Cities across Canada are stepping up and moving towards environmental change. Here are some examples: Vancouver has vowed to become the greenest city in the world by 2010, Regina is revitalizing downtown by ridding the city of one-way streets, and Montreal is removing streets and turning them into green spaces.
Local governments are becoming more active when it comes to the planet because the people are pushing for change. In fact, “concerns about the environment have topped opinion polls for the last five to 10 years,” says Pascoal Gomes, a spokesman for Montreal's Urban Ecology Centre.
Many of the changes are not by any means radical. It's the little things that can really make a difference, including adding more trees to downtown areas, traffic calming and narrowing streets to dissuade cars.
Beate Bowron, a consultant with the Canadian Institute of Planners says that, “everybody is thinking about streets as multi-use,” including pedestrians and bicycle traffic, not just cars.
There have been critics to the repurposing of streets. Some people feel that parking spaces will be depleted, and residents will have to walk farther to their vehicles.
However, Mayor Luc Ferrandez, of Montreal's Plateau Mont-Royal borough suggests that the end justifies the means. He believes that the quality of life in the city should be superior to that of the suburbs. And it's important to eliminate the misconceptions that urban living is noisier and dirtier so people will continue living in cities.
Ferrandez hopes to put every citizen in contact with green spaces so he's hoping to extend parks and put in back-alley gardens. On September 22, Montreal is also extending the international Car-Free Day to a full week in various parts of the city.
Meanwhile, in Vancouver, Mayor Gregor Robertson promised to get greener by reducing solid waste going to landfills, encouraging more walking and use of public transit,creating more green jobs and designing more environmentally-friendly buildings.
Bowron says Regina is widening some sidewalks, and doing away with major one-way streets, which is helpful in getting cars off the roads. “I think you could say almost any city in Canada is looking to become more environmentally sustainable,” says Bowron.
With files from The Canadian Press