We hear more and more talk of green neighbourhoods, but what are they? Where do they come from? What’s their purpose in the city?
First of all, according to the Plan de déplacements de Paris, the purpose of a green neighbourhood is:
A green neighbourhood “aims to improve road safety through enforcing speed limits and strengthening friendliness by creating spaces.”
Second, a green neighbourhood is more than speed limits and a few green spaces. It is a whole. That’s what the Montreal Urban Ecology Centre (MUEC) is trying to do with its Green, Active, Healthy Neighbourhoods initiative.
Finally, the pilot project was realized by Mercier East between May 2009 and April 2010. It strives to rethink urban space to encourage walking, biking and other active ways to get around with the goal of improving the population’s quality of life and health.
Green spaces in Montreal are starting to emerge, whereas in Europe, they’ve been in place for several years now.
The success of such a project relies on the collaboration between community and innovation / repercussions that can be brought to the entire Montreal community. Moreover, in 2012 following the initiative, the City of Montreal created its first Green Neighbourhood in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve.
The project helps rethink the city in another way by putting sustainable mobility and citizen appropriation of their neighbourhoods at the centre.
Green, Active, Healthy Neighbourhoods responds first to the needs of the community with respect to certain spaces and transportation solutions. In fact, the MUEC organized several consultations with the community, as much with organizations as with citizens.
The initiative wants to emphasize public space. It includes the elements of physical space, well-being, social cohesion, as well as the planning and decision-making process.
Project development is based on six principles:
• streets and public spaces for everyone
• active and safe ways to get around
• natural and ecological areas
• sense of belonging and community spirit
• inclusive community participation
• vision of long-term liveability
The MUEC aims to change the Montreal population’s lifestyle as cars are now at the core of travel. It wants to establish the notion of sustainable mobility across neighbourhoods not only to change habits, but to respond to Montreal’s 2008 Transportation Plan. Among other things, the plan hopes to reduce the harmful effects of cars, create bike paths and cycle routes that cover the Island of Montreal.
This initiative could be expanded elsewhere, in other neighbourhoods and also in other cities because, unfortunately, today when we talk of green neighbourhoods, people think only of the LEED building designation.
The catalyst for this project was the unveiling of Montreal’s 2008 Transportation Plan. As a result, the MUEC thought that one course of action that could help achieve the plan’s objectives could be to create a Green Neighbourhood. Then, they launched a call for proposals from citizens and organizations which allowed them to target four main priorities:
• reduce traffic
• increase the sense of safety
• optimize walkability
• build public transport and active transportation networks
The project is intended to be the catalyst for the neighbourhood in order to focus attention on the new needs of the current society.
“Green, Active, Healthy Neighbourhoods is the chance to share results and involve all players and municipal powers around realistic, accurate and ongoing targets in order to complete and make the various previous attempts a reality.”
-Green, Active, Healthy Initiatives – Urban Ecology Centre