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Move On: Let's make Lonsdale great

Columnist and transportation advocate Drugge has a vision for making Lonsdale a safer, more peaceful and enjoyable place to visit
Patio at Jack Lonsdale's public house
City of North Vancouver has plans to turn central Lonsdale into a thriving 'Great Street'.

The City of North Van has taken a significant step allocating funds to transform central Lonsdale into a ‘Great Street.’

With its focus on people-centric design, this initiative holds immense potential to enhance our quality of life in CeLo. As the number of new apartment towers and residents continues to rise, the demand for public spaces will inevitably increase.

What makes a street great? In a nutshell, ‘Great Streets’ are places where people enjoy spending time.

They include plenty of space for walking and welcome people using micro-mobility and mobility assistance devices. Restaurants spread into plazas with treed spaces and gardens to beautify the surroundings and assist with stormwater management.

Imagine enjoying a peaceful dinner outside on Lonsdale.

It’s a pleasant thought, but the reality is far from it. The constant traffic noise and the need to shout over it to have a conversation is not an ideal dining experience.

The current state of central Lonsdale is far from great.

Don’t get me wrong. We love the little shops, the diverse eateries, parklets, grocery stores and services, that ageless shoe repair man, the medical clinics, the bike shop, the quirky candy store, the library. It goes on.

You can get anything in the eight blocks between 21st and 13th. But we don’t love sitting around or socializing along Lonsdale because the street is also full of traffic. It’s noisy. It’s smelly. It’s dirty. You can’t cross the street without feeling bad about keeping the SUVs waiting or taking your life in your hands.

It’s not just a matter of perception. Scientific studies confirm what we all experience. Recent analysis has shown that transportation noise is closely linked to cardio- and cerebrovascular diseases.

Traffic noise can lead to heart attacks, depression, and potentially strokes. Micro-particles from tires and dust can cause respiratory issues. The World Health Organization estimates that 1,600,000 healthy life years are lost annually in Western Europe due to traffic-related noise.

By transforming Lonsdale into a ‘Great Street ‘, we can significantly reduce these health risks and create a cleaner, healthier environment for all. There’s a lot of potential for CeLo to go from wider and faster to a calmer, greener, more people-oriented place. What would that look like?

Imagine strolling along expansive sidewalks beautified with gardens, public art, and permanent plazas equipped with comfortable seating, designed to withstand all weather conditions for year-round use.

From 13th Street to 18th Street, envision a roadbed exclusively for transit. No parking. No cars. No motorbikes disrupting the tranquility of Lonsdale. Experience the serenity. Feel the peace.No more fear of aggressive SUVs while crossing the street. No more annoyance from frustrated supercar drivers revving their engines. It’s just a calm, green, people-oriented Lonsdale.

Now, I know what you might be thinking. “How will people get there?” “Lonsdale is the truck route.” “Will my business suffer?”These are common concerns, but they’ve been successfully addressed in many other cities.

People will walk, ride, or take transit. The vast majority will walk, as they already live in the area. Delivery trucks can use Lonsdale after midnight only. There is ample underground parking available. Yes, you can do it. Find that entrance, park your car, and enjoy a leisurely walk to your destination. Let’s reserve the above-ground parking spots for people with disabilities, ensuring accessibility for all.

Okay, now I’m on a roll. Making Lonsdale transit-only from 13th to 18th would mean traffic on 13th, 15th and 17th can cross Lonsdale, but not enter it.

We also divert vehicles on 14th away from exiting Lonsdale. Similarly, we block 16th so that cars may not enter Lonsdale. Closing these two entrances to Lonsdale could result in two new, people-only plazas in the heart of CeLo. The one at 14th would enhance our existing civic plaza. A new people-only space at 16th could eventually form an extension of the new park at 16th and Eastern.

Traffic and oversubscribed road capacity do not naturally follow progress and growth. They result from deliberate decisions to structure our communities based on private vehicles. When we spend all of our time trying to get somewhere, the unfortunate consequence is there is no longer any place to be.

It’s high time we shift our planning to prioritize people over automobiles, especially where there is high-density housing.

Let’s make Lonsdale truly great.

Heather Drugge is a sustainable transportation advocate who has used her bike for transportation for more than 20 years. She’s got an e-bike now, and maybe a jetpack next. [email protected]