The City held its only public meeting on the reconstruction and widening of Bronson Avenue last night. Over 200 citizens attended. Only 130 chairs had been set out.
The crowd was not hostile, but was suspicious of the City and harshly critical. City staff have intimated that they agree the street should not have been widened back in the 60’s, but now we are stuck with it. That doesn’t explain why they insist it needs to be widened another 2′.
The City had the usual poster display with glamorous statements about putting pedestrians first. The cognitive dissonance between the professed objectives and the reality on the street and the current plans only served to annoy attendees. The meeting opened with a Powerpoint presentation projected on a wavy curtain. It was like trying to read text on the bottom of a rippling pond.
None of the presenters came across with any personality. They droned on reading the text waving on the wall while the audience fidgeted. Mutters of “stop condescending”, “bafflegab”, “unreal!” could be heard through the crowd all evening.
The City had supplied a moderator to separate the engineers from the crowd. A good attempt, but not well executed. She talked too much. The City also supplied a handsome gent to stand conspicuously near the front to “take notes” of expressed concerns.
Once the mike was opened, a long line of residents expressed annoyance and frustration with the planning process and the City’s result.
Q:How could the City come up with selected course of action that went against the public wish, the PAC, the Councillor, the landlords, the business owners, the residents, the school councils, and the cyclists? A: the City plan is in the public interest, because we say so.
Q: what about school children trying to get to school, or the park, what about the number of residents who, by raising their hands, said they had had too “close calls” using the crosswalks? A: wider car lanes are the in the public interest.
Q: what about the wall of slush and muck dragged along the slipstream from the cars and trucks and buses travelling so fast so close to the sidewalk? A: the wider lane etc etc.
Q: What about the loss of the few mature trees along the street, just so cars can go faster… A: we will plant new mini-trees on the residential side streets.
Q: What about contentious issues like the Somerset, Gladstone and Arlington intersections? A: after approving the plan, we will look at those intersections again to see if something can be done, maybe.
Q: the sidewalks are too narrow now. A: the new sidewalk will be a “minimum” of 2m wide “where possible”. (Sorry, no details as to where it will be substandard). Oh yes, that new 2m sidewalk will have utility poles, traffic signs, lampposts, etc all in that 2m width, and oh yeah, the new posts will be mounted further into the sidewalk that currently, “to promote safety” [for cars]. And the new sidewalk will sandwich people between the curb and the walls of the buildings, because “the houses are too close to the street”.
Q: how well does this plan fulfill the lofty statements and visions of those experts the City flies in to provide seminars at City hall, on “livable cities” etc? Do any of them recommend wider roads? A: mumble mumble mumble.
And so on it went. The City came across as dull and boring and having stone ears. Their protests that wider lanes won’t result in traffic going faster were risible if they weren’t so pathetic.
Sometime during the meeting, I heard a loud thump elsewhere in the building. I think it was some engineer’s framed certificate of professional conduct leaping off the wall in despair.
Mayor Watson’s email is Jim.firstname.lastname@example.org.