Saturday, June 02, 2007

More still...

Of all the commentary on the Upper Fort Garry site in this morning's Free Press, it was Bartley Kives' "Up the river without a paddle" that seemed to have the best grasp of the current reality. Mr. Kives may be wrong about the popular notion that the fort was removed to straighten Main Street--planning was for better or worse, an afterthought in the 1880s, thus the city's delightfully quirky grid (MHS)--he is correct when he states, at the end of his article:
"It would be great if the fort still stood...
Then again, the traffic jams on Main Street would be brutal."

For Hartley Richardson and other Friends of the Uppper Fort Garry who travel up St. Mary's Road to get to and from downtown, a rebuilt fort doesn't make for a pleasent commute. Nor would traffic-calming measures that would see South Main become a street again, and not just a voracious quasi-freeway, and re-connect the gate to The Forks, and make a trip to the gate something a pedestrian would actually want to do.

But like another of the city's "birth places"--Portage and Main--and the rest of Winnipeg's historical downtown in general, the easy flow of automobiles trumps heritage, culture, commerce, and the needs of humans. Things like reducing the speed limit, allowing unrestrected curb lane parking on Main, installing a traffic light at Assiniboine Avenue--all inexpensive, practical ways to bring human traffic to the fort gate and out of the presently isolated pod that is The Forks--have not been mentioned, and would probably not elicit a flurry of supportive letters to the editor if they were.

But practicality has not been applied to downtown renewal for sixty years, and people like Hart Malin--who today took a break from "advocating" for the demolition the 103-year old Avenue Building and the rights of the surface parking lot owners, to wax poetic about "heritage"--continue to the think the condition of the street has nothing to do with getting people and businesses to return to it. And while every new project has being dreamed up in the name of naive hope of renewal, the one-dimensional, pseudo-scientific needs of traffic engineers always win the day.

Care about heritage? Fight to have crossing Main Street be more enjoyable, and less of an excercise in attempted suicide; defend the integrity and quality of the built environment; fight to give people the right to cross Portage and Main, the true nucleus of the city.


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