Category: vancouver

Bike friendly Vancouver

Cyclists southbound on Burrard Bridge
Cyclists southbound on Burrard Bridge

The new mayor of Vancouver has come good on one of his election promises and helped promote bicycling in our city. One step in this direction was taken this week when the Burrard bridge got it’s own dedicated cycle lane. The bridge links downtown Vancouver to the north with the west side (Kitsilano, Fairview) to the south. It is a busy commuter route with pedestrians, cyclists and motorists.

The new arrangements have introduced a south bound lane for cyclists – taking away one of the three southbound car lanes. Northbound cyclists now have exclusive use of the sidewalk on the east, with pedestrians using the sidewalk on the other side in both directions.

There have been a lot of complaints from motorists about this arrangement, whilst cyclists have (naturally) been very supportive. No surprise there!

We use this bridge a lot since we are often over the west side with showings or simply to enjoy the beach, restaurants or the buzz of the area. We drive across and have not noticed any traffic issues so far. One of our clients uses the bridge as a cyclist and says that his commute is a bit shorter but a whole lot safer. That is the point of this after all.

Cycling around Stanley Park is a big draw for tourists and locals alike. We can now glimpse a view of the city with a much wider network of cycle paths. And when the sun is shining and there’s a safe route to cycle I can see the appeal.

[Note photo is from the KatKam – a web cam that looks onto the Burrard Bridge.

A rose for the convention centre


Sue and I went to the Rose Show at the Vancouver Convention Centre last weekend. This was interesting on two counts – the roses themselves and secondly to see the new convention centre.

Roses are one of Sue’s passions. She really wanted to see the roses and hoped to find some climbing ones for the rose arbour she wants me to build for her. Well there were no climbing roses for sale, but there were a lot of roses. Some arranged most artfully.

Like other such shows there were a few stands selling things. In this case we were drawn to the gardening gadgets. We joined the crowd clustered around the magic garden tool that would replace almost all your other tools. He was a good salesman. We bought one and it seemed like every second person was carrying one of these around for the rest of the day – rather awkwardly as they had long handles.

It reminded me of the PNE, another feature of summer in Vancouver. At that show there is usually one hit purchase which just about everyone buys. We have the magic window cleaner, the super cloth and probably a lot of other must have items somewhere in our garage right now.

One of the best things for me in our visit was to get into the new Convention Centre. During construction the area was a mess and people complained about the cost overruns, but seeing it now it is a real credit to the city. The living roof, the mix of natural materials showcases the westcoast architectural style at its best. I hear that it is a financial success and the rose show will not be the only time we visit I am sure.

Vancouver most livable city – again

Downtown Vancouver at night
Downtown Vancouver at night

The Economist Intelligence unithas given Vancouver top place in its most livable cities of the world survey.  They said “With a rating of almost 100, Vancouver is the world’s most livable city according to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s latest livability ranking . The city, which will host the Winter Olympics in 2010, achieves the best possible score for all indicators, with the exception of prevalence of petty crime”.

The survey ranks cities on five factors: health-care, stability, culture and environment, education and infrastructure.

Living here in Vancouver I am not surprised that we score so highly. Are we really the best city? Can’t say for sure. But let’s look at the factors.

Health care. Yes we do have the Medical Services Plan and so basic health care is covered for one and all. We don’t pay like they do in the States. We would like more nursing staff and not to pay so much for prescriptions, but at least I can walk in and see a doctor without using my credit card.

Stability. The public’s biggest complaint against our government is it is boring. But boring is good. Boring is safe.

Culture. Tis the summer. Tis the season of Bard on the Beach. We have great theatre, a movie industry, live music, art galleries, gourmet restaurants and good sporting venues.

Environment. Supernatural British Columbia is the tourist board’s advert. And yes we do have unspoilt beauty, and some spoilt beauty too. Mountains, the ocean, parks, and lakes are our playgrounds – and they are literally on our doorstep.

Education. Free public education is pretty good here. Some of Canada’s top schools are located in Vancouver – including the private fee-paying ones. And don’t forget our universities. University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser of course, but the newer ones like Capilano and Emily Carr too. No wonder so many international students come here.

Infrastructure. I still find Vancouver lags behind European cities as far as public transit goes. But North Americans rate our transit system highly. For a car culture I guess we are doing pretty well. And we have plans for more transit to come.

I started this post thinking I was going to question the Economist’s findings, but hey I have ended up agreeing – for the most part. If you have been to Vancouver let me have your thoughts.

Crime in Vancouver

RCMP in dress uniform
RCMP in dress uniform

Vancouver is proud of it’s status as one of the most livable cities in the world. We do admit to a drug and homeless problem, though we like to think of this as being limited to the downtown eastside of  Vancouver.  However this year we have been plagued by news stories of homicides and shootings.

No one wants to think that our little paradise is actually a dangerous and violent place to live. So is it true?

Yes, there have been 20 homicides so far this year. This is two more than the 18 we had in the whole of last year. Almost all these crimes have been gang related. The news stories used code words such as “targeted hits” or “the victim was known to Police” to indicate that another gangster hit has happened. Not surprising when you consider that BC is a major source of marijuana. Illegal drugs, like bootleg booze in the 30’s, attracts crime. And our proximity to the major market s of the US means that there will be turf wars.

With gangs, comes guns. Vancouver is the worst metropolitan area within Canada as far as gun crimes go. There were 43.5 crimes per 100,000 people in Vancouver. The average in Canada as a whole was 27.5 and Toronto had 40.4 per 100,000 population.

If we look at BC and Vancouver in the larger context of Canada and the rest of North America, a somewhat different picture emerges.

Rates of homicide per 100,000 of population, show BC as better that some of our western neighbours and our big neighbour to the south.

  • B.C. 2.5
  • Alberta 2.8
  • Manitoba 3.3
  • Saskatchewan 4.1
  • USA 6.3

The figure for the number of homicides by city gives a similar picture:

  • Vancouver 18
  • Montreal 29
  • Toronto 70
  • Seattle 30
  • Los Angeles 381
  • New York 523

 Since I come from the UK, I had a look at the statistics from there, specifically from London where the Metropolitan Police crime statistics show in the last 12 months there were 156 homicides. There were also 2,175 gun enabled crimes and a staggering 173,860 violent crimes against the person.

Crime is news here. Perhaps more so than in other places where violent crime is more common place. I doubt that people here feel happy about the level of crime we see, but for someone who has lived in London, I certainly feel a lot safer here than I did in London. My sense in London was that violence was just under the surface and could erupt from anyone at anytime. Here gang violence exists and will do so as long as there’s money to be made from the drugs trade, but it is not something that touches the everyday lives of most people.

See also:

Vancouver Police Department Crime Statistics

2010 Olympic countdown

This week we are exactly a year away from the start of the 2010 winter Olympics. This is not something you can ignore if you are in Vancouver, or even British Columbia.

I expect that you, as someone interested in coming to BC, know about this. I wonder how much the rest of the world knows? It certainly is used as an excuse for a great deal that goes on here.

For example, the Olympics have meant spending our tax dollars (Federal and Provincial) on big infrastructure projects such as upgrading the sea to sky highway that links Vancouver and Whistler. This will allow the hordes of visitors to travel safely between venues in Whistler and Vancouver.

Or the Canada Line, which will whisk visitors from the airport to downtown Vancouver.

I am not complaining about these developments. Far from it. Both bring lasting benefits to Vancouver in terms of improved transit links. The Canada Line will be used by commuters on a daily basis and not just from YVR. And of course those who want to visit Whistler can now expect a safer and quicker journey.

The Richmond speed skating rink is already open and will be well used too. Cypress Mountain on the north shore is another olympic venue where the facilities have been upgraded. Whenever we ski or ride up there we can thank the Olympics for their contribution to our mountain.

Another Olympic highlight is one that is not available to us all, but there seems to be a potential goldmine out there in terms of renting your home during the Olympics. We know of several cases where people have rented their homes for the golden 2 week period for several thousand dollars. One family has rented their home to the Swedish ski team (or some of it at least) for $30,000.

Anywhere with space available may well be up for grabs. I have heard that one of the local yacht clubs, and at least one restaurant will be rented out as meeting places for Olympic teams. Staff will be on paid leave and the venues will be compensated handsomely for their loss of revenue.

Seems like money will be pouring into the area doesn’t it? Perhaps not so. Pretty much everyone who is doing this kind of thing will be heading off to Mexico or Hawaii and spending their money there!

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