I’m sitting in a very small apartment in Paris as I write this and thinking about what makes this city so livable and what Edmonton can learn from that.
I agree that we cannot compare a world-class city with more than a thousand years of history to one on the edge of the bald-headed prairie. A comparison of the two would be ludicrous. But there are some things we could incorporate into our downtown and make it a more enjoyable place to be.
We desperately need a rapid transit system that could easily take people from one section of the city to another. We are on our way, but perhaps we should be more ambitious.
We could also make a real commitment to creating walking spaces. The streets of Paris are chockablock with vehicles. But throughout the city of light, there are pedestrian-only areas that make you feel you’re in a village rather than a large city. We could do that. One place to start would be Rice Howard Way. The only reason for cars to be there is the parkade. We could do away with it and make it a great place to walk around, both day and night.
Another thing we could do is make downtown Edmonton a much more bike-friendly area. In Paris, there are numerous stands where you can rent a bike and drop it off at another location. And from what I can see, many people do exactly that. Montreal has already done this to a positive effect and there is no reason we cannot follow suit.
We could also make it easier for food vendors to set up on the street. The licensing and food preparation restrictions we have now militate against doing so. During the summer it would be nice to have an array of food to choose from all the time rather than having to wait for the Taste of Edmonton.
Just about everything that makes Paris Paris is against some bylaw or other in Edmonton. Our bylaws have served only to make our city a quite bland and often boring place in which to live. There’s a public meeting on proposed plans for the downtown coming up in November and it’s our one best chance to make our city core vibrant and alive. If you’ve got a good idea, take the opportunity to share them with our new city council.