Prince Edward Island: A Profile of Promising Practices from Canada and Abroad – Charlottetown active transportation initiative

“Start to do something right away! A small pilot project next to a high profile park helped generate buy-in and brought visibility to the project.”

Lead Organization:
City of Charlottetown

Key Partners:
Cycling PEI, Tourism Charlottetown, Government of PEI, Private Sector, Resident Cyclists

Charlottetown, PEI

Population of Community:


Target Group:
General population

Project Focus:
Under the guidance of an inter-sectoral steering committee, a pilot project has moved cycling into the spotlight

Implementation Level:

Stage of Development:


Charlottetown is undertaking an active transportation initiative with a focus on cycling that already includes 45 km of trail that run throughout the City, including the 11 km Confederation Trail and the “Routes for Nature and Health.” The cycling focus has developed under the leadership of a community committee, known as the Active Transportation Steering Committee, with representation from the Parks and Recreation Department, the private sector, resident cyclists, Cycling PEI, Tourism Charlottetown and the provincial government.

The catalyst for this project was the City of Charlottetown’s Parks Master Plan (2007).  This policy document identified key strategic directions for active transportation, and called for building more health-supporting built infrastructure that would support commuting and recreating in Charlottetown. For the recreation sector, health is a major issue and the Parks Master Plan brought credibility to undertaking work in this area.

The Parks Master Plan brought forward the concept of “active streets” as a priority area. Following approval of the Parks Master Plan by Council in 2007, there were a few key residents, as well as Cycling PEI, Tourism Charlottetown and the business sector who led the charge in pushing for the implementation of active streets.


Because stakeholder groups were engaged during the Parks Master Plan process, partner agencies were eager to continue collaborating with the City. Getting different sectors on board was easy.  As the Active Transportation initiative came on the heels of the Parks Master Plan, many of the partner groups were already at the table.

Since Charlottetown is a small city, there is generally a lot of collaboration between interest groups. However, this initiative was unique in that all interest groups and partners were involved from the very start. As a result of the overwhelming success and enthusiasm generated by the Parks Master Plan process, the partner groups jumped at the opportunity to be part of the Active Transportation Steering Committee. The group even grew, with the addition of a private sector representative.

Good timing meant that the Active Transportation initiative was able to get off the ground right away, and groups were enthusiastic about their involvement. Setting realistic goals, with timelines attached, also helped build partner confidence. Partners knew they were being listened to, and were kept engaged as they saw tangible products and goals being achieved along the way.

All partners had a role to play. The tourism sector worked to create six cycling loops that would connect from the downtown to other destinations outside of the City, using existing trails and identifying the safest streets and roadways. Each group collected information pertinent to its area of interest, and reported back to the organizations they represented. The City has effectively used the expertise around the table to build and implement a robust project that aims to make walking and cycling an easier alternative to driving.

The general public was engaged as well, through on-line surveys. These surveys were used not only as a way to gain input, but also to educate the general public about the initiative.

Photo Credit: City of Charlottetown

Generating Buy-In

Council took the lead by approving a pilot project early in the process. The City was eager to have something happen within the first six months of the project. The pilot project saw a dedicated cycling lane opened on a road in Victoria Park – a very high profile park in Charlottetown. Although small in scale, this project inspired confidence, brought visibility, and generated excitement about the project. This Victoria Park street closure may or may not be continued in the final implementation of the Active Transportation Plan, but it has certainly helped to generate buy-in, and has validated a “build it and they will come” approach when it comes to cycling. It would seem that the majority of the community supports the street closure, with many users taking advantage of the cycling lane, including families and children getting out on their bikes.

Council will be responsible for approving the final Active Transportation report, and having their support has been crucial. The active transportation movement is just starting on Prince Edward Island and it is exciting for all sectors to be involved with getting the first on-street cycling infrastructure off the ground.

Photo Credit: City of Charlottetown

Lessons Learned

One of the biggest lessons learned was the importance of having Council buy-in from the start, and this was due in great part to the success of the Parks Master Plan. Involving partner agencies from the start was another valuable lesson. These partners are now all very familiar with the municipal process, and the City will not hesitate to continue working with them during “next steps” or in future projects.

Linking health benefits with other benefits of healthy built environments such as lower emissions, reduced traffic, increased tourism, and an overall healthy, attractive city has helped to get people on board with the concepts. There is always some resistance to accept change, but the tourism perspective did help in this regard – Charlottetown wants to be known as an attractive, healthy city.

Building more public awareness and finding capital dollars to undertake further projects are two ongoing challenges. Also, it is recognized that in future planning processes, the Parks and Recreation Department will need to work more with Planning and Public Works Departments to integrate healthy built environment planning into all facets of city work including infrastructure upgrades and new infrastructure projects.

One unanticipated result of this project was the Mayor’s call for the formation of an ad hoc Committee to look broadly at active transportation within the entire City. This committee, made up of municipal councillors and staff, will focus on integrating active transportation into bigger picture initiatives. For the Active Transportation Steering Committee, the next step is getting approval for their Active Transportation report from Council, which is expected to occur in May 2009.

Advice to Other Communities

This type of project could happen in any municipality. The less formal approach used in this project worked very well for a smaller community where it is easy to identify the key stakeholders. In a larger community, more time may need to be spent at the beginning to establish a Steering Committee, and to ensure that it contains the right range of representation.

Photo Credit: City of Charlottetown

Doing something visible right away, such as a cycling lane street closure, or the installation of bike racks, is another way to build enthusiasm and get people on board. Finally, prepare a Master Plan, if one has not already been completed. The Charlottetown Parks Master Plan represented a large investment for the City, but it brought a lot of credibility to the active living movement and established big-picture thinking from the beginning.

Evaluation and Impact

Evaluation was carried out through an on-line survey by staff who carried out additional consultation. The Victoria Park pilot was the first cycling lane in Charlottetown, so at this point it is difficult to evaluate its impact. But the very fact that families are out on their bikes on the cycling lane at Victoria Park means some of the barriers to cycling are starting to be overcome. The City has plans to continue measuring results and will continue to use surveys.


  • Sue Hendricken
    Manager of Parks & Recreation
    Parks and Recreation Department
    City of Charlottetown
    P.O. Box 98
    199 Queen Street
    Charlottetown PE C1A 7K2
    Telephone: 902-368-1025
  • Frank Quinn
    Program Coordinator
    Parks and Recreation Department
    City of Charlottetown
    P.O. Box 98
    199 Queen Street
    Charlottetown PE C1A 7K2
    Telephone: 902-629-4028


To receive updates on the Active Transportation initiative and download the Parks Master Plan, visit the City of Charlottetown’s web site:

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