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Making Saskatoon a pedestrian-friendly city

Watch above: The City of Saskatoon wants 20 per cent of the population to get out of their cars and onto the trails, sidewalks, bicycles and transit buses. Joel Senick finds out how officials hope to meet that goal.

SASKATOON – A change in culture and infrastructure is needed to encourage more people to take an alternative means of transportation in Saskatoon, according to a city official. The city wants 20 per cent of the population to get out of their cars and on to trails, sidewalks, bicycles and buses.

“We’re not going to get more people making the choice to not drive, or ride the bus, or bike, or whatever it is, if we don’t make those options more competitive and more viable and safer and all those things,” said Charlie Clark, Ward 6 city councillor.

Clark and his colleagues recently approved a set of 19 goals for the city, one of which sets a mark of having 20 per cent of the population, walk, cycle or ride transit to work.

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“It is going to affect both quality of life, sustainability and our pocket books as tax payers too if we can do this well,” said Clark.

Improving the city’s transit system and better connecting neighbourhoods to each other are two ways Clark said will help the city reach its goal.

“You can actually create a situation where somebody can bike to a bus stop, put their bike on the bus, ride it downtown, or they can ride downtown one way and then put the bike on the bus and take it home,” said Clark.

The city’s mobility goal is one that the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Saskatchewan says will go a long way in making a healthier population.

READ MORE: Saskatoon ranked one of most bike-friendly spots in the world

“Saskatchewan has some of the highest obesity rates in the country and that’s primarily due to sedentary lifestyles and lack of physical activity,” said Natalie Gierman, the foundation’s director of health, policy and research.

“You can reduce your risk of obesity by up to five percent just by walking a kilometer a day.”

Gierman called the city’s goal “pretty significant” and said that a municipality’s decisions can promote heart healthy activity.

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“Making routes to places that we have to go to [like] work, school, recreation centres, stores, services and things like that accessible,” said Gierman.

“We know that people who use public transit actually have higher rates of physical activity than people who don’t.”

Some of Saskatoon residents already find themselves ditching the car for a pair of running shoes or a bike. Brian Michasiw owns the store Brainsport and says he walks to most of his meetings downtown from its location just off Broadway Avenue.

“It doesn’t really take that much longer to walk and I get some exercise,” said Michasiw.

For those who are intimidated by the idea of trudging out in the snow, he suggested a strap-on shoe product that adds extra traction to the bottom of footwear.

“That to me is the most liberating thing that we have to help people walk in the winter time,” he said.

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