up! magazine rates Vancouver best for pedestrians
I didn't know there was any kind of contest for this, but I picked up this story on the web today. up! magazine, a publication of Westjet Airlines, has rated Vancouver as the number one most walkable city. They've produced a charming video hosted by local smart growth advocate Amanda Mitchell, who's clearly a big Vancouver booster.
The video takes a couple of liberties when doing cutaways at the Woodwards building, but it's otherwise a fun few minutes that makes this city look pretty cool. It points out a Vancouver planning principle set forth years ago – make pedestrians a priority, then cyclists, then drivers.
It seems that today's city council is altering that formula by pushing bikes to the top of the heap. A case in point is the Burrard Bridge bike lane trial, which forced folks on foot into a detour along the west side of the bridge. In spite of that restriction, I've often passed by to see folks walking on the east sidewalk.
While Vancouver might appreciate the big thumbs up from up! mag's panel of judges, I still think we can do a lot more to improve walking around the city. Something often spoken about but never implemented is requiring awnings and other sidewalk covering in front of buildings. We get a lot of rain here (in case you didn't notice) and "weather-proofing" sidewalks is always a welcome improvement.
Awnings if not properly maintained can also detract from walking. Some of them hang low enough that you have to duck, or they leak, or water pours off them in the middle of the sidewalk. Despite these quibbles, I agree that Vancouver is a great town to walk in.
Getting some national recognition is good, but what can we do to take "walkability" here to the next level? That's something I'm sure that will be on the agenda of the next year's Walk21 Conference, which has been staged in some of the world's great cities and is coming to Vancouver next in 2011.
- post by Mike