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LIFE: Enough with beg buttons (May 2021)

June 15th, 2021 · No Comments

It’s time to give pedestrians their due

By Terri Chu

Steven’s Grocery is easily my favourite corner of our neighbourhood. Helen’s flowers are always a welcome sight as we walk by, but the one thing I HATE about that corner is the beg button. 

If I’m not quick enough, I have to stand there for an entire light cycle while gas guzzlers spew toxins in my kids’ faces.

The era of prioritizing cars is long over and the city, (actually, the entire country), needs to catch up. 

Every time cyclists or pedestrians ask for just a little bit of space, either through bike lanes or expanded sidewalks, the city rushes off to do a traffic study. WHO CARES? 

So what if it takes cars an extra 30 seconds or two minutes for a driver to reach his destination? Prioritizing the least efficient mode of transportation is so 20th century. 

The city needs to keep up with the times and make a drastic shift in their priorities.  

I don’t care if it takes a car an hour to get 10 blocks.  Unless the roads are under construction, they probably can just as easily get there by transit or bike.  It shouldn’t even be on the radar. 

Every single effort of every planner and every engineer needs to be focused on getting people into alternative modes of transportation. Make bikes safer. Accommodate E-bikes. Widen pedestrian spaces so moms with strollers can walk side-by-side and enjoy each other’s company. 

If people still insist on using energy to haul 2000 lbs of machinery to get them and their laptops 10 blocks, they can wait. 

What about people with disabilities you say? Why are cars their only option? Why not golf carts that can safely get them from point A to point B? Why not rickshaws? 

Why are we so obsessed with a singular mode of transportation our imaginations don’t let us imagine a better world with viable alternatives where cars aren’t out to kill us at every corner? 

We need to dedicate a network of streets for the safe navigation of golf carts, bikes, and pedestrians where cars are restricted. Businesses in these corridors would boom. Think about the pedestrian districts in Old Montreal. 

Put people first! Let’s start with getting rid of beg buttons. Lights should automatically turn for pedestrians. Cars should be made to stop and slow down even if nobody wants to cross. 

During COVID times, it is only polite to keep your distance from fellow pedestrians waiting at a corner. Inevitably, kids end up bunched up on the sidewalk, even stepping onto the curb, closer to speeding traffic than any parent wants to see. 

Meanwhile, people pointlessly burning fossil fuels, spewing toxins into our city’s air are treated with importance, a reminder that the city was built primarily around their needs when it was only the rich who could afford vehicles and the poor really did need to beg to even cross the street. 

Classism is built right into our urban infrastructure and it will take decades to rid ourselves of this legacy. 

The last thing we need is to continue this nonsensical servitude to the oil gods of old. 

Provincially, Ford wants to continue this legacy by building another pointless highway that will be clogged within a few years. 

He is doing it in the name of a make-work project to boost economic recovery. He won’t bring back permanent sick days but he’ll build us a highway. 

If any new roads are to be built by anyone, they absolutely need to be restricted to small/light vehicles and bikes. 

The plans for the new super highway should be a bike super highway where parents can safely travel with the kids large distances at moderate speeds and not be worried about getting crushed by a middle-aged man with a midlife crisis driving his new pickup truck with a 15-foot frontal blind spot he doesn’t know about. 

If Premier Ford truly cared about a robust economic recovery his make-work projects would at least have an eye toward the economy of the future. 

Light vehicles need their own space. 

Though mass transit should be invested in heavily, there will likely be reluctance to go back to shared spaces right away. 

If Ford wants to get people moving and the economy running, the focus needs to be on transportation that is efficient and will not further tax our limited energy resources. 

What oil we have left should be reserved for applications that require high energy densities (like airplanes, though flights should be restricted).

We should be building infrastructure for the future. 

Sadly, our leadership are stuck in Happy Days when Greased Lightning was still cool. It’s time to move on. 


Tags: Annex · Life