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EDITORIAL – Scrap the new trail and build more sidewalks instead

A North Shore street without sidewalks. (Image: Mel Rothenburger)

An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.

SIDEWALKS ARE NOTHING MORE than long strips of concrete but they play a tremendously important role in the health of a city.

I thought about that when City Hall released its annual Citizen Satisfaction survey, which showed that sidewalks are high on the wish list for taxpayers.

The survey was released just as City council was giving its support to a new $2 million multi-use path to connect Summit Drive with the Xget’tem’ Trail. It’s a fine project, and I buy into the characterization of it as a healthy transportation link.

But, in my view, it pales in comparison with sidewalks in that respect.

Many neighbourhoods— mostly on the North Shore — make do with dirt shoulders between the asphalt and their yards.

We tend to think of sidewalks as a safety measure to separate pedestrians from vehicles and they certainly accomplish that. However, they’re much more.

Sidewalks define streets and neighbourhoods, reduce weed growth and add immeasurably to the attractiveness of streetscapes. They confirm that streets aren’t just for cars, they’re for people, too. They give testimony to the mantra of walkability.

Without them, streets are incomplete.

Sidewalks aren’t necessarily cheap. In places that don’t yet have storm drainage, it’s more expensive. But $2 million would go a long way.

Here’s a humble suggestion. Put sidewalks ahead of hiking and cycling trails until they get caught up. Pick a neighbourhood of, say, four square blocks and install sidewalks — including benches and trees — with a 100 per cent subsidy.

I guarantee, they would transform that neighbourhood. Residents would take more pride in their streets, kids would be safer going to and from school, pedestrian-auto collisions would almost certainly go down.

Relegate the new multi-use path to a nice-to-have, and take care of sidewalks.

I’m Mel Rothenburger, the Armchair Mayor.

Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and newspaper editor. He writes five commentaries a week for CFJC Today, publishes the ArmchairMayor.ca opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at mrothenburger@armchairmayor.ca.

About Mel Rothenburger (7328 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.

7 Comments on EDITORIAL – Scrap the new trail and build more sidewalks instead

  1. Thank you for making me think. I grew up in Brock. No sidewalks in sight. I’m all grown up and live in another community without sidewalks. While you make a few good points. Sidewalks do improve the look of the neighborhood. There’s no question about that. It might even influence property value.
    What a trail brings to a community can be far richer. Trails further join a community and make it livable in a calm, beautiful and relaxing way. A trail allows pedestrians, joggers, cyclists, parents with strollers, wheelchairs etc. commute often without the interfearances of motor vehicle traffic and noise.
    Your article helped me let go of my wish for a sidewalk in my community. I would not give up greenways or trails that have been built near me. It’s perfect for my needs. Thank you for helping me appreciate my city council and their vision on connecting my community. They’ve made being active near nature accessible, safe and enjoyable.

  2. L Dawne Taylor // February 13, 2020 at 11:57 AM // Reply

    Thanks Mel. I concur completely.

  3. Just for curiosity, how many sidewalks did you build when you were a mayor?
    Why don’t they complete the sidewalks rather than spend a trainload on money in a PAC? Because maybe, in net benefits, them sidewalks may come out ahead.
    Why don’t they become even more careful about spending other people’s money hence freeing up more funds for more sidewalks?
    Did you happen to notice the considerable wealth, in equipment and fancy pick-ups for example, all them contractors working mostly for the city display? It is quite lucrative working in behalf of the City. Anyone paying attention?Because that’s no coincidence. And why giving wealthy developers millions of dollars in subsidies in the form of 10 years of zero property tax? Hence having less money for sidewalks. The extension to the Peterson Creek multi-use trail is a must, hence it should be built concurrently with sidewalks where there are none. There is no more time for excuses.

    • Mel Rothenburger // February 13, 2020 at 12:25 PM // Reply

      I didn’t count them, but I did initiate an increase in the City subsidy for residential sidewalks. Unfortunately, it didn’t get a lot of uptake. What I’m suggesting in the editorial is a pilot project with a 100 per cent subsidy.

      • To be clear, what do you mean exactly by 100% subsidy?

      • Mel Rothenburger // February 13, 2020 at 3:05 PM //

        Residents don’t have to pay a share of costs for a sidewalk on their street.

      • Well we all pay into the pot, don’t we? It is not the walkers/cyclist pay separately for the multi-use paths or the darn drivers pay separately for the roads. I need further explaining on how 100% subsidy is going to speed-up sidewalk building or how it is going to make it any cheaper.

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