30 July 2017

Hostage Comedy, part 5: A Hermit with a Modest Proposal or Three

As it turns out, the race days themselves were not so disruptive. Yes, we had crazy loudspeaker radio broadcasts from 8 am that you could hardly ignore (although as we speak, with the windows closed and the air conditioning on, it’s a low rumble in the background), but the cars themselves make a funny whiny sound that one friend compared to something out of Star Wars. Way quieter at this proximity than the Formula 1 cars were at a distance before they built all those condos to absorb the sound.

There’s a certain amount of crowd noise — mostly some annoying whistles that they must have been giving out (stop that!) — but nothing unbearable. A little helicopter noise that I could do without as well. As a whole, however, I stayed in my apartment (not the first weekend I have given over to sloth) and the inconvenience of being walled in slipped by almost without notice. While I didn’t go out to watch, I did watch the main races on TV — and I’m loving that my corner was dubbed “the bus stop chicane”. I may call it that going forward.

But that’s the two days of the race. The three weeks plus all around it is the annoying bit that the city needs to fix if it wants to get me on side.

“On side” might be a bit of an exaggeration. I will likely never see the point of driving around in circles, or believe in the “athleticism” of driving any kind of car. I’m much more sold on the human-powered sporting events, like the marathon and the Tour de l’Île cycling events. They often come past my house, and I find those part-day interruptions of my regular life to be soothing and welcome. Replacing car traffic with runners and cyclists is always a plus, even if it makes crossing the street a bit of a game of Frogger.

So what could make this experience better for me, especially if it comes back next year and the year after? I have a few ideas.

1. Make the installation of the track more green and more friendly to the residents. Work during the day and leave the bus stops operational until the last minute. I really don’t care about the personal car traffic, and I’m sure that will set me apart from many of my neighbours, in particular the ones with cars. If you think your event is going to promote green transportation, especially electric transports, then you bend over backwards to accommodate as long as possible the single-passenger (yeah, I often notice that) combustion engines to the detriment of public transit and the sleeping time of the people who live around the track, you are doing something terribly wrong.

2. Give the residents some real advantages. Everyone in the neighbourhood, inside the track and around it, is living with some degree of inconvenience from the event and the preparations (and doubtless the dismantling to come). Many would say that my last statement is really soft-pedalling it, even though our mayor (who notably lives somewhere far away from all this) is happy to assume the inconveniences as the price of a notable event. So how? Give us all good tickets with seats, accessible from where we live. Rumour has it that many of the tickets were handed out free of charge in the days leading up to the event (can’t wait to see the final accounting on this!), so why not give those tickets to the residents first, before handing them out on the street to other people or making the residents jump through hoops to get standing room tickets? I’m not sure if I would go (didn’t go at all this time, with my stand-in-the-sun-and-get-melanoma tickets), but you never know. (I made no effort to catch Stockholm Syndrome this time around.)

3. The best change of all would be to move the thing to the Formula 1 racetrack we already have (and already have commitments to spend a bunch of money upgrading), avoiding all the inconvenience for the neighbourhood and those who pass through it daily. That’s a winner of an idea — you wouldn’t have to be giving away a bunch of tickets or saddling the public transit system with your apparent unilateral declaration of free transit for the weekend. You would avoid suspending all the parking for kilometres around the site (no parking outside my office 1.5 km away) and avoid ordering the restaurants and bars that count on their terrasses to draw customers in the nice weather to tear them up for the weekend.

So a few modest proposals to consider, while I consider looking for an apartment elsewhere, pushed out of my central neighbourhood where I have lived for 22 years because of the city’s bad planning and worse communication skills.

Oh, and yes, there IS an election coming in November. Will the mayor’s party be riding a wave, or be submerged by it?

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