As I write this post, I am sitting in the Second Cup, attached to the Edmonton Public Library in downtown Edmonton. As far as coffee shops go this one is large and spacious while still having plenty of tables for the customers. There are also about a dozen bright, floral arrangements scatter around the shop.
As I wandered around downtown Edmonton yesterday, two things really stood out to me. The first was the general cleanliness of the downtown area, and I went beyond just the part where the shiny office towers are. In fact I felt more at home in that part of downtown than around the towers. Even the area where the Salvation Army DHQ is located (where my brother works and which has a reputation as a fairly undesirable area, was cleaner than just about any area in downtown Winnipeg. One of the things my brother told me is that businesses often group together to clean up a block or two. I don’t often hear about Winnipeg businesses doing such things.
The other thing I really noticed was how pedestrian friendly Edmonton is. This came to my attention as I arrived at the corner of an uncontrolled intersection and suddenly noticed cars in the far lane stopping. It took me a couple of moments to realize that they were stopping to allow me to cross. That would never happen in Winnipeg, and believe me, I’ve spent enough time walking to know.
One other thing I noticed in retrospect was the lack of aggressive panhandling. While I was approached for money or cigarettes a couple of times, I also spent about 6 hours on the street. In Winnipeg, I’m likely to be approached three times in 6 minutes. Of course, I’m sure Edmonton has other problems that Winnipeg doesn’t, but all in all it made for a pleasant days of wandering the streets.