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 firstname.lastname@example.org.