The west side of Lethbridge is where no one else wants to drive. It’s like the Dark Side, but somehow more mysterious. I’ve had people tell me, more than once, “I don’t know the west side that well. Can we meet somewhere else?” I kindly remind these people that on their smartphones there are apps that tell them exactly the address and directions they need. Maybe it’s the traffic circles that scare them and not the street names.
West Lethbridge became known as the ‘student’ side of the city. The place became a ghost town in the summer when all the students travelled home. There were literal tumbleweeds cartwheeling down the streets. Then, the west side grew quickly with young families and the traffic soon overran the small road infrastructure. It was a time for change, and we all celebrated when the roads were widened and traffic lights were added. A while after that, more grocery stores and gas stations cropped up to fuel the exploding population.
Let’s not forget Whoop-up drive. It is well known that a single accident, or one construction lane closure will bring that valley drive to its knees. Wait until it’s 5 o’clock on a Friday, and you can see the traffic backed all the way into downtown Lethbridge. So, when I invite my friends from the “other side” over to the west, they all give the same response: “I don’t go west”. What do you mean, “you don’t go west”?! It takes fifteen minutes to drive anywhere in Lethbridge, yet I can’t really fault my friends for not wanting to drive to my side of the city. That fifteen minutes is doubled in high traffic hours. Thirty minutes is a lot, okay?
Build another bridge. That was an idea they had a few years back after the pile of accidents in the winter that closed Highway Three and Whoop-up drive in the same hour. I was one of hundreds of drivers who were stranded on the south side, trying to get home for hours. Some drove their trucks over the median on scenic drive and turned around. They took a gravel road home. I, on the other hand, went for a coffee and am forever thankful that I always have a book with me. After that incident, there were many discussions about another bridge, but the cost was incredibly high, and eventually most of us forgot about it.
Well, I still demand. Perhaps not a bridge, but something. Laser space rockets? Hover cars? Are those options? The west side has grown a lot, and I can get most of my errands done without going over the river. But, why should Lethbridgians be afraid of the bridge? Sure, it gets icy in the winters. Sure, it’s had the same rocket-boosting bump on the right hand side that grounds my car every time I forget to merge off it. Sure, you can expect 98% of the time there will be photo radar waiting to mail you a ticket. And yes, alright, I’ll admit that a surprising amount of drivers forget to turn on their headlights at night when making the drive. But, I’m sure we can do better.
The west side has new homes popping up constantly, and we can’t keep waiting for another disaster. We need something to get “the others” to visit the west side without hesitancy. And we need more restaurants. Stop with all the Tim Horton’s. Besides, we’re not that strange, us west siders. Well… not all of us.