The only public transport
serving small communities in NL are usually vans like this, run by
This blog was developed by our Healthy Cities working
As challenging as winter conditions are on the Avalon for
taking the bus,
walking, and cycling, these challenging conditions in winter
and summer reflect transportation and urban planning decisions.
It's now spring in St. John's and I still see people walking on the
road after months of avoiding the sidewalks.
When governments invest in public transit and active
transportation infrastructure, it has important health benefits. It
can prevent and reduce chronic diseases that are a leading cause of
death and disability in Newfoundland and Labrador. Recent studies
published in the
Lancet and the
Public Library of Science suggest that increasing the number of
people who take the bus, walk, and cycle on a regular basis can
reduce cardiovascular disease (particularly heart attacks), type 2
diabetes, and respiratory disease.
Now you might be thinking, "I am already a fairly active person!
I like to go for a hike and snowshoe, but I don't take the bus, and
don't want to ride my bike in town." Well, there are health
benefits for you too. Some of the same research suggests that
designing for a more compact and less car-dependent city improves
air quality and reduces road traumas.
When municipalities take public transit, walking, and cycling
seriously, these investments offer a
high return on investment, which can mean a more efficient use
of public funds in the long term.
Investing in public transit, walking, and cycling friendly
communities are shown to be beneficial for peoples physical and mental
health by facilitating social capital, like trust and social
networks between neighbours, while building greater feeling of
community and pride of place.
It is time for action on a more walkable St. John's and on the
Avalon Peninsula. The current fiscal situation for the province and
historical precedents have created a moment where lots of attention
is focused on urban planning and development on the Avalon.
The provincial government recently released
The Way Forward: A Multi-Year Plan for Infrastructure
OurAvalon Background report was recently published, and the City
of St. John's Strategic Plan will be up for renewal soon. This
fall, we will have a municipal election in which all of us will
have the opportunity to ask our local elected representatives about
what they intend to do about healthier and more active
neighbourhoods. Most importantly, the federal government has also
created a major infrastructure fund, with $4.9 million, to
encourage municipalities to invest in public transit.
The Way Forward Plan also outlines that the province will
adopt a Health-in-All-Policies Approach. This approach is meant to
ensure that we consider the health impacts of all government
decision-making, whether it be transportation, the environment, or
educational policy. Given that the province
spends the most per capita on healthcare and healthcare is
the number one expense for the provincial government, this is
clearly an important step. A Health-in-All-Policies Approach should
consider the health impacts of major planning and development
considerations including the provincial Multi-Year Plan for
Infrastructure Investments, the OurAvalon consultations, and the
City of St. John's strategic plan.
There is very little discussion of public transit and
active transportation in all of the current planning documents. If
we are going to truly adopt a Health-in-All-Policies Approach all
levels of government must evaluate major transportation and urban
planning documents. The fact that current planning documents do
little to consider the health benefits of increasing public transit
and active transportation suggests there is more work to be done
The fiscal and health challenges we face in Newfoundland
and Labrador are considerable and will require commitment to
evidence based solutions. With timely federal investment, and a
provincial government that is committed to a Health-in-All-Policies
Approach, the communities that make up the Avalon Peninsula now
have an unprecedented hierarchy of support to consider
transportation and prudent city planning. Not only that, but the
evidence shows that public transit and active transportation
investments are cost effective and improve health.
What challenges do you have with current transportation
systems on the Avalon? Do you see opportunities for improvement?
Share your thoughts and experiences with us on Facebook and Twitter
@happycitysj You can also help by filling out the 'Our Northeast
Avalon' survey - http://www.ournortheastavalon.com/contribute/.
Share this blog post with your friends and get the
conversation started about how urban planning decision can make you
and your community healthier.