Toronto City Council has approved a city-wide active living path this week that will connect Toronto from the east end of the city to its western suburbs.

The Pan Am Path will be built in time for the city to host the 2015 Toronto Pan Am/Parapan Am Games and will remain a legacy project following the event.

The pedestrian and cyclist path will wind through the city of Toronto from Scarborough in the east to the western suburb of Bramption. It will make its way along the Humber River and Don River Valley giving those on foot or bike a new way to experience the city.

The path is intended to showcase several vibrant communities and service seven of Toronto’s 13 priority neighbourhoods, which are currently underserved by infrastructure and investment.

With the aim of promoting healthy living and reducing the number of cars on the road, the path will bridge the urban-suburban divide through the creation of an active environment.

The Pan Am Path will connect existing pathways that come to abrupt ends by linking over 80 kilometres of trails. As the majority of the trails already exist, the organising group needed only $1.9 million in municipal funding for construction and signage.

“The project is simple, but truly powerful in its feasibility and impact,” said Denise Pinto, landscape architect and operations director for Jane’s Walk. “The Pan Am Path will help bridge the divide between our downtown and the inner suburbs, promoting active transportation and increased walkability and in turn improving the health of our city’s residents.”

Meanwhile, the western Canadian city of Vancouver is enhancing its cycling culture by joining the public bike-share craze.

Bicycle-only path in Amsterdam

Bicycle-only path in Amsterdam

Despite critics saying the city is too hilly and rainy for a public bike share system to be feasible, Vancouver finalised an agreement this week with Oregon’s Alta Bicycle Share Inc to implement the system come autumn.

A $6 million contribution from the city will see 1,500 bikes from Montreal-based bike share company BIXI available at 125 stations strewn across the city.

Vancouver will be the first city on the continent to have a helmet dispensing system to adhere to British Columbia’s helmet laws, following success in Sydney and Melbourne which also require bike-share users to wear helmets.

Further Abroad

As much of the world struggles to deal with traffic congestion in urban areas, landscape architects look to create pedestrian-friendly cities that rely less on highways and traffic infrastructure for inspiration.

In addition to the obvious example of Amsterdam where bicycles outnumber cars, other cities and towns prove that more cars and more roads aren’t necessary.

“The Dutch appreciate the efficiency of a self-propelled machine that travels five times faster than walking, without pollution, noise, parking problems, or high fuel costs,” said American author and television host Rick Steves.

The Get Britain Cycling inquiry recently declared the need for “a fundamental cultural shift in how we think about the way we travel.”

Targets were set for cycle use to rise to 25 per cent of all journeys from the current two per cent by 2050.

Written by the architects from Dutch planning practice Artgineering, Cycle Infrastructure presents Britain with tried and tested cycling routes and policies from around the world.

“The goal is to activate the full potential of cycling for the urban landscape and to consider cycling infrastructure as an integral design challenge instead of purely an issue of traffic engineering,” the authors say.

Bicycle roads on Mackinac Island

Bicycle roads on Mackinac Island, Michigan

Leading by Example

Mackinac Island in the state of Michigan has received increased attention as a successful example of a car-free landscape.

Cars have been banned on the island since 1898. America’s only carless highway, the M-185 spans 8.3 miles of coastline for use by cyclists and pedestrians.

Visitor Jeff Potter says the air is cleaner and injuries are fewer on the island.

“Island residents are healthier and they save a tremendous amount of money that would normally go to commuting by cars,” he says.

As city planners and landscape architects brainstorm ways to minimise traffic and ease urban congestion, the old argument of more bikes and fewer cars is being reignited. As a solution to the issues surrounding car culture, air pollution, traffic and oil wars, creating more bicycle paths seems an obvious answer for an environmentally friendly landscape and a healthier population.