A Canadian's perspective on domestic and international issues. Independent coverage of Canadian federal, provincial and municipal elections and anything of interest in Canada.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Building Sound Infrastructure

As we move forward into times of environmental concern and economic difficulty municipal governments need to reassess how they've always done things, and start adopting methods that encourage more environmentally friendly, and less expensive modes of transport.
In the past, the priority has always been to get the cars and trucks moving. But with more and more people being asked to leave their cars at home, and more and more out of economic necessity, being forced to leave their cars at home, municipal governments need to begin accommodating the move away from the private automobile, and towards public transit, bicycles and feet!
Its not just the municipalities that need to pay attention, but the provincial and federal governments as well.
We're hearing a lot about how the feds and provinces are going to put money out for infrastructure, partly to encourage job creation, and partly to provide the people with safer more efficient transport.
But I have to wonder if governments are really paying attention. What good will rebuilt roads and bridges be if the people can't afford to drive? Further, what good will fixing up the roads be if they still don't accommodate cyclists and walkers?
The old adage "build it and they will come" springs to mind. If we build and maintain safe cycling routes, more people will use them. If we build walking paths that are easy to negotiate, and actually go where people need to go, more people will use them. In North America we're entirely focussed on making it easy for cars to go from A to B. The result is, everyone (almost) has a car. In turn, the fact everyone has a car is contributing big time to global warming and environmental destruction. Perhaps if we begin to build infrastructure that makes it easier for people to get around without using their automobiles, they will make use of it!
In Europe for example, most people own bicycles. More people use trains and bicycles than cars. The result is cleaner more people friendly cities and towns. The other result is healthier people. Europe has nowhere near the problems with medical issues, such as obesity, as a direct result of the fact that more people walk, cycle and use alternative transport. Perhaps its time we here in North America pay attention.
We keep hearing how we need to move away from our dependency on oil. Well, one way to achieve that is to move away from out dependency on the personal automobile. More people walking, cycling or using to public transit to go to and from work equals less people burning oil or other resources, such a bio fuels, which are not as environmentally friendly as they may seem.
If we are ever going to successfully combat environmental collapse, and save ourselves from economic ruin, then we need to make it easier for people to use alternative and less expensive forms of transport. One place to start, as I've said before, is to adopt new methods of dealing with things, like heavy snowfall, to make it easier for walkers and cyclists. The second place to start is to demand that our governments include infrastructure such as cycle lanes, walking paths and public transit in their planning and finance.

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