When I was younger, much younger, I thought life in the fast lane was the place to be, but not so much anymore.
At 76 years of age, I’m now officially a grumpy old man who seeks a slower pace of life.
I have come to the conclusion that there is no longer a safe, leisurely way to get around our streets, trails and walkways.
The principle problem is probably excessive speed, but there are many other perils one must face if you simply have to get somewhere from anywhere else via public thoroughfares.
Besides speed, we have distracted drivers, distracted cyclists, distracted pedestrians, and distracted seniors, the latter crashing around in those damned electric carts. And they’re all competing for the same space on poorly designed streets and inadequate sidewalks and crowded interior shopping malls.
Periodically, officialdom awakens from its bureaucratic slumber to review speed limits on ours streets and highways, and, every so often, speed limits are adjusted.
Many old fogey critics like myself believe the new limits are set according to how long it takes the average Mountie to get to the nearest Tim Hortons within a given length of time from their detachment office.
This theory is eagerly and hotly discounted by Mounties claiming deniable plausibility because there are now so many coffee places around town that they can travel at a more leisurely pace on their way to their morning triple doubles and chocolate eclairs.
If you like a morning stroll in the downtown area, you have to be extra vigilant, not to mention agile, ever since Maple Ridge council decided to create a modern day demolition derby atmosphere on our sidewalks by allowing cyclists and electric cart operators to use them. They compete unfairly with you and inappropriately placed power poles and traffic signs.
It gets even worse in shopping malls, where skateboards and bicycles aren’t allowed, but electric carts operated by old folks can wheel along at a frenetic pace as though they’re participating in the Indy 500.
There are Motor Vehicle Act prohibitions banning distracted driving and the use of hand-held electronic devices. Convictions can carry very significant financial sanctions, but there does not appear to be any similar regulations regarding distracted walking or cycling.
Many pedestrians take far too much for granted as they wander aimlessly along, taking no heed of vehicular or cycling traffic. I guess they assume that God will take care of them, even if they are incapable of looking after themselves.
There are reasonable speed limits on Dewdney Trunk Road through the downtown area, and on the Haney Bypass and Lougheed Highway through the more dense urban areas. But most drivers act as though these stretches of four-lane roadways are freeways, where the sky’s the limit.
If you drive anywhere near the posted speed limit on these roads during morning or afternoon rush hour, be prepared to be cursed at and passed in road-rage fashion as urban morons rush to their potential doom.
“Drive safely; the life you save may be your own,” was once a popular highway safety cliché that I believed in.
I think I am becoming inured to the slaughter on our highways because I’m no longer quite as concerned about your life as I am about my own. What I am now saying is, please slow down, the life you save might be my own.
I can’t close without wondering, if cyclists insist on equal rights on our highways and streets and sidewalks and anywhere else they choose to peddle, why aren’t they subject to requirements for licenses and insurance the same as motorists?
– Sandy Macdougall is a retired journalist and former city councillor.