EVENT February 25 • Age-Friendly Walkability Report

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How safe are Ottawa streets for seniors and other valuable people?

Ottawa: The Council on Aging Ottawa (COA) and Ecology Ottawa will host a special event on February 25 to launch An Age-Friendly Walkability Report: Safe Streets for Seniors and Other Valuable People in Ottawa.

The report summarizes a two-year project carried out by the COA’s Pedestrian Safety Committee involving walkability and pedestrian safety audits in three Ottawa communities – Hintonburg, the Glebe and Kanata-Beaverbrook in the winter, spring and fall of 2014-15. Residents from age 2 to 85 (and several dogs) carried out the walkability audits in sunny, rainy and snowy weather.

“To our knowledge we are the first city in Canada to carry out walkability audits in all seasons,” says Peggy Edwards, a member of the Pedestrian Safety Committee. “Snow, ice and cold winds impose serious challenges to seniors and people with disabilities, which need to be prioritized for attention in a winter city like Ottawa.”

The report also provides information on:

  • the factors that put older adults and other vulnerable pedestrians at risk
  • city policies and plans that affect pedestrian safety and walkability
  • an age-friendly walkability audit checklist that other communities can use
  • how to improve pedestrian safety and walkability, especially for seniors and other vulnerable road users, such as young children and people with mobility problems.
On February 25, a panel will discuss the realities of safe, walkable streets in Ottawa. Panelists include: Dr. Louise Plouffe, Age-Friendly Ottawa; Graham Saul, Ecology Ottawa; Karen Scott, the MS Society; and a representative from the City of Ottawa Public Works Department.

“We continue to work with city council and staff to make Ottawa streets safe and comfortable for people of all ages and abilities and for all modes of travel, including pedestrians, cyclists and transit users,” says Graham Saul, Executive Director of Ecology Ottawa. “Street audits are an effective way to identify barriers and suggestions for improvements.”

What: Safe Streets for Seniors & Other Valuable People in Ottawa

When: Thursday, February 25, 2016, 3:30-5:00

Where: The Council on Aging – 1247 Kilborn Place, Ottawa, K1H 6K9

Below: Executive Summary including Did You Know? facts on pedestrian safety, especially for older people and other vulnerable road users. Full report (in English and French) available after February 25 at www.coaottawa.ca or www.ecologyottawa.ca

For interviews or further information contact:

Executive Summary

An Age-Friendly Walkability Report: Safe Streets for Seniors and Other Valuable People in Ottawa

Age-friendly, walkable environments are particularly important for seniors and people of all ages who live with a disability and/or mobility problems. Seniors and other valuable people walk for leisure (e.g. as a form of recreation and exercise) and as an essential mode of transport (e.g. to get to public transport, services and shops). They value the benefits of walking for health and well-being, independence and mobility.

Pedestrians are walkers. Older pedestrians may use assistive devices such as canes and walkers. Pedestrians also include people using motorized mobility aids such as electric or battery operated wheelchairs and mobility scooters.

This report:

  • provides information on the factors that put older adults and other vulnerable pedestrians at risk
  • provides information on the policies and plans that affect pedestrian safety and walkability in Ottawa, with an emphasis on the City of Ottawa’s Older Adult Plan, which identifies key activities to make transportation age-friendly
  • summarizes the findings of three-season, age-friendly walk audits in three Ottawa communities and provides recommendations and suggestions for improvements
  • provides an all-season pedestrian safety and walkability audit tool that includes a checklist of questions based on age-friendly measures, as well as tools to audit safety and accessibility in winter, and to report sidewalk hazards
  • identifies ways to improve pedestrian safety (especially for older adults and other vulnerable road users) and to make walking more age-friendly in Ottawa.

Age-Friendly Ottawa

In an age-friendly city, policies, services and structures related to the physical and social environment are designed to support and enable older people to “age actively” – that is, to live in security, enjoy good health and continue to participate fully in society. Public and commercial settings and services are made accessible to accommodate varying levels of ability (World Health Organization). Age-Friendly Ottawa is led by the Council on Aging of Ottawa in collaboration with the City of Ottawa. This report was developed by the Committee on Pedestrian Safety within the Ottawa Senior Transportation Committee, Age-Friendly Ottawa, in collaboration with Ecology Ottawa.

The age-friendly walkability audits were carried out in Beaverbrook (Kanata), Hintonburg and the Glebe. Details related to safety, accessibility, connectedness and comfort were recorded. City officials and local councillors joined walkers aged 2 to 85 in the audits, and many of the specific problems have already been addressed.

The audit results confirm what is reported in the literature and reports on pedestrian safety and risk. While supports and barriers to walking for seniors and other vulnerable pedestrians have similarities to the population as a whole, there are also some important nuances and differences. For example, the age-friendly design and maintenance of sidewalks and pathways, curb cuts, road crossings and intersections are especially important for the safety of older pedestrians. Access to public toilets and places to shelter and rest are increasingly important with age. Winter weather imposes serious challenges to seniors and people with disabilities that need to be prioritized for attention in a winter city like Ottawa.

Strategies that address these concerns can prevent falls, and injuries and fatalities related to collisions. By adopting an age-friendly approach to transportation and public space design that assigns priority to users in this order: pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists, and drivers, Ottawa will improve walkability and pedestrian safety for all ages, but especially for seniors and other vulnerable pedestrians.

The Council on Aging of Ottawa appreciates having the opportunity to work with community audit participants, Ecology Ottawa and the City to produce this report. We look forward to further collaboration and progress as we strive to make Ottawa a city that is truly age-friendly and walkable for both residents and visitors.

Did You Know?

  • By 2031, more than one in five residents in Ottawa will be over 65.
  • In Canada between 2000 and 2010, almost 43% of pedestrian deaths were aged 56 and over, although this age group represents less than 20% of the population.
  • Older people experience more and higher severity pedestrian injuries than younger people. Injured seniors spend an average of 16 days in hospital, compared to 7 for all age groups.
  • Uneven, broken, sloped and slippery sidewalks and pathways can lead to falls, which often have serious, long-term consequences for older people. Pedestrian falls and fear of falling is exacerbated in winter when ice and heavy snowfalls can keep older people inside and socially isolated.
  • Some 33% of Canadians over age 65 report having a disability and 81% of people with disabilities use some kind of assistive device.
  • Wheelchair users are 3 times more likely to suffer from a car collision, often resulting in death or serious injuries.
  • Driving 15 km/h over the set speed limit increases the chance of killing a pedestrian from 45% to 85%.

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