OUT ON A LIMB: City’s social engineering experiment continues

The newest lifestyle-changing policy from the city is the master transportation plan

One of the commentators on our website asked belligerently (I say belligerently because his icon is that of a horn-helmeted Viking. How else would such a person talk?), “Could someone at the Mirror please explain how on earth you equate idling of vehicles to lifestyle?”

Allow me.

The comment was attached to an editorial I wrote entitled “Another lifestyle changing policy.” In it, I wrote that the proposed (and tabled) anti-idling bylaw was “yet another of the city’s lifestyle-changing policies it has been implementing a lot lately (Dogwood lights, garbage reduction) and is bound to generate more grumbling.”

Since that story was covered, we’ve run another story that made me think “Oh, oh, here’s another one of those lifestyle-changing policies.” Let the grumbling begin.

The newest social engineering policy from the city is the master transportation plan, preliminary reports on which indicate that city staff are wagging their collective fingers and tsk-tsking over how much we use our cars to go to work. Seventy-eight percent of us, in fact. Above the provincial average.

And, as another online wag commented, the other 22 per cent don’t have jobs to drive to.

The idea that these policies are forcing Campbell Riverites to change their lifestyles is not original to me, it was suggested by a phone caller. And I had to agree.

Now how idling vehicles equates to lifestyle lies in the very question being asked. If you don’t think a practice dangerous to the environment is not a lifestyle issue, then you are part of the problem.

City council has decreed that it wants to implement policies that reflect a green ethic.

And it appears that city staff have taken that edict to heart and are fast-tracking a conversion to green practices in the city – not just within city internal practices but also “encouraging” the residents to be more green.

Be more green by reducing the amount of garbage we ask the city to haul off to the dump.

Be more green by not letting your vehicle idle unnecessarily, thereby reducing the amount of poisons your vehicle is pumping into the air.

Campbell River is generally not seen as an environmentalist community. Not in practice anyway.

You would probably say that Cortes Islanders and Quadra Islanders would be more inclined to be environmentally-conscious than Campbell Riverites.

So, the recent policies are encouraging – if not outright legislating – lifestyle changes that make us more environmentally sensitive in our practices. Those policies have now been added to by a master transportation plan discussion that points out we drive to work a lot; more than the provincial average.

And that’s when we don’t have as far to drive as most people in the province – particularly in the Lower Mainland.

So, that’s a lifestyle change. Use your cars less.

Don’t let the motor run as long. It’s a lifestyle change that I would suggest is not natural to the majority of residents, traditionally speaking.

This is a big truck, RV driving, big toy type of community that has been fueled by big mill wages and a material lifestyle that encouraged consumerism.

It also demanded our city rake in tax dollars from heavy industry to pay for the dump and waste management services as well as municipal infrastructure.

Green city initiatives are a policy direction from the current council and they might be seen as being opportunistically politically correct.

In fact, I think it’s more of an efficiency move. We’re being charged to dump our garbage and we’re running out of room, so therefore we must reduce our trash.

Hence the one-can garbage pick up policy and the increase in recycling pick up.

In order to get out of our cars more, we’re going to need alternative forms of transportation and that’s where the master transportation plan comes in. Campbell River is a spread-out community that doesn’t encourage transit use.

In order to make transit effective, it needs to run frequently. In order to run frequently it needs high ridership. It’s a classic Catch-22.

Discouraging automobile use will be enhanced by placing services closer to where people live. Downtown is becoming distant from a lot of residential areas. We may need a second city centre in Willow Point.

The ongoing upgrade of the Old Island Highway is creating an attractive corridor in Willow Point that if it had the right kind of services would preclude the need to go all the way downtown.

All it would take is one of the big name grocery stores and you’ll shift the balance.

And there you’d have another lifestyle change.

Less travel time, less automobile exhaust more pedestrian-scale movement.