“The best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter.” – Winston Churchill.
In the run-up to this week’s election, the leader of the NDP said he’d make things better for people, but it’s hard to nail him down on grizzly bear hunting, or the site C dam. Christy Clark maintained it’s as good as it can get in a province with the second lowest unemployment rate in Canada.
Because I don’t believe either, I wasn’t sure I’d vote.
Do “we live in a democracy,” as Clark told Linda Higgins?
“For the people …”
If it’s still healthy here, why has the homeless housing crisis spread to the middle class? Despite court-ordered funds, daycares now have to vacate rooms needed by elementary students.
The Mt. Polly tailings pond burst in 2014, but the environment ministry still allows the mining industry – threatening watersheds – to operate unregulated in the north. Abandoned youth contend with mental illness and abuse on the streets. Why, if democracy “for the people” works?
It would be a long walk to the polls for me if there wasn’t proof democracy works at the municipal level, without last-minute bribes, and suspect promises. It does, because local politicians and city staff live among us.
In Maple Ridge, pedestrians – those folks, too – have risked life and limb crossing the road at 223 Street and Dewdney Trunk, despite a crosswalk motorists ignored.
I once reported a pick-up truck narrowly missing a boy who froze in his tracks.
Today, all motorists have seen the light – an amber, flashing one called a Rapid Rectangular Flashing Beacon – from blocks away.
Drivers are compelled to slow down as a voice booms, “Amber lights are flashing. Use Caution. Vehicles may not stop immediately.”
“It’s made a big difference,” a nearby store employee who uses the crosswalk daily told me.
For her, democracy works.
The idea, said city engineer Dave Pollock, is a “multi-modal system” that’s friendly to pedestrians and cyclists.
RRFBs “increase safety. Canada is developing new criteria for their application.”
The city has installed six RRFBs – $40,000 each – at crosswalks at Plaza, Garden, Fletcher, 234 and 236 streets.
“The project – part of its Strategic Transportation Plan – involved the retrofitting of audible pedestrian push buttons with overhead-lit signs, down lighting, and pole replacement.”
It’s now safer on 203 Street, too.
“It’s designated as one of the major cycling corridors and connects to the 123 Avenue bikeway access across the city,” said Pollock. “This by-directional cycling track involves two 3.5-metre travel lanes, two-metre-wide concrete sidewalks with curb and gutters, street and pedestrian lighting.”
Note also a new pedestrian pushbutton crosswalk at 210 Street and Lougheed Highway. Students living south of the highway have had to dodge traffic on route to Westview secondary for too long.
In 2011, Pollock told me he’d asked the province for a crosswalk – its responsibility – without success.
“It’s an issue the mayor and council have raised in discussion with the ministry in dialogue over the entire Lougheed Highway corridor.”
This year, youth safety on one of our highways became an election card.
On April 28, citizens called for safety measures at a four-way stop at 121 Avenue and 214 Street, where a boy was hit in a crosswalk. Residents complained.
Pollock tells me, traffic calming is neighborhood driven. Under consideration are larger signs, advance pavement markings, speed reader boards, improved landings on either end of the crosswalk. Also, 214 Street functions almost as a driveway (acknowledging that there are residences on 214 Avenue), as it is the only vehicular access into the (nearby) school, and as such a school zone can be justified.
Democracy lives in Maple Ridge, and will, if citizens talk – day by day – to their local government, and dedicated staff work hard for us.
Jack Emberly is a retired teacher, local author and environmentalist.