The City of Nelson has been demolishing sidewalks and not replacing them. For a town that prides itself on climate change awareness, this seems contradictory. Walking and biking are the not only the least carbon intensive means of travel, but the healthiest. Because of the hills, not everyone can bike, but most of us can walk. It’s a great way to experience our lovely town.
On Hoover Street, only one block from Trafalgar School, the city is not planning to replace the sidewalk they have removed on the north side of the street. On the same street, just two blocks from the school, they took out the sidewalk on the other side of the street. This means that students have to cross the street again to get to the remaining sidewalk, or just give up and walk on the street. This suggests safety issues as well as poor planning.
On Observatory Street, three blocks from the school, the sidewalks on the uphill side of the street have been removed. This is a main walking route to school from Rosemont. At first, I thought that it was a green-minded attempt to replace concrete with grass. However, local residents have put fences over the former sidewalk — thus encroaching on public property. The city has not done anything about this. Greening the sidewalks was obviously not part of the motivation.
If we want our citizens, and especially our children, to be healthy, we need to protect our historic walking privileges. Sidewalks encourage neighborly awareness and friendly encounters. Taking care of my parents in the U.S., I have spent time in subdivisions where there are no sidewalks. Unless one is walking a dog, there is a feeling of being under suspicion just for being there. People encapsulate themselves in their cars, and car culture shapes the layout of the city. Strip malls and franchises take the place of independent businesses. It feels emotionally alienated.
I think that even if concrete sidewalks are an expense, there are good reasons keep them, or at least find a creative substitute. Where the sidewalk on Hoover Street had been previously ripped out, one generous landowner put down landscape fabric and bark mulch. This is soft and pleasant to walk on. That particular block has many fine heritage houses and is on a heritage walking tour. But there’s no sidewalk on most of it.
I realize that much of what I have said relates to intangible values, but I think that those values are what makes our community unique. Visitors express great appreciation for our town, and those intangibles are worth a lot.