The Fountain Pen, Guelph's On-Line News
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Under the brim

Web posted on June 08, 2007

Three years ago I stood before a special council meeting, held at the Italian Canadian Club, to voice my concerns with the location of the Wal-Mart store at Highways 6 & 7. There were almost 50 people who spoke at that meeting, almost 50 voices opposing the proposed location of this Big Box store. My rationale at that time was a concern over the increase in traffic first on Speedvale Avenue, and then on residential streets, such as Kathleen Street. In the last year, the Wal-Mart store has opened, and traffic patterns, as feared, have changed - substantially.

Speedvale Avenue is now often bumper-to-bumper in both directions. Right-turn entry onto Speedvale from a stop sign often involves a long wait. Sometimes it is impossible. Left hand turns are not even considered during high volume periods - periods that have increased in both time and volume of traffic. Much of this traffic is a direct response to the opening of large format stores along Woodlawn. Drivers simply want to find a faster route.

This faster route along Speedvale now gives many more opportunities to make "short-cuts" to the downtown along residential streets such as Kathleen, Exhibition, and residential streets north of Speedvale. More and more motorists are finding other alternatives to by-pass the Big Box Bungle of Bargain Buyers as Woodlawn approaches Woolwich. I have taken several opportunities to watch east-bound traffic on Woodlawn turn down Nicklin, make their way to Kathleen North, cross Speedvale, and continue south to London. I can now recognize many vehicles that take this route, as I have seen them at various points along the afore-mentioned route, as they whisk through residential streets on time, every time. Often there are up to eight city-bound cars at the all-way stop near my home. Often, the cars near the end of this procession of haste ignore the stop signs and roll or drive right through.

Kathleen Street is also a major thoroughfare for a much more precious commodity: schoolchildren. Several dozen children, ranging from primary age to those in high school walk pass my home every morning, every afternoon. I applaud the number - these children are not reliant on over-indulging parents delivering them to the school gate in a vehicle. But these children are reliant on safe driving habits by the automobile users of Kathleen Street. They have grown to expect a few cars - mainly people from the neighbourhood, people who are also used to having children on the street. Often those drivers are their own parents, their own neighbours.

But no more can these children be complacent. Traffic has more than quadrupled, and the increase has been caused by motorists impatient to reach their destination. They often forget they are travelling on a residential street; their eyes often on their watch, and no doubt their ear to their electronic leash, they have more important things to worry about. How can we complain out of one side of our mouth about the lack of physical activity of our children, how can we belittle those who drive their charges even short distances to their place of learning, while out of the other side we endanger their paths by acquiescing to increased traffic flow?

But hey, maybe while mom or dad is in the car they may, after dropping off the children, just pop over to Wal-Mart, right? Acres of parking! There in a few minutes if they hurry. Works well for the retailer and kids should know the rules of the road anyway, right? And what are they doing walking, anyway? If Wal-Mart, or any store, on Woodlawn increases its size there will continue to be an increase in the overflow of traffic on Speedvale, and therefore on Kathleen and other residential streets leading to the downtown. This increase will bring with it frustration amongst drivers, causing unnecessary risk-taking, leading to increased danger to our children, both those en route to and from school, or those participating in activities in Exhibition Park.

I therefore oppose any expansion or further creation of large format stores on Woodlawn, an area that was not designed for such heavy traffic flow in the first place.

Brian Holstein is a resident of Guelph who hosts a show featuring municipal affairs on CFRU community radio. Brian is a keen observer of human nature and the political scene and is unsparing in his opinions.

The views of columnists in The Fountain Pen do not necessarily represent the views of the principals of the publication.