Gordon Price and I have been posting on the need to rethink open streets in the times of the Covid pandemic. We need to keep six feet or two meters apart from other people when walking and Vancouver’s sidewalks are just not wide enough. We simply need to be able to get outside for physical and mental health, and if you can exercise or do a shopping trip at the same time, all the better.
Both of us have been talking about the Greenways Plan which has over decades reprioritized, repurposed and rebuilt urban space for pedestrian and cycling priority, from Seaside to Central Valley, from Hornby to Arbutus. And it has a long-standing plan to do more. I have been on CBC Radio and CTV News talking about the concept, and the Vancouver Sun carried my guest editorial on the need for greenways as open streets.
The thinking behind prioritizing walking on connected streets throughout the city has already been done in Vancouver, where 25 years ago the Urban Landscape Taskforce, which included several landscape architects, came up with the ambitious Greenways Plan. What they termed “greenways” are actually a network of linked, traffic-calmed “green streets.” There are 140 kilometres of greenways, with a network of 14 city greenways that go boundary to boundary.
That Urban Landscape Taskforce that came with the concept of a green street plan to link streets, parks and rights of way for pedestrians and cyclists was headed by the remarkable Moura Quayle.
Moura Quayle was the founding Director of UBC’s School of Public Policy and Global Affairs and is a professor in the Sauder School of Business. Her book “Designed Leadership” was published by the Columbia Business School Press. Moura has also been the Dean of UBC’s Faculty of Land and Food Systems as well as the Deputy Minister of Advanced Education. That’s just a few of the things that Moura has done, and as anyone knows that has met her, she is thoughtful and very engaged in applying strategic design into innovation in many different fields.
It’s no surprise that Moura had a copy of the Urban Landscape Taskforce’s plan close at hand and wrote to us to say:
“Thanks for promoting this great idea. It makes so much sense to build on the existing system and network and think about not just using it now for our need for “more space” but also for how we are going to emerge into the “new city” with “new transportation priorities” that result from the probable continuing need for space between us.
Thanks for your continuing promotion of walkability and the greenways system. I was compelled to go back to the Urban Landscape Task Force report of 1992 and the “Principles for Decision-Making” that we wanted Council to embed into their governance practice. Many of the principles are relevant today to your idea of expanding the greenway system to meet our current needs.
For example, 1.4 Make connections: Access and connections to nature, parks, and special sacred and civic spaces should be available to all citizens in work, play and learning Provide opportunities to experience the richness of detail on foot, by bicycle, by wheelchair or by public transit.
Or 1.6 Encourage innovation: The urban landscape is in a constant state of change, and people need help to understand this. Provide for flexibility and innovation in the planning and design of the urban landscape; let the unplanned happen occasionally.
Or 1.7 Be fair and equitable: Equity is geographic, demographic and inter-generational. Provide everyone with fair opportunities to access and enjoy different types, sizes and experiences of open space.
This Price Tags piece has motivated me to write to the Mayor and to our planners, landscape architects and engineers to hopefully encourage them to move quickly on this idea. The 37th Avenue greenway would be a sensible place to start – at least I think so! But we need action quickly because spring is soon to be truly upon us and people will want to be safely outside in the accessible urban landscape!
Again, many thanks. Moura “