Archive for January, 2010

Better Transportation Leads the way for Healthy Green Communities

Better Transportation Leads the way for Healthy Green Communities

Since the 1990’s World Car Free Day is held in many parts of the world on September 22. Car Free Sundays have also found a following in Canada including Vancouver neighbourhoods. Closer to home, Toronto’s Kensington Market becomes a refuge from the automobile throughout the summer on Sundays. If you add all those fabulous street musicians, wonderful cozy outdoor ethnic restaurants, vegetable and cheese shops, and top it off with the coolest clothing and art places, Kensington Market is a vibrant and happy place to be on a Sunday. Why can’t our Georgian Triangle communities do the same for our citizens?

In many parts of the globe car free days have become the impetus for further changes in town planning and have rightfully deflated the notion that cars are good for business and society. As well, our small towns can take a resilient path and be models for re-localization efforts by first reexamining our unhealthy car dependent society.  As oil becomes more and more expensive and climate safety issues are finally taken seriously, small towns will have to move to mass transportation and simple changes such as making walking and bicycle transportation a priority. More than thirty per cent of Copenhagen’s citizens travel by bicycle regularly around that city for work and recreation, and alternative energy projects are now synonymous with Denmark.

There are historic communities around the world that don’t allow cars on any day and they still thrive.  If our towns are committed to making a much needed transition away from 21st century fossil fuel dependency, one of the first places we should be exploring is how car free towns actually help out commerce, significantly lower pollution and massively reduce a staggering amount of greenhouse gases that cars produce.

Albert Koehl is a passionate advocate and educator of alternative transportation possibilities. He is also a lawyer with EcoJustice. (EcoJusitice Canada is a non-profit law and science organization that defends citizens’ rights in court to have clean water, natural spaces and healthy communities. Please see www.ecojustice.ca) Albert has successfully looked at how our society can find ways to lower greenhouse gas emissions.  Through the years, his insightful Toronto Star transportation articles have encouraged citizens, politicians and planners to reassess how we build our streets and open spaces to accommodate the real drivers of commerce and healthy communities: the pedestrian and cyclist. He says, “A recent report by the Clean Air Partnership about Bloor St. in the Annex found that only 10 per cent of patrons at local businesses arrive by car and that patrons arriving by foot and bicycle spend the most money each month.”  Mr. Koehl has also studied mass transit in Argentina and in Ontario. His description of the amenities that buses have in Argentina (the same that we expect flying first class- yes wine is served) can easily be brought to our communities and make traveling by bus far more popular.

Our municipal governments need to stop talking about sustainability and be part of the solution to green our communities.  If ski resorts want to keep their snow in 2030, perhaps those businesses should be working to educate their clients and defend new green transportation legislation in the future. As well, municipal governments must augment green business initiatives and have the courage to work with their provincial counterparts to steadfastly mandate that thousands of skiers come up to our area by modern buses instead of creating more greenhouse gases with SUVs. At the very least, let’s start the process by having an anti-idling, no drive-through car by-law with teeth in Meaford, Grey Highlands and the Town of Blue Mountains that helps make driving an anti-social behaviour, like smoking is now. Let’s get to work. Happy New Year!

“It’s time to let truth, thoughtfulness,
justice, and beauty capture our
hearts and minds; time to stop living in
fear that things will go wrong and to start
making sure that things go right. It’s time
to change the way we live.” Orion Magazine Editorial January 2010