That’s Tilo Driessen – the Park Board’s Manager of Research and Planning  – looking over a map he had a hand in producing almost two decades ago:

Back in the mid-90s, he had his first temporary job with the City, working on the Greenways staff team that had been formed as a consequence of a Gordon Campbell initiative (he was Mayor in 1991).  The Urban Landscape Task Force is now remembered for its report – Greenways, Public Ways – and its Chair, Moura Quayle, for whom Tilo was a grad student at UBC. 

Once approved in principle, the job was to figure out how and where a network of greenways might go.  Traditional thinking and initial mapping suggested the obvious: natural, linear and man-made rights-of-way.  In other words, routes along the coast, the ridge and perhaps some rail lines.  But that wasn’t enough.  The idea was to create a web of routes within walking distance of every resident, and to serve them with landscape and amenities that would change how people thought about their city.

Tilo had an idea.  Why not map all the places in the city where they served espresso, and all the bike shops?  The result was this map:

By this time, of course, the coffee craze was well underway – and, no surprise, there are concentrations along  West End streets, Kits, Gastown and the Drive. Likewise the bike shops.   And then large expanses of white space.   But along with other maps – more to come later – it added a layer with which to begin outlining a system of connected greenways that now serves us today.

Which you can see here.


  1. The greenway network still needs a lot of work. Today, about 17 years after the plan was approved, only about a third of the network is in place. At is rate, it will take 60 years to complete. Much of the existing network badly needs upgrading to handle the demand, improve traffic calming or to make it more attractive to cyclists and pedestrians. When it was approved, the network was not costed out and thus, there was no attempt to properly fund it. The funds in the capital plan are not enough to improve existing sections let alone complete the network within a reasonable amount of time.

  2. The person I admire is City of Vancouver planner Sandy James, who I’ve dubbed our “greenways goddess”. Sandy has led the charge for creating memorable streetscapes across Vancouver going back to the early 1990s, including my coveted Country Lane and the Tupper Greenway among many others. Sandy also organized the recent Walk 21 conference.

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