Friday, January 26, 2007

NIMBYism and hating your own lifestyle

The tracts of suburbia that sprouted up after World War II, and created new physical, social, and political orientations for a few generations of middle class whites, contributed much in the way of humanity's progress: the strip mall, the basement party, obesity, etc. Among these, the Drive-Thru chain restaurant.

Now, the suburbs that spawned this little piece of lazy-man ingenuity are stepping up and saying no thanks; we don't want drive-Thru's in our neighborhoods anymore. Or, at least, not the popular ones that many of us frequent.

The extreme popularity of Canada's biggest coffee chain has led 18 residents of St. Vital's Meadowood neighbourhood to launch an appeal against a 24-hour Tim Hortons drive-through outlet proposed for the corner of St. Anne's Road and Wales Avenue.

The Meadowood residents claim heavy traffic and lineups at a Tim Hortons drive-through will endanger children walking to nearby Victor Wyatt School, create traffic jams and pollute their neighbourhood with noise, exhaust fumes and headlight glare.

"Every time you pass by a Tim Hortons, there are lineups inside the restaurant and the drive-through is always lined up, sometimes on to a busy main street."

-"St. Vital group has no time for 24-hour Tim's", Winnipeg Free Press, Jan. 25, 2007

What does this say about the physical and functional nature of local commerce in today's suburbs? If the sub-urban, car-oriented neighborhood is such a great place for children, why is the operation of a local coffee shop a danger to them?

A bigger question, is what is it about the suburban life that can make its inhabitants so delusional? I'd wager that many of these 18 St. Vital residents regularly go to drive-Thrus of all sorts, and its unlikely (and probably impossible) that they do their shopping and dining on foot or bike. Because, whether the coffee shop is down the street, at the nearest retail pod, or in someone else's neighborhood, driving to it--by these residents' own logic--still endangers school children, creates traffic, and pollutes the environs with noise, exhaust fumes, and headlight glare.


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