Wednesday, October 27, 2010

sunset on Cootes

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Stuck without my camera on the bridge over Cootes Drive tonight, I happened to meet a very agreeable young man who shared his photos of the spectacular sunset with me: thanks to Jason Yuen for the kind and prompt favour!

Friday, October 15, 2010

walk think

I love how science keeps kicking out proof of what we suspect about the benefits of walking. This latest study found the seniors who walk about "10 kilometres per week suffer less brain shrinkage, which may help stave off dementia."

So, walking can stave off the aging of the brain that can cause memory difficulty in older adults.

The CBC reports that,

"In the study, 299 volunteers in Pittsburgh with an average age of 78 who were free of dementia recorded the number of blocks they walked in one week. Then nine weeks later, scientists took brain scans of the participants to measure their brain size.

After four more years, researchers tested the subjects to see if they had developed dementia or other memory problems.

Study author Kirk Erickson of the University of Pittsburgh and his co-authors found that people who walked at least 72 blocks per week — 10-14 kilometres — showed greater grey matter volume in their brain compared with people who didn't walk as much.

"Our results are in line with data that aerobic activity induces a host of cellular cascades that could conceivably increase grey matter volume," the study's authors wrote.

Trekking more than 72 blocks did not seem to offer any further increases in grey matter volume, the researchers found.

The findings held true regardless of other risk factors such as family history.

Erickson's team called for more studies on the effects of exercise on dementia, but noted that in the absence of effective treatments for Alzheimer's that walking could help.

"If regular exercise in midlife could improve brain health and improve thinking and memory in later life, it would be one more reason to make regular exercise in people of all ages a public health imperative," Erickson said.

The study appears in this week's online issue of the journal Neurology.

The study was funded by the U.S. National Institute on Aging.
So, what are we to do? Well, continue to create walkable communities, which means rejecting road widening schemes, like those proposed in the Downtown Dundas Transportation Master Plan.  Wide, fast roads discourage walking and cycling, and make conditions more dangerous for those who dare try it. 
Let's get more traffic calming, more cycling lanes, wider sidewalks, and we will have a healthier population of all ages.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Dundas In Eco-Motion!

Alessandra Gage coordinated this summer's Dundas Eco-Motion Project for Environment Hamilton; she took some time from her busy school schedule at McMaster to debrief on her experience for Dundas Walks.

Q1) Briefly describe the idea of the project: what are you hoping to accomplish?
The purpose of the Dundas Eco-Motion Project is two-fold. First and foremost, it is meant to cultivate an appreciation for sustainable methods of transportation and a healthy lifestyle. By engaging community members through special events (bike rides, walkabouts, waterfall hikes, and historical tours), we are attempting to reduce our dependency on car-culture. The second goal of the project is to voice community concerns to public officials and address issues of transportation.

Q2) Why Dundas?
Dundas was chosen for a few reasons. The town has been host to a number of Environment Hamilton projects over the years, and funding was offered to run another project in the area. Similar, successful projects pertaining to sustainability were run in the Kirkendall Neighbourhood and near Concession Street, and Dundas seemed like an appropriate candidate for the Eco-Motion Project in light of the heightened community concern regarding transportation issues following a number of traffic-related incidents earlier this year.

Q3) What needs are not being met for people interested in getting around without a car?
Most of the identified needs that are not presently being met fall into one or more of the following categories: connections, safety, and speed. Although Dundas has been improving over the years, residents are still looking for better connections between living areas and different modes of transportation. For instance, many citizens have requested that the sidewalk along Ogilvie be extended from Creekside Dr. to Governer's Road. This connection is particularly important for individuals with mobility issues, because it can be both tedious and dangerous for a resident to walk the longer distance (walking back up to Hatt, crossing to the Metro-side of Ogilvie, and crossing back over at Governer's) to reach the bus stop on Ogilvie at Governer's. Another pressing need was for wider sidewalks, and a more pedestrian-friendly intersection at Governers & Ogilvie. The sidewalks are currently being worked on, but it's important for people to keep discussion about improvements ongoing and active so that positive changes can continue. One of the safety/speed concerns that has frequently been mentioned, is the hazardous stretch of Hatt Street, and Creekside Drive (connecting both Ogilvie and Hatt). Residents have asked for wider sidewalks, smaller lanes, and more stop-signs. Some have requested speed-bumps along Creekside to help deter drivers from using the road to avoid the lights at Hatt & Ogilvie. While there are plenty more requests made to address needs of individuals travelling without a car, one of the last ones that I will mention is that of connecting modes of transportation. In order to have a comprehensive system of transportation, it's important to have good links as modes of transportation change. For instance, providing bike racks alongside bus stops, so that travellers can lock their bikes up before the next stretch of their trip; or having sidewalks, bike lanes, and bus routes all connect so that you can travel continuously from one place to another, while using various methods of sustainable transport. All of these needs must be met if residents of Dundas desire to move away from today's car-culture and towards a more eco-friendly lifestyle.  

Q4) What are some suggestions you've heard from people?
Some of the suggestions I've heard from people include the following:
  • wider sidewalks
  • re-painting crosswalks
  • more stop-lights
  • higher frequency of HSR buses through Dundas
  • pedestrian-friendly intersections (clear crosswalks, railings for pedestrian islands)
  • more bike lanes
  • grass/flowerbed buffer-zone (mini-boulevard) between Hatt Street & the sidewalk to provide more protection & distance from traffic
  • closing off King Street completely to make a pedestrian-only street
  • continuous sidewalk leading from Creekside Dr. to Governer's along Ogilvie.
This list of suggestions is not exhaustive, and the suggestions have come from a wide variety of residents. Not everyone supports the idea of turning King St. into a permanent pedestrian-only street, but it's a bold suggestion that is important to consider - especially because it prompts us to consider the idea of pedestrian-only streets in general.
Q5) Describe an interesting or surprising moment you experienced.
I was having troubles thinking of a surprising moment, since most of the suggestions I heard were ones that I figured might arise after reviewing the Dundas area, but one that pops into mind was when I spoke with the Creekside residents. Most individuals had expressed dissatisfaction with the HSR bus frequency and service, but there were a few people from Creekside that felt the bus service was running quite well, and that they didn't have many complaints. They also explained some of the benefits of having the buses run as they do through the town. The perspective was nice to hear, since it's always helpful to hear arguments from both sides and from multiple perspectives.

Q6) What happens now that the project is over? Is there a legacy?
Now that the project has been completed, we are working to ensure that the information is passed on to community groups (like Dundas in Transition), who can then continue our efforts. Ideally, we will receive funding for another year in Dundas and we can continue to work on the Eco-Motion Project. While our initial 6-week blitz was helpful in to jump-starting the project, it is imperative that we continue our efforts through self-sustaining means. This means ensuring that the information is not lost, but is utilized by local groups & remains alive in discussion. The Dundas Eco-Motion Project isn't just an Environment Hamilton initiative; it's a project for the people of Dundas, about the people of Dundas, and by the people of Dundas. It's about ensuring that the community's diverse voices are heard and taken into consideration during decision making processes & policy forming.
Thanks Alessandra for your insights and your dedication to Dundas' sustainability! 

For those wishing to stay involved, contact some of the organizations and resources listed on the Dundas Eco Motion web site (copied below):

Helpful Links:

Check us out on facebook! - Dundas Eco-Motion Project Facebook Group
Open Streets Hamilton - Open Streets Hamilton
Transportation for Liveable Communities - TLC
Dundas Walks - Dundas Walks Blogspot
Dundas In Transition - DIT
Dundas Ontario in Transition - Let's DOiT
City Councillor Russ Powers -

Important Documents:

Downtown Dundas Transportation Master Plan - DDTMP
Hatt Street Study (2005) - Hatt Street Study
Cycling Master Plan (2009) - Cycling Master Plan
International Charter for Walking - Charter for Walking
Canadian Walks Master Class: Case Study, Hamilton 2009 - Hamilton Report
Urban Braille System - Principles & Guidelines