Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition Board President Latrisha Vetaw and I flew to Vancouver, Canada to attend a conference called Pro Walk, Pro Bike, Pro Place.
This experience changed the way I think about what it means to not just live in, but participate in a city. The conference centered around promoting active transportation, and creating spaces and policies that allowed for a healthy population to thrive.
Vancouver, British Columbia.
Presenters at PWPBPP shared work they've been doing all over the world in infrastructure planning, biking programs, public health projects, policy making and much more. Vancouver prepared for the 11,000+ presenters and conference attendees by planning and installing miles of protected bikeways, installing a bike share system, and putting some final touches on an already extensive network of trails and bike lanes. This helped conference goers to explore the city with the awe and safety of a kid in an amusement park.
The city is so welcoming and accommodating that skunks walk around like squirrels, and they don't build condos at the end of the road as to preserve the sight lines of ships in English Bay. Canadians pay higher taxes than here in the US, and it seems to me want to get their moneys worth. Decisions within the city government had vibrant participation from many segments of the population. The peoples voices are heard. Vancouver is a city that acknowledges that cities are for people, and to make a happy city, makes for happy people. Happiness, it turns out, is directly correlated to the amount of other people you bump into in your day, and the flow of blood through the brain and body.
|There was some opposition to protected bikeways... Cyclist don't pay taxes! Grrr!!|
Unhappiness, lots of time in your car. This is something I knew from experience, but actually saw data on in a presentation to back up. Vancouver's goal then is to make it more practical to achieve happiness through human-centric urban place-making, stellar transit, and active transit options.
When 30 minutes of exercise in incorporated into your every day routine, the outcomes on life expectancy are great and measurable. Good city planning creates space where pedestrians feel like they own the city, biking can be a normal mode of transportation for anyone, and transit is predictable and efficient.
Cars are welcome in the city, it just seems like they are more trouble than it's worth with parking, traffic and cost. Vancouver is unique in that it refused to be cut up by an interstate highway.
Presenters showed how this philosophy for human-centric place making was being implemented throughout the world. Vancouver was a fine example of this work in many ways. How we work with opposing views is where we can grow and learn from our Northerly neighbors.
If our shared goal is good health for the citizens of our city, it's easier to come together over an infrastructure project that may divide us politically.
If it's easy to work, live, party, and get around your community, you live a longer and happier life. The question is how do we make it easier? We could start by having more fun with the process.
Even after this little warm up exercise in the morning,