An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.
I MAY AS WELL get my two cents in on pedestrian malls.
I don’t want to be a wet blanket on taking vehicles off parts of Fourth Avenue and turning the street over to pedestrians for a couple of weeks but it’s not without its challenges.
First of all, most pedestrian malls just don’t work. On paper, they seem like a wonderful thing. In practice, they have a habit of becoming different versions of strip malls, and places for unsavory characters to hang out at night. One study showed 85 per cent have failed.
They’ve been around in North America since the Second World War. As indoor shopping malls drained the life away from downtown cores in the ‘60s, conversion of streets into pedestrian malls were seen as the salvation of city centres, a reclamation from the automobile.
Many have struggled to find the right balance — Sparks Street, Granville Street, Times Square — and have developed their own personalities. Those are the success stories.
The ones that make it have certain things in common — lots of restaurants, boutiques, often theatres and entertainment and high tourist traffic to support them.
And they must find ways around the inevitable traffic snarl-ups that result from subtracting streets that were meant for cars and trucks. Some pedestrian malls are really only part-time, claimed by pedestrians for certain hours of the day, by vehicles at others.
There’s no question downtown Kamloops needs to make itself more attractive to pedestrians and cyclists. But, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, that needs to be addressed in part by doing something about the pedestrian-unfriendly one-way street system.
Fourth Avenue lacks the features that work for pedestrian malls elsewhere, and it empties into two streets — Seymour and Lansdowne — designed with the automobile in mind.
That said, it would be wonderful if this small pilot project becomes a huge success and leads to a vibrant people-oriented atmosphere downtown.
So while I’m skeptical, I hope for the best.
Mel Rothenburger’s Armchair Mayor editorials appear Mondays through Thursdays on CFJC- TV. His Armchair Mayor column is published Saturdays on ArmchairMayor.ca and CFJC Today. Contact him at email@example.com.