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Paving the Way to Health

Artistic rendering of the multi-use pathway for pedestrians and cyclists along Steveston Highway. (City of Richmond)

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Vancouver Coastal Health’s Healthy Public Policy Unit Champions Active Transportation in Richmond.

In the coastal city of Richmond, cycling advocates including public health secured a major victory in the form of a three-metre wide, separated bike/pedestrian path along a major artery, Steveston Highway. At a June 2023 meeting, Richmond City Council voted in favour of investing in the world-class all-ages-and-abilities cycling infrastructure, just two weeks after voting to not proceed with its construction.

Council’s decision was partially influenced by the proactive strategies of Vancouver Coastal Health’s Healthy Public Policy Unit (VCH HPPU). When the project’s continuation came into question in February 2023, due to escalating costs, VCH HPPU’s Senior Policy Analyst was quick to identify the potential implications for Richmond’s well-being — the city would lose a major opportunity to promote wellness and create a culture of healthy, active living among people who work or live in Richmond.

Dr. Meena Dawar, Richmond’s Medical Health Officer, led a team of public health and public policy professionals in considering community perspectives and queries that surfaced during the decision-making phase. This team delved deeply into evidence-based research, formulating a health perspective, which was then tailored by a Knowledge Translation expert for sharing with Richmond City Council.

Dr. Dawar spoke in favour of the path at the council meeting, presenting the path as “an important investment into the health and wellness of Richmond residents.”

While VCH HPPU has played an important role in the council’s decision to move forward, the successful outcome was due to the collaborative effort of the City of Richmond staff, TransLink, HUB Cycling volunteers, and the Richmond residents who took the time to call into Council meetings and share their stories of how the proposed bike path would impact their lives. City of Richmond Council members took the time to carefully debate the issue, ask relevant questions, and consider staff reports and expert recommendations, as well as diverse community perspectives.

The Multi-Use Path (MUP) is part of the larger Richmond Cycling Network Plan, adopted in 2022, which lays the blueprint for a community-wide, cohesive, uninterrupted network of bike routes suitable for all ages and abilities, with strong potential to jump starting cycling rates in the city.

Steveston’s MUP represents more than just a conduit for cyclists or pedestrians, and is not just another infrastructure project. It’s a community-driven initiative that prioritizes active transportation and wellness. Every voice, from expert opinions on air quality by Metro Vancouver staff to personal stories from local residents, was invaluable in shaping the path forward. By making active transportation accessible and appealing, the project is a route to a healthier, more sustainable Richmond.