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B.C. Stadium. Spectator line-ups for pre-game security checks. Vancouver, BC. Feb. 2010. Photo by J. Chong

B.C. Stadium. Spectator line-ups for pre-game security checks. Vancouver, BC. Feb. 2010. Photo by J. Chong

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.

Cherry tree by Kitsalano Beach. Vancouver, BC  Feb. 2010. Photo by J. Becker

Cherry tree by Kitsalano Beach. Vancouver, BC Feb. 2010. Photo by J. Becker

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. 

Davie St. at Pacific Blvd. Near Yaletown-Roundhouse Canada Line Station.  With some road lane closures during Olympics. Vancouver, BC. Feb. 14, 2010

Davie St. at Pacific Blvd. Near Yaletown-Roundhouse Canada Line Station. With some road lane closures during Olympics. Vancouver, BC. Feb. 14, 2010

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

Seaside Path. North False Creek near Cambie Bridge. Vancouver, BC. Feb. 14, 2010. Photo by J. Chong

Seaside Path. North False Creek near Cambie Bridge. Vancouver, BC. Feb. 14, 2010. Photo by J. Chong

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.

Olympic streetcar line stop passengers to Granville Island. Feb. 2010. Photo by J. Becker.

Olympic streetcar line stop passengers to Granville Island. Vancouver, BC. Feb. 2010. Photo by J. Becker.

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.

LiveCity Yaletown Fireworks & Waterworks Show. Feb. 2010 Photo by J. Becker

LiveCity Yaletown (David Lam Park) Fireworks & Waterworks Show. Vancouver, BC. Feb. 2010 Photo by J. Becker

Reflections
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

Olympic bike valet parking. Nelson St. & Pacific Blvd. Vancouver, BC  Feb. 2010. Photo by J. Chong

Olympic bike valet parking. Nelson St. & Pacific Blvd. Vancouver, BC Feb. 2010. Photo by J. Chong

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.

Additional Reading:
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.)

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Olympic streetcar line, Vancouver BC. Feb. 2010. Photo by J. Becker

Olympic streetcar line, Vancouver BC. Feb. 2010. Photo by J. Becker

 The environmental “carrots” for  balking car drivers are here now: Granville Island has more active transportation options.  Different approaches to transportation during the Olympics on Granville Island, have been well underway for the past month before the official Games start on Feb. 12, 2010.

The Olympic streetcar line between the Canada Line Olympic Village Station and Granville Island,  already has a steady stream of passengers. After all, it is free for anyone 6:30 am – 12:30 am, Jan. 21 – Mar. 21, 2010.  My informal observations  of the pedestrian traffic from the streetcar onto the Island appear  to be at least  30 to 50 people getting off each streetcar.  Even on Mondays.  Streetcar  capacity is for 178 people with 50 seated passengers. 

Passenger demand is expected to increase during the Olympics, particularily with 3 welcome  pavilions  for the public –Atlantic House, Francophonie and Swiss House on Granville Island  in addition to regular market business.

Bike Parking. Granville Island Public Market on winter day. Jan 2010.

Bike Parking Granville Island Public Market on mild winter day. Jan 2010. Photo by J. Becker

 Now paid parking is in effect as of Feb. 8 for 1,200 parking spots. Rates are $3.00 per hour and $5.00 for two hours, with a parking maximum of two hours.  Free car parking is only before 10:00 am during Feb. 2010.

Also the number of bicycle racks around Granville Market have increased from 5 to 10.  I have observed from mid-morning onward, rack usage has increased to summer levels.

Both ferry shuttle companies, Aquabus and False Creek Ferries, have extended their operational hours during the Olympics. Each company has slightly different hours for different destinations.

Granville Island vehicle and pedestrian traffic.  Jan. 2010. Photo by J. Becker

Granville Island vehicle and pedestrian traffic mix. Jan. 2010. Photo by J. Becker

The big question will be whether or not  the streetcar line and more bike parking,  will generate sufficient traffic to off-set normal car volumes on Granville Island.  It may take time for local residents to rethink and change their normal transportation modes  long  after the Olympics and ParaOlympics.  Will  Vancouverites fall in love with the streetcar line that they will want to keep the streetcar in operation indefinitely?

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Festive boat lights. False Creek. Vancouver 2009.

Festive boat lights. False Creek. Vancouver 2009.

We received an email earlier last week from the local ratepayers’ group:

There has been a request from VANOC and the Olympic committee asking Citygate and False Creek residents to keep their festive lights up and on throughout the Olympics so the world can see us. 

Presumably this request can even include the festive Christmas lights that some boat owners festoon their masts along the waterfront.

What would be an equivalent, visibility tactic for the cycling community to announce the significance of cyclists? 

It could be as simple as keeping your helmet on your head when you are shopping.  This action would go a long way towards changing the perception of local business retailers that their customer base and retail sales comes from car 

Cyclist shopping in local store.

Cyclist shopping in local store.

drivers.  It may start stopping retailers’ complaints any time that a new bike lane at their store entrance takes away more street car parking.  It may start retailer action to call for more storefront bike parking racks.  It may change perception that cyclists in a store does not contribute to the bottom line of retailer sales and profitability.  A “helmet-on-campaign-while shopping” would remind retailers that cyclists do comprise more of their customer base than retailers might realize.

Cyclists do shop, contribute to local businesses and the economy. Like everyone else, they still consume products and services.  In fact, cyclists, without the burden of paying for car maintenance, may have more money available for shopping.

In downtown Toronto, there has been an ongoing debate on implementation of a bike lane on the busy Bloor Street west of Spadina  Rd., an area  known  as the “Annex”.  For many decades and still now, the Annex is a gentrified neighbourhood with busy cafes, restaurants, independent shops, community centre and services that draw patrons and convivial street life.

A recent study of 61 local merchants, 531 patrons, and parking space use, revealed only 10% of patrons drive to the Bloor-Annex area. Pedestrians and cyclists were spending more money than the drivers.  This is not surprising since the area is served by 3 different subway station exits, feeder bus lines and an established bike lane grid in this Bloor St neighbourhood.

Meanwhile in Vancouver, the Canada Line opened in late August 2009.  Now changes in customer levels have been noted to be modest for businesses along the Canada Line on Cambie St.   Businesses closer to stations have seen an increase in foot traffic.  The full effect of a switch from car-based shopping to people-based shopping takes time.  It takes more than a full year business cycle for commuters to establish changes in their transportation choice, travel and shopping patterns.

Since no one is constantly monitoring where bikes are locked up outside  shops, then the bike helmet is the beacon to signal retailers that another customer that has just arrived –in a different way.

 

Third Wave believes that a carefully thought out bike parking strategy for a retail neighbourhood would enhance local  sales and retailers’ financial bottom line.  Time to park a bike, proximity to retailers’ storefront door, and perceived personal and bike safety are some of the critical components in such a strategy.  Third Wave specializes in bike parking planning.

Interesting Reading:
Bike Lanes, On Street Parking and Business: A Study of Bloor Street in Annex’s Neighbourhood. Toronto: Clean Air Partnership Fund, Feb. 2009.

Morton, Brian. “Customer Traffic up Modestly Since Canada Line Opened, Cambie Street Merchants Say.” Vancouver Sun. Dec. 7, 2009.

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