Region to investigate creation of a regional network of Natural Heritage trails
NEWMARKET – York Regional Council today approved a Pedestrian and Cycling Municipal Partnership Program to assist local municipalities, conservation authorities and other agencies in the development of pedestrian and cycling infrastructure projects that match Regional priorities and goals. The program will be funded $500,000 each year.
In addition, Council approved a preliminary draft of the Pedestrian and Cycling Master Plan that includes proposed routes of pedestrian and cycling trails across York Region and invited stakeholders and the public to review the draft and provide comments. And to complement today’s proposed network of pedestrian and cycling trails, Council also approved a study that will investigate the creation of a regional network of Natural Heritage trails.
“As York Region continues to grow and urbanize, we will have our natural heritage infrastructure either in place or protected for future development,” said York Region Chairman and CEO Bill Fisch. “We will protect green space and link it together and integrate it into our new communities across York Region, which will enhance the long-term health of our communities and contribute to a sustainable Region.”
The Pedestrian and Cycling Master Plan focuses primarily on the provision of sidewalks, bike lanes and trails to encourage commuter cycling and walking.
The Natural Heritage Trails study will explore opportunities for new trails to link protected green spaces and give residents and visitors more access to York Region’s natural heritage.
“These strategies will promote natural heritage use and protection while allowing residents and visitors more opportunities to enjoy the outdoors and maintain health and wellness through exercise,” said the Region’s Planning and Economic Development Committee Chair James Young, Mayor of the Town of East Gwillimbury. “An extensive, inter-connected system of walking and biking trails will enrich the quality of life for our regional communities for years to come.”
A shift to alternate forms of transportation, such as walking, bicycling, public transit and carpooling can greatly reduce vehicle greenhouse gas emissions that are a major source of poor air quality. Poor air quality adversely impacts our health and can cause illness in people with heart and lung conditions. Those at particular risk include young children, the elderly, asthmatics and anyone with existing respiratory or coronary conditions.
Most of the Region’s local municipalities have plans for the development of both on and off-road local trail networks. These Regional initiatives will help to create an integrated trail system across the Region. There are locations where expansion of a local system could connect it to the larger network and help increase the level of walking and cycling in the Region.
The cost of constructing a basic, multi-use pathway is about $100,000 per kilometre. With a 50/50 funding split between the Region and the local municipality, conservation authority or other agency, this program will potentially result in the construction of approximately 10 kilometres of multi-use pathways each year.
The proposed preliminary draft cycling network consists of three facility types, including multi-use trails, on-street paved shoulder or bike lanes and signed bike-only routes. The proposed preliminary draft pedestrian system consists primarily of sidewalks on Regional roads that span and connect local municipalities. The pedestrian component of the plan focuses on identifying missing sidewalk links on Regional roads in urban areas and identifies pedestrian zones.
The preliminary draft Pedestrian and Cycling Master Plan also recommends:
• Integrating walking and cycling infrastructure with public transit by connecting trails with transit stops and stations and providing bike racks at key bus stops
• Enabling bikes to be carried on racks on transit vehicles that cross municipal boundaries, as provided for under new regulations of the Ontario Public Vehicles Act (PVA)
The Natural Heritage Trials Concept Study should be completed this year when the Pedestrian and Cycling Master Plan will be presented to Regional Council for approval.
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