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Oh, the irony

Mike Fleury widens your perspective.

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Here's the thing about widening Chebucto Road: Adding another lane and another strip of pavement to our city is not a progressive idea. Christ knows if anyone on Council is paying attention, but for the record: The 20th century was all about the car, the 21st is all about how to stop using them. The pledge to add a reversing car-friendly lane to

Chebucto is more 1987 than 2007. Times have changed, dudes, and pandering to the car commuter just ain't cool anymore. That shit is straight wack.

Anyway, maybe it's appropriate that the fight to reverse the reversing-lane decision has moved to the trendiest, most inescapable of 2007 phenomena: Facebook.

Going by the less-than-oblique title, "The Chebucto Road widening project is an embarrassment," the group currently has a modest membership of 23 people. Certainly, there's room there for improvement. If the guy petitioning to get a Bruce Frisko tattoo can get more than 26,000 members to join his group (which, we admit, is pretty awesome), we can surely muster some more outrage about one of the most boneheaded moves that the current group of Halifax Regional councillors has ever made. Take five minutes of your Facebook life and join, would ya?

Andrea McQuillin is a member. She's also devoted another small corner of the web to the Chebucto dilemma: keepitlivable.org, which chronicles the ongoing fight between the city and the Chebucto Neighbourhood Association. As the city prepares to buy the property needed for the project and tear down the houses that impede on the impending lane, McQuillan says things are bleak. But she's not giving up.

"Basically now, the city is following provincial legislation," she says. "Once it's decided that this road widening is for the "public good'—and basically, that's what the decision from Council has already said—they can just proceed. It's just a matter of haggling about the money to buy the land, but we don't really have much recourse." McQuillan also worries that this is just the first step in a larger land grab by the city. "After you get past MacDonald and Mumford Road, what happens after Connaught when it narrows to two lanes? They're just moving the problem up a little bit farther. Is that what's next?"

The only official way to continue the fight is to appeal Council's decision to the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board. But the URB appeal process isn't particularly user-friendly, says McQuillan, and it will likely involve lawyers. And lawyers get expensive.

"We don't really want to do that, because the city can just out-wait us—we've got limited resources, and we can't afford a lawyer forever," she says.

"If there's an up-swell of fury about it, maybe something will change. But some people really do believe it's like your god-given right to carry guns in the States: You have a god-given right to be able to drive your car to the liquor store rather than walk 50 steps to it."

Which brings me around to that blurb title, "Oh, the irony." This week Halifax hosted a travelling panel of experts on how to improve the city's walkability. From their own event-promoting press release, "HRM encourages residents to come out and discuss how HRM can be more "walkable' or "pedestrian-friendly.'"

Dudes—for serious? Scrap the road-widening project. That would be a start.

Still scrappin’. Email: mikef@thecoast.ca

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