Alicia Bridges sang in the days of disco, “I want to go where the people dance.” Once upon a disco ball (and overly high hair), I did just that—dance—and I was fearless.
Today, it’s not the dance floor that scares me; it’s walking the dark city streets to our cars, after my friends and I have enjoyed an evening out.
So I asked the question: how does a community create a safe night environment?
Edmonton is making progress with Street-as-a-Venue (SAV), a community liaison and city services arm of the Responsible Hospitality Edmonton (RHE) program.
Where licensed premises are concentrated, SAV recognizes there are impacts on the community—public urination, aggressive behaviour, littering and transportation issues. SAV coordinates services to minimize these impacts through mural installations and initiatives such as SOS Music Festival, alley art projects, food trucks and patron responsibility campaigns.
“Edmonton has really become the North American model on how to create a safe and vibrant night-time economy,” said Jim Peters, founder and president of the Responsible Hospitality Institute in Santa Cruz, Calif. His institute inspired Edmonton’s own organization, which uses a six-element approach: vibrancy, quality of life, venue and public safety, late-night transportation, community policing and patron responsibility.
“Everyone has the right to a safe night out,” said Angela Turner, Project Manager of RHI, “and a lot goes on behind the scenes to make it that way.” The initiative creates solutions with the installation of public toilets, ashtrays and garbage receptacles, street and alley lighting, and pedestrian crossings.
As patrons leave bars in search of cabs, Turner calls this the “third rush hour.” A pilot project in 2012 called Night Ride was well received by the public but failed dues to a lack of funding.
South of the border, former Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn began a Nightlife Initiative a few years ago by installing a pre-payment option on parking pay stations. Drivers can prepay for two extra hours of parking the next morning from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m, to give them more time to get home safely by cab or transit and pick up their vehicle the next day.
“The Nightlife Initiative grew out of a need to support our local businesses, encourage a safer nightlife experience and build urban vibrancy in Seattle,” McGinn said.
McGinn’s initiative motivated two University of B.C. economics students. A few years ago their economics professor challenged them to come up with an idea to improve public policy.
After a visit to Seattle for a Seahawks football game, Leighton Hay and Curtis Kuznecov discovered they could purchase a “liquor sticker” at a parking pay station to place in their vehicle’s window.
The two men moved their idea from the classroom to City Hall, writing an open letter to City Council to put forward the idea and also collaborating with ICBC and MADD. By the end of 2014, the City of Vancouver approved the pre-paid meter change.
Stronger neighbourhoods, more public safety and carefree nightlife in our cities—this is encouraging news, especially since my disco ball is itching to go for a spin!
More of Shannon Kernaghan’s writing.