An Avenue to Sustainable Transportation.

Image from KennethMoyle  |   flickr.com

Image from KennethMoyle  flickr.com

Author’s Note: This is the third article in a series that will feature James Street North in Hamilton, Ontario. I will be interviewing businesses/organizations on James St. N. about their perspective on the area. In addition, I will highlight how community members are contributing to a more sustainable Hamilton. If you want some background information on James St. N. you can read the introduction article here.

During the summer months, James St. N. is host to Open Streets Hamilton, which showcases how the area is becoming green. The event involves closing James St. N. to vehicle traffic and allowing Hamiltonians to freely explore the street. Whether it be on foot, on bike, rollerblades, etc. citizens can experience the value in active transportation. In addition, participants can recognize what Hamilton has to offer in green living and healthy alternatives. Open Streets allows individuals to re-envision the street as a place for more than just driving. The ability to use the street in different ways changes the perception of what a street should be.

I recently spoke with Peter Topalovic who works closely with Transportation Demand Management (TDM) and Smart Commute Hamilton (SCH). A large focus of Peter’s work is developing convenient and sustainable transportation for Hamiltonians. Through programs and events, TDM and SCH work to overcome behaviour change barriers, such as lack of education and awareness. Through events like Open Streets, Hamiltonians can embrace alternate modes of transportation in a safe setting. According to Peter, “Open Streets is not a stopping point, but rather serves to encourage long-term behaviour change.” It motivates participants to take what they have learned and apply it to their daily lives. In doing so, Hamiltonians can project the Open Streets concept to other areas in the city.

A critical aspect of developing a sustainable city is to promote and create “complete streets.” The concept of complete streets involves developing strategies to make transportation safe and convenient. James St. N. has been redesigned to be accessible and safe to all modes of transportation. By making simple structural changes to the street it can become an inclusive community space. For example, with double-wide sidewalks, James St. N. has become open to more foot traffic. Larger sidewalks also allows for more amenities, such as benches and greenery. These amenities transform the street from strictly a business district to a place for social gathering. The greenery can serve as a buffer between traffic and sidewalks to provide increased safety for pedestrians. As a result, pedestrians will feel safer when using the sidewalks and are therefore more willing to explore the street. Creating a complete street ensures that the neighbourhood can sustain a diverse community, which subsequently leads to sustainable development.

Smart Commute Hamilton also offers plenty of useful and practical ways which individuals can choose sustainable transportation. SCH offers programs such as Bike to Works Day and Carpool Zone, making a cleaner commute more achievable. A program like the Carpool Matcher does all of the heavy-lifting for commuters by matching users with their most compatible carpooling partners. Smart Commute has chapters across Ontario and can help you customize your commute. By offering an easy and intuitive process users can easily participate in a sustainable commute. As a result, behaviour change to a greener lifestyle is much easier than one might think.

Overall, organizations like SCH and TDM are contributing to a more sustainable Hamilton. Through providing education and structural change, they are providing the tools to developing green communities. These improved communities will nurture a more vibrant, safe, and engaged city. By providing convenient and sensible ways of going green TDM and SCH make sustainable living practical. The creative thinking and community-minded changes on James St. N. have helped the area become a stand-out neighbourhood.

If you are interested in greening your commute you can check out your local Smart Commute network: http://www.smartcommute.ca/en/home.