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A walkable city wanted

The city of Port Coquitlam is looking at ways of increasing foot traffic in its downtown neighbourhood in an effort to improve the environment and bolster business in the area.

The city of Port Coquitlam is looking at ways of increasing foot traffic in its downtown neighbourhood in an effort to improve the environment and bolster business in the area.

Staff and councillors are considering the implementation of the pedestrian circulation study, a report that identifies significant pedestrian routes and seeks to make them more walkable.

"Obviously, walking is something we want to encourage," said Coun. Brad West, who chairs the city's smart growth committee. "It is good for the environment and it is good for business in downtown Port Coquitlam."

The study outlines a variety of different strategies that staff and council will consider for the implementation phase.

One suggestion calls for using street furniture and plants in order to create a buffer between pedestrians and vehicles. Lighting is also a crucial factor in increasing an area's walkability and trees and plant life are important for creating a more appealing streetscape, said the report.

Sidewalk widths should be consistent to allow for a range of pedestrian traffic and curb extensions at intersections make walking safer.

Public artwork is also important for the beautification of the streetscape and the study suggests markers and signage identifying landmarks and important intersections.

However, the easiest way of increasing foot traffic, according to West, is improving the connectivity between neighbourhood hubs.

"People need to have the ability to get from point A to point B in a fairly efficient and safe way," he said. "We need to look at pedestrian connections within the city and how to improve this."

The study categorizes the downtown intersections into primary nodes, major nodes, secondary nodes and park nodes. McAllister Avenue and Shaughnessy outside city hall, for example, is characterized as a primary pedestrian route, while the Pitt River intersection with Mary Hill road is classified as a secondary node.

Laura Lee Richard, manager of PoCo's planning division, said many parts of the study have already been incorporated by the city. Wide sidewalks, for example, have long existed around the city hall area on Shaughnessy Street, as well as improved lighting and extended curbs.

It is now up to staff and council to find the areas that need improvement and look at ways of implementing some of the recommendations outlined in the study.

Because PoCo's downtown area is an older neighbourhood, Richard said the city is starting from a solid base of walkability.

"Older neighbourhoods were designed with people walking much more than in newer neighbourhoods," she said. "[Today] it is really important for the retailers to provide parking. That is a big part of the difference."

Creating a vibrant downtown is part of the city's official community plan, Richard said. She notes that in the last 20 years the density of the city's downtown has increased dramatically and the city has had to manage that growth.

"I think we have done a reasonably good job with previous plans," she said. "That has really set the stage for downtown revitalization and that did a lot to create a walkable downtown."

The study was originally considered by the city's healthy community committee and was sent to the smart growth committee for consideration. The report will now be sent back to the healthy community committee as it works on the implementation phase of the plan.