Over 2 dozen neighbours gathered on a Friday afternoon to sound off at City Hall (video)
We regularly receive emails from concerned citizens on different issues here at CityCaucus.com. When we can follow-up, it's usually with a phone call or an exchange of emails. Last Monday someone living in a neighbourhood I know well (having grown up nearby) emailed us about a bike route that had been blocked with a concrete barrier. It was a very sincere request, complete with attached images and drawings, so I asked the correspondent if we could meet.
Tom Huong is a thirty-something parent who's grown up in the Killarney area. He told me that he was concerned that the new barriers would re-direct traffic into a school zone, and potentially lead to an accident. We agreed to meet at 2:45pm last Friday, and Tom said "I'll bring a couple of neighbours". So I wrapped up my week a bit early and headed over to our meeting place at Waverly Elementary school at East 46th & Elliott Street.
When I arrived I couldn't believe my eyes. Tom had assembled about 15 people from the community. They were young, old, Italian, Chinese, African, Croation, South Asian – the whole cosmopolitan mix of southeast Vancouver. To a person they were furious at the arrogance of Vancouver City Hall on the matter of the barricade set up at the corner of East 45th & Elliott.
They were all sincerely looking for someone's help, and frankly I looked a little powerless to come to their aid. I suggested that we walk the block over to the corner they were concerned about in order for all of us to see what the problem was. As we walked over the neighbours, most with thick accents of people who have come to this country during their lives, began to introduce themselves to me. All of them felt that City Hall had run right over their wishes.
As we stood on the corner where the barricade was set up, it only took a moment before neighbours living in nearby houses began to join us. Every one of them came out and said, "What the hell are you going to do about this damn thing?" Before you knew it we had about two dozen neighbours standing there all with common cause – to stop Mayor Gregor Robertson and an arrogant City Hall.
I got on the phone with GlobalTV's Ted Chernecki, who had just interviewed me earlier on the Viaduct closure issue – Friday evening's top story on the News Hour. Could we get a camera here? I asked. Within about 15 minutes Ted confirmed a camera was on the way, but it would be about 30 minutes. The neighbours were all willing to wait. I then called the CKNW news room, who also obliged and sent reporter Penny Daflos. The neighbours were happy to know that finally someone was listening to them.
I began asking some of the neighbours to talk to me on camera while we waited. What I could see is that the barricade the City had set up was an unmitigated disaster. The same stupid design was used for a barrier on East King Edward & Windsor Street in my neighbourhood. Back in 2007 a young woman pushing a baby stroller tried to cross at this intersection, and she was hit by a car. She died.
Someone will die as a result of the barrier at 45th & Elliott if it is left to stand.
City engineer Scott Edwards is Vancouver's point man on this disastrous initiative, and he was on GlobalTV Saturday as a result of our efforts to get this out to the public. He was clearly unapologetic at this stupid idea.
One neighbour at the corner of 45th & Elliott said she'd make a City rep a cup of coffee and provide him with a chair to watch the corner. She said you just need to sit there for five minutes to see that someone is going to be seriously hurt. The City rep declined the offer.
As I stood on the corner that Friday afternoon I saw about eight cars attempt illegal u-turns. I watched as cyclists and pedestrians took their lives in their hands entering the intersection as cars whipped through. This used to be a corner controlled by a four-way stop, and it's been that way for about the previous five decades. It worked just fine.
What Vancouver city council is doing is only listening to the tiny but vocal bike lobby, and they are ignoring communities at large. Even a cyclist riding by yelled out, "Whoever thought of this sh*t ought to be fired!" Everyone there agreed.
This story is repeating itself at other locations around the city, such as beside Riley Park on Ontario Street. Mark my words, this "bikes before people" mentality is going to be the undoing of the Vision Vancouver council. I heard it loud and clear on Friday afternoon – Mayor Robertson, listen to us or you're outta here.
– post by Mike