Lots to think about in this article by Christopher Cheung in the Vancouver Courier.
- A lovely counterpoint to the relentless car suburb and freeway propaganda that dominates such discussions far too often. From a family and kids point of view.
- A celebration of Vancouver’s success at building a human-friendly and wonderfully livable place. On a large scale, too.
- Amid vast and vicious howling that made recent bike lane noise sound like lone sparrows, the City traffic-calmed the West End in the 1970’s. Many blocks of asphalt became mini-parks, and rat-running commuters were taken off residential streets. Today, my estimate is that West End residents would take down city hall, brick by brick, and throw it off the Burrard Street bridge if anyone even suggested reversing this traffic-calming.
Sample quote from the article: The West End has bustling strips of convenient local businesses with everything from gay bars to delis to laundromats, but tucked behind them is a different treasure: the neighbourhood’s residential streets.
Cotic-Ehn says walking them can be like being “in a bubble” because it’s so calm and quiet.
In the 1970s, the city began adding road diverters and mini-parks in the West End.
“It was called traffic calming, but it was really public space making, knitting the fabric to a human scale,” says Sandy James, a former planner at the city for 28 years.
Maintaining a human scale means prioritizing the human experience in urban design — creating places where people feel welcome. That means safety for pedestrians but also convenience and delight, inviting people to slow down and stick around.
“All the buildings are a bit different in the West End,” James says. “There’s visual interest. They have a different rhythm.”
There are heritage single-family houses (the West End was the city’s elite neighbourhood before Shaughnessy), masonry and wood-frame apartment buildings and concrete highrises. Their colours are everything from forest green to cream to pink to lime. And tying them all together are mature, leafy trees.
Maintaining a human scale also paves the way for street life, even in residential areas. The West End has lush side gardens, bulletin boards covered with notes and well-used apartment porches with plants and furniture. Good neighbourhoods like this allow residents to express themselves.
And yes, that’s PT’s own Sandy James quoted above.