I know it seems like I keep harping on all the things I find problematic about Phoenix and I tend to point out the things we could learn from other cities. But this doesn’t mean there aren’t already great things about living here, right now, just the way they are. Today I wanted to touch on one of those things, and that is our canal system.
There has been much discussion, much speculation and much thought put into our canal system thanks to Nan Ellin’s visionary Canalscape project which is now being overseen by Valley Forward Association.
But what I’d like to talk about today is basically how great our canals are already, without any change whatsoever. I’m lucky to live right next to the canal. On many days of the week, I ride my bike on the canals to Lux Coffeebar (“the office”) in the mornings and back home. Sometimes I’ll ride to my gym which also happens to be on the canal.
This is one of the reasons I absolutely love the canals and that is that they are great connectors. Separate from our roads. They run in diagonals, so they connect destinations in a different way than our perpendicular roads do. So for example, if I were to take our perpendicular gridded street system to Lux, it would take me much longer and also it would be much more circuitous. But the canal connects my house to Lux in one straight wonderful unadulterated shot.
Another reason I love the canals is the very fact that they are a system completely independent of our roads. As a biker, this is of great comfort to me as I don’t have to be dodging distracted drivers and feeling the whoosh of a huge truck speed by me as I pedal along in my vulnerable position. Often times I’ll pass people walking on the canals, yes walking. WALKING in Phoenix! This is where all the walkers are, on the canals. And more times than not, I’ll look these walkers in the eye, smile and say hello, unless they beat me to it. The canals, because they are away from the busy, car-worshipping road system, allow for a slower, more serene, more human topography.
And this brings me to the last reason I love the canals and that is because they are a slice of nature in our asphalted concrete urban surroundings. Where else will you find stretches of still waters, trees, ducks and fish right in the middle of the city? One of my greatest delights in riding my bike on the canals is watching the ducks buried in the water with their butts hanging in the air. That invariably brings a smile to my face.
Speaking of smiling, the canals, maybe because of all of the reasons I just mentioned, serve as a great stress-reducer. Now think about it, driving on our roads can be really aggravating, even biking and walking on them can raise your cortisol levels, maybe because of the speed and the intensity of the traffic. But the canals seem to have the opposite effect. The serenity, the stillness, the connection to nature all seem to work to calm the nerves, even after a hectic morning at “the office”.
Do you use the canals much? If so, what do YOU like about them? Leave me a comment.
Photo Credit: The view of the Grand Canal, south of Osborn, right next to my house. Photo by the author.Tags: canals, Canalscape, Lux Coffeebar, nan ellin, the Grand Canal, Vally Forward Association