Densifying neighbourhoods and making the City sustainable
The “ABCs of Urban Planning” workshop-conference held on January 18 ended with a presentation by the urban planners of Vivre en Ville. Vivre en Ville is a Public Interest Organization funded by the Quebec Green Fund, whose objective is to create sustainable communities. Its mission is to support decision-makers, professionals and citizens in the development of quality living environments that are prosperous and conducive to the well-being of everyone, in the pursuit of the collective interest and respect for the capacity of ecosystems. This workshop-conference is part of its project that began 3 years ago, “Yes in my backyard!” joining forces for quality living environments.
With the help of photos of recent Quebec achievements, Catherine Craig-St-Louis, Catherine Boisclair and Amélie Myriam-Plante highlighted two issues for Gatineau: population growth and the pursuit of GHG reduction commitments. The first being inevitable, they conclude that the solution to housing must no longer involve urban sprawl to counter the second, but rather the densification of the city. The key words then become “compactness”, “proximity” and “transportation supply”.
The presentation is full of study results. For example, they explain that for trips of less than 5 km, citizens favour active transportation, from 5 to 10 km they regularly use public transit if it is very efficient, after 10 km the use of cars takes over. This should inspire us to build our new neighbourhoods, to integrate the services we need, and even more so to reconsider the distance between home and work and how to travel it. To implement such sustainable communities, “neighbourhood councils” seem to be a winning solution. This would probably be an avenue for the City of Gatineau to explore; at least that is what Quebec City has chosen.
Due to time constraints, there was no discussion on this presentation. The public regretted it all the more since an activity had been proposed a little earlier and in no time at all three panels had been covered with post-it notes appreciating the themes presented. Instead, the presenters suggested that the public consult the websites of Vivre en Ville and Oui dans ma court to complete the experience.
The major absentees from this workshop were the promoters: Those responsible for the repeated crises caused by the development of new spaces? Insensitive to the viability of the spaces they develop? Distrustful because they are mistreated by citizens and given little help from the municipal administration? They generalize, they vilify, but no one represented their voice. Yet there was one, all the same, sitting next to me: thirty years old, attentive, he was taking notes on his laptop, surfing on the Web to consult the documents cited as he went along, and willingly lending himself to a verbal exchange exercise. It’s easy to see why: they may be unloved by the public and scapegoats of choice, but they are obviously key players ... and motivated because they are citizens! All the participants, on several occasions, emphasized the role of promoters, sometimes referring to their real difficulties in working.
As the meeting drew to a close, a sudden desire to parody Jean Lesage (1961 speech) arose: The City is no stranger among us. Let us understand this! It is up to us. It is ours. It belongs to us and emanates from us.