Daily we see orderly streams of people walking down streets. By B.C. Stadium, they are shepherded by voices from bull-horned crowd management folks perched on their high lifeguard chairs. People are directed into security check line-ups every time there is a Stadium event or competition game. On Cambie Bridge, flow continues along the multi-use pedestrian and bike paths, sidewalks and then down the access ramps.
Spring-like weather causes tree buds to break free early and encourages more people to stroll and sit by the paths. On the Seaside Path, cyclists are forced off the cycling path since foot traffic exceeds the capacity of the walking path. Cyclists divert onto the adjacent roads. Fortunately, neighbourhood roads are only sprinkled with occasional cars since temporary road closures and lack of low-cost car parking discourages car traffic. With a $35.00 parking fee, a parking lot across the street from a BC Stadium entry gate remains empty. Thus, cyclists are able to clip nimbly along in their own space.
If car traffic is kept light during these massive people movement events, with alternative transportation options close-by, then the neighbourhood is not overly stressed. One wonders why some streets are not closed off to roving car traffic with only residence access permitted.
Usually, sporting events from B.C. Stadium or GM Place (now “Hockey House” temporarily for Olympics), did not attract such high volumes of foot traffic nor cyclists over several hours in the North False Creek area by the Seaside
Path, except near Science World. Usually, the Seaside Path to the Main St. SkyTrain station, would be useless for cycling after a concert or hockey event for a half hour when streams of pedestrians overtake the multi-use path.
During the Olympics, it is quite different. Even on rainy days, there is a consistent flow of people for hours, walking in Yaletown to various pavilions and then flowing into the downtown core towards Robson St. Walking and cycling crowds appeared quite orderly without much litter left behind.
The Yaletown – Roundhouse Canada Line station entrance is often crowded with people. So far, Translink estimated for Sat. Feb. 13 a total of 210,000 passengers used the Canada Line. On a Saturday at 9:30 am and onwards, there was a growing stream of people leaving Olympic Village Canada Line station to board the free Olympic streetcar line. As someone observed from riding the streetcar line three times during that morning, each time the streetcars were filled to standing room capacity to and from Granville Island. One streetcar has full capacity up to 180 passengers.
Does a neighbourhood die when cars are detoured from its roads or does it come alive with people? Just ask the local retailers and eateries. Urban Fare, a grocery store with an eatery section, cannot keep up with customer orders. Restaurants on main pedestrian routes, are filled with diners. As we walked from the evening fireworks display down the street past these eateries at 11:00 pm, the rooms were still full. Usually, these restaurants are dark and shuttered much earlier.
Noteworthy is that careful people routing reduces tension on a neighbourhood. A wise move is guiding pedestrians on sidewalks along undeveloped blocks, parkland or along retail streets without adjacent residences.
Good streetscape designs also reduce neighbourhood tension with a milieu of people passing by. Wide sidewalks reduce crowd stress and promote orderly
passage without people jostling each other. Careful landscape design with raised curbed plant beds and lawns, keeps people on sidewalks. Trees surrounded by concrete eliminate trodden landscaping. Laneways connecting streets helps thin out traffic.
A palatable mix of car traffic reduction, combined with convenient alternate transportation options and strategic streetscape designs, can increase life on streets and liveability of neighbourhoods.
TransLink. The Buzzer Blog. Feb. 17 2010.
Sinoski, Kelly. “Record Weekend Expected for Transit as Olympic Fever in Vancouver Deepens. In Vancouver Sun, Feb. 19, 2010.” (Addendum provided after this article was published.)