Knowledge CentreTechnical Resources SearchConference PapersIdentifying and Overcoming Barriers to the Implementation of Active Transportation Policies

Identifying and Overcoming Barriers to the Implementation of Active Transportation Policies


This research paper investigates the implementation of Ontario’s provincial and municipal policies that seek to build communities that encourage walking and cycling. Although policies have recently come a long way in recognizing and promoting active transportation, aligning policy is different than aligning practice, and current policies are not necessarily translating into successful on-the-ground implementation. This paper explores the institutional barriers that exist in detailed planning, development, engineering, and construction process that have not caught up with higher-level policies including engineering standards and other institutionalized practices.
Research objectives included charting real-world decision-making processes that move “policy” to “implementation” when it comes to infrastructure that prioritizes active transportation, identifying policy gaps and/or the need for new or updated tools (such as professional guidelines/standards, education/training, regulatory updates, etc.) to facilitate the achievement of active transportation policies.
In order to better understand how provincial policies are or are not translating into current practices, between 2013 and 2014 the research team: (1) conducted a review of provincial policy, municipal policy, and professional street design guidelines such as those produced by the Transportation Association of Canada (TAC); (2) conducted two focus group sessions with planning and engineering professionals; (3) and carried out several case studies of Toronto area road projects that either incorporated, or failed to incorporate, active transportation facilities. The research was also carried out with the assistance of an advisory group of professionals involved in AT planning and design that reviewed project reports and provided critical feedback and insight into the policies and processes involved in providing active transportation facilities.
Overall, the research found that despite high level policies that encourage active transportation, institutionalized barriers continue to exist that promote roadway design primarily oriented toward accommodating motor vehicles. In some cases, such as the Municipal Class Environment Assessment, there is not consensus on how the process does and does not create barriers to active transportaiton, nor how the process should work. The promotion of motor vehicle roadway design in other cases, such as the standardized and often mandated performance measures such as Level of Service and Traffic Impact Studies, was much clearer. Complex interactions between different levels of government, the ways that the capital budgeting process works, and other aspects of how roadways are financed, designed, and produced all interact to produce environments that continue to prioritize the accommodation of motor vehicles, sometimes despite policy.

Conference Paper Details

Session title:
Geometric Design - Present Challenges (B)
Hess, P.
Smith Lea, N.
Geometric design