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Published on February 6th, 2017 | by Cynthia Shahan


Vancouver’s World-Renowned & Comfortable Multi-Modal Infrastructure (Film)

February 6th, 2017 by  

Infrastructure that supports multi-modal travel makes it possible to live comfortably without a car. Vancouver is perhaps North America’s #1 city in this way. How unusual is the city of Vancouver? Well, for one thing, in the 1960s, Vancouver’s citizens refused to allow freeways in the city. That may seem like an obviously smart move today, but it was radical back then.

The proposed highway would have separated the Vancouver downtown from its lovely waterfront. Citizens did not want the urban center torn up and replaced with enormous freeways and large concrete roads and walls — something we accept all too often. Again, while this is easy to view as a common-sense decision today, it went against the grain of conventional wisdom and “what a city needs” back in the 1960s. Think of the expressways that we accept as necessary that Vancouver did not accept.

The city transformed in better ways and has continued to transform up into 2017 — more and better protected bicycle lanes, greater walkability, better transit.

Filmmaker Clarence Eckerson recently traced the city’s thoughtful urban trajectory and the human results in a short film that is worth a watch. “It’s really changed the type of people you see on bikes — women, children, the elderly.” Nudged comfortably out of cars, citizens walk, bicycle in protected lanes, and breathe fresher air.

Citylab reports, “As of 2015, half of all trips within city limits are taken on foot, bike, or transit — a goal the city had hoped to reach by 2020. Ahead of schedule — and way ahead of its peers on this continent — Vancouver’s “active transit” success is the subject of a new short documentary by STREETFILMS.”

Vancouver’s Multi-Modal Success Story from STREETFILMS on Vimeo.

Here were just a few of the multi-modal milestones in Vancouver’s long and thoughtful transformation:

  • 1960s — famous rejection of the freeways.
  • 1970s — pedestrian mall implemented on Granville Street.
  • 1986 — the Expo ’86 theme of transportation of the future debuted the SkyTrain, which is now the world’s longest automated light rail system thanks to a 2016 extension.
  • 2008 — the city made a “strategic shift to support cycling as daily form of mobility rather than pure recreation.”
  • 2010 — “The 2010 Winter Olympics encouraged more car-to-pedestrian street conversations, and peppering the in-between years were lots of smart decision-making.”

Filmmaker Clarence Eckerson also shows how Vancouver managed to avoid the planning pitfalls of all too many other towns in recent decades.

“The film shows Vancouver as it is the only major North American city without a freeway running through it. The open waterfront became the location of the hugely successful Expo ‘86, which was themed around the future of transportation and featured the debut of the elevated SkyTrain, a swoopy automated light rail system. A new extension that opened in December allowed SkyTrain to reclaim its title as the world’s longest fully automated metro system in the world.”

Listen to the city’s former chief planner and urban Twitter celeb, Brent Toderian: “As a user … I’ve got choices, and the best thing is not just to have available choices but delightful choices, every day.”

And once you watch that short film above, you should check out this presentation from Deputy City Manager Sadhu Johnston:

Related Stories:

Vancouver’s 100% Renewable Energy Goal (Renewable Cities Video)

Exploring Vancouver Through Streetfilms

Gas Pumps In North Vancouver To Warn Pumpers About Climate Change

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About the Author

Cynthia Shahan started writing by doing research as a social cultural and sometimes medical anthropology thinker. She studied and practiced both Waldorf education, and Montessori education. Eventually becoming an organic farmer, licensed AP, and mother of four unconditionally loving spirits, teachers, and environmentally conscious beings born with spiritual insights and ethics beyond this world. (She was able to advance more in this way led by her children.)

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