Back in 2007, I was fortunate enough to spend the bulk of my summer working in la Ville de Québec. It was not my first extended stay in Québec City, but it was by far the most memorable thanks to adventures involving St-Jean-Baptiste, le festival d’été, and half a dozen new friends. Although I was sad to leave, I knew that it would merely be a matter of time until I returned for my fill of poutine, live music at les Voûtes Napoléon, and unknown escapades through the cities’ uneven streets. Although one could easily point out numerous differences between Québec City and Kingston, I can’t help but notice subtle similarities. Both cities were established centuries ago, in part, due to their strategic proximity to the St. Lawrence. Furthermore, early development came in the form of military fortifications, while both the Limestone City and la Ville de Québec enjoy city centres with a rich history, and narrow streets.
One day I was wandering along rue St-Jean, and I noticed an extraordinary number of people walking on the road. At first I was rather confused, as a few hours earlier, the street was heavily congested with rush hour traffic. As I made my way along St-Jean, I noticed inactive traffic lights, metal road barriers blocking off intersecting streets, and various signs detailing the pedestrian friendly hours. The net result was a huge concentration of walking tourists and shoppers, umpteen street performers, as well as shops that were bustling with business. This has lead me to wonder, what if Kingston were to adopt pedestrian friendly measures downtown?
I can already hear a chorus of complaints coming from the opposition. They’ll say that there isn’t enough parking downtown, or that we can’t afford the lost revenue from fewer people paying for parking. To those of you who would agree, or otherwise thumb your noses at such a pedestrian friendly proposal, perhaps you’re unaware of New York City’s new initiative to regularly close Broadway (from 47th to 42nd and from 35th to 33rd Streets) to all vehicle traffic. Yes, this is the same, famed avenue that is home to Times Square. Via Inhabitat:
The goal is to reduce congestion by closing down sections where traffic meets tricky intersections. The hope is that by doing so, flow will be improved. Sure enough, the first real test of the plan will be this week, once regular business traffic returns to the city. But the real change may happen soon after. If the city judges the closure of these sections a success, it is prepared to go even further and close the entire boulevard to vehicular access. The city plans on creating a truly pedestrian friendly walkway in the heart of the Manhattan theatre district. It will effectively become the biggest change to the makeup of the city, an urban companion to New York’s Central Park.
Although I’m comparing Big Apples with oranges, I can’t help but conclude that since large metropolises such as NYC and Québec City have successfully make their cores pedestrian friendly, albeit during select times of the year or day, surely little old Kingston can too. Save for a bit of lost revenue and the minor inconvenience of walking, the end result promotes an active lifestyle, and cuts down on emissions during those hot and hazy days of summer. Moreover, it adds to the tourist friendly atmosphere we’ve already got. Last but not least, may I remind you that parts of Princess Street are already closed off to vehicle traffic during events such as Blues Fest, and Buskers Rendezvous. Thus we already know that that we can do it, and that businesses don’t suffer as a result. So the question remains, why aren’t we doing it more often?
Thanks to moriza for the pedestrian friendly image.