Chasing Pavements…

This morning I realized something. I spent an entire day walking downtown Victoria yesterday. And two things subsequently occurred to me: I need to start working out again, and I could never do something like that in Edmonton. Actually that’s not true, there are two neighbourhoods I could do that in: Whyte Avenue and 124th Street. But Jasper Avenue, the core of our city, is completely unwalkable.

When envisioning Edmonton of the future, did that generation of city planners completely lose their minds? How is it even possible that we have parking lots on Jasper Avenue? Factor in the pathetic transit service and the appalling urban sprawl, our city is so focused around cars that we’ve lost track of the things that make a community wonderful: the people!

I’m not asking people to get rid of their cars. If the high gas prices proved anything it was that Edmontonians would put up with a lot of inconveniences to continue driving. I think the same goes for parking. Make it harder for people to park downtown at the same time as adding street-level stores to draw them downtown, and people will find a way to cope, much like any other major city.

My dad lives in the Highlands/Bellevue neighbourhood. A couple years ago, he tried to get city council to reduce the lanes of 112 Avenue down to two. People from the north side use 50th street as a shortcut to get downtown. He brought in a consultant who made a many suggestions (including planting trees and flowers down the middle – the plans were beautiful!). But due to bitching by people who were more concerned with shaving five minutes off their commute and who don’t even live in the neighbourhoods they affect, the plans got nowhere.

And then I look at Oliver Square, a new-ish development. I used to live in the area and it was great. I could get pretty much whatever I needed in a 15 minute walk. But even there, what is out front but blocks and blocks of giant dirty parking lots. Is there something so inherently wrong with putting stores on the street front and making people park their cars BEHIND them? Gosh, it would be so much harder, you know, to WALK around to the front of the building.

I know most people (or at least the ones who are vocally expressing their opinions on Twitter) are against Katz’s downtown arena, but at least he’s trying to do something for downtown (I realize he’s not that altruistic and is doing this for more than the betterment of our city). I think the major revitalization for Edmonton will have to come from outside the city government, because they are either disappointingly shortsighted or figuratively handcuffed by their myopic constituents.

And to be completely honest, I can’t see myself living in a city that revolves so obsessively around its vehicles.

(My blog titles are song titles. Today’s is “Chasing Pavements” by Adele. It has nothing to do with urban sprawl or urban revitalization.)

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