Business & Economy
July 2, 2020

Beacon Heights, Platform 7 and the Back Door Secret

Another Beacon Heights/East Hastings gem is Platform 7 in the 2300 block of East Hastings Street just a mere block away from the Roundel Cafe. Based upon a Victorian London train station, the business has clearly delineated where you can be/and where you cannot be during the Covid pandemic’s time of physical distancing with the required two meters. While you can enjoy the interior, it is the back exit of the cafe that provides the true hidden secret, absolutely perfect for conversations during Covid times.

 

There’s a plant oasis at the back of the cafe, enabling people to have coffee and talk  outside safely on what would normally be a couple of parking spaces. Those vehicular spaces have been gravelled over, with lattice and benches providing a form of enclosure for some superb west coast plantings.

And there is the opportunity~imagine the creative reuse of other similar back lane spaces behind commercial streets, extending the use of retail space or providing places where people can physically distance and socialize. There are still two parking spaces attached to the cafe for deliveries and for patrons, but the creative adaptation of the rest of the parking into a hidden garden is genius.

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Kudos to the Roundel Cafe located on the 2400 block of East Hastings street in the emerging “Beacon Heights” area.  During the first stage of the Covid Pandemic they have been working with theStaff Meal Initiative adding a two dollar donation to the Food Bank on every order that was placed online. They also have asked that should anyone need a “nourishing meal” that they DM the cafe on their Instagram account.

It is no wonder that that this locally owned breakfast and lunch venue also found a unique way to ensure physical distancing as they opened up the restaurant for sit down customers. Using full body and torso mannequins artfully arranged in “no go” zones they have found a playful way to indicate where you can sit~and where you better not.

And they are having fun with it. As the CBC reports ” Candy got her start in a lingerie store, but now she stretches out across three bar stools at the café, wearing a vintage frock from the 1950s and dangling a matching apricot purse made of ostrich leather.”


Restaurant owner Dena Sananin selected the mannequins which are on loan from the Angels vintage store. She picked the ones the ones that she thought looked like they should be in a restaurant.

And the owner of Angels vintage store likes seeing the mannequins repurposed this way.

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Jeff Leigh of HUB reports:

My wife and I rode Stanley Park last Monday, and stopped in at the Prospect Point Café.  We spoke with the staff at the concession, who advised they had been very busy serving people on bikes through the weekend.

We typically do not stop at the top of the hill, but head right on down.  Now we have a reason to stop.

Jeff and his wife haven’t been alone.  Here’s the scene last Sunday:

Here’s the line-up just for ice cream:

Prospect Point Cafe was literally surrounded by bikes and riders – most of whom looked to be in the demographic that any restaurant would find rather attractive.  And since these were all Vancouver residents (no tourists, remember), they’re also the ones who, when out-of-town guests return, will be looking for a good place to take them, whether for ice cream or sit-down meals, whether by bike, car or bus.

Honestly, what it is going to take for businesses people to catch on?  Who can they turn to for advice?

Oh yeah, HUB.  Jeff again:

HUB Cycling is already working on promoting businesses in the park.

HUB has a program called Bike Friendly Business,  which has just the type of offerings that businesses new to dealing with people cycling can use, from Business Development services, to certification, to marketing to people who cycle.  If you have a business and want to talk, please reach out.

There are other HUB Cycling programs and events that can help businesses with marketing to people on bikes as well.  Bike to Shop comes up later in the summer.  Volunteers lead group rides to participating businesses, helping those new to transportation cycling learn how to bike to shops, restaurants, and so on.

It is important that businesses who believe their business is solely dependent on motor-vehicle traffic see that there is a whole community of people who cycle for transportation, and who spend money at local businesses.

 

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Metro Vancouver has updated their map of Regional and Municipal park washrooms: those available for public access (green) and those no longer accessible due to COVID-19 (red).

 

The map is very revealing of the absence of washrooms where they’re needed the most: downtown Vancouver.

Two recommendations: (1) a map showing washrooms in private spaces (hotels, malls, departments stores, etc). (2) More public washrooms everywhere – especially transit interchanges.

In fairness to TransLink, such washrooms are nightmares of maintenance, and very expensive propositions if they are to be supervised and continually cleaned. Perhaps time to change the law and allow for a small charge (common in Europe), payable through Compass, that would also allow free use for those eligible.

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Never say PT isn’t open to a range of points of view.  Here’s one by David* – who argues for #stanleyparkforall.  That is, keep the bikes on the seawall (crowding is only evidence of its popularity) and keep both lanes for cars (because of seniors, disabled, business, etc.).

Gotta say, it’s a well-done video.

So, what’s wrong with sharing the road with one lane for each?  David’s response: “we don’t know how it could impact traffic flow or emergency vehicle access”.  Reverse what you did, Parks Board, go back to the way it was – before March 2020 ever happened – and have a conversation.  A long conversation.

Well, David, now we will know how one lane each impacts traffic flow.  And my guess is, after seeing the results so far and by the end of summer, you’ll have to come up with another well-done video.

 

*Tell is more about yourself, and, while you’re at it, what you think those ‘improvements’ to the seawall would be to accommodate the (yes, literally) hundreds of thousands of bike trips being made on Park Drive as a result of the current configuration.

 

 

 

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During the Covid Crisis and the last three months of working from home, there’s been one surprising constant~traffic on roads has significantly lowered in volume but drivers are travelling much faster.

Last  May  Vancouver Island’s  Saanich Police impounded 16 vehicles for speeding in four weeks compared to 2 impounds in the same period last year. All were going more than 40 kilometres an hour over the posted speed limit. In April Coquitlam RCMP stopped 12 vehicle drivers for speeding in a two week period, including one driver that was travelling 50 kilometres an hour faster than the posted speed limit. The Province’s public safety minister Mike Farnsworth stated “It’s really quite shocking”.

I have been writing about my personal experience in Switzerland where speed is rigidly enforced by camera technology with some surprising results. Enforced slower speeds (the maximum travel speed is 120 km/h and that is rigidly enforced) has made Swiss motorways the safest according to the European Transport Safety Council.  In 2019 there were 187 road deaths in Switzerland with a population of 8.57 million. In 2018 in  British Columbia with a population of 5.071 million people there were 314 road fatalities.

Mario Canseco’s Research Co.  has been gauging attitudes to speed camera technology in  British Columbia and the results may surprise you. After following these trends for two years, Mario observes:

“In 2020, we continue to see a high level of support across the province for four different types of automated speed enforcement. Seven in 10 British Columbians (71%) approve of using fixed speed cameras. These devices stay in one location, measure speed as a vehicle passes and can be placed in school zones or on other roads. This year’s findings are remarkably consistent with what the province’s residents told us in the 2018 survey (71%) and in the 2019 poll (69%).”

And in terms of the reintroduction of intersection cameras which record high speeds through intersections 70% of  those surveyed supported them. The Province has has already issued over 20,000 tickets for this type of intersection speeding.

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Have you heard of Switzerland’s novel zero star hotels? They are not what you think they are~they actually are starry hotels, a hotel room without walls, light switches or television, outside under the night sky.

You can take a look at Selina Berner’s experience sleeping in a zero hotel which has opened in neighbouring Liechtenstein. Spoiler-it rained, they had to cover the bed in plastic, and she retreated to a shed.

This concept originally started as an art project by two brothers Frank and Patrik Riklin and partner Daniel Charbonnier in the Appenzell region of Switzerland to take away the formality of a hotel and engage visitors directly with nature. Surprisingly even the original concept comes with a well trained butler that provides concierge services and brings “room service” to the zero star hotel.

And here’s what you get~a double bed suite in a pasture is $420 Canadian dollars a night with a welcome drink, breakfast and the butler, usually the local farmer. The farmer brings guests to the “suite” and provides local news and jokes.

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*Mockup by Andrew Walsh

 

Peter Ladner knows how to help restaurants and businesses in Stanley Park thrive in these disrupted times.  He describes his idea in detail in this open letter to Nancy Stibbard, owner of the Prospect Point Café.

Dear Nancy:

You may recall our conversation a couple of weeks ago. You and your management team were surveying the financial wreckage at your Prospect Point Café; I and my fellow pensioner cycling friends were commiserating with you at the top of the Stanley Park Hill. I was recalling my son and daughter-in-law’s similar fate of owning restaurants forced to close but the bills keep coming and the future looks bleak. You looked shaken, uncertain, but with time and curiosity enough to chat with us.

You and your team’s three vehicles were parked outside, and I imagined how, for you and your team, access to your restaurant without a car would just not be possible or practical. The same at Capilano Suspension Bridge.

You said your restaurant would have no hope if the tour buses couldn’t get there, and if cars were backed up in gridlock, which you predicted. You since joined up with 13 other Stanley Park businesses and associations to persuade the Vancouver Park Board—unsuccessfully- to reopen the park to two lanes of motorized traffic.

Your organization’s spokesperson, Nigel Malkin, then told News1130: “Accessibility to Prospect Point for anyone will basically be near zero… You’d have to park across the road…” Malkin, in case you haven’t picked this up by now, has a disturbing aversion to facts and cyclists. It’s not a good look to have a spokesperson who describes the 350,000 cyclists over the first 67 days of the lockdown as “near zero”. That’s around six times the number of cars that used to drive by during the same two months last year.

He also predicted, like you, contrary to traffic engineers’ data, “It’s inevitable you end up with severe traffic issues.” I am reminded of the old quip attributed to Yogi Berra: “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”

According to a CBC report, he foresees “a bicycle lane that’s a velodrome for beyond seasoned cyclists… It’s not being inclusive, this is not something where families and children are going to be able to ride around.”

 

Now that we’re stuck with the six-month bike lane trial and near zero foreign tourists, let me propose another approach: turn those fighting words into a warm embrace.

You have six months to seize an amazing opportunity that has just backed into you.

You sit atop what could be the next new tourist sensation in Metro Vancouver: the Stanley Park Hill.

Just as you learned how to milk the natural splendour of the Capilano Suspension Bridge to attract and please tourists, you could do the same here.

Think about it: this is a hill that’s a 15-minute bike ride from downtown, within 10 km of hundreds of thousands of people. It is just steep enough to be a big sweaty challenge for a lot of people, but easy enough that my five-year-old grandson goes up it with me on his clunky bike, without a rest, past the people pushing their bikes, and is bursting with pride and excitement at the top. Not to mention anticipation of the heart-thumping big downhill ahead.

People in cars don’t notice hills like this, but for cyclists, trust me, it’s a big deal.

This hill could be turned into the cycling equivalent of the Grouse Grind, only way more accessible. It fits into a very manageable 10 km cycling loop of the park. It weaves through the heart of the towering forests of Stanley Park, breaking out into the clifftop vistas of mountains, the Lion’s Gate Bridge, the entrance to our working harbour, views you know so well from your restaurant. It already has a public washroom where many people stop. (I’m including cyclists and hikers when I say people.)

So I am going to offer some gratuitous marketing advice. Now is the time to embrace the hundreds of thousands of cyclists that will be riding past your site. Welcome them, encourage them, love them. They are your new customers who just might save your business.

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Want to live long and prosper? Here’s a new study from Washington State University showing that walkability has a strong correlation with the likelihood of reaching centenarian age by area.

If you live in a place that has good walking and provides the ability to walk to schools, shops and services, and  has lots of young people working, the correlation is high for a healthy long life.

In a study of close to 150,000 seniors in Washington state, researchers looked at individuals who had lived longer than 75 years up to 100 years and looked for the factors that helped them lead long and healthy lives.

And surprise! As reported in Marketwatch.com

 “Walkable and bikeable streets and clean, accessible parks are linked to increasing physical activity of the surrounding population by 30%. Walkable neighborhoods are especially important for older adults who may have decreased mobility and no longer drive, as they are likely to benefit from easier access to their community afforded by walkable neighborhoods.”

Despite suggestions that the Covid pandemic is providing a short-term shift away from public transport and city living, the study shows that streets that are walkable and cyclable along with park proximity raise physical activity levels by 30 percent. Neighbourhoods planned with good walkability are vital to older adults with mobility issues and who must often walk or take transit to complete basic shopping.

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I have previously written about the giant sequoia in the 2300 block of West 41st that was cut down after nearly a century of living in the middle of the Kerrisdale commercial area. Over the years development on the block was setback in order for the tree to flourish, which it did for many years.

One of the Price Tags commenters is the thoughtful urbanist Alex Botta who provides some more insight into this giant of a tree living on a commercial street. In his response, Alex details why we SHOULD be having a conversation on what is an appropriate street tree, and outlines what happens when a tree is simply too big or unwieldy for a public boulevard location. We’ve printed Alex’s comments below.

“Of course this tree was stressed. It was the wrong species for the urban environment, and was subjected to an inadequate development approach at its periphery. There was little thought given to the requirements of the root area, the primary criteria being space and depth. The best solution would have been to create a park around the tree decades ago, because it truly is a giant parkland species wholly inappropriate for tight streets.

Inappropriate tree species and maintenance practices is an ongoing problem. The legacy will be the removal of too-large trees in tight urban sites in future, especially boulevard strips. Lifting sidewalks and broken curbs and retaining walls are everywhere. There is a 1.5 metre diameter Platanus in the boulevard just outside of my house and late one Friday night its roots plugged the ancient city sewer under the road. City Engineering earned their pay that evening and unblocked the line within 10 minutes with a mean-looking root eater attachment to their roto rooter. Eighty years ago the tree was likely misidentified as a maple (similar leaves) and was planted with hundreds of maples, the occasional plane towering above all the other trees.

Urban trees should be planned early, along with the zoning. Small and medium-sized trees with special attention to the root zones are most able to adapt to imposed urban pressures and spaces. Most trees will take drought (dropping leaves early is a protective response during stress), but compounding that is the typical planting plan that does not allow for optimum and healthy soil conditions. A 1.2 m x 1.2 m continuous trench in a boulevard filled with quality growing medium, subsurface deep root vault structures, and in some cases structural soil (organic soil with uniform diameter broken rock to allow compaction and root growth in the spaces between the rocks) are the second best current practices for urban forest health. They afford a continuous underground volume of growing medium for the conjoined root masses and often have watering ports. Temporary automated irrigation is another important step tp assist in establishment. Vaulting is made from recycled plastic and can take the weight of paving and vehicles over top, making them ideal for plazas, downtown sidewalks and parking lots.

The best practice is to plant trees in parks (especially large trees) while ensuring good soil health.

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