Reflecting Vancouver

Urbanism and Life on the West Coast


Point Grey – Cornwall Bike Route

2013-05-28 Pt Grey - Cornwall Open HouseA shrill voice rang out in front. “I think we should have an open-format discussion!”

The moderator skipped a beat, looked at the interrupting audience member, and then continued in monotone from slide three. “Why are we doing this? To provide a safe, convenient experience for cyclists of all ages and abilities…”

This, in brief, describes yesterday’s Point Grey Road – Cornwall Avenue open house, the last of three hosted by the City regarding proposed infrastructure changes along the corridor. Neighbourhood squeaky wheels crested against briefed staffers, while a silent majority seemed taken aback by the disorder. The Kitsilano Public Library basement was filled beyond capacity, leading the City to present in two shifts for overflow. Plan advocate Peter Ladner was there, as was former Point Grey MLA candidate Mel Lehan.

Given the high attendance and outward purpose — to solicit public opinion on proposed design options — I was surprised how little the City seemed to want feedback. This was first-hand evidence of a common Vancouver complaint: City Hall has already decided what it wants to do. They presented but did little in the way of distributing and collecting forms. Contrast with Translink, where community consultation is highly structured and at least feels sincere even if clear preferences lie behind the curtain.
2013-05-28 Pt Grey - Cornwall PlanI did learn a few things at the open house. For one, the greatest safety issue in our transportation system is pedestrian fatalities. Collisions involving pedestrians make up only 1% of all traffic accidents, but make up nearly half of all fatalities. My morning walk to the bus stop turns at Drake and Howe, just prior to the Granville Bridge onramp, where I worry about joining this statistic.

Second, counterflow bike lanes proposed on York, a first for Vancouver if implemented, make more sense than I initially appreciated. “They do this in New York,” informed one staffer, with no obvious reference to the street name. However, these lanes should be extended past Vine to Stephens if the City is to successfully attract cyclists off Cornwall. As it stands, the combination of grade and status quo along these four blocks of York will likely fail to prevent mixing with Cornwall traffic. Cyclists are roundly unsatisfied with the rejection of Cornwall itself in this draft plan — HUB has come out against the York route — and I doubt widespread use in the proposed form. It would be a great miscalculation for the City to spend money and claim the issue solved while cyclists continue to use the flattest, most direct, and most scenic route to Burrard Bridge.

To the west, opinion seems divided about the two options for Point Grey Road. I initially favoured a separated lane, maintaining westbound vehicle traffic, but now see that a preferred alignment to the north side is impractical. The alternative of closing the street to arterial traffic by extending Tatlow and Point Grey Road Parks, permitting cyclists to use a low-volume local roadway, may be preferable. Consider the lovely Central Valley Greenway ride just east of Victoria, a very similar arrangement.

To read the city documents and posters for the Point Grey – Cornwall Corridor, go here:

For more on City opacity in planning decisions, Frances Bula has just revisited the issue:


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More Vancouver than Vancouver

2013-05-27 Target 1
Target was my savior in American suburbia. In a land where affordable clothes were uniformly large and boxy, only Target offered shirts and trousers to fit a narrow frame. And the threads actually lasted. I shudder to think what my cupboard would have contained without the economical design flair that Tar-jay perpetually kept in stock. Less than five minutes in WalMart were enough to remember how fortunate we Target shoppers really were.

I imagine Canadian youth were better off, because my rare stateside Point Zero finds always slipped on comfortably. Thrift shops in Canada testify that mass-market clothing has always been of a closer cut here than in America, perhaps because of many svelte Québécois bodies. But alas, the ready availability of shirts made to fit the human torso could not match the astonishing price points of Target across the border, an envy that intensified with the rising Canadian dollar.

Announcement that Target was coming to Canada, by way of a coordinated acquisition of Zellers, therefore struck immediate buzz on Vancouver streets, even vindication. We don’t even need to envy the US for Target anymore, went a certain sentiment. The company has likewise treated its approaching era of Canadian market dominance with an air of fait accompli.

Tremendous goodwill and frothing customer base nothwithstanding, Target’s new ad campaign on Vancouver buses and transit shelters is almost too self-congratulatory and pat. Depicting a Seussian city that is more Vancouver than Vancouver and emblazoned in all respects with the Target logo — even buildings are branded — the ads border on parody or party propaganda. This surrealism is heightened by the fact that no Target stores are opening in the City of Vancouver until at least 2014, while malls at far reach from a Kitsilano bus stop bask in red-spotted consumer heaven. The first Vancouver location is expected to open in Oakridge, which is at least within commuting distance of the many stamped landmarks in our dazzling post-Target future. Like stateless communism, perhaps the promise will never be fulfilled. I like to think that delinquent defacement of one Target poster, pictured below, is an expression of this latent outrage.

2013-05-27 Target 2

It’s a clever ad campaign, whatever the high-level dissonance. So when are they opening in Vancouver?

Your post-Target future can be previewed here:
For a tasteful Art Deco interpretation, go here:

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Jericho Restoration

Jericho Restoration
I evidently haven’t been to Jericho Beach since the restored foreshore was opened. I paid no attention to the action behind the fence since demolition of the old wharf, so the new site is a striking transformation. Perhaps the city is only partway through the landscaping, as the conifers seem a bit sparse on their own. I’m curious to know if an understory will be planted now or at a later time.

I have vivid memories of ending rainy winter runs at the Wharf. From a functional basement suite on West 2nd Avenue, I would curve my way around Jericho Beach and finally catch my breath at the railing edge, watching the exhale dissolve over English Bay. Only now have I learned that these were in fact the original railings from the Lion’s Gate Bridge, repurposed for the Wharf and Habitat Forum site in 1976.

Read more about the Jericho Beach restoration project here:

Read more about the old Wharf railings here:

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Why Reflecting?

Our fair City of Glass has many hues and reflections, mostly pleasant ones. This is a space to share impressions from our distinctive blend of urban and natural, local and global, land and sea. From heady, cloudless summer to dreariest winter drizzle, I’ll offer observations and thoughts from the edge metropolis and beyond.