Opinion: These drivers are freaking out over car-free New West roads

Chris Campbell

If you heard something that sounded like a bomb going off in New West on Tuesday night, it was the collective screaming of some drivers at the idea of transforming some local roads to have other uses than driving fossil-fuel-sucking vehicles.

We posted a story about how a local group, Force of Nature, is urging the City of New Westminster to be “bold and to fast-track a plan to convert roads to other uses.”

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This follows city council approving “seven bold steps” to address the climate emergency, which includes creating a quality, people-centred public realm. The plan is to reallocate a minimum of 10% of today’s street spaces that serve only motor vehicles, including transit, to sustainable transportation or public gathering spaces by 2030.

We posted the story on Facebook like this: “How do you feel about the idea of car-free streets in New Westminster? What would you think of making Columbia Street or the area around Sixth and Sixth car-free?”

We got more than 100 comments in a short amount of time, with most of them slamming the city for daring to dream up this idea.

Now, I’m not saying this is necessarily representative of how all New West citizens feel. I have no idea. But it is significant when you read this many people commenting on a single argument.

It’s also significant how wrong so many of these comments are.

Columbia Street
A food-lover's dream: Folks flock to Columbia Street each year for the annual food truck festival. - Chung Chow

Here’s a sampling:

Rob Leishman: “How the heck would that work, it would be great but it’s already road warrior levels around here on the side streets and the main roads.”

Rebecca Walker: “Who thinks of this silly ideas.... this will NOT get people to not drive cars.. just means more traffic on the other roads... Ridiculous!
Too many condos is the problem. Density means more people, more people, more cars. No genius needed to figure that out. OMG”

Elio Parente: “Car free streets!?!? What a crazy idea, did Gregor Robertson just become mayor of new west?”

Chantal Beare: “As a small business owner in New West, with clients that drive from all over, this would kill my business.”

Ann Henderson: “That is such a silly idea. Why don’t you try and support the local businesses by taking away the parking meters so shopping in New West is more attractive.”

The comments go on and on like that.

It’s weird how people think this is a “crazy” idea. Car-free streets are being implemented all over the world, especially in Europe.

It’s part of a movement that is recognizing that our world is collapsing due to the climate crisis and that we need to make serious changes.

Just look at Vancouver. The Granville bridge is going to see major changes to make it pedestrian and cycling friendly. The city is also getting rid of the viaducts.

Sure, those ideas sound radical, but people thought the same thing about protected bike lanes on Burrard Street. “IT WILL DESTROY ALL THE BUSINESSES,” some people shouted.

Um, no it didn’t.

As we’ve seen over and over again, people fear change and then they adapt to it.

And this isn’t something idea that doesn’t come with a good reason. Like I said above, our planet is being destroyed. We have to start making sacrifices – like getting out of our vehicles and onto transit – to try and save it.

Not everyone commenting on our Facebook page was against the idea.

Hugh Draper: “Way too much real-estate is afforded to automobiles at an enormous cost to taxpayers, much of it left vacant. In fact the precedent shows clearly that congestion, pollution, waste, and real-estate are severely increased by it rather than taking it back for humanity; and there are cases where doing so has decreased congestion and improved the rest.”

Follow Chris Campbell on Twitter @shinebox44


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