Business & Economy
April 14, 2021

How Three Simple Words Will Transform Wayfinding in Cities and Spaces


Veronica Reynolds is the sustainable travel advisor for Milton Park which is a one square kilometre office and industrial park with 7,500 employees and over 250 organizations near London. She’s been very successful at getting people to look at other options besides motor vehicles for commuting, and has installed new walking paths and connecting cycling bridges around highway infrastructure. I previously wrote about her implementation of the first autonomous public transit shuttles in Great Britain to service the park.

Veronica asked me if I knew “what3words”.  I did not.

What3words is a geolocation technology that looks at the world made up of squares of three meters by three meters. That makes a whole lot of squares, and each square is given an address with three words. The addresses are translated into 43 different languages, and yes the addresses are not the translations of the same words.

Vancouver’s City Hall’s three word geolocation is putty.averages.closets.

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Take a walk on the Fraser River Trail Greenway which is the perfect thing to do on a brisk spring day. You can start at the south foot of Blenheim Street, and you can go west where the private Point Grey Golf Club has worked with the City to create a publicly accessible trail along the Fraser River.

There was one section of the Fraser River Trail Greenway south of the Point Grey Golf Course that was inaccessible due to a large stream embankment. The Simpson Family in Southlands who had lost a son in an accident in the armed forces chose to honour his memory and paid for the public bridge which is accessible to walkers, rollers, cyclists and horse back riders. You can continue on that trail that proceeds west through the ancient territory of the Musqueam First Nation, and that trail joins up to Pacific Spirit Park at Southwest Marine Drive.


But let’s say you choose to go east on the City of Vancouver’s Fraser River Trail which was approved by Council in 1995. There is a footpath on city public lands, and you then can follow the Fraser River beside the city’s McCleery Public Golf Course. It’s a wonderful walk beside the Fraser. And then you run into this:

And there is the obnoxious, anonymous signage:

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Smart Growth America and the Maryland Department of Planning presents a free webinar:

Parks and recreation systems have evolved during the past two decades. No longer regarded as simply playgrounds and ballfields, parks and open spaces are being increasingly viewed as green infrastructure, with the potential to contribute to community resiliency and sustainability. To capitalize on this potential.

Join the Maryland Department of Planning and the Smart Growth Network at 1 p.m. Eastern, Friday, April 16, as Dr. David Barth, AICP, ASLA, CPRP, outlines an approach to creating parks systems that generate greater economic, social, and environmental benefits.

Dr. Barth will explain why parks and recreation systems should be regarded as elements of an integrated public realm and illustrate how these spaces can be designed to generate multiple community benefits.

Date: Friday April 16 2021
Time: 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time
You can register by clicking this link.

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This year the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival has again shifted nimbly during the pandemic  to provide marvellous virtual offerings of dances, haiku, and virtual walks during their annual great springtime event.

Originally planted in Stanley Park as a gift from Japan after World War One,  cherry trees do remarkable well in the Vancouver microclimate. In the 1960’s  the use of smaller scale trees was popular  in the city. That included flowering crab apple and plum trees to augment existing and new cherry trees which provide a visual spectacle every March and April.

I have written before about the cherry blossom festival and also about the unnamed street in East Vancouver that gets inundated each year by dinosaurs, costumed admirers, weddings and others for the chance to get photographed under that street’s ceiling of blossoms.

This year here are some images from a westside walk in the Quesnel neighbourhood. The backlanes here are windy and hard to navigate through.  And in those backlanes a few surprises. Look at the image below.

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Post-Covid Mobility in B.C.’s Fastest Changing Urban-Region: Join us for MOBILITIES 2021.

Date: April 20th 2012.

Time: 7:00 to 9:00 pm.

You can register by clicking this link.

Kwantlen’s Department of Geography and the Environment invites you to this public geo-forum about mobility, universal accessibility, walkability and transit affordability South of the Fraser River. Confirmed panelists include two TEDx Talk speakers, Stan Leyenhorst (Universal Access Design, Lead Consultant) and Planner Sandy James (WalkMetroVan). Also joining us will be urban geography expert Dr. Victoria Fast (University of Calgary) and City of Surrey Transport Planning Manager, Douglas McLeod, who will preview the city’s new Transportation Plan. Our panel will be welcomed by Kwantlen First Nations Elder in Residence, Lekeyten.

The urban-region South of the Fraser River is recognized as B.C.’s fastest growing and changing areas. This prompts us to ask: ‘How will mobility (re)shape the urban fate of these communities?’

Our panel of passionate mobility makers will explore a range of practices for creating better and happier community places and spaces. Learn how to assess whether public spaces and transit are universally accessible. Find out about ‘fake commuting’ and how post-pandemic place-based and virtually based work make reshape urban form and mobilities. Learn about the City of Surrey’s Vision Zero and its long-term Transportation Planning process. Our panel will discuss these and other future challenges of placemaking in relation to mobility South of the Fraser River.

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In the 1960’s Jim Wilson bought a house in Dunbar at 3253 West 24th Avenue. Twenty years later in the mid 1980’s Mr. Wilson razed the house, and built a new house faced with stone, with an elevator, and an attic. The attic, as shown in the drawings approved at city hall was not to be accessed, but was just to be “there” to ensure that  Mr. Wilson’s new house was within the calculation of liveable square feet.

Like many homeowners of the time who were also required to have half height basements (full basements counted as floor space), Mr. Wilson  made his own decision to open up the attic of his new house, and use it as a spare bedroom for his aged parents and as a games room. All was good with this unapproved use until he installed large dormer type of windows in the attic, which alerted the neighbours that Mr. Wilson was using unauthorized attic space. Even worse, he had built a correct stairway and an elevator instead of a  ladder to access that attic. The neighbours called the city.

The evening edition of the Vancouver Sun on January 14 1987 screamed “Attic Builder Defies City” and had a photo of Mr. Wilson wearing what really looks like a vintage housecoat. In that article by Ben Parfitt Mr. Wilson stated he had spent $40,000 to jazz up the new attic with “wall to wall carpeting, a pool table, a guest room, a bathroom, and a window providing a spectacular view of downtown Vancouver. He also had installed an elevator to service the three floors of his house.

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This image is a who’s who in Vancouver from 1987. It is the result of a “casting call” to politicians, news media, sports figures, rock stars and well known Vancouverites to come together for a photo that was used in AIDS awareness campaigns. This image was photographed by Howard Fry, and was posted on the Sentimental Vancouver Facebook page.

I contacted Dr. John Blatherwick who was the Medical Health Officer of Vancouver in the 1980’s and 1990’s and who was instrumental in co-ordinating services and getting researched information out about AIDS. He was also one of the people  involved in sending out invites to a host of Vancouver personalities to have their photo taken.

The AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) epidemic was raging through Vancouver at this time. Without the development of drugs to treat symptoms and stop the disease’s advance many people got ill. Many died.

In the 1980’s and 1990’s  it was estimated that more than 60,000 people who were HIV positive (human immunodeficiency virus) lived in Canada and  more than 20 percent of those people lived in British Columbia.  AIDS Vancouver was formed in 1983 to support people with HIV diagnoses, and provided free services and education to lower the incidence of the disease.

That did not stop fear and  misinformation about the disease, and photographer Howard Fry captured this image to make talking about AIDs more mainstream.

So who is in the photo?

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