Letter: Closing New West streets to help social distancing is unnecessary


I reside in the Park Westminster Condominiums at 4th Avenue and 9th Street in New Westminster. 

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Imagine my shock and surprise at reading the lead story in the July 23 edition of the Record, Cool Streets aim to increase space for residents, to read that Fourth Avenue will be blocked off between 11th Street and First Street, and that Ninth and Eleventh Streets will be blocked off from vehicle traffic from Sixth Avenue to Queens Avenue.

A quick walk around the area reveals numerous apartment buildings, houses and condominiums whose entrances to their garages for the occupants’ vehicles open up onto these affected roadways. 

Has anyone who's come up with this "concept" ever bothered to walk around this neighbourhood, and think practically and realistically the impact on people of closing these streets down? What about people who get delivery and mail service, or have groceries delivered to their homes who live in these impacted areas? Is it "cool streets" to lock out delivery services and other people needing access to this area to conduct business or deliver goods and services?

I always thought the concept of roads was to facilitate traffic, as in cars, buses, motorcyclists, and, yes, even cyclists? 

Many people in New Westminster commute via vehicle. There are not many apartment buildings, condos or houses with no vehicles parked in their parking spaces. 

In my daily walks around the neighbourhood, I've never seen the sidewalks so heavily used that there has been any sort of screaming need to shut the streets down to vehicle traffic so that "people will have a little more room to stretch out, a little more room to go for a walk, or roll in shady places."

The Saturday closures of Sixth Street, between Fifth and Sixth Avenue, have been pointless, and just caused massive congestion on the bypass routes.

All so approximately (a few) people can sit and have a coffee, or a cigarette (butts thrown down on the ground) or walk around down the middle of a major arterial street for one block. 

As a resident of Brow of the Hill, we have access to a great many parks by walking or transit or, yes, even using our cars on the roads. Moody Park with its amenities is three blocks north of where I live, the school with its courts and playing fields is three blocks south of where I live (an uphill walk to return but exercise is good for the soul). Somehow, many people I see manage the social distancing when walking while being courteous and respectful to other pedestrians, without needing roads closed to traffic to accommodate them. 

If those who proposed these shutdowns walked around this neighbourhood with their eyes open and looked around, they could have figured that out. 

I know this city council has a certain leaning towards wanting to be like a Portland or some other urban oasis. It's bad enough that we congest traffic on a major arterial route like Sixth Avenue so that Dairy Queen can have a publicly funded patio (parklet), and that people can be "socially distant" (though again, rarely do you see people walking in the closed lanes on Sixth to accommodate pedestrian social distancing).
Not everyone is like Coun. Patrick Johnstone, where we ride our bicycles to and from work, and look at life solely and exclusively through that lens. Or Mayor Jonathan Cote, who brags he walks to and from work every day. 

For example, I work out of Port Coquitlam, starting at 5 a.m. No transit route gets me to work on time (or in less time than it takes to drive the 20 minutes). I'm not a cyclist. But I am a taxpayer in the City of New Westminster.  

I think that New West has done a great job as a collective citizenry with the COVID-19 pandemic, the social distancing and working together. But the continued assault on citizens who drive cars (the vast majority of people in New Westminster) by a vocal minority of view has to stop. 

It’s bad enough that the people on Royal Avenue have to endure increased truck traffic on their street on the weekends because, once again, the vocal minority want the ability to sip their lattes while enjoying a stroll down Front Street, a major arterial truck route, sans the vehicles who use the route to avoid residential areas.  

It’s time for the ivory tower elitists on council and city staff to climb down out of their towers and really look at what's going on in the neighbourhoods and think before implementing their social engineering schemes.

Dave Lundy, New Westminster


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