It’s near the height of cherry blossom season, there are only so many beautiful springs in one’s life, and we really need this one now.

To safely use the glorious green spaces of Vancouver (this weekend with pink!) Vancouverites want to know how to space themselves.  Greenways are ideal – those streets where vehicle traffic is so minimal that runners with watches, parents with baby carriages, skateboarders with small electric motors, grandparents with walkers, kids with their first bikes, dogs with leashes, and everyone with a camera, i.e. everyone, can all sort themselves out with sufficient distance and politeness that everyone feels they are getting the most out of a beautiful spring day without endangering themselves or others.

It would be nice to have a poster which shows the appropriate distances and etiquette.  But I don’t think the City or health authorities quite know what that is.  They’re waiting to see what people actually do before they make decisions about how they should do it.  When it comes to designating road space, with a few exceptions, the City seems a bit paralyzed.  At least they’re not indicating so far they that they have any intentions.

So it looks like we will just do it:


C
hilco Greenway, April 9, 4:10 pm

Five different users: cyclist, runner, observer, dog walker, kid with bike, daddy.  All spaced and sorted in a 66-foot right-of way, a standard West End Street.  There’s not a psychological no-go barrier at the curb for those not in cars.  But there is room for a car if it moves slowly and yields to other users.

My guess: This weekend and on, Vancouverites are going to pour out of their sequestered spaces.  They will take the space they need, as they should, to enjoy the city and maintain their health.  And not spread a virus.

Then the City can respond.

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In this case, good riddance:

You won’t see these naked ‘beg buttons’ in Sydney at the moment.  Nor in Brisbane nor Melbourne.  They’ve been covered with signs to inform pedestrians that they’ve been automated – like these on the North Shore:

As Brent Toderian notes: “They’re called ‘beg buttons’ as a pejorative because they put pedestrians in the position of having to beg for access to the other side of the street. It suggests the pedestrian is in a secondary, at best, position – an afterthought.”

The buttons also present practical problems. They can be difficult or impossible to access for people with mobility challenges. They can be easy to miss, and even after the button has been pushed, it often takes a full cycle of the light before the “walk” sign lights up, leaving the pedestrian to wait in the elements.

We have a few in Vancouver too, though a lot have been removed over the years as the growth in pedestrian traffic has made them an unnecessary irritant.  But they’re everywhere in Australia – notably in some of the highest ped-traffic areas in the country.  Hopefully many will be simply be removed.

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From a guide sent to members from the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club:

The Vancouver Parks Board is permitting visitors to Stanley Park only on foot or on bicycles, with some limited access for its stakeholders to maintain their facilities. RVYC members and tradesmen will have vehicle access, provided their vehicles display the appropriate parking decal and are entering the facilities for essential purposes only.  …

If you do not have a decal, you may walk or cycle into the park to receive one.

 

Umm, essential purposes?

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Dianna reports in:

The first hour of the first day of the first (?) closing of Stanley Park to cars.

It turns out that riding in Stanley Park when cars are banned is very much like riding in Stanley Park on any sunny weekday afternoon – lots of cyclists, almost all lycra-wearing roadies. It’s important to shoulder check before switching lanes because of lots of other cyclists, not cars.

I saw exactly one casual rider on the seawall, and I cut her some slack because she was wearing headphones and maybe hadn’t heard the news.

Ever been tempted to pause in the middle of Stanley Park Road to take a photograph? This is your moment.

I’ve always wanted to ride the wrong way around the park, and this could be the time to do that, but with a BIG warning to be aware of cyclists flying along the roads.

Oh, and if anyone has lost a red bandana it’s in the middle of the right lane just past Prospect Point.

 

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The City is now moving on reallocating road space for safe movement of walkers and cyclists:

Oddly, the City is calling this announcement “temporary road closures”.  Um, no.  The roads aren’t closed; they’re being reallocated for the safe use by more users.  Closing a road to vehicles doesn’t mean the road itself is closed.

But hey, good move, City.  Definitely necessary to provide more space to cyclists heading to Stanley Park along Beach this weekend, and to take pressure off the seawall.

But don’t stop there.  Here again is the list of possibilities from HUB Cycling’s Jeff Leigh:

DONE:

  1. Beach from Thurlow to Stanley Park to relieve pressure on the seawall paths and to provide access to Stanley Park

TO DO:

  1. Nelson and Smithe from Richards to Thurlow to connect the West End To False Creek
  2. Cambie Bridge northbound to ease congestion on the MUP
  3. Quebec near Terminal, in both directions, to ease congestion in front of Science World
  4. Pine from 1st to 7th to connect the Arbutus Greenway to 1st
  5. 1st from Creekside to Cypress, to connect the Arbutus Greenway and link the Seaside Greenway via the 1st Ave bypass, avoiding the tight spot at the end of Creekside
  6. Main St, to replace the unsafe shared lanes (sharrows) from 14th north
  7. Pender or preferably Hastings from Burrard to Cardero, to ease congestion on the Seawall path
  8. Georgia from Cardero to the Causeway, to ease congestion on the Seawall path (Georgia Gateway project)
  9. Adanac overpass at Cassiar, a known trouble spot since the removal of calming related to the Fortis gas pipeline construction
  10. Pacific at the Granville loops, a dangerous intersection
  11. the Granville bridge, to ease congestion on the narrow sidewalks
  12. parallel routes to the Arbutus Greenway, to ease congestion.
  13. Ontario, from 16th to 1st
  14. Expo Blvd in front of Costco (room to queue candidate) where the painted bike lane is often blocked with vehicles, pushing bikes on to the sidewalk.

 

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Excerpts from Jarrett Walker’s perspective on the importance of transit in a time of pandemic.  Full essay here from Citylab. 

In response to this emergency, major agencies are doing their best not to cut service much. … Based on my informal discussions with many agencies, the service cuts seem to be in the range of 10% to 40% at this point, far less than the roughly 70% drop in ridership.

Why are agencies behaving this way? Because they are not businesses. And if there’s one thing we must learn from this moment, it’s that we have to stop talking about transit as though ridership is its only purpose, and its primary measure of success.

Right now, essential services have to keep going. It’s not just the hospital, the grocery store, and basic utilities.  It’s the entire supply chain that keeps those places stocked, running, and secure. Almost all of these jobs are low-wage. The people using transit now are working in hospitals that are saving lives. They are creating, shipping and selling urgently needed supplies. They are keeping grocery stores functioning, so we can eat.

In transit conversations we often talk about meeting the needs of people who depend on transit. This makes transit sound like something we’re doing for them. But in fact, those people are providing services that we all depend on, so by serving those lower income riders, we’re all serving ourselves.

The goal of transit, right now, is neither competing for riders nor providing a social service for those in need. It is helping prevent the collapse of civilization. …

… even for those with the fewest options, the term dependent has allowed us to imagine helpless people in need of our rescue, rather than people that we depend on to keep things running. Everyone who lives in a city, or invests in one, or lives by selling to urban populations is transit dependent in this sense.

Meanwhile, if we all drive cars out of a feeling of personal safety, we’ll quickly restore the congestion that strangles our cities, the emissions that poison us and our planet, and the appalling rates of traffic carnage that we are expected to tolerate. Once again, we’ll need incentives, such as market-based road pricing, to make transit attractive enough so that there’s room for everyone to move around the city. That will mean more ridership, but again, ridership isn’t exactly the point. The point is the functioning of the city, which again, all of us depend on.

Let’s look beyond ridership or “transit dependence” and instead measure all the ways that transit makes urban civilization possible. In big cities, transit is an essential service, like police and water, without which nothing else is possible. Maybe that’s how we should measure its results.

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The current cover of the New Yorker, titled “Lifeline.”

Here’s my version – an image taken on March 17, 8 pm, on Swanston Street in Melbourne:

This courier – equipped with bike (maybe electric), smart phone and custom backpack – was one of many on the main street of Melbourne’s CBD that night.  It’s easy to understand why they’ve become a vital link between restaurants that can provide only takeout and customers sequestered at home.  They too are front-line workers, and their bicycles declared essential.

I have a hunch that, like our use of online communication, their employment will expand, their vehicles will innovate, their uses proliferate, and afterwards they will become an expanded part of the local economies of our newly reconsidered cities.

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Man with generator laying streetcar tracks for reconstruction of Hastings and Main lines

Here’s another great photo from the Vancouver Archives found by Diane Sampson. The generator on the wagon has a sign that reads “Danger 600 Volts Do not Touch Do Not Watch Flame”. In the foreground a man is welding tracks. He is wearing button up spat boot coverings and has steel wool for soldering close by.

The man at the wagon with the generator looks exactly like former Vancouver School Board groundskeeper Chris Foxon.  The wagon is set up with a two horse hitch, and there are two workhorses complete with harness tied up in the right hand upper corner of the photo.  There is another horse harnessed up and standing in front of the Timothy Hay sign in the upper left corner of the photo.

From 1886 to 1914 Hastings Street between Granville Street and Cambie was Vancouver’s downtown, with most of the city’s banks located on Hastings. The streetcar was operated by the B.C. Electric Railway Company who had been in operation since 1897. Since 1900, the company had increased their rails from 21 kilometers in 1900 to 170 kilometers by 1912, allowing access to large areas of land that could be developed for single family housing.

Take a look at this YouTube video below that shows Victoria and Vancouver from a streetcar in 1907. You can see The Empress Hotel being built and the Legislative Buildings in Victoria, and in Vancouver you can see the old Hotel Vancouver and the streetcars serving Howe, Robson, Powell Streets  and Kitsilano.

 

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Another wonderful image from Diane Sampson of a  British cars cargo from the SS “Mostun” Vancouver January 24, 1959 . This is from the Vancouver Archives Collection.

The Mostun was from Belfast and travelled a route from Belfast to Chemainus on Vancouver Island. In the photo  a Morris Oxford Estate is beside a Riley One Point Five , with a  Hillman Husky and Hillman Minx sedans behind.

In the 1950’s and 1960’s British cars were the first to market a small car that was economical as well as reliable. That market was eventually replaced by Japanese cars in the late 1960’s.

The vehicles often had their wheels removed and stored inside the car, and then packed in wooden crates. This method allowed for more cars to be packed into the boat’s hold. There is a story of a ship fire in Vancouver harbour on the ship Dongeday in 1952 that was fuelled by the wooden crates. The City’s fireboat responded and got the fire out, but unfortunately also doused the cars with a whole lot of saltwater.

 

 

Surprisingly 22  of these waterlogged and damaged Austin automobiles were dumped into Burrard Inlet near Howe Sound. A customs officer oversaw the operation of these vehicles being loaded on a barge minus batteries and tires and then winched into the water.

Of course Vancouverites saw the opportunity, and a tugboat crew was found dragging the seafloor trying to find the vehicles. A story in The Sun admonished “The legal situation is ticklish. The cars have paid no duty…and ownership is still vested with the company that had them dunked.”

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