Planning for people, not cars

The Kamloops Food Policy Council has launched a series on food and the city to explore a number of deeper civic discussions leading up to our municipal election. As the late urban planner and Canadian food advocate Wayne Roberts wrote, “food is a lever.” Food is how we connect to the land, our communities, and our traditions. And because food is so impactful in all our lives, it is a useful lever through which we can create transformative changes in other areas. Strong local food systems can help us get to more affordable housing, walkable neighbourhoods, stronger local economies, spaces for safety and belonging, and more. 

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Planning for People, Not Cars:

A panoramic shot of Kamloops shows an expansive city. One that has slowly built up overtime from the river valley to the surrounding mountainsides. The hilly terrain creates a photogenic landscape, but poses a unique problem. How do people move around such a geographically vast and challenging terrain? 

Despite its smaller size of approximately 100,000 residents, geographically, Kamloops is the fourth largest municipality in our province. The primary method of transportation in Kamloops, like the rest of Canada, is the private automobile. Kamloops’ growth and planning measures have solidified cars as the main transportation method across the country by prioritising suburban street layouts, expanding highways, and building multiple suburban neighbourhoods. Kamloops has become a city built for cars.

Cars are an incredible invention. They offer a luxurious form of transportation that moves one from point a to point b quickly, comfortably, and reliably. More than just a utilitarian tool, cars have become ingrained in our Canadian identity and culture. Cars are a part of who we are as Canadians and individuals. This personalization has been perpetuated by and embedded in our pop culture: when we think of moms, we say minivans; when we talk about men in a midlife crisis, we see a Ferrari or Porsche; when we talk about middle-aged men we see a restored hotrod. Cars have become an extension of ourselves. In Kamloops, we shut down our city’s streets for an entire night to glamorise cars with ‘Hot Night in the City’. Looking at the financial impact cars have, roads are one of the most highly subsidised government initiatives in Canada. Our roads, highways, and their continuous upkeep and maintenance are not free – they come at a high cost. One which we seem very happy to maintain.

It is not a stretch to say that in Kamloops, cars are king. Yet, have we stopped to think about who cars actually benefit? Who do cars support? Are they really the best form of transportation? When did cars, a privilege – not a right, become the only form of transportation we focus on? The one we most heavily subsidise? 

Equality is an issue of access

Transportation is more than an issue of engineering and planning. Transportation is a social necessity for a healthy and happy life. If we want to build and design equal and equitable cities, they need to work for everyone. This means that everyone needs to be able to get around in an affordable, safe, and reliable way. 

A car-dominated landscape and built form leaves many to the wayside. Those unable to drive – whether due to disability, age, income, or personal choice, are left with fewer and less reliable options. The design of rural and suburban areas of our province have practically made cars the only choice of transportation. This is causing many Canadians to make impossible choices. In Canada, 28% of seniors who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia still hold a valid driver’s licence (Turcotte, 2012). Current crash data shows that seniors aged 65 and over have the highest fatality rate of drivers at 20.6% (Transport Canada, 2018). Because we have planned for cars and not people, we are forcing many to choose between their autonomy and safety. Planning only for cars has created unsafe and fatal transportation networks. 

The City of Kamloops paints people, not cars, as the best form of transportation. Our Transportation Master Plan lays out the following vision for transportation in our city:

“A transportation system in the city of Kamloops, consistent with the vision of KAMPLAN, that provides a diversity of safe, accessible, affordable, and sustainable travel choices for all that integrate well, are effective to use, promote healthy lifestyles, and support economic prosperity.” (Kamloops Transportation Master Plan

This vision clearly is attempting to move beyond the single occupancy vehicle and be more people focused. But how can we actually pivot? Are we really ready to dethrone the car? How much of our City’s plans are just words on paper versus practical action?

Switching Gears

The shift to more equitable and accessible forms of transportation cannot happen overnight. We have over 70 years of inertia, both ideologically in our thoughts, behaviour, and culture, and perhaps even more importantly, in built infrastructure and public spending. But across North America many cities are beginning to successfully implement new transportation strategies. Here in Kamloops, we are seeing the beginnings of this reflected in city and neighbourhood plans from the last decade as well as changing public dialogue. So what could we be doing differently to create a more equitable and accessible transportation network in Kamloops?



Encouraging Active Transportation

Active transportation is one of the fastest growing methods of transportation in our city, particularly the bicycle. Our hilly landscape was once considered too difficult to overcome, but with the widespread adoption of e-bikes our terrain no longer seems as challenging or impossible to change.

So how can we encourage this trend in Kamloops? Investing in bike lanes to create safe transportation corridors across our city is a key step towards change. This work has already started in some neighbourhoods, but there is still room for improvement. Many of our neighbourhoods and key centres – such as Thompson Rivers University – remain unconnected to safe paths from other areas of the city.

There are also smaller, less expensive strategies we could use to make active transportation more attractive to new users:

  • Bike theft is a significant issue in many areas of Kamloops. Like any complex problem, there isn’t a single solution, but we could be incentivizing bike valets at more events, working with employers to provide safe bicycle storage solutions, and considering other, more creative solutions to bike parking.
  • An E-bike or E-scooter share is another city wide program that could be implemented. Whether with docks and stations – or no pre-set location, there are a number of examples province-wide to learn from.
  • Encouraging active transportation through city incentives or measures such as car free urban centres, a well-developed network of active transportation infrastructure, hosting events such as Car-Free Days, offering tax incentives for those who use active transportation or public transportation, and so forth.

Policy Changes for New Developments

Just as difficult as changing our transportation habits are, so too is changing our existing infrastructure. While the shift towards infrastructure that supports sustainable transportation seems like an expensive cost, we have to remember that all modes of transportation are costly. Setting guidelines for how new developments move forward in our city is an easier way to build more for less. While there are already a range of requirements that exist for developers, our development guidelines could include more. This would further help to share the cost burden between taxpayers and developers for shifting to more equitable, people-focused transportation options.

One of the more well-studied policy options for developments we could consider is reducing or eliminating parking minimums for new builds. This would allow for far greater densification, increasing walkability. It would also offer a wider range of housing price options due to the decoupling of underground parking spots from condos. There is already some traction in Kamloops to consider this.

Other examples of people-focused transportation requirements new developments could be required to implement include building public multi-use paths, public access to amenities such as green space or beaches, secure storage for bicycles, or charging infrastructure for e-bikes and car share programs. Multi-family developments that incorporate mixed-use commercial spaces like offices or daycares can increase the likelihood that residents can walk to work or drop their children off without relying on a vehicle. And of course, good food security planning that ensures grocery stores are within walking distance to new developments will also reduce people’s reliance on their cars. 

Transit for All

Public transit seems to have a bad rap in Canada. It is often seen as a last resort when considering transportation options, particularly in small to mid-sized cities such as Kamloops. Encouraging public transit use will not only have to build up the system, but break the stigma we’ve attached to it. One way we can do this is by making transit ‘the better choice’ for Kamloopsians. Such examples to foster public transit use include:

  • Increasing the coverage of transit routes and increasing the frequency of service on all routes, especially those that require transfers; 
  • Planning for transit beyond a utilitarian tool. Making the bus an “it place”, not just a tool that moves people from point A to point B. One such example could be Tea Party Socials on the bus;
  • Offering free transit or transit free days to encourage individuals to try the bus;
  • Investing in better design for our buses and bus stops that allows individuals to feel safe and welcomed; 
  • Providing free wifi on buses and at bus stops;
  • Using new technology to live track buses to ensure reliability; and
  • Establishing art or other pop-up events at transit exchanges. 

The need for choice: Multi-Modal Transportation

Creating a transportation system that is safe, accessible, and that works for everyone will include multiple modes of transportation. An accessible transportation system includes a set of transportation options that encourages individuals to be able to take transit, drive, walk, and ride bicycles with ease at different times of the day and through all seasons. We know that our transportation habits can’t change overnight. Not everyone may be ready to bike all year round or give up their car keys. But small and incremental changes can create major transformations. Just encouraging drivers to add a few trips a week by transit into their lives will pay dividends for our entire community. 

Moving from Theory to Practice

For decades our community plans guiding transportation development in Kamloops have placed single occupancy vehicles as the last priority for transportation development moving forward. But looking around our city, we can see this change has not been reflected in either the built form or in our budgets. Focusing on sustainable transportation in our policies is perhaps the most straight-forward sounding, but also the most important change to start with. We need to pivot from talking about putting people first in our transportation systems to actually budgeting and building for it. Transportation is an issue bigger than ourselves. When we plan for choice in our transportation system, we accommodate the needs of all and create a more equitable and accessible city.   

KFPC Policy Recommendations for Planning for People, Not Cars

  • Invest in infrastructure and incentives to encourage active transportation
    • Invest in bike lanes to create safe transportation corridors
    • Reduce bike theft by incentivizing bike valets at events and providing safe bike storage solutions
  • Implement development guidelines that prioritize sustainable transportation and walkable neighbourhoods
    • Eliminate parking minimums for new builds
    • Incentivize developments that include amenities and infrastructure such as public multi-use paths, public access to amenities such as green space or beaches, secure storage for bicycles, charging infrastructure for e-bikes and car share programs
  • Invest in public transit to make it an efficient, convenient choice for all residents
    • Increase the coverage of transit routes and increase the frequency of service on all routes, especially those that require transfers; 
    • Plan for transit beyond a utilitarian tool. Make the bus an “it place”, not just a tool that moves people from point A to point B. One such example could be Tea Party Socials on the bus;
    • Offer free transit or transit free days to encourage individuals to try the bus;
    • Invest in better design for our buses and bus stops that allows individuals to feel safe and welcomed; 
    • Provide free wifi on buses and at bus stops;
    • Use new technology to live track buses to ensure reliability; and
    • Establish art or other pop-up events at transit exchanges.


  • Turcotte, Martin. “Profile of seniors’ transportation habits.” Canadian Social Trends 93, no. 2012001 (2012): 1-16.
  • Transport Canada. “Canadian motor vehicle traffic collision statistics.” (2018)

For the full list of Food & the City topics and recommendations, check out our webpage.