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Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Citta Slow

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The Tyee

It was not so long ago that I was writing about “The Need for Speed”. And it was clear from the responses that not everyone understands why trams, walking and bicycles are going to be the way of the future.

This is the first of a series of articles the Tyee is going to be running, and I am going to assume that if I have alerted you to them, I do not necessarily need to link to each single one.

But this one definitely strikes a chord. It also fits very nicely in to the idea that we should close down some streets – if only so that we can get to meet some of our nieghbours. Car free commercial streets do better financially. Neighborhood streets that keep out through traffic – either as a protest or just as a way of recliming some space where kids can play safely – gain tremendously in community spirit. Just getting out there and meeting people face to face. Chance encounters – and time to stop and chat. Maybe some real friendships can develop – not just facebook  and twitter.

One neighborhood I lived in once – in Scarberia – took off one christmas when the snowplough couldn’t get through. I was shovelling the driveway more for the exercise than any intention of driving anywhere – and after a while others came out and we all started pushing through the stuff in the street and throwing it onto the traffic island in the middle. And someone brought out hot cider – and the kids started throwing snowballs and building snowmen.  It might even happen in your street today. There seem to be a lot of people who have declared it a “snow day”. Another christmas in Saanich shut the entire town down due to heavy snow fall. It was wonderfully peaceful – and the only snowplough was in Oak Bay and tucked up nice and warm in their works yard. They were not going to lend their nice plough to anyone else! And since we all had warm houses and lots of food it really didn’t matter.

the designation is “not a marketing tool,” but a new way to think about civic planning that recognizes “the quality of life for people who live in your town and for the people who visit.”

That fact alone is enought to get me enthusiastic. I have had enough of brands and “concepts”. This seems to me to be more about a philosophy. And one that rejects the life that has been foisted on us. That needs colour supplements at weekends and its own cable channels to explain to us how we “should” live. Quality of life is not about the brands, or the handpainted christmas decorations you buy in July. That has a whole section called “Living” but which really means “advertising” or “conspicuous consumption”.

We cannot do that any longer. It is no surprise that places like Cowichan Bay and Gibsons are the first on board. Steveston might be – but I would be very suprised if it was. This is, after all, the place that rejected the idea of a heritage streetcar. They said it would be “too noisy” but I think what they really worried about is what it might have done to their parking spots.

Written by Stephen Rees

December 22, 2008 at 11:05 am

Posted in Urban Planning

4 Responses

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  1. “…not everyone understands why trams, walking, bicycles are the way to the future.”

    Not even close to what we were saying. As I recall we agreed with you that we wanted Trams and LRT. We just didn’t think skytrain should be excluded from those transit plans. Not trying to reenergize that debate, I’m just saying…

    On the slow cities, there are plenty of them in B.C. Ever been to the Gulf Islands? On Denman Island, there are farmers markets, local bakeries, local artists. My old neighbour had and presumably still does have chickens, so we would wander over and pick up eggs when we needed them. The international designation may be nice to have, but really means nothing. The town is not slow because you say it is, the town is slow because the residents there have committed to a lifestyle and sense of community that creates that place. Its a laudable goal and hopefully it continues to do better in more urban areas, but I strongly believe that places are a reflection of us as much as they are the reverse.


    December 22, 2008 at 11:54 am

  2. It’s too bad there is no balance in any of the federal or provincial ministries that are planning our infrastructure and social/agricultural systems. They seem committed to the ideology of everything becoming faster/cheaper/quicker/”better”.

    I guess they don’t realize that not everyone wants to live like that, and the unfortunate part is that when the bureaucrats do come into contact (rarely) with anyone that does favour the slow life, they deride them as local kooks.


    December 22, 2008 at 12:03 pm

  3. Well, with the snow – everyone is experiencing a slowdown. The way of the future?

    Ron C.

    December 22, 2008 at 1:53 pm

  4. After a week of suffering through the #9 along Broadway both with and without snow, I’ve had my fill of slow transit. Last Thursday I abandoned it at Oak and walked the rest of the way to Cambie. It was quicker by foot.

    Personally, I’m ready to grab a shovel and start digging the subway now.

    Richard C.

    December 22, 2008 at 3:25 pm

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