What makes a community livable and vibrant?
Do we have that here in the Comox Valley?
We’ll find out more next week, as the Comox Valley Cycling Task Force and the Comox Valley Cycling Coalition have teamed up with community livability advisor Gil Peñalosa for two days of events that includes a free public presentation on livable communities for all June 16 from 7-9 p.m. at the Native Sons Hall in Courtenay.
The presentation will give Valley residents an opportunity to hear about innovations in community planning and design for livability, and to learn how that can translate into opportunities for this region.
Doors for the public event open at 6:30 p.m., and free tickets can be obtained in advance at recreation centres in Courtenay, Comox and Cumberland and at Simon’s Cycles, Black Cycles, Mountain City Cycles, Broken Spoke, Trail Cycles or Dodge City Cycles.
“Gil is well known for his inspirational talks,” Jim Gillis, chair of the Comox Valley Cycling Task Force, said in a press release. “This session will help lead to an understanding of what cycling and other active transportation communities are doing, and what is reasonable and feasible in the Comox Valley. We will also learn how to move from talking about these things to actively doing them.”
Peñalosa is the executive director of 8-80 Cities, a non-profit organization dedicated to the transformation of people-oriented communities that are easily accessible, safe and enjoyable by eight- to 80-year-olds.
The Cycling Task Force’s goals are to facilitate cross-jurisdictional co-operation and standardization on cycling issues and to make sure cycling as a mode of transportation is accommodated, explained Nancy Hofer, Courtenay’s environmental planner.
The group has been working for a number of years to raise the profile of cycling, get more cyclists on the roads and make cycling safer, and when the Cycling Task Force completed its strategic planning session, it felt it could improve on raising awareness about getting out of your car, explained Hofer.
“We wanted to raise the profile and use examples to show what is possible,” she said. “Gil Peñalosa has extensive experience in public spaces in general. Cycling is certainly part of a healthy, sustainable community, but he will also speak about the importance of public spaces and pedestrian infrastructure and how public space can be used as a source of joy, delight and interaction.”
Safe, efficient, integrated and multi-modal transportation is one of the tenets of the sustainability strategy received by the Comox Valley Regional District in 2010, to be used as a guide for local governments to consider sustainability in all future actions, noted the press release.
A sustainable transportation system provides for convenient mobility with low environmental impact.
In addition to the public event on June 16, local government elected officials, senior staff and community representatives will meet with Peñalosa for a number of activities during his two-day visit.
The activities will include a tour of cycling “hotspots” in the Comox Valley and dialogues on what makes a community livable and how walking, cycling and public places are the foundation for vibrant communities, and how the Comox Valley has the potential to become one of the most livable places in the world, stated the release.
The Cycling Task Force has invited groups such as the RCMP, School District 71, the Ministry of Transportation and the Vancouver Island Health Authority to participate in these workshop sessions, according to Hofer.
“We’re trying to get discussions going,” she said. “Having all these different perspectives on the support and barriers for cycling and even the reasons against it. If there are people who have reservations and concerns, we want to hear that to.”
Hofer hopes these sessions with Peñalosa will lead to a shared understanding among local groups about cycling and sustainable communities and also that they will help identify barriers to cycling in all the local jurisdictions and how they can support one another.
Hofer thinks Peñalosa’s visit will be energizing.
“We’re hoping he’ll give us new ideas and also hoping he’ll leave us with a sense of a bigger goal that a lot of communities are working on this,” she said. “Our objective is raising awareness and bringing an outside perspective. We do want to continue to work with the groups that we will be in workshops with. He’s kind of a kick off, and we’re hoping we can keep the momentum going.”