Yes, we're in gridlock, but maybe we need to slow down
By Paula Carlson - Jun 09 2006
There is something soul-renewing about leaving eight hours in a temperature-controlled office behind, settling into the car for a trip home via the highway, and finding as your companions two eagles circling high above your car.
Or watching as the slow and rhythmic flap, flap, flap of a large blue heron – following ancient feeding regimes – cuts a graceful diagonal swath across the sky.
Or the gift of seeing a pair of deer, the whites of their tails flicking and their heads raising and lowering in the grass alongside Highway 91, while the traffic inches northward towards the 72 Avenue intersection.
There are hawks perched on light standards, red-winged blackbirds in the tall trees and frogs in industrial park ditches that still sing their songs – like an echo from childhood.
Their presence is comforting, a sign that all is in balance.
It’s not, of course.
Last week, armed conservation officers were on the hunt for a bear near Fraser Heights Secondary School.
Prior to that, a Leader photographer came across a deer in a Newton neighbourhood, its long, lanky legs and puzzled Bambi face looking utterly out of place amid the manicured lawns and family sedans parked in concrete driveways.
As letter writer Eva Winterlik aptly pointed out, “this deer is on the street and in this urban neighbourhood because five months ago it lived across the street in a 10-acre wood with over 2,000 ‘protectable-size trees,’ according to Surrey’s tree bylaw. That wood no longer exists.”
With all regions in the Greater Vancouver area set to embark on major infrastructure construction courtesy the province’s Gateway Program and other transportation projects, more displaced wildlife sightings – or worse, the absence of wildlife sightings – are in the cards.
But it’s not just animals chafing at the changes. From the Eagleridge Bluff protesters to the Do RAV Right crowd along Cambie Street to the residents of Sunbury in North Delta, citizens are questioning the rationale of laying down vast slabs of concrete when more environmentally friendly options exist.
The idea of tunnels has been raised for stretches of road in both West Vancouver and North Delta. In West Van, the method would preserve old groves of arbutus trees and the variety of fauna that live in the bluffs; in Sunbury, the plan would keep neighbourhoods people-friendly.
Prior to the construction of Nordel Way, long-suffering North Deltans put up with “rat-running” Alex Fraser commuters speeding through their neighbourhoods to get to major thoroughfares. Now they face the return of speed demons looking to duck the Port Mann tolls and avoid the outdated Pattullo.
But the tunnels are deemed too expensive by transportation minister Kevin Falcon, even though other options – such as pushing for more federal funds for the South Fraser Perimeter Road, which will help move goods from the ports across the country – haven’t been fully explored.
And what of buses, light rail and commuter trains? Vancouver has cut the use of cars by increasing transit options – a system that appears to be too successful, as buses are packed to capacity.
Granted, regional gridlock and the way to deal with it should have been tackled years ago, but just because the Olympic Games are coming doesn’t mean future generations should be saddled with rushed plans for rush hour.
Some things, such our incomparable natural environment – the one we’re inviting the world to see – are simply priceless.
And I for one would miss my wild travelling companions.