COVID Place making
April 5, 2020

A Safe Way on the Greenway

In the post below, Price Tags is advocating that the existing and planned Greenway network be designated for both social distancing and social inclusion – a common space to share together, with enough room to maintain separation.  In other words, the streets and paths that, with reduced or eliminated vehicle traffic, become the places we need to enjoy the spring, get some exercise on foot and bike, and reduce the mental risks of depression and anxiety.

For our City leaders, it’s a fast, affordable and unifying action they can take now.  And here’s the thing: people are going to do it anyway.

April 5, Chilco Street

We don’t need to be told: keep a two-meter distance when walking, even further on bike.  We just need the space to do it properly.  We need to formalize what citizens will do on their own.  To make it safer by providing direction, instructions and signage in order to avoid conflicts with vehicles.

We can even set a goal: This spring, walk or cycle the complete greenway network.


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The Seven O’Clock Cheer has become so much more than support for the health care providers who are on the front line.  It’s also a way to support ourselves.

The West End is ideal for human exchange: a single voice carries over lanes and roofs to hundreds of others on balconies, who break out in their own applause.  A beautiful cacophony.  And eye contact.

Often spontaneous events burn brightly but fade quickly.  Still, the nightly cheer goes on.  Naturally, people make their own contributions; they take advantage of this amazing performance space; they find ways to keep it going.

One who does is Caley Honeywell (caleyonsax – Instagram)  She plays her saxophone from the rooftop of her building on the edge of Stanley Park.  From a block away, it doesn’t sound like any saxophone you’ve ever heard.

After some blares and improvisations, she breaks out in ‘O Canada’.  Listeners even a short distance away can’t quite tell where the sound is coming from.  It goes right to the heart.

Here she is – “Pied Piper of Unity” – in a video taken by neighbour Alex McCullough:


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I’m on the sixth day of a two-week quarantine after returning from Australia, and, though well-supported by friends and neighbours, I can appreciate the toll that isolation will take – and I’m one of the fortunate ones.   Those more at risk because of mental illness, those impacted by job loss, parents caring for at-risk children, all of us dealing with the fear and reality of sickness and death … these stressors will only become more intense in coming weeks.

Sandro Galea, who studied the impacts of quarantine during the SARS epidemic in Toronto, says isolation can contribute to a range of mental disorders like anxiety and depression, but can also trigger heavier consumption of drugs and alcohol, and even post-traumatic stress disorder.

“We humans are ultimately social. We’re social creatures and we do need interaction — physical and social — with others.

Physical distancing orders will remain in place until at least May.  So how are we to achieve both separation and interaction?  When will we begin to take the first steps towards a safe return to a more normal life.  How, simply, will we find a way to move about, to exercise, to share urban spaces with others.

Sandy James knows how.

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Beach Avenue looking west & Aquatic Centre August 3 1974


If anyone ever wanted to look at what priority the automobile was given in the last century, this image tells the story. 1974 was the year the “new” Aquatic Centre was opened, replacing the Crystal Pool that had been built on the same site in 1928. The Martello Towers are part of the “grand gesture” to the modernism of the street, where no  walker or cyclist can be seen.

This was the same year that the Knight Street Bridge was opened, and Granville Street north of Nelson was closed to vehicular traffic for conversion to a pedestrian mall, which opened that summer.

The image is another great one from Diane Sampson who found this at the Vancouver Archives.


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Medical Health Officer for British Columbia Dr. Bonnie Henry provides daily briefings on  the Covid-19 pandemic, its impact on British Columbia and what we can do to “flatten the curve” of infection.

In looking at lessening the  pandemic, Dr. Henry is “getting back to the pump” which is an expression used in public health to describe the work of Dr. John Snow.  Dr. Snow is  often called the father of epidemiology, which is the  study of disease incidence and control.

In 1854 Dr. Snow who was a London physician used geographical co-ordinates to figure out where cholera, which was infecting and killing people in the Broad Street area of  Soho London, was coming from. He traced the disease to  a public water pump on the street. By removing the handle of the pump, and asking patients to wash hands and practice good hygiene the infected water was not consumed and the cholera cases diminished.

Dr. Snow had plotted the domiciles of the people who were infected and were dying looking for patterns and connections. What he found is that all the cholera infected had been drinking water from this one well, which was not very deep and which had been contaminated.

The action of removing the handle of the pump was controversial at the time when it was assumed that disease was airborne, and found in bad scents. By using meticulous locational analysis and a “simple and direct” action, Dr. Snow stopped the deaths and saved lives.

It was this same methodical approach that made the difference in the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic that infected 27 percent of the world’s population.I have written about  how New York City had lower death rates than other cities by instituting four important principles. The City had a “robust” and organized public health infrastructure, the healthy were distanced from the infected, a  citywide public health campaign was launched, and disease surveillance was implemented.

One hundred and two years later  with a pandemic of a virus where there is no vaccine the advice is similar.  Physical distancing,  isolation, hand washing, a robust public health campaign and tracking of disease is paramount.

Dr. Snow had recommended handwashing and hygiene almost 170 years ago to prevent cholera. Even today epidemiologists have estimated that handwashing with soap can reduce diarrhoea by 47 percent and save one million lives in third world countries.

But you can look to the first world too about the need for better handwashing. In a study done in the United Kingdom in gas stations, sensors indicated that only 64 percent of women and 32 percent of men were washing hands with soap. That  indicates  that even with the knowledge of what to do, that failed in practice.

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In one of those stories that you have to see to believe, a herd of Kashmiri goats have taken over a village in Wales. Because of a Covid-19 lockdown in the Welsh village of  Llandudno the goats have no one to tell them to stay in their hilly habitat and away from the town~and the town gardens.  Llandudno is a seaside resort on the Irish Sea and has a population just over 20,000. That is humans.

Llandudno is surrounded by sheer limestone cliffs called the Great Orme. That area is host to many species of birds, and of course are the perfect environment for goats. It also is the place of the longest toboggan run in Great Britain, which is 750 meters long.

Surprisingly the goats are actually mentioned in the town’s official page,with a rather flowery excerpt from a booklet called “Aliens of the Great Orme”. In the 1800’s a man bought a few  Kashmir sheep that had been imported to France from India.  Squire Christopher Tower brought the goats to Llandudno and with their fleece made a cashmere shawl that was presented to King George IV. This started a trend for cashmere shawls, and of course King George IV got a couple of the Kashmiri goats too.

While goats have been attributed to eat just about anything, it appears the Great Orme goats which have gone feral are more discerning. They eat ” elder, gorse, hawthorn, bracken, bramble, ivy, stinging nettles and privet, according to the time of year.”

Well not these goats. They are now roaming through the streets and into gardens with the manager of the Landsdowne House Hotel saying “They are becoming more and more confident with no people, adding that its saves him cutting his hedge.”

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