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A pedestrian primer 

While Halifax may not be the biggest city in Canada, it certainly isn't the smallest. Here are perils and privileges to walking in this town.

As students, you represent the incoming population wave arriving in this Atlantic coastal city. The outgoing wave: Tourists. You're here at the beginning of the end of tourist season, so numbers may perhaps not be as great as during the height of summer, but there is enough tourism still happening that you can and will experience the "tourist walk." It's not really a walk because it involves as much stopping, spinning and staring as it does forward motion. Or you can count how many times the Harbour Hopper drives past. The amphibious vehicle creates a weird and paradoxical moment of connection and disconnection. The passengers look down at you; you look up at them. Eyes lock: Two people regarding one another. But suddenly, you feel acutely aware that, from your position below on the street, you're part of the display, the diorama. Then they look away, following the gesture or scripted voice of the tour guide. And your latest performance as an animatronic figure is done.

The bridge

Yes, you can walk along Halifax's waterfront, heading north-south or vice versa. All very lovely. But a brilliant way to experience this city's relationship to and reliance on the water is to walk high above it. The Angus L. Macdonald Bridge, the "old/original bridge" in local parlance, first opened in 1955 and includes a bike lane and walkway there---which would be Dartmouth---and back, along its suspended expanse. Dramatic views in (toward the Bedford Basin) and out (George's Island and, beyond, Chebucto Head) of the harbour are unparalleled.

Of course, if you're afraid of heights, this is not an advisable route to take. Perhaps it's simply a matter of not looking down. And keep in mind that there's no pedestrian access or usage on the "new" (1970) bridge, the A. Murray MacKay. Trying to walk it will only lead to disappointment.

Citadel Hill

For some, this is a jewel in the walker's Halifax. When people talk about, or talk up, views (or viewplanes, as you may have heard used in recent debates about contemporary and heritage architecture) of the harbour, they talk about Citadel Hill. From the top, one can see historic George's Island, which has played a key role in settlement, fortification and immigration in this city.

The beauty of Citadel Hill, arguably, is the mental panoramic shot you can take when following by foot the route ringing it near the top. That way, you get the sense of the whole city, not just the part next to the water. Turn away from the water and you see the Halifax Common, another fabulous public space to walk. You get a sense for how mainstay public institutions, such as universities and hospitals, have developed.

The downside of Citadel Hill for some walkers is getting up it. If you're in poor or even just OK shape, you're going to be heads down, hands gripping knees, trying to catch your breath. If you can't afford the gym (or don't want to go), include Citadel Hill in your walk.

On cyclists and sidewalks

Lastly, Halifax isn't a cycling town (with so few bike lanes), but if people aren't in cars to get around, they're on bikes, with a smaller contingent on skateboards. Sure, there are many of us walkers, too. We're well-represented, but soon you learn cyclists aren't just demanding a share of and respect on the road, but of the sidewalks, too.

Some want to---and will---cut up on to the side walks at random, clipping your heels or brushing your shoulder. With no wheels, pedestrians lose out biggest. We may not have our own Critical Mass, but, well, try not to forget us. We'll all get there in due time.

Put your best foot forward
1. Pick up a reliable (and waterproof) set of footwear.
2. Step out your front door.
3. The peninsula---from stem to stern---can easily be walked in a few hours: From Seaview Park looking over the Bedford Basin to Point Pleasant Park, the green, leafy tip of the south end, and all in between, it’s best seen on foot.

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Vol 27, No 29
December 12, 2019

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