There are lots of reasons not to drive: some people want to avoid the environmental impact, for some it’s cost related. I’m not a road user in Canada and for a long time I didn’t drive in the UK. It’s never really been a problem for me.
I’ve managed to get around lots of places both in Europe and Asia on foot, bicycle or public transport with very few problems. Sometimes it’s a bit annoying (UK buses don’t like turning up in the rain), but sometimes it’s quite good fun. You can meet lots of people or use your commuting time to read a book — that sort of thing.
There is a notable exception to my being-ok-with-not-driving rule: Corner Brook. I’ve touched on this in another post, but I find this city to have one of the worst systems for pedestrians that I have ever come across. It’s truly abysmal.
Traffic lights often include pedestrian crossings. Which, for the most part, seem pointless. For a start, they take a disproportionate amount of time to allow pedestrians to cross. There are crossings where I’ve stood for several minutes waiting; often both directions are allowed on multiple times before pedestrians are given right of way. Then, it seems that a large number of drivers ignore pedestrian right of way. All in all, rubbish.
Another crossing that I regularly utilise allows only 10 seconds for pedestrian right of way. Which, again, is often ignored. Now, 10 seconds isn’t a huge amount of time for anyone. But for those with decreased mobility, those with children or even people who just use a slightly slower pace, it can be really difficult trying to cross the road in that period of time.
There’s a crossing on the street where I live and I cannot tell you how many times I’ve seen vehicles parked on it. That just makes it impossible for pedestrians to use the crosswalk safely, and means that other drivers can’t see the people that walk around the parked car.
In my opinion we should be encouraging people to walk, particularly in such a compact city centre. It should be easy and safe to get around on foot. But it’s not.
I know that there are several things that we can’t change easily, such as the timings on traffic lights. But there are simple things that we could all do to make it safer, easier and nicer for people to travel the city on foot. If you’re driving around town and come to lights that give pedestrians right of way, give it to them. If you’re approaching a crosswalk without lights, consider stopping to let people walk. Never park on a pedestrian crossing. If you are venturing out as a pedestrian, play by the rules and use the crosswalks. Then, hopefully, drivers will stop at them. Every time.