Archives for posts with tag: vancouver

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Vancouver City Council recently voted to remove the elevated highway-like viaducts that have been cutting off its Chinatown and Strathcona neighbourhoods with the rest of downtown Vancouver and False Creek.

Of course, this is a fantastic development for Vancouver, continuing a long history of progressive, people-oriented urban planning.

The removal of these viaducts will improve the surrounding area, making it safer and less hostile to pedestrians. And no, it won’t mean downtown Vancouver will not be inundated with cars. People who chose to drive downtown will find other options, and (hopefully), the money gained from unlocked development opportunities will go directly to transit funding.

As you may know, I visited Vancouver and the Lower Mainland this past summer. I had the opportunity to explore the spaces under — and over — the viaducts.

I was pleased to discover there was a bi-directional bike lane running the length of Vancouver’s viaducts. Approaching the viaducts from Main Street, the elevated roadway and its bike lane quickly climbs uphill, becoming suspended above the city. The feeling of biking the viaduct lanes was thrilling – high above the streets, the viaducts runs over many intersections, curving around the often-renamed Rogers Arena, and depositing cyclists to Yaletown at the base of Vancouver’s downtown core.

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I’ve explored car-style, human scale infrastructure on this blog before, where I described the thrilling experience of biking Halifax’s similar highway-to-nowhere Cogswell interchange, and Montreal’s Rosemont Flyover. Car-style infrastructure at a human scale, I wrote, offers a change in the rhythm of a city and a truly unique urban experience. That is, if it doesn’t define the urban form, and if adequate space for pedestrians is provided.

So, like many urbanists, I celebrate the taking down of Vancouver’s viaducts – ugly barriers that favour cars over humans, preventing vital urban life from thriving.

But I also lament their loss. We praise the Denmark’s cycling highways while we take down our own in Canada.

Imagine what the debate would be like in Toronto if there was a bike lane on the Gardiner Expressway!

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Field notes from Coast Salish//Cascadia/Lower Mainland, BC

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Along the Pacific Northwest coasts of Canada and the US, blackberries are growing everywhere. Come late Summer, there is endless bushes of free candy, available in total abundance.

Well, they don’t technically grow everywhere. As a “weed”/wild plant, they grow at the fringes of the city – industrial zones and left over spaces under bridges and back alleyways. In this sense, a copious amount of blackberry bushes is an indicator of inner city wilderness, a space or patch untended to and left to delicious transformations.

As Tom Robbins explored the landscapes of Seattle in Still Life With Woodpecker,“blackberries spread so rapidly that dogs and small children were sometimes engulfed and never heard from again.”

With the availability of such delicious and sweet fruit, how does anybody get anything done around here in July and August? It is taking me hours to bike around Richmond and Vancouver because I am stopping every few feet to chow down…. leading to inevitable blackberries stomach aches.

In one sense, cities are great machines of market-power efficiency. In this sense, the ubiquitous blackberry bush must act as something of a wrench and the great cogs. How would Toronto be different if blackberries grew everywhere?

These bushes of blackberries, of the Himalayan variety, are an invasive species here. But no one seems to care, further complicating the contentious world of plant migration politics.

This post originally appeared on the Pop-Up City

Here’s another solution for putting those tools gathering dust in your house to use: make them available for lending at your local Tool Library!

Opening next month, Toronto’s Tool Library is one of many similar projects that have popped up all over North America, Australia and Europe. The recent popularity of tool libraries is another example of how the peer-to-peer economy continues to gain popularity and evolve, changing the way we interact with each other and our cities.

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The Tool Library harnesses the fact that on average, a power drill is used for just 12-13 minutes in its lifetime. They enable access to tools that are otherwise sitting idle at home and can save their users hundreds of dollars, and a lot of closet space. Using a tool library also promotes sustainability through resource-sharing, and are an example of how society is changing to be a more collaborative experience.

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While tool lending libraries are not new (the first was in 1976 in Columbus Ohio), the recent opening of many around the world, with sleek design and easy to use websites, are beginning to appeal to a broad spectrum of city dwellers.

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Vancouver also has a Tool Library, which opened in 2011. Like in Toronto, being a member of Vancouver’s Tool Library involves paying an annual fee, which varies depending on your income. This guarantees that its services are accessible to anyone, and is especially appealing to new immigrants, students, not-for-profit organizations and community groups. The co-op structure ensures that prices are low compared to other tool rental stores: renting the tools is free for members.

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Like in Toronto and Vancouver, tool libraries worldwide act as much more than a space for renting and lending tools. They are also community centres that offer courses and workshops on how to use the tools. While sites like AirbnbShare Some Sugar, and Thuisafgehaald facilitate interactions between people that can happen anywhere, tool libraries mark a trend toward online peer-to-peer services that make use of centralized “storefront” locations, emphasizing the social in social media.