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Can the City of Delta make itself more walkable?

Living in walkable neighbourhoods has been linked to significantly higher levels of physical activity
The study for Metro was aimed at better understanding the relationship between health outcomes and built environment. Pixabay

Transportation investment and land use decisions can have considerable public health consequences.

That’s according to a report on a study to Metro Vancouver’s Regional Planning Committee, which concludes that higher levels of neighbourhood walkability are not only associated with increased walking, but also associated health benefits.

Since 2016, Metro Vancouver has been part of a research partnership led by Dr. Lawrence Frank, formerly at UBC’s Health and Community Design Lab (School of Population and Public Health), to study and quantify the health and economic benefits of walkable communities and access to parks.

The recently concluded phase two of the study, Where Matters II – Final Report: Walkability and Greenspace Relationships with Health and Climate Change, documents direct and indirect health-related impacts and costs of transportation and land development decisions.

The findings, among other things, confirm that living in more walkable rather than car-dependent neighbourhoods is associated with increased walking, transit use and fewer motor vehicle trips.

The study, which included TransLink, Vancouver Coastal Health, the Real Estate Foundation of BC and UBC’s Health and Community Design Lab as partners, also found higher rates of residents achieving the recommended amount of moderate to vigorous physical activity per week, resulting in reduced levels of obesity and diabetes.

The results also provide clear support for encouraging increased development densities and walkability as a greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions, the report notes.

“The physical environment where we live, work, and play shapes our activity and travel patterns which in turn impacts our wellness and vehicle emissions. Time spent in cars is a sedentary activity while walking and biking are forms of physical activity. When comparing the least to the most walkable areas of the region the time spent in cars declined from 37 to 19 minutes per day, while walk and bike time rose from 2 to 14 minutes per day respectively,” the report concludes.

The final report will be shared with Metro member jurisdictions for information with an offer of a staff presentation to municipal councils.

Meanwhile, the City of Delta has not formally adopted a “15-minute city” plan but that doesn’t mean aspects are not already part of the city’s ongoing initiatives.

That was the Delta staff response to a letter to council in 2023 from a resident opposed to the idea of Delta adopting such a policy, a form of urban planning aimed at having residents being able to walk or bike to work or access groceries, healthcare, education and other services in an approximately 15-minute walk or bike ride.

While the concept has been talked about for a few years, Delta, which is undertaking an Official Community Plan (OCP) update, has not adopted the policy as part of its community development and planning.

However, there are many aspects in Delta current OCP, Community Energy Emissions Plan, Cycling Master Plan, among other plans and policy documents, that support compact and complete communities along with improving cycling and walking infrastructure, the staff memo explains.

The Climate Action and Community Livability Advisory Committee in 2021 also discussed the concept.

It was noted that at the committee the improvement of Delta’s cycling routes could help move the city toward the 15-minute concept that is popular in Europe. It was also noted that Delta’s Neighbourhood Road Improvements Plan receives ongoing funding to improve access to active transportation for cyclists and pedestrians.

The Neighbourhood Livability and Safety Improvements Plan was developed in 2021 to improve accessibility and fill in vast missing sections of the sidewalk network.