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November 2008
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Dissected To No Where

What is the best way to learn a city? Go for a run. When I used to move or travel to new cities to get to know the city I would throw on my shoes, some tunes and head out the door. With no set schedule I would run for as long I wanted to or until I felt like I had an understanding of the city.

Recently I was in St. Catharines, Ontario for a conference. What a disaster! The first day I found a beautiful trail along the Canal. Winding trails, big trees, old CN bridges, etc … it was spectacular. Upon returning to the conference my friends that were residents in St. Catharines told me that it was one of the most dangerous areas in the city – I guess ignorance is bliss.

On the second day of the conference I headed out once again for a run. I ran through some beautiful neighbourhoods, up and down some rather large hills and got a great veiw and understanding of the city. At about 30mins I approached a mall and had a sense of where I was. I stopped, looked around and realized the only way back was to run down highway 406  or take the same route back. I took the same route back. I even asked a local where to go and he was just astonished at where I had ended up and couldn’t really give me directions (eventually I managed to get the answer I needed, don’t run on the 406 go back the way you came).

So what’s my point?

Jane Jacob’s must have despised the city planners of St. Catharines. It is yet another example of a city not built for pedestrians. With the automobile at the top of the planning hierarchy the city was dissected by an expressway.

I don’t even know where one could begin to fix the city. Likely it would be with the removal of the highway and replacing it with something pedestrians, cyclists and motorists could use and interact on. Our cities/urban areas are precious. With more and more people moving from the rural to the urban it is essential that we build and restore our cities to be ‘active’ – less car more walking, cycling, transit, etc.