Skip to content

FORSYTH: Let’s hear it for sidewalks (and we could use some more)

COLUMN: Walking excellent for physical health, mental health and pocketbook
A sidewalk along Corfield Street in Parksville. (Kevin Forsyth photo)

There’s nothing like a spring stroll through the Parksville Qualicum Beach area.

The cherry blossoms are blooming, the birds are chirping and the cars are driving past me while I walk on the shoulder of a residential street with no sidewalk.

Does this situation sound familiar? I’m not blaming drivers — this column isn’t about speeding.

Walking around the mid-Island area for almost four years now has left me puzzled with the lack of sidewalks. Is this a Vancouver Island thing? A B.C. thing?

I’ve always been a big walker. Partially that’s probably been an adaptation from getting my driver’s licence at 18, rather than 16 as many of my schoolmates did. Walking is also, in my humble opinion, one of the best ways to get to know your community.

I’ve been driving for almost 20 years now (it feels weird to type that) and I still prefer to walk places if it’s a reasonable distance. Heck, I’ll park at the outskirts of just about any parking lot to get some extra steps.

I could grumble about a lot of things in the prairie cities I lived in (before I escaped to the Island), but I did not realize I was taking the abundance of sidewalks for granted.

Whether it’s Qualicum Beach, Nanaimo or Parksville, I’m still experiencing a culture shock when I walk down a street with zero sidewalks or when one side is blessed with a sidewalk and the other isn’t. Then there’s my favourite — the sidewalk just abruptly ends mid-block (why?).

What’s especially confusing to me is we have this situation despite our high population of seniors.

READ MORE: WOLF: No taking me out to the ballgame again this year

Few places in Canada will have more wheelchairs, walkers and motorized scooters on the roll per capita, so why so few sidewalks? Let’s not forget about families with young children either, since sidewalks are important for anyone pushing a stroller.

From what I can tell, local governments in Parksville, Qualicum Beach and the Regional District of Nanaimo take accessibility into consideration and make an effort to make parks and trails more accessible when they can.

Have sidewalks become a blind spot? Do we need Sidewalk Master Plans? Perhaps a Charter of Sidewalk User Rights and Freedoms? Do they matter?

Walking is good for you, and so is not constantly wondering if you’re going to be clipped by a passing car.

Whether it’s a child walking to school, a teenager hoofing it to their first part-time job or a senior citizen walking their dog, walking is a great way to get some exercise.

It’s also good for the environment and reduces the air pollution that results from driving a motor vehicle. With gas prices once again through the roof, people will have more reason than ever to walk. Promoting this healthy activity is something everyone should be able to get behind.

I think Parksville and Qualicum Beach are both fairly “walkable” communities in the big picture, but there is still a lot of room for improvement.

Is there a street in the PQB area that could use a sidewalk, or more sidewalk? Am I totally out to lunch? Drop me a line at, or find me walking through Parksville Community Park, one of my favourite places to walk.

Kevin Forsyth

About the Author: Kevin Forsyth

As a lifelong learner, I enjoy experiencing new cultures and traveled around the world before making Vancouver Island my home.
Read more