Under the Shadow of Giant Sparrows: Sharing Public Space at Olympic and ParaOlympic Village Open House

One of the sparrow art sculptures at public plaza, Olympic and ParaOlympic Village. Set of giant sparrow sculptures, 'The Birds'. By M. MacLeod May 2010. Photo by J. Chong
One of the sparrow art sculptures at public plaza, Olympic and ParaOlympic Village. Set of giant sparrow sculptures, ‘The Birds’. By M. MacLeod May 2010. Vancouver, BC. Photo by J. Chong

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.

Enthusiastic young cyclist. Olympic plaza at Olympic and ParaOlympic Village 2010.
Enthusiastic young cyclist with even a Bike to Work sticker on her basket. Olympic plaza at Olympic and ParaOlympic Village 2010.

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

Neil, volunteer for Vancouver Area Cycling Coalition & Councillor Ellen Woodsworth. May 15, 2010
Neil, volunteer for Vancouver Area Cycling Coalition provides information to Councillor Ellen Woodsworth. OLympic and ParaOlympic Village open house event. May 15, 2010. Photo by J. Chong

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

Rick Hansen and fans. May 15, 2010. Photo by J.Chong
Rick Hansen, Man in Motion wheelchair athlete and fans. Olympic and ParaOlympic Village. May 15, 2010. Photo by J. Chong

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.

Demonstrator in protest march to support more social housing. Olympic Village. Photo by J. Chong
Demonstrator in protest march to support more social housing. Olympic and ParaOlympic Village. May 15, 2010. Photo by J. Chong

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.

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6 Comments Add yours

  1. iquitelikethat says:

    hi Jean,
    your blog makes me want to cycle more, it’s very persuasive! It’s nice to see so many people enjoying a sport and getting such a lot out of it.

    Best wishes with everything cycle and non-cycle related. 🙂

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      Thx for browsing around! Maybe one day you will return to cycling. I did at mid-life like alot of other people.

      Like

  2. timethief says:

    @Hi Jean
    I’m just dropping it to read your latest post on the blog rather than on my Blog Surfer. The photos are a great addition. I’m also glad to know so many are taking up cycling in Vancouver.
    Best wishes always,
    TiTi

    Like

  3. Jean says:

    TiTi,
    Hope you enjoy some photos in this blog over time. It’s a great way to make use of stuff from a burgeoning digital personal photo collection!

    Yes, with the current BP oil spill, it will be interesting if this disaster pushes more people (though only a tiny handufl) to take up cycling abit more often.

    Like

  4. iquitelikethat says:

    Hi Jean,
    a while ago you suggested I should do a post on unicycling, and to send you the link when I did it. Well thanks for the idea! because I did create one and here’s the link:
    http://iquitelikethat.wordpress.com/2010/06/05/oops-my-wheel-fell-off-why-you-should-try-unicycling/

    best wishes always,
    Chelsey

    ps. your blog has a lot of lovely photos!

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      Thanks for your compliments. It is part of what I enjoy doing when I blog: photographing and selecting some key shots to complement an article. It makes good use of one’s personal digital photo collection!

      Like

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