Editorial Rant: What do you mean, it's not walkable?

Sara Golling
By Sara Golling
October 10th, 2018

At Tuesday evening’s Public Hearing on the re-zoning of the land at 2812 Cedar Crescent in the Pinewood neighbourhood, some of those presenting their concerns kept repeating that the distance to downtown from that location “is unwalkable.”

(To  me, the walkability or not was irrelevant to the re-zoning, because it would be equally walkable or unwalkable for a row of R-1 single-family dwellings as for the proposed cluster development.)

“It’s not walkable” seemed almost a refrain, and I scratched my head.  The night before, my husband and I had walked from our house, which is two blocks west of the Miners Hall, to a residence on Maple Crescent to take advantage of a dinner invitation.  After over-eating because it was so delicious and I have limited self-restraint when it comes to delicious food, we carried our over-full tummies back up the hill on Park Street, turned left before the top of the hill to go back the way we had come, along the lovely path that pops out where LeRoi Avenue meets the Schofield Highway —  my favourite route between Pinewood and town — and back home through downtown.  It was a lovely walk, even in the rainy  night, with a headlamp for the path.  We didn’t time ourselves.

Having heard the “not walkable” thing at the Public Hearing, I decided to take a walk over to the site of the re-zoned property, and time myself, the following morning. 

Readers can take into account my age — I was born in 1945 — and that I have a slightly gimpy knee.

At 8:06 a.m. I passed the Prestige Mountain Resort on my way to Pinewood.  I walked along that lovely path through the woods again, stopping once to take a picture, and by 8:19  I was strolling into the bush at the site of the proposed cluster development.  Thirteen  minutes

Is our society so crippled by our reliance on motor vehicles that a thirteen-minute walk is unthinkable? Are we so importantly busy that we cannot work a bit of walking into our daily schedules?  Do we have to drive an enormous SUV to the gym and spend time on a treadmill instead?  What about the “active transportation” planning, and taking time to drink in the beauty of our little city while we walk?

But wait, perhaps some people don’t like paths, though I can’t understand why anyone wouldn’t like that one.  It’s level. It’s beautiful.  On my return, I started off from the end of Cedar Crescent at 8:20 and varied my route.  I walked up Park Street all the way to Columbia Avenue instead of taking the path, and up to the top of the hill on Columbia before stopping to take a picture, then heading down again past the courthouse to town. 

Having climbed up and then descended an entirely unnecessary amount of hill, I walked past the Alpine Grind at 8:40.  Gaining and losing that extra elevation, and the bit of extra distance, added about seven minutes to the walk and made it a twenty-minute exercise. 

Maybe even walking back along the path would take an extra  minute or so on the uphill trek to town; make it a fifteen-minute walk to town using the path.

So, fifteen or twenty minutes of walking is considered by many perfectly mobile people to be “unwalkable.”

And it is, of course, for many people with disabilities; they have my sympathy – I’ve been disabled for months at a time in the past, so have had a small taste of it.  Let us hope that those with restricted mobility have alternate means of getting around; many of us may need such alternate means at some point.  In the meantime, let us not gradually become voluntarily disabled by driving places that we could walk to in fifteen or twenty minutes.  

Let us not become blind to the beauty around us by rushing through it, insulated and distracted by metal and glass and speed.

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