A Rant

October 14th, 2017 by Emma Durand-Wood

This morning I made a mistake.

When the kids spotted the “snow” on the ground, they were euphoric with excitement and insisted on suiting up to go play. By the time they were dressed for outdoors, the snow had basically melted, but no matter – such is the magic of the first snowfall, right?

The baby was napping so I pulled out my phone. My mum’s been visiting from Alberta for the last few days so I’ve not looked at Twitter much, but this morning I had a few minutes so I fired up the app and started scrolling. Big mistake, because Portage & Main is being discussed again, and now it’s Saturday morning, the house is peaceful and quiet, I am actually drinking a cup of hot coffee, and I’m in a horrible mood because people.

People who think opening Portage and Main to pedestrians will be a disaster. People who claim the cost of doing so will be human life. People for whom an additional wait of one or two minutes at the intersection is unacceptable. People who I’m guessing never set foot on the street in downtown Winnipeg, but who would hold the intersection hostage with their car-centric values and fearmongering.

When we started this blog, some people ribbed us about our Pollyanna positivity (read: ability to see anything good about Winnipeg). It took a few years, but I did start to harden (see The Bloom is Off the Rose).

Well, now I’m gonna say it. Here is what I HATE about Winnipeg. I hate that save for a few small parts of the city, walking is SO unpleasant. Biking is dangerous. Being in a car has somehow become the most pleasant and often, logical mode of transport. I know what people are going to say: I’m a car hater and think everyone should ride their bikes in the winter. Not so. Not even close. I just think people should actually have a real choice.

I live a block off of Henderson Highway and the little stretch between the Disraeli and say, Roxy Park, is experiencing a slow but sure revitalization. New businesses, gorgeous murals, and soon, some awesome “Welcome to Glenelm” signs will be popping up, and for me this represents a growing number of services I can walk to in my own neighbourhood. I can walk to my massage therapist, my optometrist, a bakery, a meat shop, a hair dresser, a couple of restaurants, a drug store, and a yoga class. There is room to grow but I’m thrilled that I can at least do these things on foot, and support the truly local businesses that are such an important part of the fabric of my neighbourhood.

But.

Have you recently walked along a major street like Henderson (Highway, I remind you)? It is downright unpleasant. And when you are walking with children, it is downright terrifying. Not being able to hold a conversation because it’s so loud, cars whipping¬† at 60km/h less than a foot from where you are walking, having to walk four blocks between intersections so that you can safely cross, and even then, cars careening through their turns without giving the possibility of pedestrians trying to cross a second thought? No wonder “everyone” drives in Winnipeg.

It is so awful that I often walk along the back lane that runs parallel to Henderson to get to where I’m going, especially if I’m with my kids. What is wrong with the picture when an alley feels saner and safer than a “high street”?

As we braved the noise and racing traffic on Henderson yesterday on our walk to Sam’s Place, I told my mum that my husband and I had a dream that someday the speed on this stretch of Henderson would be reduced to 30km/h. We daydream that it could look something like Corydon Village, with lighted archways and a beautiful canopy of trees, and streetfront patios, and crossovers every block or two so that people could safely cross on foot. It was the wrong time to get into the idea, because my mum could barely hear me, and was too busy making sure that cars would stop for us as we tried to cross at the lights with a stroller and 4-year old in tow. We waited for five cars to make their right turns from Hespeler onto Henderson before someone finally yielded to us and let us cross.

So there it is. I am sick and tired of this city allowing cars to take priority over people.

I’m going to hit publish on this now because if I don’t, it will sit in draft mode like the 10 other posts I’ve tried to write over the last year or two. And before the baby wakes up, and the kids bring their soggy outwear back in, I’m going to spend some QT on the Love30¬†website, because I need to remind myself that I’m not the only person who feels this way, and that there is hope for change.

Okay, resume Pollyanna.

6 Responses to “A Rant”

  1. Prairie says:

    I’m in your hood and am curious to know about the yoga in walking distance.

  2. Emma Durand-Wood says:

    Hello neighbour! There is a class at Aspire Dance Studios at 201 Henderson!

  3. grasshopper says:

    Don’t despair. I’m a recent transplant to Winnipeg and I find that on many social issues Winnipeg is a decade or more behind the times. It is disappointing that there aren’t more progressive thinkers, but you’re not the only one with hope for better urban planning!

  4. Prairie says:

    Thanks. I knew about Bronx yoga (Harmony Warrior). I had checked out Aspire for my kids. Didn’t look for adult options.

  5. Tony says:

    At one time Winnipeg was a collection of small towns. Each had its little “core”. You can still see them and they could be considered walkable. In your case, perhaps Wolsely would have suited your lifestyle better or even transcona, now that it’s “core” is waking up, if you want to call it that.

    This City really doens’t get it. The market and Exchange districts really need to have the streets shut down to vehicles from Friday night to late Sunday night. There used to be a Wine and Roses festival on Corydon, a one day street walk, but that shut down.

    It’s a bohunky town. They have a hard time grasping simple things. They’ll say things like, hey i love old montreal and how you can walk around…..you just stare at them ….put your hands up,shrug and ask… why not here…….”oh you can’t do that here “….its a bizarre little place.

  6. Jeff says:

    Winnipeg has no proper transportation infrastructure. No freeways, no beltways and very few expressways. This is why Henderson, Main etc. are how they are. There is no other way to get around and that will never change. Sorry, but the economy moves on wheels and city streets are all we’ve got.

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