TThe enhancement of the 25th Street pedestrian/cycling corridor is long overdue and most of my fellow residents welcome the proposed changes. I say enhancement because anyone who knows our neighbourhood will have seen the numerous children, seniors, parents with strollers and workers utilizing this street as an already existing pedestrian/cycling corridor. It’s also well known in our neighbourhood that each year more and more drivers use it as an alternative to 27th Street. Any morning you can see cars and trucks ripping past children walking to school down 25th. Many vehicles just slow down at stop signs before ripping down the next two or three blocks. Some mornings, it’s like a race-track. More clearly needs to be done than just adding sidewalks.
What troubles me most, as a resident of lower East Hill, is that councillors like Juliette Cunningham do not fully appreciate the unique nature of the 25th Street pedestrian/cycling corridor. It is arguably one of the most busy pedestrian/cycling corridors in our city. Students from five different schools use the corridor every day and we endanger their lives by allowing it to be used as alternative to 27th Street. Even folks like me who live on the avenues near 25th Street can tell you that traffic regularly cuts through our avenues as they reconnect with Pleasant Valley Road or 27th Street. This kind of traffic is increasing and is not just a threat to children, but also to seniors out enjoying a walk.
I am also concerned with the response from Coun. Brian Quiring since it highlights a perennial problem with Vernon’s political culture. Whenever good and right changes are proposed, a vocal minority is allowed to block change by making a big stink.
Rather than taking the real pulse of the community, councillors wimp-out by suggesting that we put things on the back burner or just oppose the changes outright by saying, “Too many people are upset.” It’s time for councillors to stand up and show real leadership, especially when it comes to the safety of children, cyclists and seniors.
I expect councillors to champion issues of safety for Vernon’s children and seniors. I welcome every councillor to visit 25th Street any school morning and watch numerous children competing with vehicles racing through the neighbourhood. It’s truly bizarre that this problem was not dealt a decade ago.
While there are some in my neighbourhood who oppose this initiative, their main concern is the minor inconvenience of not being able to drive straight through on 25th Street. Some have suggested we just need speed bumps, but these impede snow removal, do not slow big trucks and are dangerous for cyclists. The only solution is to impede through traffic. It is a cheap and effective solution. The leadership of Vernon will need to choose between the safety of children, cyclists and seniors versus a selfish vocal minority.
As this is an election year, if this proposal is not given 100 per cent support by council, I and many of those who live near 25th Street will be vocally calling for the removal of leaders who lack the wisdom, compassion, and grit to enhance the safety of the 25th Street pedestrian/cycling corridor. Harwood and lower East Hill may not be the wealthiest neighbourhoods in Vernon, but we are rich in history, character, and community.
We know that Harwood and lower East Hill are worth protecting and its time for us to stand up and demand these changes go through.
James A. Love