Having grown up in Vernon, and having lived here for more than 32 years, a lot has changed in Vernon. Sunday shopping, ATMs, increased traffic volume and an end to the days when you could make a left-turn wherever you desired. Vernon also has some unique traffic difficulties as both Highway 97 and Highway 6 run through the centre of town.
Kelowna has taken this approach with growing traffic volume: widen the road. Four lanes, then six lanes, etc. But I am not writing to bash Kelowna.
Vernon is growing up.
The city has been busy the last few years adding sidewalks to busy streets that have been devoid of sidewalks for more than 30 years. Multi-use pathways, such as the one along Okanagan Landing Road, allow residents to enjoy a stroll or a bicycle ride on their way to the beach, to shopping, or heading downtown.
The addition of bicycle lanes all over the city afford some sense of place for nervous cyclists who dared – in the past – to cycle in town, but can now cycle in their own dedicated lane.
I live in the Pleasant Valley area. Much of the residential neighborhood was built-up around Harwood Elementary School, which was constructed in 1950. My own home was built in 1959.
Harwood Elementary is currently teaching 395 students who use various forms of transportation to arrive at school safely each and every day. Some children are driven to school by their parents who feel it is not safe for their children to walk or bicycle to school, while others take the bus. Harwood has a large number of children that walk to school; nearly 50 per cent, one of the highest rates in the city.
Traffic safety is a primary concern for those approximately 200 children who walk to school each day, perhaps with their parents and pre-school aged siblings in tow.
Crosswalks across 43rd Avenue were noted as safety concerns, particularly at the 20th Street intersection where many accidents have occurred in recent years. Excessive speed was the primary concern on 20th Street as drivers used it as a high-speed shortcut to Walmart, oblivious to the 30-kilometre-an-hour school zone. Narrowing the road is a common practice to discourage excessive speed and landscaping allows motorists to enjoy the drive.
The day when the first phase of the 20th Street upgrade was complete was a beautiful site. I had never seen so many people there. Some were out for a stroll, some were parents teaching their children to ride and bike and a few were skateboarding home.
Looking west of Harwood Elementary, where I live on 25th Street, I look forward to a time when our street is as safe, and as beautiful as 20th Street.
Bryan Wilson, Vernon