How to kill a street

I got a flat this morning. It’s not a huge surprise; my tires are old and worn, and I drive a pothole-filled route to work. Still, it kind of sucks. Getting home may be a challenge, but I have three potential options: I could bus with bike on the front; I could walk my bike home (it’d be long, but rather lovely); finally, I can pump up the tire, hope it’s a slow leak and ride home, pumping as needed. That’s the option I’m going with.

Of course, this means I need a pump (I needed a pump, anyway, so this is no biggie). Working in the west end these days, I wandered over to Canadian Tire during lunch to pick one up. It’s the Canadian Tire on Carling Avenue. It’s relatively new (stress “relatively”), having been constructed at the site of the old Turpin dealership. There are some other store there, and it’s right beside a Boston Pizza.

Approaching these businesses, it became so very apparent–once again–that pedestrians aren’t really wanted. Carling is a horrible place to walk, anyway (cars speeding past going north of 70 or 80 clicks, no buffer between the sidewalk and the right lane of traffic), but these buildings were built facing away from the street.

Parking is in the “rear”, but it’s not really the rear, because that’s where you can enter (actually, I think you can enter from Carling–on my way out, I found a small door that seemed like a fire exit, thankfully it wasn’t, that lead me out to the sidewalk through Canadian Tire’s front garden). The stores are built only for cars and drivers. The stores have literally turned their backs to the street.

I can’t blame the stores or the developers for this (well, I can blame the developers a bit); they’re just responding to incentives. It’s really the city’s fault. The west end around Carling could be a wonderful area. The neighbourhoods are lovely, there are (or were, I moved out a long time ago) some good schools and there is enough commercial property that it’s not just a quite bedroom community.

Unfortunately, by making Carling a six-lane, island-separated road, the city has turned Carling into a thoroughfare. It’s unpleasant for walking or biking, and there’s no real draw for people to be out and about.

Carling really could be much more than that. Reduce the traffic lanes, shorten up the blocks (at least for pedestrians), throw in a bike lane. There are shopping centres and strip malls along the route. There are, in fact, some neat restaurants. It wouldn’t take much to make the street a little more lively.

Instead, it’s a road seen mostly as a blur through a passenger window.

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