As we’ve noted for the last few weeks on Instagram @gordonpriceyvr, the transformation of Richards Street is remarkable. Once a four-lane high-speed arterial, it’s now down to one lane for moving vehicles on some blocks.
The northern blocks in blue below are now open, and construction is well underway to the south:
It’s been transformative, and not just for transportation. The feel and look of the street is now tamed and dignified.
There will up to five rows of trees in a 75-foot cross-section – a street experience unlike any I can think of, including Paris.
Richards with Seymour was once part of a one-way couplet system (like Howe and Hornby), intended to move traffic expeditiously through the downtown peninsula. Other than a few decaying houses, there was no residential to speak of. Downtown South was primarily for city-serving uses (laundries, printers, garages, parking lots, bars and clubs).
Now it is becoming, dare we say, one of the classiest streets in the city, using the Vancouverism technique of podium-and-rowhouses to define the corridor in a way typical of 19th-century eastern and European cities.
For cyclists, it is, like Hornby, a bikeway that connects neighbourhoods and destinations, now on the eastern side of the peninsula, from Gastown to Chandelier, through the SFU /Academic Quarter, past the emerging Amazon Town, by the East Robson and Davie high streets, with three parks (Cathedral, Emery Barnes and one as yet unnamed) in between. It will be safest and most comfortable way to get to Yaletown, Concord and the Cambie Bridge. It helps complete the separated system, with connections to Dunsmuir (below), Smithe/Nelson and eventually Drake.
And it’s all happened without much of the nonsense that has typified so many of the bikeways; its construction has occurred with a minimum of impact because of Covid; and its real impact is still to come. Once completed, it will go through a period of discovery as cyclists figure out how it fits into their mental maps. And then, in a few years, it will be one of the busiest bikeways in the system.