Two months ago I proposed that the City of Charlottetown take steps to make the downtown, south of Grafton Street, an “active transportation first” zone:
As spring arrives and we all spend more time outside, those of us who live in downtown Charlottetown are awakening to a very changed urban landscape, where there are more pedestrians, wheelchairs and bicycles than there are vehicles.
We’re discovering that, suddenly, we have the wrong kind of streetscape for the times: vast swathes of pavement devoted to the absent automobiles, while we all crowd together on the sidewalks and sides of the streets.
I wasn’t proposing that streets be closed, that cars be banned, simply a lowering of the speed limit, and a change in emphasis so that cars would become second-class citizens to those walking, wheeling and cycling.
While my downtown city councillor was enthusiastic about the idea, no political will emerged to support it, and, instead, the city decided to make parking downtown free, which is the opposite of supporting active transportation, for it will serve only to encourage more vehicles in the city’s core:
The city’s finance committee decided that parking would be free in June following discussions with stakeholders such as Downtown Charlottetown Inc., the Greater Charlottetown Area Chamber of Commerce and Discover Charlottetown, as well as with the Charlottetown Area Development Corporation, which manages the parkades.
“It’s all part of our assistance to help the downtown get back on its feet,’’ the mayor said.
Careful readers will note that the city consulted not with anyone who actually lives downtown, and might benefit from a furtherance of the more citizen-friendly low-traffic situation we’ve seen during the pandemic; instead the consultations were held only with business owners, not known, as a group, for their embrace of anything but having customers being able to park directly at their door (despite the benefits to business, well-demonstrated in other cities, of encouraging more wheelchair, pedestrian and cycle traffic in downtown cores).
City Council has, alas, failed in doing anything but trying to hurry along the return to some simulacrum of the way things used to be, rather than supporting citizens, most of whom are not downtown business owners, in attaining a more convivial and safe place to live.