in road projects to increase car capacity.
In a letter to Ottawa City Council, the Ottawa Board of Health, Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches, and Minister of Infrastructure and Communities of Canada Catherine McKenna, the Coalition asks that federal money be put into public transit expansion, bus-only priority lanes, cycle tracks, widened sidewalks, traffic calming, and other healthy transportation projects—as well as deeply affordable housing in neighbourhoods with excellent walking, cycling and transit networks, including rapid transit stations.
“It would be irresponsible to use federal stimulus funding to build new and widened roads to increase car capacity,” says Coalition board member Trevor Haché. “We’re in an environmental, health, housing and homelessness emergency. We’ve committed to building 15-minute neighbourhoods. We need to follow the lead of cities worldwide and invest in healthy streets and a healthy recovery.”
“It’s about health and equity,” says John Woodhouse of Walk Ottawa. “Serious investments in transit, walking and cycling are needed in every single neighbourhood. The city’s focus on parking and traffic flow has gone on for too long. If we don’t prioritize healthy streets now, then when?”
“It is clear from the past few months that access to parks, green spaces, and safe active transportation routes has been incredibly important in helping our citizens preserve their mental and physical health through this difficult time,” says Dr. Mark Tremblay, Director of the Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research Group, CHEO Research Institute, and Chair of Outdoor Play Canada.
“It has also become clear that opportunities for social and environmental connections, recreation, play, and active transportation in the outdoors are not readily available to all. We have an opportunity now to think about how we can shape our city moving forward, in a way that promotes, protects, and preserves access to the outdoors for the health of all citizens, across all ages—we have a responsibility to do so,” says Tremblay.
The Coalition is echoing demands made by health professionals and organizations around the world, who have asked the G20 leaders to prioritize pedestrians, cyclists and public transport in cities as part of a healthy recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Coalition’s letter notes that cities worldwide are reallocating street space to enable safe walking, cycling and transit as pandemic restrictions lift, with Vancouver reallocating a minimum of 11% of city street space to “people-focused public space,” and Toronto building a 40-km expansion of its cycling network.
The Healthy Transportation Coalition is a group of 35 organizations and more than 200 individuals working together to create a better, more equitable transportation system in Ottawa.
Read the original press release here.