Yesterday I cycled to the official public opening of the Olympic and ParaOlympic Village where I volunteer-assisted at Vancouver Area Cycling Coalition’s (VACC) information table.
Several thousand people gathered to hear speeches from Mayor Gregor Robertson, VANOC CEO John Furlong, Olympic ski-cross gold medalist, Ashleigh McIvor and Rick Hansen, Man in Motion wheelchair athlete. People lounged on outdoor seating, were snapping photos and some patiently lined up for sneak previews of expensive condo units or for fundraising food such as hotdogs or pizza where money was for the Canadian Deaf Olympic volleyball team.
Crowds of relaxed people ambled and mingled with their children amongst cyclists rolling slowing along or walking their bikes. At this event where car traffic was closed off completely, public space was easily shared by all under the hot bright sunshine.
Meanwhile at the VACC booth, passersby looked for cycling maps, wanted to know about any group rides, other free information or wanted a Bike to Work sticker for their bike. Sometimes people needed suggestions for a customized bike commute route, particularily for longer or more convoluted routes between Vancouver and other municipalities (Burnaby, Surrey or White Rock). Others needed exact directions how to map a route around an area with a busy road bridge or complicated intersection.
These queries were from people motivated to even ask the route questions, who enjoyed cycling but who now wanted to build more cycling into their personal schedule for transportation, fitness and recreation. Some were willing
to join a group ride, if available, for a route that was vague to them. A signal that a bike map is a good start for learning new routes but some new cyclists learn more confidently by reading, seeing and doing—in other words, map-reading and cycling the route with a friendly guide. I tend to fall into this
learning mode, particularily if the route is long, jogs through parks, over busy road bridges and zigags around complicated intersections, with sometimes bike signage or not.
A few people pointed out needed cycling route improvements or vented about the behaviour of some cyclists. One enthusiastic cyclist donated money to VACC by buying 10 TransLink cycling maps for friends that she was eager to convert. Another woman from Coquitlam declared that encouragement of more cycling in her school, would be not a problem. Already several teachers were regular cyclists in friendly competition amongst themselves.
Towards late afternoon a protest march for social housing flowed through the public square. Police reacted quickly by locking the front doors to Salt Building where inside there were already people and Olympic pin-traders. Despite this event, most people did not seem panicky nor overly perturbed probably because both demonstrators and police did not engage in physical altercation. Most likely a lot of people would agree that indeed, the Olympic condos are very expensive and the original promise of social housing at the Village, has been unfairly downgraded to less units.
Just like the Olympics, this was another outdoor event where people in Vancouver shared newly found public space with food, art, music, information and maybe plans to revisit later.