Expensive Band-Aid

Resident challenges the City of Vernon on plans for 25th Street

That seems to be the thinking behind city council’s latest action to address the traffic situation along 25th Street.

It’s been over three years since residents and citizens interested in creating a north-south active transportation corridor through Vernon, began calling for traffic calming measures in lower East Hill.

With 27th Street, Highway 97 and Pleasant Valley Road all serving as north-south arterials for motor vehicles, 25th Street presents itself as the ideal quiet, protected green-way for people on foot and on bicycles.

As a tranquil neighbourhood street with access to four schools, it’s a terrific route for walkers and riders alike to escape the noise and the potential danger of fast moving vehicles, a much needed alternative in this era of sedentary lifestyles.

It was with excitement and enthusiasm that we saw the city finally propose action on this file, but alas, rather than actually doing something about it, they decided to take their proposal to referendum, and then proceeded to set things up for failure by including votes from residents as much as three blocks removed from 25th Street, then setting the approval bar at an impossibly high (and oddly arbitrary) 66 per cent.

Almost miraculously, the response was still a resounding 63 per cent in favour, a  clear majority, and a far clearer majority of something closer to 80 per cent when those not directly on 25th Street were removed from the results.

This failure to meet the 66 per cent bar was used as an excuse to mothball the issue and to pass it off to a future council.

Now here’s where it gets interesting, and where those of us concerned with improving our city, while still keeping a keen eye on the bottom line, are left shaking our heads in disbelief.

Almost every one of our councillors was elected on some variation of the fiscal responsibility platform, and yet  rather than investing $178,000 in the originally proposed traffic calming measures to solve the problem (these figures came from the city’s own planning department), they’ve opted for a whopping $854,000 sidewalk installation instead.

While the sidewalks may help to keep walkers away from the cars, they do nothing to slow vehicle traffic or to create a welcoming environment for people to walk or ride bicycles.

We have both sidewalks and bicycle lanes along 27th Street, and they’re both virtually unused. Why? Because the heavy vehicle traffic renders it completely uninviting.

Lately, the residents on the block of 25th Street, between 30th and 32nd avenues, presented a petition to city council to consider a limited trial right-in, right-out for the intersection of 25th Street and 32nd Avenue.

Utilizing movable concrete barriers the measure could be implemented tomorrow for almost no cost.

Doesn’t it make sense to at least try the virtually free solution before going ahead with an $854,000 project that well-established city planning research already shows us will be largely ineffective?

While the council shot the proposal down, against the wishes of residents and virtually without explanation, I urge them to reconsider.

In the name of solid city planning principles, fiscal responsibility, public health,  residential property values, and general livability, I urge city council to give the cheap solution a try before dismissing it out of hand.

It’s the sensible thing to do.

Tom Carlson

Vernon