May 28, 2020

Discoveries, Memories and Sounds on the Slow Streets

At the very moment when Vancouver Council was discussing and approving Lisa Dominato’s motion to move forward on a network of slow streets, I was cycling on the first ones – the streets from New Brighton to Queen Elizabeth Park.  It’s essentially the linking of the Gladstone Bikeway with the Ridgeway Greenway – hence fast and cheap to do ($2 a kilometre – not a misprint) and in place even before the motion was passed.

It was a nostalgic experience.  I was on Council when the Ridgeway Greenway was opened, so it’s wonderful to still be around as it, like me, tries to age well.  Indeed, not much has changed: still the same route through streets, parks and lanes, with still the same public art and amenities (like the wonderful Windsor Castle children’s sand box.)*

It’s only some of the signage that is showing wear and tear.

The greatest change: the turnover in housing – mainly just one (seemingly) single-family house for another.  But the quality and design of that housing clearly demonstrates the change in cost and class that has crossed over Cambie into the East Side.

From still-intact Vancouver Specials …

.. to the latest version of the McMansion:

What was possibly the most surprising discovery was tə cecəw (The Beach) at 137 East 37th – a social housing project of 46 studio units operated by Coast Mental Health and funded by BC Housing.  (Remember the controversy over this one?  I don’t either.)

It’s classed as “temporary modular housing” – but doesn’t look temporary.  (I’d recognize the designer, but don’t know who it is.  Please add below if you know.)

What was the use on the slow streets on a weekeday afternoon?  Modest, intermittent, but a good mix.  Lots of kids.  I especially liked the mother and daughter tackling one of the steepest hills.

On the way home, I headed down the Ontario Bikeway – joining a continual stream of cyclists on one of the heaviest used cycling arterials in the city.  But, with an almost total absence of cars, a quiet experience.  Here’s what I heard in order of their volume: human voices passing by, a lawn mower, the sound of bike tires on asphalt, birds.  (Oh wait, a car a block away.  Nope, it’s gone.)


*Thanks to the pioneers who made it possible – from Moura Quayle who chaired the Greenways Task Force to staff (like our own Sandy James) who implemented the vision.



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  1. This first set of slow streets total about 12 km. It will be great to see the coming weeks, and where the City puts the focus on implementing the balance of the 50 km of slow streets that have been discussed.

    I would like to see Ridgeway/Midtown calmed further west, to connect to the Arbutus Greenway. And further east, to connect to Central Park.

    Also, Kent Ave to provide a connection from the River District to Cambie and the Marine Drive skytrain station. There are lots of new parks along the river there.

    I encourage people to send their comments to the City using the email set up for this purpose.

  2. Wow, these greenways / slow streets cost $2 per kilometer to build.

    For the same $2, we can build 25 CENTIMETERS ob broadway subway! (Cost: $250,000,000 / kilometer)

    Just sayin….

  3. Modular housing is a systems manufacturing approach to delivering very affordable residential buildings. There is no ‘starchitect designer’, instead there is a factory and a production team working with a client to produce a product in much the same way anything on an assembly line in a factory is produced, it could be a toaster, it could be a new car, or in this case a new building. If architects want a piece of the action, then they need to step up with some compelling designs that utilize this factory production approach to building. The last notable and memorable effort that happened was in 1967 when Moshi Safdie (starchitect) designed the Montreal Habitat for Humanity project.

  4. Too bad these barriers are being damaged, moved, and vandalized. Hard to tell if the damage was purposeful (to drain the water making them easier to move) or caused by a car trying to squeak by too close, but a number in the Gladstone, Kingsway, 33rd area have been damaged, moved and/or tagged. Frustrating, especially as this was a bikeway to begin with.

  5. Report issues to 311 and ask that any moved barriers be addressed. Also, from the COV web site:
    “In a few weeks, we’ll be asking the public for ideas and feedback on how to make these routes more comfortable for walking, cycling, and rolling. Using input from residents and businesses, we’ll make adjustments and improvements at key locations.

    Questions? Email us at