Sidewalk Blues - Originally Published in October Issue of The Beacon
Sidewalks are often something most of us may not necessarily think about every day, or at all. We generally assume that our municipal government will ensure that there are complete and adequate sidewalks in all parts of the city. However, in our community of Eastern Passage – Cow Bay that is not the case. A complete connected system of sidewalks coupled with crosswalks, parks, sufficient transit services form part of the basic infrastructure that a city should be providing to all residents across the region. The lack of a complete sidewalk system in our community is a serious issue that limits our activities, may deter business investment and creates grave safety concerns.
In our municipal planning strategy for Eastern Passage – Cow Bay it states the following regarding sidewalks:
Long standing resident concerns about pedestrian safety led to the construction of a new sidewalk along portions of Shore Road and other major streets in the Plan Area.
Sidewalks have generally been cost shared and constructed by the Department of Transportation and Communications, the Municipality and area residents when a request for such service has been received. However, there are some locations, particularly near schools, where potential dangers exist for pedestrians due to the lack of sidewalks.
TR-17 It shall be the intention of Council in cooperation with the Department of Transportation and Communications and area residents to undertake a review of existing sidewalks, crosswalks
and street lighting and to produce a priority list of future improvements including overhead
walkways.” – Eastern Passage/Cow Bay Municipal Planning Strategy (MPS)
Sidewalks are important because generally they provide safe and efficient connectivity in and between communities. They provide recreational opportunities for residents and help to bring customers to local businesses. In our community there are many streets that have incomplete sidewalks or none at all. Consider for example on Shore Road, where there’s a sidewalk on one side only that does not service the whole road. Abruptly, with no warning it stops at the intersection of Shore Road and Shoreview Drive. Another Principal route in our area, Caldwell Road too lacks a complete sidewalk system on both sides and after Hornes Rd there is no sidewalk service at all. Cow Bay Rd also lacks a complete sidewalk, and around the 600 block of Cow Bay Rd again we are left without sidewalks. It is unacceptable that because we live outside the regional centre, that we are not benefiting from the same basic infrastructure that residents experience in the regional centre and many other parts of the city.
So, why are sidewalks as important as basic infrastructure that the city should be providing at a standardized level across our city? The first and arguably the most important is safety. Eastern Passage and Cow Bay are growing communities. As referenced from the 2011 Department of Justice Community Counts is that our population sat at 11, 740 which represents a growth of 13.5% compared to 2001. Of those 11,740, 26.4% of our local population is under 20. Safety is a concern from any age group, but it would be prudent to ensure we are meeting a minimal standard of safety for our youth and seniors. Part of that larger safety plan is investing in a complete sidewalk network in Eastern Passage – Cow Bay. On Shore Road, there are several Halifax Transit stops that are not on a sidewalk, and also school bus stops where again we do not have a sidewalk. Government and communities need to do more to be proactive to prevent tragedies before they occur and not react when it is too late.
The second reason is twofold: community cohesion and health. Neighbourhoods with complete sidewalk systems benefit the community. With a full complement of sidewalks, it will encourage people to explore their neighbourhood. While they are out for walking there are the benefits of getting to know your local area. Also, you will get to meet and have conversations with other residents which help to create connections and a sense of belonging for all. Lastly, as you are out exploring your community and meeting friends you also are physically active. This is important because sidewalks provide a free way for everyone to exercise. For most people, walking is a safe exercise that helps with overall health. However, for people that are younger or older or have some mobility challenges, living in an area with an incomplete sidewalk system can actually deter them from being active. In a time, where we have a strong awareness of the benefit of social connections and being active, basic infrastructure that can support this is a need not a want.
Lastly, having basic infrastructure like sidewalks, public transit, parks, schools etc is a way that a community is inviting to residents, businesses and visitors. Like roads, sidewalks play a big part in bringing customers to local business. When there are incomplete sidewalk systems, it impacts business with reduced foot traffic which might impact profits. Fewer profits means less jobs and fewer taxes collected which impacts us all. There are businesses within Eastern Passage-Cow Bay that are not serviced by sidewalks and that is unacceptable.
Having a full sidewalk system in our community is a priority and must be a priority for city hall. When visiting Halifax.ca, it references how you should call 311 to request consideration for addition of a new sidewalk. As for a master list of new sidewalks that will be added in our community, I see none. There have been sidewalk renewals during this year but no new sidewalks to help complete the system. Basic infrastructure is imperative as our community continues to grow; ensuring proper basic infrastructure will ensure that our community will be able to meet the needs of a growing area. Sidewalks are on the minds of many in our area, and Chris Bowers is one of those people. He has written about the sidewalk issue as well, you can visit his blog at http://epwinesnob.blogspot.ca. As a community, we should remind the city of their own planning strategies and ensure sidewalks are where they need to be. If you are interested in learning more, please get in touch with Chris or myself.