Could Vancouver be safer at night?

Post by Sandra Chamberlain-Snider in

Leave a comment is proud to present another guest editorial writer. Sandra Chamberlain-Snider is a native of the Lower Mainland, a happily married mother of three kids, and a recent graduate of UBC (English Literature). Sandra hails from a political family -- her dad was once a speech writer for Premier Bill Bennett. Welcome, Sandra!

Neighbourhoods should commit to better lighting

walking-at-night.jpgI think there is a real opportunity to enhance the livability of Vancouver beyond the daylight hours. The success of a great community lay in its citizens being able to live, work, shop, play and raise families within walking distance if they choose.

The wonderful situation here is we have many neighbourhoods that exemplify this. The problem with most of them is poor street lighting that makes a car essential for not only nighttime activities, but any time our gray, rainy weather has blocked the sun. The visual security that comes with good lighting design brings people out to interact and expose the shadows that isolate us. I have never met some of my neighbours as they only leave their house through the car garage.

The shadows of our city harbour the crime that targets the older, the younger or simply more vulnerable citizens, cannot only be the jurisdiction of Translink, or the provincial government. Although our Mayor’s NDP colleagues argued just that, and called for better lighting after the Skytrain attacks of last summer, I think the lighting solution is more resolvable locally. Good street lighting design should be non-partisan, and I suggest that jurisdiction for implementation and maintenance happen at the city level.

How to solve? Well I think it starts with us, lighting up our front gardens and back lanes. Before you decry the light pollution problem, note there are efficient, green choices and good design to enhance the livability of our streets.

Ropes of LED lights have wound their way around trees to light up a neighbourhood stroll. Anyone who has entered Robson late on a warm summer night, or the Main and 25th area for a chai tea before heading to work on a crisp autumn morning, has felt the energy of people in contact with each other and their city.

Advances in light technology, economies of scale and the recent housing boom have made the availability of good lighting options as close as your nearest home improvement store. Or you can check out architectural lighting design at your local library. One start could be with BC Hydro’s lighting webpage to see what is available, and why it is important.

Again I return to a city’s role in this. While I may light my pathway and affix motion sensing lights in the back lane of my condo complex or garage, I need the city’s support as well. If the lamps are out and I cannot safely walk to the bus stop or grocery store, I want a reporting process.

A recent drive across Vancouver had us south along Rupert and Kerr towards 49th Avenue and all the streetlights were out. Now who is responsible so the people could safely walk to Killarney Community Centre for all its fabulous resources? And if they had a place to report, could there be mechanisms in place to receive updates on the progress of the request.

This is more than just a complaints process. To truly assess the efficiency and quality of any program, lighting or otherwise, there should be ways to gather information. As citizens, we are responsible for letting our city know what is working to create a great community.

Consistency in action and measurable results are not just good customer relations. It's too simple to label the citizen as consumer and the city as provider. The City of Vancouver, and others in Metro Vancouver, have the capacity to foster reciprocal relationships with its individuals through quality control, and maintenance of lighting systems that lead to safer streets. A collaborative system where City Hall helps us banish the shadows that isolate and encourage us to start using our front doors more often.

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