Walking & Wandering with Transit

The memory maps from the Green Mapping sessions and Fragmented Geographies will soon be up on Pedestrian City!

In the meantime here are links to two articles promoting the use of public transit.  Through the creation of convenient links between destinations, transit not only promotes and facilitates walking as a primary means of transportation for daily errands; it can also encourage the exploration of nearby city centres and other points of interest.

The third article is about an innovative Le Corbusier-inspired design proposal in Rio de Janeiro.

Hop on: A guide to the benefits of green transit

Streetcar Revival: Will Your Town Be Next?

Cities of Tomorrow – Will Rio lead the way?


Spring has Sprung!

What a perfect day to welcome spring!  And what better way to celebrate its arrival than with a walk.  Rain is forecast for tomorrow so I hope you all take advantage of this fine weather – and if you’re so inclined, share a map of your wanders on Mapping Memories.  Sadly I have to work today so there is no walk in my immediate future, apart from taking my compost to the community garden.

However, I did go on a delightful walk Thursday evening!  A friend took me out to Trail 7 at Pacific Spirit Park where we played with cattails, frolicked by the ocean at Wreck Beach and were at one point almost a bit too curious for our own good.  Beach + rainboots + curiosity led to me trying to free my friend’s lost boot from the intense suction of the muddy shoreline.  All the while laughing uncontrollably and balancing said friend on one foot.  Luckily we handled it with grace and only one of us ended up with a mud-covered hand from a near fall.  Ocean, laughter, mountains in the background and the beginnings of a sunset, I welcomed spring early!

If you’re interested in other ways to explore and map the city I highly recommend the following:

“The Water Beneath Our Feet” is a community mapping project organized by local artists and Historian Bruce Macdonald to map the False Creek Watershed.  A series of walks, talks and educational workshops will take place between March and May, beginning today!

Jane’s Walks began in Toronto in 2007 and have since spread to over 46 cities in North America.  These educational and exploratory walks are led by people who live, work and play in the city – often sharing insider knowledge of a particular neighbourhood, other times inviting participants to share their memories and stories as a collective learning experience.  The walks happen on the first weekend in May.

I plan to host a Jane’s Walk or two this year.  I will lead one of them on my own and hopefully a second with my friend’s grandfather, an architect who engages children in community visioning projects and can teach us a lot about how to read a neighbourhood.

Scents and Spectacles

Walking is one of the best ways to explore a city, old or new. And since Vancouver is still very new to me I have a lot of exploring to do. One evening a couple of weeks ago I set out for a walk with a friend and discovered an assortment of exciting new sites, scents and spectacles.

We met at a checker board at the intersection of Ontario and 18th, which I didn’t even know existed until that evening, even though it’s only a few blocks away from my house. From there we wandered for 3 hours with no particular destination. It wasn’t too far off from an exercise in psychogeography, which was a new concept, but not a new practice, to my fellow ambler.

There were many memorable sites/sights along the way. We followed a sign in Queen Elizabeth Park that read “Small Quarry” only to find (to our disappointment) a landscaped space which didn’t look much like a quarry at all. Although I must say the view from the top of the park was stunning.

Later in the evening we discovered a “neon Virgin Mary” – back lit with two tubes of lighting that formed a halo above her head, and a passage in a hedge that led to a cemetery where it “smelled like country”. There were scents of BBQ and marshmallow in the air that evening too – but not in the cemetery.

I also learned about the array of fruit trees and other edible treats available if you look for them. Kiwi? I had no idea! I must find the kiwi tree!

Little Mountain

A friend showed me this site while we were out for a walk on a Monday afternoon exactly 3 months ago, but I didn’t get back there to take photos and walk through the space by myself until today. It’s only a short walk from my house but being new to the city, I had never heard of it. I was both intrigued and disappointed by what I saw.

The Little Mounting Housing Project was built in the mid-1950s and was once home to 570 people in 224 one- two and three bedroom units. It now sits mostly empty and boarded up, with only a few residents remaining. The site itself is somewhat surreal. With over 1,700 people living on the streets and in shelters in Vancouver, you’d think this would be an ideal means to provide a partial solution to the social housing problem.

Yes, I realize there are all kinds of politics at play here, but if Toronto can redevelop Regent Park into a mixed-use, mixed-income residential development, why can’t the same be done with Little Mountain? Alas, it is too late to change what is already destined to happen and the site will be cleared to make way for new development or sit vacant for some time while the public consultation process takes place.

What struck me most about this place was the fact that even though the majority of the units have been vacated and boarded up, the grounds are maintained and the lawn had been freshly mown. The buildings have also become canvasses for artists and residents, many of whom are long gone. Relocated to who knows where? However, there appear to be some inhabitants holding on to their homes for as long as they can.

As I walked through this eerie abandoned site I noticed that not all of the windows are boarded up. There are a few scattered houses with drapes and blinds in the windows instead of boards; blooming, well-maintained plants adorn some of these window sills and a couple of the balconies have signs of life. There was one place near the office where the door was open and I could clearly hear people’s voices, carrying on as if it was just another normal day in a normal Vancouver home.