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Vancouver’s car-free days admired from afar

June 25th, 2009 · 4 Comments

This story from the Toronto Star, praising Vancouver’s car-free days and Toronto’s lack of same, popped up on my screen today. It’s ironic given the debate that keeps raging in this city about changing the current proportions of the car-bike-walker sharing system.

It reminds me forcibly of the way it’s so easy to praise from afar, even while the locals are grumbling. I wrote glowingly (well, somewhat) about Montpellier the other day, and the mayor who has brought trams, a car-free central city, a grand new neo-classical development, and bike-sharing to the city. I’m sure, though, that there are many in Montpellier who seem him as a mad leftie (he is with the Socialist party) who is ruining the city with his social engineering grands projects.

Similarly, while former mayor Sam Sullivan became the object of severe criticism on his home turf, reporters from elsewhere typically wrote glowing stories about him and about one of his biggest initiatives, EcoDensity. (In fact, they’re still writing those latter ones.)

So think about all that while you’re fuming in your car stalled in a bottleneck, with nothing to look at but the mayor’s new community garden and/or one of his newly created homeless shelters — while you’re composing nasty letters to the mayor and council about their follies, someone somewhere is writing about what a progressive and forward-thinking city Vancouver is.

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  • Without Sam Sullivan’s vision and dedication to the homeless, we would not now have the thirteen SROs currently being transformed into assisted-living facilities in a city/provincial partnership. Thanks to Mayor Sullivan, we now have 3200 new assisted-living housing units in Vancouver built or under construction.

    Mayor Sullivan’s Street-to-Home Foundation is another great innovation that is having a profound effect on the problem of homelessness in the city.

    Mayor Robertson loves both programs, much as he loves Vancouver’s Gold LEED construction standard – the most environmentally green construction standards in North America.

    I don’t mean that he gives Sam Sullivan credit for these ideas and programs, but they are keeping these programs in place because they work.

    I salute Mayor Robertson’s pragmatism. The whole city benefits by good ideas, regardless of the party of origin.

  • Well said. Great post Frances!

  • Darcy McGee

    They were admired from a-close as well.

    Sam, on the other hand….blurg.

  • Smugly, I tell you, I have not owned a car since 1984. During that time I have lived in Vancouver for the better part but also the largest city in the world and one of the smallest. I have adjusted and, accordingly, suffer no inconvenience.

    I have not owned a bike since I was a teen. Bikes are no substitute for transit: within the inner periphery Vancouver transit is pretty good. Outside that periphery I doubt cyclists will commute from Surrey to their work in Langley.

    Vancouver topography and weather is no match for Montpellier: rain means extra gear and pressure on work place to install showers etc: which the bottomless pocket of city hall can provide but not the small employer. There will always be cyclists who holler but the are no panacea.

    The local context, be it transit, economics, social cultural or me-me-me cannot be compared to Europe. Frances, enjoy your holiday: clearly though you return with no illusions, good for you.

    As for LEED and all the other enviro-nonsense, take care. Beware of green roofs, they are not what the pundits hope for! A recent design ideas competition reveals how inept the local design/planning fraternity is when it comes to understanding Eco-density or the Charter for Climate Change. Needless to say it has now been embarrassingly forgotten.

    Vancouver is on the trailing edge of progress and boosterism only exacerbates the problems . . . Ojala y paz . . .