STEP UP Series Summary 

Access to Nature

Graphics: Kristen Elkow
Graphics: Frank Ducote
ACCESS TO NATURE:
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Access to Housing 

Graphics: Kristen Elkow
Graphics: Frank Ducote
ACCESS TO HOUSING
Download the entire Summary Package here: 

Access to Mobility

Graphics: Kristen Elkow
Graphics: Frank Ducote

Access to Daily Needs

Graphics: Kristen Elkow

SUMMARY

 

The webinar “Access to Daily Needs” brought into focus that the shape of our neighbourhoods has a major impact on our ability to access those things that we regularly need in our lives.  The recent COVID-19 pandemic has shone a light on the design deficiencies and strengths of various communities and how that has affected those who live in them.  It was revealed that those communities that have been intentionally designed to mix different types of housing, offer well-crafted public spaces that bring people of different socio-economic groups together, and offer a wide variety of daily needs within easy walking or cycling distance seem to have fared best during the recent Coronavirus Pandemic.  

 

The Pandemic emphasized the disparity between people of different economic abilities being able to access daily needs in the face of a crisis.  In neighbourhoods such as Jane/Finch where a large percentage of the population are new Canadians and people of colour, residents were faced with crowded buses, unsafe park and outdoor spaces, and inhospitable built landscapes that made access to daily needs even more problematic during the Pandemic.  Car-dominated designs were shown in this webinar to be most problematic as transit was often perceived as unsafe in the face of the virus and accessing daily needs by foot or bicycle were often uncomfortable, impractical, or unsafe due to poor design.  The importance of safety was underscored, as access to daily needs in spaces or along routes that are unsafe is actually only “perceived access” and not true access at all.  

 

The point was well made that the design of our communities is a significant predeterminant of our mental health and well-being.  People need to feel comfort, safety, belonging and pride in their communities and design can play a powerful role in shaping these feelings.  Well designed neighbourhoods can create a strong sense of community, avoid feelings of isolation, and bring people of different economic, demographic and cultural situations together in very positive ways.  Finally, the point was made that the design of neighbourhoods, and the places and spaces within them, needs to be complimented with ongoing maintenance, programming and other forms of activation to support truly great communities.

 

 

BOLD IDEAS

 

Reframe

  • Re-evaluate the way that we design our communities with a clear understanding of resident daily needs and how the design will foster convenient, comfortable and safe access to these needs for all.

  • We can amplify inequities in our communities in the absence of smart and intentional design that considers and provides access to daily needs.

  • Designing neighbourhoods with heavy car dependency undermines other mobility options for accessing daily needs, disadvantages lower income residents and also creates neighbourhoods that are less resilient to major change or crises.

  • Access to daily needs is heavily influenced by safety – people will not use places and spaces that do not feel comfortable and safe.

  • Neighbourhoods that have been designed as monocultures are less adaptable and resilient to change - for example, large tracts of high-rise towers or large tracts of single detached houses.

 

 

Advocate

  • Develop capacity in communities so that they can advocate for the kinds of design interventions they need to support better access to their daily needs.

  • Advocate for government health agencies to become more involved in the design and re-design of neighbourhoods, understanding the direct impact of design on individual and community health and wellbeing.

  • Educate and advocate for better neighbourhood design in municipalities across Canada, recognizing how design powerfully influences people’s access to their daily needs

 

Design Differently

  • Intentionally design communities to promote safe, convenient and affordable access to daily needs – this must be an underpinning of the vision for any new community and any attempts to re-design existing communities

  • Design and re-design our communities to avoid auto-dependency and ensure that daily needs are easily accessible within convenient walking and cycling distances. Think about safety when designing the things that people need daily – such as safe routes to work and grocery stores, safe park and public space environments, and safe transportation options.    

  • Intentionally design housing and public spaces that bring people of different socio-economic groups together and reject designing for monocultures of all kinds

  • Design and program for growing food in parks, squares, underutilized public spaces, former parking lots, extra wide boulevards, etc. – to create new relationships with our food and allow easy access to the types of food we can grow in urban areas

  • Transform parking lots, or portions of such lots, to public gathering places in high density communities.

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