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EDITORIAL – 4th Avenue experiment has some tough questions to answer

4th Avenue as preparations for pedestrian mall were being made. (Image: Mel Rothenburger)

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 mrothenburger@armchairmayor.ca.

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About Mel Rothenburger (6175 Articles)
ArmchairMayor.ca is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At ArmchairMayor.ca he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

4 Comments on EDITORIAL – 4th Avenue experiment has some tough questions to answer

  1. I know there are lots who avoid downtown when the city does things like this so business is lost. For those who are disabled and live further away and drive downtown where they can park right out in front of a restaurant or the theater are now left out.

  2. I’m going down to check out the Buskers.
    Agrée, pedestrian malls get scary at night…we walked into a movie theatre on Granville Street in Vancouver…two hours later we stepped out of the exit door and shuttered to a stop…dark figures sitting on the sidewalks, playing music, smoking cigarettes, and not looking at us. Scary. We rushed out of the area.

  3. But the other question that needs to be answered, a big question in my way of thinking is this:
    Why do they spend public money in trying to be something we are not, like the 4th Avenue experiment but they do not spend nearly enough on one of Kamloops greatest jewel which is without a doubt Kenna Cartwright park which is overrun by knapweed. It is overrun by knapweed because inept management…there are no two ways about that!

  4. As you mentioned there is nothing down there, in that particular location, besides a bit of a novelty factor to become a draw.
    I would’ve much prefer the stretch of Victoria Street on the second or third block where there is some established shopping/food/coffee, but even then probably not for the long haul.
    My gut feeling tells me…not much good will come out of this experience.
    To make downtown Kamloops more inviting they need to seriously control the rowdies, keep it clean on a regular bases, do a better job with the street trees and yes an occasional community gathering event to keep it “fresh” and interesting…and then there are those one way thoroughfares…

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