What are the best walking space in the city at all hours for all seasons ? Are the ones you are thinking of take you away from the roar of traffic, the bustle of the city, the general humdrum of our daily tasks. Now, how many are not in parks?

I can think of only one.

Hemlock and W7th Ave looking NW

Hemlock and W7th Ave looking NW

The walkway through the Portico Bosa developments of Modena, Carrara, Siena, and Verona.

West 6th crossing looking South.

West 6th crossing looking South.

This walk cuts through the properties along the desire line from Broadway and Hemlock to the West 4th crossing (to Granville Island) at the bottom north end. The materials are red brick, grey pavers, and concrete with generous amounts of trees and shrubbery. The path is decorated with benches and bike racks near the buildings. It is well lit at night, shovelled and salted in the winter, and well-maintained year round. The crossings are well-marked at the mid-block of 6th and 5th as the path traverses over a cross-walk where the road is narrowed to slow traffic and increase visibility of pedestrians.

Crosswalk at West 6th

Crosswalk at West 6th

Why is this so exceptional? Why is this well-designed public space not more common?

I have asked at open houses and other opportunities. I have been told it was a unique situation with one developer, helped connect the upper buildings more directly to the park at the bottom, and most bizarrely, it works because of the elevation changes.

I am not disagreeing with any of these reasons for this development to create the easement for well-designed public space. (Although elevation change is hardly unique.) I question why the city can’t coordinate through planning areas where this public space would also work.

I will give you an example with comparable factors where this public space would work very well. Go west of Granville Street to Fir Street. There is a lovely new park at Fir and 6th across from cafe with Frnech pastries. (Now there is a desire line!) There are plans to develop the corner building (and a few other sites in the surronding blocks) Is there any plan to coordinate a comparable mid-block public space connecting Burrard and Broadway to West 4th?


I asked the developer about leaving a space on the edge of the property for a future easement. I was told the adjoining property would be a better site. (not really) I asked what happens if the adjoining property disagrees? I was told that that was a city matter. That is a fair point. I see this as one of the base reasons for planning: coordination of multiple interests to achieve a goal over time. So I asked the city planners. They told me that a mid-block crossing was too close to either end of the street. (I checked and the streets on the Bosa development are shorter.)  I then asked the most obvious question. Were they concerned about people cutting across the street mid-block to access the new park and on to West 4th? (There is no way people will walk all the way to the corner, thrice the distance, than just jay-walk) I was told that that was beyond the scope of the project. When I pointed out that this answer could be used for every development in the area, I was told it was not the time nor the place for such input. (They never did say where or when it would be) I left after I was also told that I should suggest this to the parks planners as part of the public consultation for the park that was under construction.

We don’t have more of these Joy-walks because they aren’t a planning priority, the pedestrian realm is restricted by default traffic standards, and the planning process is still too siloed.

Dude, where’s my bike parking?

Bike Parking on Commercial Drive

Bike Parking on Commercial Drive (Sept 2014)

I love cycling to The Drive. Apparently so do a lot of other people, which is great until you need to find a place to lock your bike. I dread looking for a place to lock my bike where car doors won’t hit your bike, other bikes aren’t rammed into yours, or I don’t have to hike a block or two away. I am tall fellow with a flip-style oval lock so finding something thin, but strong to lock my bike to, is a chore. I have been told to buy a cable or just lock my front wheel (bad idea – front wheels come off in seconds). There other options. I read in the fall Momentum magazine about pinhead accessories that lock all the necessary components, and I have considered many of the different security accessories. However, given the best way to secure your bike is to make it more secure than other bikes, there has to be a better way.  Sitting on a patio next to my bike or being able to see my bike from inside a business is ideal. I just lock my bike and glance at it every so often. Assuming I have a proper lock situation, I still need to find a place to lock my bike, and in my line of sight is not often an option.

The racks provided by the city are always full as are the trees, poles, and parking meters near popular corridors. Five years ago, 74% of all bikes counted on The Dirve were locked to objects other than racks. These are the “desire lines” of bike parking. But, they are bad solutions. Car doors smack bikes locked to parking meters. Young trees can be damaged and old ones are too thick. Poles are often only secure by one bolt at the bottom.

Now the city does have program for installing bike racks, but you either get the coat hangers, which leads to mashed cables and handlebars, or the single upside down U-shape, which is good for all bikes, but bad due to the limited capacity of two. If the City doesn’t take the initiative businesses can by apply for a permit. However,

The permit is free, but you are responsible for buying the bike rack, getting it installed, and maintaining it. Purchase costs will average roughly $300 to $500. (source)

I find this ridiculous given that the parking for cars is free, bikes, have a negligible impact on maintenance costs, and cyclists spend more money locally, i.e. more tax revenue.

The other program is bike corrals where surface car parking is removed for a large amount a bike parking. The Drive has a few of these and they are often full too! (Sorry, didn’t have a recent Vancouver photo)

Bike Corrals in Portland Oregon -2014

Bike Corrals in Portland Oregon -2014


The City is given a lot of credit/criticism about their support for cycling and the great strides they are taking. But, are we doing enough? What if the City put a bike corral on each block on The Drive, one on each side of the street, and expanded the popular ones? What if the city made it safer to bike down The Drive and not just near it? What if the City expanded the sidewalks for larger patios, street furniture, and planters? What if car parking was moved off The Drive?

Gil said it best:

Streets are the biggest public spaces. Should they be for car storage or for great public spaces? It’s a matter of priorities. ~ Gil Penalosa


UPDATE: Well that was quick.