Thursday, February 14, 2008

The meaning of it all....

It has long eluded me as to the meaning of exactly what we do here at Scale Down. OK, in my heart I know what it is we do; I just have a hard time explaining it sometimes.

I was being interviewed by Windsor Star reporter Ted Whip yesterday, and he asked - simply enough - what Scale Down is all about. I've been asked this so many times before, and have given a different answer each and every time, that I paused for a second before answering him.

If we distilled the essence of Scale Down into a perfume (without adding the 13 virgins - that would just be overwhelming!) what would the scent be like?

I was actually contemplating this very notion as I was performing my household duties yesterday prior to being interviewed. That is the time (aside from showering) that I do my best thinking. The kids aren't bugging me (they're alergic to doing the dishes, didn't you know) and I'm free to let my mind wander.

I know that we are continually backing the local business wo/man and their desire to make an honest living while providing a valued service to the community in which they live. I know we are always talking about our built environment and how "New Urbanism" and traditional neighbourhood development has proven itself superior for getting to know our neighbours as well as slimming our waistlines while we walk the couple of blocks to the store to get milk. We value a quality public transportation system as an efficient way to gain mobility. We espouse the arts and our cultural heritage as a way to reinvigorate the "Main Streets" of Windsor and how lively and exciting a neighbourhood that values its artists can be. We also get into the huge waste of money that communities spend as they duplicate and triplicate their infrastructure trying to service far-flung suburbs and their 3/4 acre raised ranches.

Then it dawned on me. We're all about the pedestrian! The notion of the human being, on foot, signifies progress in all aspects of our daily lives. When we get out of our cars and walk along our streets, we bump into the people who cut our meat at the deli and dispense our prescriptions at the drug store. We interact with each other and become involved in each other's lives. We don't mow each other down in our SUV's as we race to pick the kids up from daycare, because we have cut down our spending as we cut down our car and insurance payments and are able to spend less time at work. We're not working overtime to fuel our hyper-consumer lifestyles, so we're able to spend time with our significant others as we visit the theatre or art gallery. The only peopl less than thrilled with us when we focus on the foot are the big-box stores and the weight loss emporiums.

We're more human when we use our feet.

Whether this has brought me closer to understanding the essence of Scale Down or not, I don't know. We're all these things, and then a little something else thrown in the mix to shake things up a bit. I was hoping to come out of this mental exercise with an apporpriate slogan we could use to describe our actions, but I don't know whether I'm at that point yet or not.

I had come up with "Pedestrian Powered Rejuvenation", and am going to let that sit with me a while to see if it stands the test of time.


Boomer said...

I always have a little trouble putting it into words as well but I try to use the term human scale as it implies cycling and wheelchair friendly as well as pedestrian friendly. There's also the added benefit of showing the focus is on people versus just pedestrians as some individuals in our community will argue against pedestrianization. It's much more difficult to argue against the human scale mentality where we put people first and argue for equality for those that don't or cannot drive. The way our city is set up is completely discriminatory against those that don't drive and I think that's what needs to change. I was looking around yesterday and yet more examples of sidewalks not being shoveled are all around this city. Not only that but the plow trucks that clean the roads are piling snow several feet high in front of the sidewalk cutouts which are in place so the physically challenged can navigate as well as everyone else. So the city puts the cutouts in and then allows the plows to pile snow in front of them without repercussion, well that's privatization for you, get the job done in the quickest manner possible to maximize profits. They really ought to be fined the same as someone who doesn't shovel their walks. Just the other day I saw someone trying to navigate crossing from Dougall to old Dougal and actually pushing a child through the snow covered turning lane to get over while hes wife was trying to cross behind him with a bag of groceries and a package of paper towels, their lives were in serious danger just to get from point A to point B, but I digress. In a nutshell I just think it's important to also focus on the equality aspects of human scale, I'm off to write a letter to my councillors now, I'm so disgusted with the state of our city.

dave said...

What of the best columns yet Chris. I couldn't agree more!

John said...

Boomer: Just yesterday I saw a young mother pushing her baby stoller right on the outside lane on Tecumseh road - near an intersection where you have to be awful quick on your feet if you want to get to the other side alive. Why? The snow was packed so bad on the sidewalk beside St. Barnabas church she had no choice. Shameful. But it's that way all the time. CIBC @ Lincoln clears around the doors by their rear parking lot but not the public sidewalk. Only the section that is part of a bus stop gets cleaned (because the city does it). The rest right in front of a manager office octagonal window just turns to hard packed snow or ice and is safely passable only after a good melt. I guess they too cater to customers who arrive by car, not the neighbours who walk there. Maybe someone needs to get badly hurt first to get their attention (read:lawsuit) Examples are too numerous to cite here. But surely those who try to live a walkable lifestyle aren't being given much consideration by some people.

Adriano Ciotoli said...


the non-existent enforcement of clearing snowfall goes to show how little the leaders of city cares. if you are unwilling/do not care to take care of the little things, how can you expect to properly tackle the large things?

It also could be one of the reason there is a lack of civic pride in Windsor. it is all the little things that make a city livable.

I was in Ottawa a couple weeks ago and they got about 35cm in one day. The sidewalks were all cleared even before the snow stopped falling.

Maybe you can get the city to do something about this if you dangle the idea they can actually make some money off of writing people up infractions for not clearing the snow?

John said...

Yes, while I agree the city has to bone up on enforcement, there does come a time though when things like civic pride should not have to be enforced.

I think the blame for this falls more on the shop owners and employees who think they are above stepping outside with a shovel for twenty minutes. Or too cheap to buy a bag of road salt.

Adriano Ciotoli said...

I agree with you John, however it could be like i said:

"It also could be one of the reason there is a lack of civic pride in Windsor. it is all the little things that make a city livable."

Many people may be looking at it from the standpoint: "If the city isn't going to do anything, why should I?"

I'm not saying it is right, I am just saying it happens.

John said...

If we need someone in a white Cavalier with a yellow beacon on the top to enforce civic pride then we're all hopeless anyway. I don't think it should have to come to that.

The snow removal (or lack thereof) problem is a citywide malaise and nothing that can be cured only by sending out bylaw enforcement officers. If it was just one or two errant offenders, sure, but this is more deep seeded. It is a prevailing attitude toward pedestrian traffic that needs to change from the grass roots (imho)

Adriano Ciotoli said...

just noticed...

it's kind of funny you that you're talking about "Pedestrian Powered Rejuvenation" and in the picture you use for the article "Coco" is seen pretty clearly :)

Chris Holt said...

That's hilarious, Adriano! I didn't even notice that.

James Coulter said...

No pride of ownership.

A building is owned by an absentee landlord.
The property is managed by an offsite company.
The tennant is invariably an outlet or storefront for a large corporation.

No individual person takes responsiblility. Unless you write "shovel snow and salt walkways" on someone's job description it is not going to get done.

Our world is in a sad state :-(

Chris Holt said...

It's called the Tragedy Of The Commons, and it's a common malady these days...

Chris Holt said...

Thanks Dave!