We’ve all heard the saying before – people come to Fernie for the winter and stay for the summer. Amen to that. As much as I love our powder-filled winter season, summer in the Elk Valley is breathtakingly beautiful and the days quickly fill with bike rides, hikes and leisurely strolls down Second Avenue.
And what better way to wrap up a summer day than by settling in on an outdoor patio for a cold beverage, some good food and an amazing view? More and more sidewalk patios seem to be popping up on Fernie’s Main Street, and while they continue to be a bit of a controversial topic, I for one, am all for them.
Yes, there are certain cons that come with the patios. An empty parking space is near impossible to find, and those situated close to corners block the view of drivers, create new blind spots and cause congestion for both vehicle and pedestrian traffic.
But in my humble opinion, the pros far outweigh the cons. They create a welcoming atmosphere for both locals and tourists, encouraging them to spend more time (and money) than they might normally enjoying Second Avenue. They also promote bike and pedestrian traffic, making Fernie a greener place and a more physically active community than it already is.
So, in the hopes of offering up a solution that might make everyone happy, I’m going to make a crazy suggestion. And I know I’m not the first person to think of it or bring it up.
Why doesn’t the city shut down Second Avenue from Fourth Street to Seventh Street to vehicle traffic? Create three blocks of pedestrian and bicycle only space. Abolish the current concerns of congestion and traffic hazards. Make the patios even more enjoyable by taking away the current view of vehicles passing by.
Now I know that means eliminating three blocks of parking spaces. But there are plenty of parking lots and spaces just one block over on First or Third Avenue. And designating a few handicapped spaces close to the three-block radius would keep the area accessible to all.
If you’ve ever visited the Kimberley Platz or Whistler Village, you know what I’m talking about. Imagine savouring an icy cold beer on a quiet, vehicle fume-free patio. Or walking down the street with an ice cream cone in one hand and your child in the other, with no need to look both ways twice before crossing the street.
I know the idea has been brought forward before, but maybe, just maybe, if we keep making the suggestion, a pedestrian-only downtown Fernie could become a summer reality.