On October 14 Ottawa City Council passed the Complete Streets Implementation Framework. This is great news! This means that road projects in Ottawa will now factor in the needs of pedestrians, cyclists, public transit users and vehicles. This is an important step forward in support of active transportation and sustainability in the city.
And it gets better: a very important amendment to the framework was accepted, changing how trees and vegetation are considered when planning a roadwork project in Ottawa. The guidelines now include trees as follows: “…will include specific consideration of street trees and other vegetation/bio-swale options to create Green Street Designs as per the Urban Tree Strategy…”
See the inserted comment in the document below instructing to: “Change ‘may’ to ‘will’ as per Council direction Oct 14, 2105.”
Green Street Designs are described as “…inherently very green, with an emphasis on trees, shrubs, sod, and plantings. Green living materials bring a myriad of cumulative benefits such as: temperature amelioration, energy use reduction, shading and UV protection, wind control, soil moisture infiltration, soil compaction avoidance, erosion management, air quality, oxygen production, CO2 reduction, storm water retention, pollution reduction, noise abatement, glare reduction, habitat creation, visual environment improvement, and property value appreciation…” (from link to City Ottawa Green Street Designs)
This significant advance for Complete Streets was achieved by many residents who came to the Transportation Committee meeting on October 7th and presented their case. Many Community Associations worked together to create a joint letter and list of priorities for Complete Streets in their neighbourhoods. Liz Bernstein of Lowertown Community Association presented the letter to the committee. Other groups and individuals, including Ecology Ottawa, also spoke about the need for Complete Streets. Still others presented the convincing argument to also include trees in the Complete Streets Implementation Framework. Their advocacy resulted in the committee members, councillors who champion the environment and complete streets, to propose the amendment to include trees.
Now road work and its planning will consider not only pedestrians, cyclists, transit users, cars and trucks, but also vegetation. Ottawa can finally say that Complete Streets are defined as including trees. This is good for our health, for our communities and for our public spaces.