Connecting QB to the Quay

Amongst the great legendary structures of New Westminster, none has seen as much rumour and speculation as the mythical Bridge to Queensborough.

Not the Queensborough Bridge, but the allegedly announced, apparently planned for, and suspiciously funded but not-quite-yet-built fixed pedestrian crossing from the Quayside boardwalk to the east tip of Lulu Island, where the burgeoning neighbourhood of Port Royal is remaking the shape of Queensborough.

The reality of the bridge is that it is, indeed, “planned”. There is even a bit of money set aside for it. Any time I raise the issue with anyone at the City they assure me it will definitively be built. It is next on the list for DAC projects, done by 2016. Or 2017. Or 2019.

Now, for most people, a fixed piece of transportation infrastructure between the Quay an Queensborough seems like a great idea- who could be against it? It is like being against the Quayside Boardwalk, or the Central Valley Greenway, or the Seawall. The only people seemingly against it are those few familiar names who are against everything the City does. In a curious game of whack-a-mole problem-finding, they raised various complaints: it was too costly; it was an eyesore; it would destroy the “Submarine Park”.

These complaints were based on an early, and very preliminary, engineering assessment done on potential crossing options. This original plan was what you get when you give engineering consultants as free reign to build a bridge: it is big, expensive, and does the trick. A good starting point, but hardly the best of all possible solutions.

The reason we are even entertaining this idea to build a pedestrian bridge to Queensborough is due to DAC funding. The bridge is one of several identified projects that rose out of a slick deal cut between the City and the Provincial Government related to the old Riverboat Casino (which morphed onto the Starlight Casino). The background is complicated, but when the Province wanted to change the funding model for Casinos, New Westminster asked to be compensated for loss of potential income, and the Province agreed, but the money had to be earmarked for specific projects (could not be put into things like general revenue, or operating a ferry service, or paving Daniel Fontaine’s back alley). Amongst the earmarked projects were the newly-completed Queensborough Community Centre upgrades, other park amenities in Queensborough, and the Anvil Centre. Long version short, the City has a small pile of money from the Province they need to spend on building a pedestrian link to Queensborough.

This led to the 2009 report which provided early design ideas (including the drawing above), and led to a significant amount of whinging from the Quayside residents (although there is a general ambivalence about the project displayed in the Quayside Community Board minutes from 2009 when the project was announced).

That is not to say the original bridge plan was not without problems. The projected cost was much greater than the DAC funding available. A fixed crossing would need to be 22m above the water (~20m above the landings) due to requirements for maintaining a navigable channel for river traffic, which would potentially make for ungainly ramps of something like 400m length to accommodate pedestrians, wheelchairs, bikes, etc. Apparently, the Railway was not so chuffed about the idea of the City driving piles to support a 20-m-high bridge next to their 100-year-old pilings. The original landing spot for those ramps was where the current “Expo Submarine” park is located. Finally, the eyesore issue that if the City built the cheapest bridge possible, it was going to be ugly, and if they went for the grander vision, it might not be a vision shared by everyone (grandeur-wise, and cost-wise).

There were some creative alternatives floated. A ferry service, or a gondola. Maybe I will cover those in a future post, but extremely short version: show me the business case.

So it was exciting a couple of weeks ago when the City announced a new set of plans developed in partnership with the owners of the railway bridge: Southern Railway. The big difference this time around is the low elevation of the bridge, which makes life much easier to pedestrians and cyclists, but means the bridge must swing or draw to allow marine traffic to pass. A City Councillor I was chatting with last week even suggested it could be built to accommodate an ambulance for emergency use.

The problem? Who is going to open and close the bridge? The current train swing bridge stays “open” to marine traffic and is swung closed only when a train needs to pass. This would make a pedestrian crossing pretty much useless, so there is discussion of making the default “closed” to marine traffic, opened only when a boat has top pass. The Port would need to agree, as would the owners of the rail bridge. And someone would have to be on staff to flip the switch.
These are not minor details. SRY currently staffs the swing bridge and the one that connects Queensborough to Annacis Island adjacent to Derwent Way. That second bridge has the default position of “closed”, but that is just a minor channel approachable from both ends, not the entire North Arm of the Fraser River. If the City will be required to staff, or compensate SRY for the staffing, of a swing bridge, then the economics of this “less expensive” option may go away fairly quick.
Ultimately, I only hope the crossing will be reliable – one you can count on being there when you need it, and not unexpectedly opened for a hour at random times – because I see this bridge primarily as a transportation link, not a tourist draw or a nice place for a walk on the weekend (although it will be both of those, if done well!). Then it will be the link we have been missing up to now. 

Pattullo Consultation 2 – the options.

Now that the public consultation events have come to a close, and we have a week left to give TransLink our comments, I want to follow up my discussion of the Consultation Process with my reactions to the options provided.
So as to not bury the lede, and to allow for great summarizing and generalization, I am going to list the options provided by TransLink in the consultation documents grouped into four categories based completely on my own (as informed as possible) opinions: Optimal, Sub-optimal, Bad, and Untenable.
Optimal: If I was voting, this is where I would cast my ballot.
Options #4 and #5.
Fixing the bridge we have seems the simplest, most cost-effective solution, and it can easily be financed through a moderate toll, similar to the cost premium for crossing a “Zone” on any other TransLink infrastructure.These options (and I prefer the three-lane counterflow to provide better comfort and lower wear for road users) meets all of the listed objectives. It fixes the core problem (an old bridge) while respecting local and regional planning goals and existing transportation networks. Meanwhile, the historically significant structure can be preserved to grace our skyline for another generation, and safety for cyclists and pedestrians can be improved.
The bonus in these “difficult economic times” is that this is the least expensive option, and can easily be funded through modest tolls. Back-of-the-envelope estimates suggest that the $3 tolls of Port Mann are not necessary here, but a toll pegged to the zone-crossing premium of the adjacent SkyBridge (currently $1.25) would be more than enough to cover the repair and maintenance costs. The toll would be enough to disincentivize avoiding the Port Mann, but not so high as to be a burden to regular users. It may even help encourage the use of the alternative next door.
Sub-optimal: Not ideal, but I could probably live with it and not whinge too much. 
Options #2, #3, #19.

All pictures zoom if ya click them!

All of these options keep the Pattullo standing, and that satisfies one of my major criteria: protecting the heritage of the structure. Each is less perfect than the optimal choices in different ways.

The first two don’t seem to provide any real benefit over the Optimal choices. I cannot imagine this region spending $300 Million on a single piece of bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure these days, when a bike lane in Vancouver that costs less to install than a single left-turn bay for cars on an adjacent street is used as evidence for a “war on cars”. This is politically untenable, and probably just disruptive enough to transportation systems already established that it doesn’t really serve the purpose. There is nothing a 2-lane Pattullo provides us better than three-lane Pattullo, so these are just lesser versions of a good idea.
Option #19 has been the source of much talk, speculation, dreaming, and idolation since the consultations began. I have never been a big fan of the Sapperton Bar crossing (for reasons outlined below), but have to admit, when I saw this option presented by TransLink, I started to reconsider, mostly because the speculated cost of $1.5 Billion is much, much lower than I anticipated for a crossing on one of the wider parts of the River. This makes the cost recoverable from tolls on the two bridges (the new one, and the refurbished 2-lane Pattullo).
The obvious upside is that his option may facilitate the closing of the Pattullo to trucks, and provide the most cost-effective solution to the problem that the “Stormont Solution” purports to solve: getting vehicles from Surrey to Highway 1 ASAP, at a fraction of the cost of a 4-km tunnel through New Westminster.
My problems with this option (besides suspicion around the projected cost) are built around the fear that this is really a “NIMBY” solution that, once again, adds to road capacity when that is not the problem we are trying to solve. Nothing in the problem set for the Pattullo supports building another bridge to the east. We also don’t know if the residents of Bridgeview or Coquitlam want this new Highway connection in their neighbourhoods. The connections on the north side are especially problematic- are we envisioning a road through the Brunette Industrial Area connecting at Braid (spanning the rail yard), or something over by the King Edward Overpass (which would be impossible to connect to Highway 1)? It was suggested that the projected cost of this option would only take the new bridge to United Boulevard, which is actually no-where, except a congested narrow 4-lane with access to Lee Valley.
Mark me down as intrigued, but not informed enough to actually feel positive about this one.
Bad: Just a bad idea, and hard to see how to make it good. 
Options #1, #6, #14, #15, #16, #17, #18, #20.

The first option here – the removal of the bridge – is a bit of a dream for some in New Westminster, but I think fails to acknowledge both the importance of the established transportation networks, and the importance of the Pattullo as a heritage structure. I like the bridge on our skyline, I like crossing it on foot and on my bike and even, occasionally, by car. I would be sad to see it go.

Option #6 is for a new 4-lane bridge, which has the unique combination of making the situation no better than it is now traffic- and transportation-wise, but losing the heritage structure at a much higher cost than the refurbishment option. So not individually terrible; just a combination of so many sub-optimals that the sum is bad.
#14, #15, #16 and #20 all rely on the Sapperton Bar crossing being built, which is actually a pretty crappy idea. It takes the Surrey-Coquitlam version (with all of it’s uncertainties) and adds a road connecting to a tunnel under Sapperton – for no apparent reason or understanding of the neighbourhoods it is launching into – to presumably access a non-existent (and un-budgeted) Stormont connection, yet still doubles the cost. I cannot imagine why.
#17 is lesser than #19, for not much less cost, except that we no longer have a Pattullo at all. Meh. Meanwhile #18 has the same critical flaw as #2 in that no-one is going to spend something like $300 million to refurbish the Pattullo for bicycles and pedestrians only in MetroVancouver in 2013 when we cannot even scrape together a couple of million to fix the BC Parkway. Give me $300 Million for bike infrastructure, I can spend it much better than this.
Untenable: They just threw these in here to see if we were paying attention.
Options #7, #8, #9, #10, #11, #12, #13, #21, #22, #23, #24, and #25.

The first three options bring progressively bigger bridges into the location of the Pattullo Bridge. It was these ideas that brought us all out to last year’s consultations, and no defensible case was made for them last year, which is why we are all here a year later reviewing better ideas. This idea has not improved with age.

The four sub-river tunnel options are dead on arrival. Without the “branch”, and with no specific idea about what happens along McBride, it provides no advantage over the bigger Bridge options, but at 2-3 times the cost. With the “branch” along Royal, the cost rises well over $4 Billion (an unlikely sum for TransLink to cobble together), all to move one inevitable traffic pinch point from the South end of McBride to the North end of McBride, and to increase the congestion on Stewardson. It is a road-builders dream that spends a lot of taxpayers money but makes worse most of the problems it claims to solve. I’ve said it before: tunnels are for trains, not cars and trucks. 
#21 and #22 have all the bad parts of #14 through #20, but with increased traffic and cost.

The final 3 options are all related to a new crossing way over by “Tree Island” – a misnomer peninsula that currently hosts a steel wire factory and will soon be home to a TransLink bus parking facility – to connect Richmond to Burnaby. Richmond has been clear that they are opposed to this idea, and no-one at TransLink was really clear how this in any way related to the Pattullo Bridge – it surely does not replace any capacity needs at Pattullo, doesn’t directly address the “old bridge problem”, nor does it cross most of the Fraser River. This is so off topic, it is just a distraction not worth discussion.   

That’s it folks, this is what we have to work with. You have another week or so to get your opinions to TransLink by going to this site. Just for the fun of it, you can also tell Surrey what you think by going to this site.
Good luck.

Are trees part of our Heritage?

Last week’s local papers covered extensively the loss of another heritage home in Queens Park. The general consensus coming out of the stories was that it was a shame: a house with an historical character that should have been saved, but couldn’t be. There was much discussion about the reason why it could not be saved, that any municipality would have had some difficulty if they tried to enforce community standards of “heritage” on private landowners – setting themselves up for lawsuits, etc.

This is especially difficult in Queens Park, where much of the City’ inventory of historic homes is located, but where the traditional champions of heritage run up against those who are the strongest defenders of individual property rights, free enterprise, small government and avoiding bureaucracy and “red tape”.

The reality is, as suggested in the stories, it is logistically and legislatively difficult for any Municipality to protect the heritage quality of private homes. What isn’t difficult is to protect the natural heritage in the form of trees that exist on the same private property.

In the case of the currently-lamented 221 Third Ave, there were at least 5 significant trees on the lot. Two mature cypress trees shaded the front of the home, a gigantic incense cedar stood on the corner of the lot in the front yard, and two mature trees guarded the back corners: one an ornamental plum, one a large English hawthorn. All met the chainsaw the day after the house was demolished.

The home will be replaced in a few months – if the neighbours are lucky the builder will respect the heritage character of the surroundings – but those mature trees will take decades to replace, and if the buildings are constructed to their maximum allowable footprint, there may never again be trees of this scale on those lots again.

Tree Protection Bylaws are, in contrast to heritage building preservation, simple and defensible. In the same week that the chainsaws were at work in Queens Park, Burnaby was bolstering its Tree Protection Bylaw to increase the protection of these important components of their natural heritage and their community’s ecosystems.

The site at 221 Third Ave makes for an interesting case, tree-bylaw wise. With a well-developed Tree Protection Bylaw, the two cypress trees would likely be preserved. The landowner may apply to remove them, if they really could not be fit into the redeveloped lot, but they would have to pay a penalty for their removal, and plant compensatory trees- likely (since the trees were healthy) at a 2-for-1 ratio. So the developer would have the simple economic incentive to keep the trees or pay cash for their removal and re-planting, as subtle shift of the economics to encourage the protection of trees.

Two large cypress trees on the right, incense cedar on the left, all now gone. 

The grand incense cedar in the front yard would, perhaps ironically, not be preserved. It is a large, historic tree, but it appeared to be not doing well. With generally sparse branches, little new growth, and a big crack up the middle of the trunk, an arborist would probably have no problem declaring the tree a hazard and approving its removal. In this case, the Landowner would not have to pay a fee for removal, but would still be required to replace the tree, in this case on a 1-for-1 basis, so the “net tree crop”of the City is not reduced.

Bad pruning, or just old age, this incense cedar was not long for this world. 

The two mature trees on the back corners would probably not be permitted for removal at all. Both were healthy, and were located very close to the property line where they would not interfere with eventual land development. The developer would have to plan the new buildings so they avoided disturbing these two trees, which would ultimately be not much of a hardship, considering their location.

This English hawthorn could use some pruning, but was healthy and worthy of preservation, and being right on the property line where it wouldn’t have hampered redevelopment of the site.
Same story for this ornamental plum tree – it took decades to get this size, an hour to cut down.

These trees in Queens Park were taken down almost two years to the day after New Westminster Council unanimously supported Councillor Lorrie Williams’ motion to develop a Tree Protection Bylaw. I attended that Council Meeting on behalf of the NWEP, asking why New Westminster remains one of the few jurisdictions in BC without such protection. Council seemed united, seemed to understand the issue, and passed a unanimous motion. Two years later: still no Bylaw.

How many more trees will go until we see action?

Is there enough shame in being the “Second Worst Road”?

It didn’t start last month. I have lamented the BC Parkway for quite some time.

There was a time, back in the late 1980’s when I lived on Royal Avenue and worked in a warehouse just off Royal Oak, and I would ride my bike along the Parkway to get to work. Back then, it was great – an actual road just for bikes and pedestrians! In hindsight, the connections and some of the route choices were a little sketchy, but that is only with the benefit of hindsight. For ca. 1988, it was a kick-ass bikeway.

Twenty-five years later, I live two blocks from that crappy apartment I shared with my brother on Royal, and the lovely Ms.NWimby has a new job in Downtown Vancouver. A fair-weather bike commuter (the Skytrain ride is only 20 minutes!), we pulled out a bike map and tried to figure the route to her new job for those sunny days when the bike is calling.

We both immediately ignore the BC Parkway and look for alternates: CVG? (stays at low elevation, but seems a long way around New West). Cariboo to Adanac? (nice, but a little out of the way- and killer hill on the way home) Tenth to London to Griffiths to Rumble to Patterson to Moscrop to Smith to 22nd to Slocan to Charles to…(ugh).

Nope, the near-straight line, on a gentle slope (as it used to be a rail grade) that makes the most sense is the BC Parkway. If only it was safe or lived up to its promise. Instead, 28 years of local re-development, new roads, and failing pavement (along with a few original design elements that look hysterically outdated now) have made the route one to avoid for most cyclists.

So now that my little campaign to get the BC Parkway noticed is having its little media push– the whinging has gone as far as it can- so what to do?

First off: Jurisdictions. The BC Parkway is almost completely on TransLink property, and is ostensibly TransLink’s responsibility. Portions of it, however, are clearly on the property of and subject to the decision-making of, the three municipalities through which it passes. Any comprehensive refurbishment will require partnership between TransLink and the Transportation Departments in those Cities.

It’s not like TransLink doesn’t know the Parkway needs help. Back in 2008 there was an assessment report prepared for TransLink. I quote from that report:

Over the years, the dual trail design has proven to be less popular with BC Parkway users while land use adjacent to the trail has intensified, resulting in the paved portion of the BC Parkway becoming a heavily used, mixed-use facility that is generally narrower than the Transportation Association of Canada’s guideline of 4.0 metres for a shared, bi-directional urban path. Intense use of this inadequate facility and lack of proper maintenance has lead to its physical deterioration. The route is indirect in some locations and wayfinding is poor, making navigation difficult, particularly where the route transitions between the off-street pathway and urban streets. Efforts to upgrade sections of the Parkway have resulted in disjointed designs and application of the TAC standards that are not contiguous with other sections of the Parkway.

Yeah, that’s what I said!

Stakeholder meetings and concept plans were drawn up to fix the problems in 2009. Then what happened? Two things come to mind: the Canada Line, and the entire TransLink funding crisis.

The Canada Line Bridge is a great piece of cycling infrastructure (worthy of its own blog post, which I will do at some point soon), but few know it wasn’t actually part of the original Canada Line plan. Canada Line was not, strictly speaking, built by TransLink, but was a PPP dedicated to getting the damn thing in the ground before the Olympics started. The idea of putting a pedestrian-bicycle path on the side of the bridge came from strong lobbying by cycling groups in the City, and concomitant support from Richmond and Vancouver Councils. However, strapping the path to the side of the bridge was not part of the original plan, so the concessionaire building the Canada Line was certainly not going to pay for it, leaving TransLink holding the bag. The only solution was for TransLink to take it out of the bicycle infrastructure budget.

Notably, the cost of attaching the pathway to the Bridge (about $10 Million) was only 0.6% of the Canada Line budget, but represented 200% of TransLink’s annual bicycle infrastructure budget. So for two years, little other bicycle infrastructure got built by TransLink.

After the happy glow from their massive success moving people during the Olympics wore off, TransLink somehow became the whipping boy of the media and most levels of Government – for reasons poorly understood by anyone. I have gone on at length about this in the past, but short version: everyone has decided it is time to stop paying for the transit system at the same time other sources of revenue have been failing (some the fault of TransLink’s own success). The bicycle program budget is alternating between deep cuts and complete defunding. In this financial climate – when TransLink is actually cutting bus service as the region continues to grow – it appears the BC Parkway was simply not high enough on the priority list to see the plans realized.

I recognize I am only pointing out the problem, not what to do about it. I wish I knew.

The first obvious answer is to fund TransLink. There seemed some real promise that this was going to happen before the last election, but the surprise winner seems to think tax collected for Public Transit is the one type of tax that requires a referendum! There is no doubt, based on TransLink’s plans and policies, that they want to have safe, accessible bike routes as part of the integrated regional transportation system, especially ones that connect to their stations and bike lockers. People who ride bikes to SkyTrain stations buy tickets on SkyTrain, the business case is obvious. They just can’t afford to prioritize this right now.

So that leaves the Cities, Vancouver, Burnaby and New West all have budgets for cycling and pedestrian infrastructure, and all are challenged in setting priorities when transfers from senior Governments increasingly come in the form of responsibility, not compensation. For the BC Parkway to be improved, the Cities will need to take them on as a “Pet Project”, and through direct infrastructure spending or finding innovative funding strategies (remember, 7-11 and Molson paid for the first iteration of the Parkway) they will need to come to TransLink with some kind of matching fund. Given an opportunity to “share the cost” will be the only way that TransLink is likely to push this route to the top of the priority list when so strapped for funds.

Ultimately, the BCAA “Worst Roads” campaign is about shaming whomever owns the “Worst Road” (Municipality, Regional Government, or Ministry of Transportation) into in prioritizing the identified roads in their medium-term planning. Note that last year’s #1 finisher also finished first again this year- despite the $19 Million this particular “Pet Project” has recently received. Finisher #3 this year is also in the middle of a multi-million dollar planning process to find what will no doubt be a billion dollar solution. So maybe shame works.

But I don’t want to shame TransLink – I think they know the problem, and they wish they could do something about it. The shame here should go back to the multiple levels of government who have consistently failed to fund alternative transportation programs with the fervour used to provide smooth driving surfaces for cars.

Community Open House on Coal Exports

Thursday Night, there is a Community Open House to discuss the proposed addition of a coal terminal at Surrey-Fraser Docks. This one featuring City Officials, no less than 2 (two!) Members of Parliament, a Member of the Provincial Legislature, and and array of energy, health and environment experts.

I have already opined once on this topic, but it might be time for an update.

You might have heard about this issue. Local Candidate-in-Waiting James Crosty has been characteristically outspoken, the Quayside Community Board has raised concerns, as have the NWEP, and others during a recent public rally on the topic. Now, the City of New Westminster has officially opposed the project until come concerns are addressed.

In direct opposition to the City’s elected officials and the vocal portion of their customer base (but toeing the line of the Surrey Chamber), the New Westminster Chamber of Commerce just released a presser indicating their support for “environmentally sound coal shipments” – apparently unaware of the oxymoron contained within that phrase.

Nothing about the shipment of coal is environmentally sound. Simply put, this bituminous coal from Wyoming (Montana?) represents the dirtiest energy available to mankind, and is a small piece in the Global Climate Change Problem. This is not high-grade anthracite coal used for making steel that we can beat into ploughshares, this is scrubby brown coal that will be burned in a power plant somewhere in the far east to produce electricity or steam cheaper than the same energy can be produced by more sustainable means. The annual greenhouse gas and climate change implications of burning this much coal (not including the extraction or transportation impacts) will be equivalent to 200x the annual GHG output of the entirety of New Westminster – all the homes, businesses, cars and industry combined.

Port Metro Vancouver (the only legislative oversight body involved here, and therefore the party we are talking to when discussing this project) and Fraser Surrey Docks simply brush these greenhouse gas concerns away – the coal will not be burned here, therefore it does not count in “our” greenhouse gas accounting. This is the same argument being made by proponents of the Northern Gateway Pipeline and the Kinder Morgan Pipeline expansion. This argument is also used by Christy Clark at al. when talking about LNG exports, despite the fact the most damaging GHG impacts of that project will be released right here in BC, and not at the eventual burning site. Without getting too sidetracked by that particular lie- the central argument is ethically compromised.

A simile one could apply is the street drug trade. If one does not manufacture Crack Cocaine, and one does not smoke it, there is no reason we should restrict the business growth that comes from selling it. Hey- I’m just moving this stuff offshore (or off the sidewalk) to people who want it- I’m not responsible for where it goes! Why should we stop the job-generating resale of Crack Cocaine?

Another more direct comparison is to Canada’s asbestos industry. Canada banned the domestic use of asbestos decades ago because it apparently killed people. However, Canada has refused to ban the mining and export of the material to the Third World – even going so far as to lobby the UN from officially recognizing the scientifically-established cancer-causing properties of the material. The Harper Government(tm) was even willing to subsidize the industry in a couple of important Quebec ridings, until the newly-elected Quebec government shut that shit down.

Similarly, this crappy coal from Wyoming (Montana?) would never be burned to make electricity in BC, it is actually illegal for BC Hydro to burn this stuff because of the nasty environmental impacts. Yet, we are willing to transport it through our Ports, have it do it’s environmental and social damage elsewhere, and take our skim off the top. In this case, the skim is 50 jobs. Does that sound like an ethical approach to business? Does this sound like “environmentally sound coal movement?”

Much like the oil pipeline and LNG examples, the increase in coal export flies in the face of BC’s claims to be a “carbon neutral” province, or that because it has a neutered Carbon Tax, it is a leader in Climate Change Policy. Currently, According to the Government of BC oil, gas and coal represents much less that 2% of BC’s GDP and well less than 1% of employment – it is a minuscule portion of our true economy. Yet, we are being told that unfettered support for these industries is fundamental to the future or our Province’s economic survival. Some have suggested we are betting a lot on a pipe dream.

The reality is that these activities are threatening other sectors of our economy: fisheries, farming, forestry, tourism, manufacturing, etc. The Petro-economy is impacting our dollar which challenges all other industries, while the science-stifling required to support the industry is hurting our global competitiveness and global reputation. Climate change is threatening our salmon, and has already decimated our forests. We plan to displace farmland in order to provide electricity for carbon extraction and refrigeration, while depleting and fouling the water supply we need to keep agriculture viable in our interior valleys. This will, in turn, make us more dependent on food imports, push up healthcare costs, and turn SuperNatural British Columbia into something we may not recognize.

Of course, this isn’t all on Fraser Surrey Docks, or even Port Metro Vancouver. They are just the current  active front in a larger battle for the future of our Province’s economy, and the local focus in the discussion about the future of our planet’s climate. Are we going to become a hydrocarbon-exporting Province as our main industrial activity? Are we going to continue to ignore the global implications of our unsustainable business practices? Are we going to continue the drift from a world leader in Environmental Protection to an embarrassing laggard? Who the hell is making these decisions, and why?!

That is why this little port approval process is bringing together elected leaders from Municipal, Provincial, and Federal levels to lead a public discussion on what it all means.

I’m suggesting you show up. It should be interesting.

You can even watch it live on your computer at Newwest.tv. We truly live in the future, let’s start acting like it.

Pattullo Consultation Redux

Some were wondering what I was doing on Saturday, walking the sidewalks during Uptown Live and the Hyack Parade dressed as a bridge.

I was handing these out:

Yes, TransLink is coming back to New Westminster to talk some more about the future of the Pattullo Bridge. This is a new phase of consultation, no doubt timed to come right on the heels of the Provincial Election. This is actually good news, not something to lament.

Last time TransLink came around these parts talking about the Pattullo to the public, there were two reactions: Almost complete indifference from Surrey, and vociferous concern from New Westminster. The plan presented at that time were for a bridge that both increased the traffic load on New Westminster, while failing to acknowledge the importance of the existing structure to New Westminster’s historical and cultural landscape. The good news is that TransLink got the message, and decided to step back and re-evaluate its approach to the aging Pattullo.

Some people have asked the NWEP members if we are going to hold a “rally” related to these consultations, as we did last time. I cannot speak for the NWEP (Although there is a members meeting tomorrow night where this will no doubt be discussed), but I suspect that the answer will be no. At the successful rally last year, the NWEP and the citizens of New Westminster were asking for better idea: for TransLink to come back with a more comprehensive review of the options for the bridge, everything from replacement to moving it to refurbishing it to just removing it altogether. It appears that is what TransLink has done. Now is time for us, New Westminster, to show up at one or more of the Open House events being held in June and first listen – then think – then provide comment. Right now TransLink is listening, so there is no reason to shout. With this in mind, all I was doing on Saturday was telling people there will be meetings in June on the future of the Pattullo, and we want people to show up.

More information on the Meeting times and locations is available here.

Mark your calendars, there are actually 6 meetings (3 in New West, 3 in Surrey), and if the Surrey ones work better for you- attend those! Last time we did this, the Surrey meetings were sparsely attended, so it might be easier to bend some ears there than in New West. The most important thing is that you get out to one or more of the meetings and get your comments to TransLink. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, Participatory Democracy is those that show up.

What now?

Yep, like pretty much everyone else in the province (with the notable exception of Rafe Mair), I guessed wrong.

In the end, it appears I was not cynical enough.

After this election we can be sure we will never see another campaign that doesn’t rely on the double-fisted combination of fear mongering and outright lies; at least not a successful one. The targets were there for Adrian Dix:  Christy Clark was lofting soft underhand pitches to him all campaign – she showed a pathological ignorance of the truth, she was wrapped in scandals, she made baffling unrealistic promises, and demonstrated a serial lack of judgement- from letting an 11-year-old goad her into running a red light for sport to illegally using taxpayer’s money for “quick wins” then re-hiring the soldier who fell on the sword.

Alas, Dix stayed on the high road, where he said he would. He relied on the voters to see through the sham, without actually pointing at the sham. However, even Dorothy needed Toto to pull the curtain back a bit. When Dix did start to point out the factual errors in the Liberal “Fact Free Campaign”, he did it by talking about the facts, not the liars telling them, and it just didn’t stick. This will be lesson #1 coming out of this election for all future campaigns: Positive does not work.

Voter turnout was low, and that no doubt hurt the NDP. Some suggest strategies to fix this: mandatory voting, on-line voting, a “none of the above” on the ballot. Of course, actual proportional representation might help a bit with the general disenfranchisement of the voting populace, but as low voter turnout almost always helps the incumbent, the impetus to change does not exist. The NDP did not support the STV referendum in 2009, and if they had, we would probably now be looking at an NDP /Green coalition government and Andrew Weaver would be Minister of Environment.

I argue against on-line voting because it won’t help, and the lack of a paper trail makes fraud a certainty. There is no lack of access now to the ballots, and at the polling station I worked, 95% of people were in and out in under 5 minutes. Not bad considering you get 4 hours in which to vote.

I also argue against mandatory voting for various reasons, mostly because it perpetuates the dangerous idea that Democracy = Voting. We hear people riling about how voting is our “duty” and “the only way to express your voice” or saying if you don’t vote you are not taking part in democracy and are not, therefore, allowed to complain. To all of that I say: Bullshit. Voting is one of the least important acts in a properly functioning Democracy, and your duty is not just to spend 5 minutes every 4 years going to a voting booth to mark a circle. Allow me to explain.

I was a scrutineer at the Armoury this election and a few booths over I saw a youngish woman drop off her voting card and ID, pick up a ballot, and pull out her SmartPhone to operate her browser. She spent about 5 minutes scrolling through pages, occasionally looking at her ballot and entering a few words (presumably the Candidate’s names). At first I thought she was photographing (illegal in a voting space), but it became apparent she was doing her research to see whom she wanted to vote for. A few moments in the voting station looking at candidate’s photos and maybe a few short phrases (“I Support Families!”, “I Hate Taxes”, “My Opponent Eats Puppies”), and she felt prepared to vote for one of them.

She wasn’t doing her Democratic Duty, she was shirking it.

Casting a ballot based on alphabetical order, or the haircut of the candidate, or pithy statements on a webpage is not doing a duty, or part of any functioning democracy. Learning about issues, understanding what you are voting for and why, then voting is your duty. This is not something one can do in 5 minutes once every 4 years, even with a SmartPhone.

I’m not saying people should not vote, I am saying that your duty doesn’t stop there. If Democracy was just about voting, then we have separated ourselves too much from the process (“Don’t blame me! I voted for Kodos!”) Democracy is much more about what you do the other 10 Million minutes between casting ballots. It includes learning about issues, understanding how the process works, and understanding who you are voting for. It includes getting involved to make the process happen, whether that means joining a Party, helping out with a campaign, or supporting an independent candidate with your time and your money.

I attended two sparsely-attended all-candidates events in New Westminster during this election. Every press article in the local media was a puff-piece, a thinly veiled press release. No-one asked the local candidates any difficult questions or tested them (myself included!)

I also attended an Open House this spring with two sitting MPs in the building. Prominent members of the Official Opposition were there to hear directly from the 120,000 citizens they represent. There they were, standing in a room, with an open invitation for any of those 120,000 people to ask them questions, give them credit, complain to them, give advice, throw pies – whatever – for two hours. Less than 3 dozen people bothered to show up. Do you know who your MP is? Do you know where his/her office is? When is the last time you asked them a question? Surely you would like them to do something!

There are New Westminster City Council meetings where there isn’t a single person in the audience – yet everyone is ready to complain about the decisions made there. I have found every single MP, MLA and Councillor in New Westminster is approachable and reasonable and will listen to ideas from constituents. I have agreed with some, disagreed with more, but they all had time for me. Some even reach out to me asking my opinion. Is this because I am special or “connected”? No. It is because I have reached out to them in the past to ask questions. Apparently this is so rare, so unusual even in a proactive community like New Westminster, that it stands out as remarkable.

Above that, democracy is not just about elected officials. It is about the Citizenry running the country. There is hardly a week that goes by that you can’t take part in a consultation or outreach meeting – directly helping your government make decisions. As I write, the City is seeking feedback on their Master Transportation Plan, on their Sustainability Framework, there are Residents Associations Meetings coming up this month. Many Council Advisory Committees struggle to get enough volunteers to assure quorum at meetings – where is everyone? Translink and Metro Vancouver are holding public meetings right now where the future of our region will be decided. Care about Coal? There are meetings coming up over that. Care about Tankers? The Process to approve that project is starting up right now. Want to find a group to discuss and learn about these issues and more? How about the NWEP? Think the voting system sucks? There have been people beating that drum for years – instead of wringing your hands at home or commenting on your favourite Social Media site, why not get in touch with them and help make the change you want to see?

Democracy is about those who show up: not on voting day, but every day. So if you don’t like what happened yesterday, what are you doing about it?

I walked home last night disappointed and disenchanted. Today was a glum day, but I had to think deep about how to turn it positive. So far, the best way I have thought to react is this: I’m not going to get discouraged. I am going to keep fighting for what is important to me and my community. Today I joined a Party (for the first time in a decade), and I will start taking more of a role in how that party operates. Instead of just helping out during the election, I am going to help build the Party into something that can win, and deserves to win.

When I don’t like something, I try to change it – that is my Democratic duty.

What are you going to do?

Time to Vote!

I am someone who follows politics, gets involved in the process, likes to encourage others to get involved, is free with his opinions, yadda yadda. So you would think that I would be all excited with a tightening electoral race heading towards the polls next week. You would be wrong.

Sorry to all involved, everyone trying to get me to be more excited, but this election has been kind of a snoozer.

I was chatting to a few folks about this very topic on the weekend, and there were various excuses. Most seem to suggest we are fatigued – the election has been running for 2 years, the last 21 days have seen nothing more than an increase in volume and road signage compared to the last year. The Liberal’s (mostly through proxy) systematic application of fear and suspicion are turning people off, while the NDP have taken such a passive approach that they are not generating enough interest to offset the resultant cynicism.

Meanwhile the Greens are making serious inroads on Vancouver Island (but are silent elsewhere) and the Conservatives appear to be completely lost in the woods. The strongest cases I have heard this election are for electing independents in the hope we can fix the entire broken system.

I dutifully attended two of the three traditional all-candidates events, and I helped organize another one. Turnout for most was lower than in previous elections, which immediately calls me to question my earlier prediction that turnout would be up this year (people are more likely to line up to vote against something than they spend a lot of effort voting for something). I also have met all of the candidates in the local election. I have contributed to the process by donating my own money to the campaign. In the last 6 months, I have had lengthy sit-down discussions with three of the candidates, where we discussed a variety of issues.

From this, I have ascertained we have several truly dedicated, determined, and eager candidates, each who would serve out community well in Victoria, if given the chance.

But I only get to vote for one.

I mentioned earlier that my sincerest hope is that the local campaign is an open, honest, and positive one. From what I have seen, it has been. The only truly distasteful moment I experienced in this election was when I had a chance encounter with a person who claimed to be peripherally associated with one of the candidates and immediately gave me a bunch of “background juice” about the candidate that was highly personal. I don’t think this person knew I was a local blogger, and it was not in the context of any political event, so I’m not sure why I was chosen for a confessional. I had no reason to believe or not believe the person, and I don’t think that person’s gripes were valuable fodder for anyone. It was just weird, and hasn’t changed my opinion of the candidate or the campaign. I shared it only with a few people close to me and/or the candidate to see if I was missing something. Consensus opinion was that it was silly. So I didn’t let it bother me, and I won’t write about it here.

So in the spirit of open, honest and constructive discussion, I am going to give my impressions of the local candidates, and try my hardest to accentuate the positive. If you want to know who I am voting for, you might parse it from this, or you might drive by my house and see the sign on my lawn. Alphabetically (by first name, since we are all friends here!):

Hector Bremner: Hector has hit the City with a force. He is simply the best candidate the Liberals could have offered us this election. He is young, articulate, dedicated, and has one hell of a ground game going. His volunteer army has been ubiquitous (if somewhat anonymous), his twitter and other social media presence daunting (if not always topical), and his message strongly pointed (if not always clear). Overall, I think he is running a great campaign.

The one big thing Hector and I disagree about is the team he is representing. I have made it no secret I don’t like the Premier, and I do not have faith in her abilities as leader. Hector clearly respects her skills, and is proud to represent her. However, his campaign has been an interesting walk along a thin line: he has spoken about representing New West in Victoria, not the other way around, and has coined the phrase “this election isn’t about Change- it is about the Future”, while still saying his team is the best one to lead the Province. Not quite running as an independent, but not quite toeing the party line. It has been an interesting balancing act and he has been very effective at it.

After chatting with him recently, he is also convinced he is going to win, against the odds, the polls, and the assumed wisdom about New Westminster as an NDP stronghold. He also made it clear he was putting all his energy into this one shot – at the QPRA meeting he mentioned he was “not going to run in another jurisdiction or level of office”– this is the job he wants, and he is working hard to get it. I’m not sure he is going to be able to pull it off.

James Crosty: I was really happy to hear James was running, only because I hoped he would add some “spark” to the campaign in general. I’ve said it before: I don’t always agree with James, but I know for certain James always agrees with James. By that, I mean he is painfully honest about what is on his mind, his heart is in the right place, and he is always willing to stick his neck out and roll up his sleeves to see his vision realized. He brought a fresh perspective to the all-candidates events, full of his usual bluster, yet somewhat more positive and contemplative than he was during his Mayoral Run of 2011 (and therefore more likable). I also liked his honesty at the QPRA meeting (and I paraphrase): “[If I don’t win] You bet I am going to run again, for another level of government- because when you want to contribute to the community as much as I do, you can’t help but step up at every opportunity!”

This was in reply to Hector’s earlier discussion of his single-minded determination to get this specific job, but it told us what we all needed to know- James is healthy, happy, and as determined as ever to make change in this City. And I love him for it. I’m just afraid he ran an Independent campaign in a year when two other candidates were leaning more on their independent side than their Parties – that is a hard niche for three to fit into.

Judy Darcy: Despite my best efforts to remain jaded about the NDP nomination process, after two years of interacting with Judy Darcy, I really like her. She has an authentic spirit about her that makes you want to chat with her, and shows a keen ear when you bring her ideas. She is the first to admit when she doesn’t have an answer, but can draw on a lifetime of experience dealing with government and legislative issues. She also puts out a genuine sense that she is empathetic for others. In this campaign she was the one saying government can (and must be) an effective and positive force in our society if we are to have a fair and just society.

I think she could have done a better job taking her one perceived weakness – the feeling that she’s not “from here” (of course neither are Hector, or Terry, or James… or me for that matter) – and turned it around. She might have said that despite her only being out west for a decade, she has spent her entire life fighting for the issues that are important to people in New Westminster- We have RCH, and she has been fighting for hospital workers; we have an aging population, and she has been an advocate for seniors; we are a town with a large labour-class and she has been fighting labour issues her entire life; we have a huge population of immigrants and people in lower-cost rental housing, and she is a first-generation Canadian who has been fighting to improve conditions for low-income people. But maybe that would have been giving too much credence to the criticism in a town full of immigrants from other parts of Canada, and other parts of the world.

Her campaign was instead like that of Adrian Dix, the campaign you run as someone safely in the lead: relatively low key and positive, with a strong personal connection. She has worked hard since gaining the nomination to reach out to people across the community, and it is a good thing, because she is a candidate who is way better in person than she is on paper.

Lewis Dahlby: I have not seen or heard a peep out of Lewis this election. I did not attend the one all-candidates event he chose to attend (and where he apparently decided it was OK to commit a Godwin in polite discussion).

I have, however, once met Lewis Dahlby. I recognized him as the guy who accosted me at Sapperton day a couple of years ago. I was manning the NWEP booth having great conversations with people about transportation issues, and he spent an hour bending my ear about what was wrong with “you people” and how Government had to get out of the job of building roads and bridges. In the end, we agreed to disagree shortly after I suggested to him that if really wanted to live in a country with no interference from Government, he might want to give Somalia a try.

Paul Forseth: Paul’s campaign here in New West was symptomatic of the entire provincial Conservative campaign. It was rather lack-lustre and held more promise at the start than real punch in the end. I appreciate the service Paul has provided in the community, from his time working in the corrections, family law and parole systems, to his dozen years serving the community as an MP. However, it is clear to anyone reading my blog that I don’t share his Conservative opinions, so he probably wasn’t trying to appeal to me and my ilk.

Still, I don’t think his campaign lit any fires, and I didn’t hear him offering the electorate much. He spoke of “Conservative Values” having a history of providing better governance, but never really clarified what he meant by those words, nor did he cite examples from the modern world where “conservative” countries were outperforming “non-conservative” countries. When he shone, it was when speaking of his personal experiences growing up in New Westminster and providing services to constituents as an MP. He also rarely mentioned his Party, while at the same time he never differentiated himself from the other “Independents” running in this election in New West.

Terry Teather: To me, Terry’s finest moment was the “Stump Speech” he gave, while standing on an actual stump, during the All Candidate’s Jane’s Walk. He got very impassioned about what Green Principles are, and why they are the best direction forward for the Province, and indeed the world. He came into this election a virtual unknown in New West, but explained his motivation being to encourage the youth that he teaches in his day job to take an active role in politics- to learn and care about how Government works.

Being a virtual unknown prior to this election, I doubt he will reach the level of support that the Greens received in New Westminster during the last Provincial election, as those numbers saw a “bump” due to well-known local activist Matt Laird being on the ballot. However, Terry’s presence on the campaign was a positive one, and I hope he has the time and energy to stay involved in the local environmental scene after May. I was really happy to have met Terry during the campaign, he seems like a straight-up nice guy with a passion for improving community. We need him on the NWEP.

Now go vote. Advanced polls are open May 8-11, every day, and May 14th is the big day. I voted this evening at the Lawn Bowling Club, and it took less than 5 minutes. Go!

Jane’s Walk Weekend comes to New West!

Hopefully, after a couple of news stories in the local papers and Mary Wilson’s dynamic talk at the recent New Westminster Pecha Kucha event, you are aware that there will be a series of Jane’s Walks in New Westminster this weekend.

(parts below cribbed from a press release I helped pen – so sorry for the quasi-self-plagiarizing!)

Jane’s Walks are becoming a global event, held in hundreds of cities around the world on the first weekend in May. Around the world, neighbourhood groups organize free community walks to honour the memory of Jane Jacobs.

Jane Jacobs is considered by many to be the Mother of modern Urbanism, in that she brought it to life, loved and supported it, and worked tirelessly to give it all the tools it needed to prosper. She rose to prominence for her activism to protect Greenwich Village from the Lower Manhattan Expressway proposal, and her ground-breaking book “The Death and Life of Great American Cities”. She moved to Toronto during the Vietnam War, and brought her Urban Activism with her, such that she received first Citizenship, then the Order of Canada. To put a local angle on her story, Jacobs is sometimes referred to as “the mother of Vancouverism” for the influence her writings and research had on the development of post-freeway Vancouver, and the belief that density can be done without compromising liveability.

Jane’s Walks are meant to honour Jane, but also to honour her desire: that cities and urban areas become safe, diverse, and interesting places for people to live, work, and play. We honour this by drawing urban neighbours together to take a walk through their own city, not to get from A to B, but to have a “walking conversation”, meet neighbours, learn something new about their own backyard, and ultimately increase citizens’ connection to their urban home.

It just so happens that this year, Jane’s Walk came on the perfect weekend for a burgeoning New Westminster election tradition: Tenth to the Fraser, NEXT NewWest, and the New Westminster Environmental Partners working together to organize a unique event to bring voters and candidates together. Instead of another boring debate or staged Q&A, the “All Candidate’s Jane’s Walk” will be an inviting, social, and fun event. The goal is to give everyone a chance to meet, greet and get to know the candidates seeking your vote on May 14th.

All New Westminster residents are invited to gather at Sapperton Park (at the corner of East Columbia Street and Sherbrooke Street) at 5:30pm (sharp!). The five candidates will be introduced, and the group will walk along Columbia Street and the Central Valley Greenway to Downtown New Westminster and the River Market (a distance of about 3.5 km, so about an hour walking at a leisurely pace).

Along the way, each of the candidates will be given an opportunity for their 3-4 minutes “on the soapbox” to address the crowd. We promise to keep the speeches short, as the emphasis will be on face-to-face and small group conversations during the walk. Participants will be encouraged to chat with the candidates and ask their own questions. At the end of the walk, participants and candidates will be encouraged to gather at the Paddlewheeler Pub to continue the conversation, socialize and network (in the NEXT NewWest tradition). A rough schedule is available on the Jane’s Walk Event page– so if you can only catch part of the walk, you are, of course, welcome to join or leave! Don’t forget to bring Skytrain fare to get from the end back to the beginning- both ends are close to Millennium Line stations!

Now that the self-serving advertizing part of the post is over, I want to encourage you to go to the Jane’s Walk New Westminster page and see what other walks are coming your way this weekend. There are no less than 10 walks planned, most of them an hour or two long. I love looking at the Jane’s Walks GoogleMap plug-in to see that New Westminster is one of the two centres of Jane’s Walks for BC along with some young upstart village to the west…

I like to think this is because we have a beautiful, walkable City, and engaged citizens who are proud of their neighbourhoods and want to create community connections. It may also be because we have Mary Wilson leading the charge to make us a walking city. No matter if you live on the West Side, Queensborough, Downtown or the Brow – there is a walk in your neighbourhood.

The weather forecast is spectacular this weekend– sunscreen and water bottles are about the only thing you will need for any of the walks, and many of them terminate near places where one can buy ice cream or icy cold beer, as per your preference. So get out of your house, drag the kids away from the screen, leave the car in the garage, and meet a few neighbours. We’ll see you on the Streets of New Westminster this weekend!

My Nominee for the Worst Road in BC

MORE UPDATES BELOW (May 22)

Every year, BC’s Car Nobbling Council the BC Automobile Association has a little campaign to shame municipalities into giving more money to the BC Road Builders. This “news” is dutifully lapped up by the popular media, and many fingers are wagged at Cities for not maintaining their infrastructure.

It is good media, good advertising for the BCAA, and after the rush of the contest cools down, AM radio goes back to complaining about high taxes and the evils of socialism. No-one ever mentions that roads are, de facto, a socialist enterprise. Government pooling money from taxpayers and spending it building something for the common good – roads are the very model of socialism. But I digress.

This year, I want to nominate a candidate. There is one route that I have been lamenting for a few years, and it never seems to get the attention it needs. It is 9 kilometres of undulating, root-cracked, potholed, uneven, poorly marked, inconsistent, horribly maintained, and (IMHO) unsafe pavement connecting the New Westminster Quayside boardwalk to Burnaby’s Central Park. It sees a lot of traffic, provides an important arterial corridor connecting numerous other routes, and it has seen little more than a few asphalt patches in 27 years.

Yes, I am talking about the BC Parkway, or to give credit to sponsors from 27 years ago, the combined “John Molson Way” walking path and “7-Eleven Bike Route”.

Let me take you back to the heady days of Expo86. The theme was “World in Motion” and transportation was central to most exhibits. When the SkyTrain was built out to New Westminster to bring Vancouver into the 70’s, transportation-wise, the entire line was paralleled by the BC Parkway. I’m not sure why Molson decided to sponsor a walking path, but for a decade around that time 7-Eleven sponsored a major international cycling team. In fact, the only Canadians to ever wear the Yellow Jersey in the Tour de France did it for Team 7-Eleven: Alex Stieda in 1986 and Steve Bauer in 1990. (Bauer also wore yellow in 1988, riding for Weinmann – La Suisse the year Greg Lemond was busy being shot, but I’m geeking out now). At the time, they also provided me countless post-ride Slurpees. No-one has to convince me of 7-Eleven’s credibility when it comes to support for cycling.

The BC Parkway represented Greater Vancouver’s first multi-community-connecting active transport route – our first “Greenway” that didn’t wrap around Stanley Park – but time has not been good to it.

In the intervening 27 years, the BC Parkway through Burnaby and New Westminster has seen a lot of development. Metrotown, Edmonds, Downtown New Westminster and the Quayside have all blown up since 1986. With all the change, some connections on the BC Parkway have been improved, some have been severed. The pavement has degraded, the crossings have become hazardous, the sight lines destroyed and the route chopped up. The asphalt in place is so bad that tree roots have pushed right through- and are being eroded by bike tires! What other road in the province features tree roots being held back by tires? This is a shameful state for our region’s first real integrated municipality-spanning Greenway!

So, please, I implore you – go to the BCAA website and vote for “BC Parkway, Vancouver ” for being “Unsafe for Cyclists and Pedestrians“. You cannot select it with the map, but enter “BC Parkway” in the search, and if it doesn’t find it, choose the highlighted “following form” text to the left. It takes 30 seconds to use the pull-down menus, and if we enter it enough, they may need to acknowledge us. They have acknowledged us! We are now in the top 10 list of worst roads, so you can enter “BC Parkway” in the search and vote with one push of the button! Tell your friends, tell your neighbours, tell your mom, tell cyclists you see rattling their teeth or getting lost on the BC Parkway, tell pedestrians tired of being treated like pylons on the BC Parkway! If you only vote once this month, do it at the BCAA website!

May 22 UPDATE: You can now Choose “BC Parkway Burnaby” or “BC Parkway Vancouver” – and at this point, I don’t care which you choose, as they are both in the Top 10! All the pictures below are form the Burnaby and New Westminster portion, but applies as well to much of the Vancouver portion. Oh, and the BCAA has subtley changed their marketing around this, to make it apparent that they are OK with a bikeway winning! So get one more vote in – only 3 days to go!

In case you need more convincing, here are some highlights of my tour yesterday from Central Park to New Westminster along the Parkway:

The new parts through Central Park are actually quite pleasant!
First problem at Patterson Station. No traffic controls. Do I dodge pedestrians
on the narrow sidewalk / bus stop / newspaper kiosk, or do I go against
 the Do Not Enter sign through the bus lane? 
Sometimes I’m separated from the sidewalk, sometimes not. What is
a pedestrian to think? 
I guess I could go through the bollards onto the narrow sidewalk to avoid
the pedestrians, but there are signs and bus stops. 
Completely nonsensical intersection, no bicycle controls at all,
high pedestrian traffic, blind approaches. Alas, I dismount.
Hard to get contrast, but this root lump is better than a foot high. 
Yes, tree roots. Yes, they are exposed, and the bark rubbed
off of them by wheels and feet. They have been exposed that long.
Suspension at work. 
Bad pavement, blind intersections, forced to go to the sidewalk,
and unclear way-finding. This picture is the full BC Parkway experience.  
I hope it is legal to ride a bike on the sidewalk in Burnaby, because the
Parkway has completely disappeared.  
Oh! There it is, a few hundred feet down the road. 
I like surfing as much as the next guy, but prefer my waves more watery.
Regular way-finding signs remind you where now-destroyed portions
of the BC Parkway used to be. Memories of EXPO86. 
Interesting fact: much of the Parkway follows the old BC Inter-Urban
electric rail bed. No point removing the tracks, I guess.  
More crumbling pavement…
…and another terrible blind crossing with no accommodation
for bicycles, high traffic, and few options!
Speaking of options, the way-making sign to the right has no
relation whatsoever to the multiple junctions within view. 
There is a sign, there must a Parkway around here somewhere. 
There are my bollards! All I have to do is cross 20th street
with no traffic light, no crosswalk, and terrible visibility. 
This is where the trail takes me in New West – to a narrow sidewalk on the wrong side
of 6th Ave., with no access to the rest of the parkway for several kilometres. 
Insider tip – the Parkway continues on the south side of Stewardson, you just
need to cross the Queensborough Bridge. Please dismount. 
See? Queensborough bridge makes the obvious connection!
(I ranted two years ago about this little way-making fiasco
Unfortunately, the trail over here does not have better pavement…
…or safer crossings.
Our journey ends at Stewardson and Third Ave- where you can choose two roads
with no cycling infrastructure, or an overpass to some unknown place,
there being no way- finding around here. Thanks for joining me! Now go vote!