Changing the direction of traffic on a portion of Sidney’s Beacon Avenue is going to be a hard sell — and the proponents of doing just that know they have a hard road ahead.
The Sidney Tourism Improvement Group’s Two-Way All The Way campaign kicked off in earnest on Oct. 3 with a public meeting at the Mary Winspear Centre. They drew an estimated 50 people, many of whom were either supporters or municipal staff checking to see what the lobby group is up to.
Attendees were a mix of downtown business people and local residents. There seems to be a focus on business and property owners in the downtown along Beacon Avenue in this campaign. In the early stages, that’s fine — the proponents need the support of those folks who could have a lot to gain (or lose) by changes in traffic patterns. Many reactions so far have been mixed.
Over the long term, however, they will also have to sell the change to the community — the people who drive the streets and are, for the time being, used to the system as it is today.
STIG will also have to come up with convincing arguments to deliver to Sidney town councillors. There are enough of the local politicians who have their doubts about the need for any changes at all that will make the path all the more tough.
Where STIG has a bit of a leg up so far, is in public consultation on the issue.
A traffic study by Urban Systems which was commissioned by the Town last year gave a brief opinion on the traffic flow on Beacon. The contract didn’t specifically ask Urban Systems to do so, but they had extra time available to look into it. In a nutshell, the consultants noted a general lack of intuitiveness in the flow of traffic on and off of Beacon Avenue — but really no other serious issues that need to be addressed immediately.
They suggested strongly that for the town to take any action on the direction matter, they would need to consult heavily with the business community and residents in general.
Council’s initial response was to bury the report at the committee level, essentially delaying making any decisions on the matter. Mayor Larry Cross says he wants the issue on council’s strategic planning agenda this month.
STIG, however, wants local and visitor traffic — and its perceived boon on the fortunes of local business — on the table sooner than later.
They may have reached out to the community first, but it’s the better arguments for change that will win this road race.