The city can talk all it wants about how walking, cycling and transit are high on its list of priorities, but the real test is where the feet hit the ground, the wheel hits the pavement, etc.
An attractive, safe-feeling pedestrian environment welcomes walking, so that it becomes a desirable thing to do, rather than a “have to” or “should do”. Goodness knows, we have been very successful in making motor car travel the default choice. This bias in the public realm won’t be undone overnight.
But sometimes there are very little measures that really help. The benches along our newly rebuilt traditional mainstreets in Chinatown, Little Italy, West Wellington, Westboro, Bank Street … all help make the walk more attractive for a larger segment of the population.
New technology opens up new possibilities. The Chinatown benches, for example, have laser cut steel backs. The Asian motif helps reinforce the character of the street and ‘brands’ the experience. And there are very subtle, unexpected benefits too. Consider the interesting shadow cast by this bench:
The shadow alone will never make you walk the street. Nor will the inset zodiac features. Or the ped lighting. Or the decorative garbage cans. Red bricks do not compel me to walk. But together, the synergy builds to an invitation to walk.