|Writing / Ken Storie:
It’s election time. If you are wondering who to vote for, consider for a moment what you want for your city. If a prospective councilor or mayor comes knocking at your door – here are some things one might ask about.
One might notice two themes. One has to do with combatting our love of cars, which is essentially the driving force behind the destruction of the world as we know it.
The other has to do to with simple decency and aesthetics.
Vehicle noise. Why do we allow vehicles to be purposefully modified to make them loud? How about an enforced noise by-law for vehicles? (My reading of the existing bylaws indicated we have the justification for ticketing noisy vehicles)
Three words – No Idle Zone. One word… everywhere.
It is one of the easiest virtually no-costs ways to not only reduce fuel consumption, reduce pollution, and reduce noise. A no-brainer if we care about the environment at all.
Accessible Public Transit
Why not make all bus stops accessible by sidewalk? Many are totally inaccessible to movement-impaired people, parents pushing strollers etc. A good example is the area around the Corral Centre. Why do we make pedestrians face off against traffic to get where they are going? I shudder to think how a parent with a stroller or a senior with mobility issues could get of the bus on 18th street North and go to the Corral Centre in any degree of comfort and safety. I understand why the businesses there don’t care – they don’t even want you there if you don’t have a car to cart home purchases – but it is the duty of civic leaders to care.
Many bus shelters are icy in the winter and swampy in the summer.
And speaking of sidewalks. Why did they fall out of fashion ? (Hint… Car Culture). Look at the old photos of Brandon or any small village for that matter. Our forefathers wouldn’t have dreamed of building a residential area without sidewalks. Of course people walked then. Guess what? We should walk more now.
Not having pedestrian access sort of defeats the purpose of having a "Convenience Store". The store has closed.
Walking in the Winter
We can bitch about winter, we can leave for warmer climates, or we can live with winter. Brandon does a great job of clearing the streets for cars and a terrible job of clearing places for pedestrians (and for those who wish to use the bus but have to climb snow banks to get to the bus stop.) Yes the main sidewalks and walkways are eventually plowed, but sure enough you’ll come to a corner that hasn’t and an insurmountable pile to cross to get to the next clear spot. We can and should be promoting walking and transit – we can do much better.
Speaking of snow – instead of wondering why revitalizing our downtown isn’t working so well – we should instead ask why anyone would go down there in the winter. Many businesses refuse to properly clear sidewalks in front of their property. Some don’t even bother to create an ice-free access. While I take it as a challenge to park on 7th street, and climb the snowbank to get to the parking metre, before navigating a slippery street to the Library – I’m thinking some people might have a bit of trouble with the trip.
Encouraging Healthy Transportation
We say we want to be pedestrian and bike friendly, but we seem to actively discourage both modes of transportation. It is hilarious to suppose that cars and bikes can co-exist with vehicles. The problem is that the cars can kill us! Yes we do have a nice network of trails – mainly skirting the outskirts of the city. But if you bike and walk to work. If you bike and walk as method of transportation, not merely as recreation. If you actually have to go somewhere, chances are you’ll have to share the route with a car at some point. And that isn’t so much fun for many people – because THE CARS CAN KILL US. No they don’t often kill people, but as a determined cyclist and walker, who doesn’t even mind scrambling over a snow bank or running across a street to avoid traffic, I still have to be constantly on guard when I’m sharing the road. I don’t mind the challenge – but most sensible people avoid the danger. We need to approach cycling and walking as transportation not recreation, and we need to begin encouraging people to leave their cars at home.
I have walked, run and cycled across and around this city for years and I promise you I can show you dozens of pedestrian – unfriendly hot spots. Some are almost amusing in that they could be easily and inexpensively fixed if anyone cared.
Another Thought about Sidewalks…
In case my theme is undetectable let me just observe that we have spent millions on a new YMCA and a Wellness Centre while ignoring the idea that improving the simple outdoor experience – encouraging people to walk or use a bike – is a very inexpensive way (relatively speaking) to foster healthy activities.
Why not expect businesses in our city to meet a standard for things like litter and general maintenance? I know there must be some standards, but it is easy to find litter-strewn lots – even some of our larger retail outlets are pretty lax about cleanup. I can name names – but that’s not the point. What level of responsibility are we demanding of those businesses – large and small – for operating in our city? If they are not willing to help us be the kind of city people would want to visit and inhabit, why would we want them here? I know there are businesses that take pride in maintaining their properties. Those are the ones we want to be here.
Speaking of the Library – the entrance to the Town Centre by the Library is a disgrace. It is dirty, often strewn with cigarette butts, and unsightly even if cleaned. Really? Is this what we want? It’s a great Library and many other important services are located in the building, which is also a pleasant environment. I know it’s not the “Main” entrance but it is well used.
When are we going to put some responsibility on the citizen for reducing waste? Right now we are bending over backwards to satisfy our endless cycle of consumption and waste. I try to reduce waste, recycle when I fail to avoid waste, and generally be a responsible citizen. I’m far from perfect in that regard. But I pay the same fee through my taxes as my neighbours who seemingly could care less. Talk about incentive!
Another small point. I’m not sure that everyone understands that the Recycle Everywhere Program is a promotion designed by soft drink companies to keep using their unhealthy, harmful products – disguised as a public service. I think its sad when local governments get behind and support such venture. It is about profits, and their profits come from selling garbage. (Both the contents and the package).