Monday, March 21, 2011

2010-03-21: "Go back to Africa"

On the way out of my building in Vancouver, on the edge of Yaletown, a homeless man at the corner noticed me and shouted a few incoherent things about black people. I hurried across the street to Tim Hortons, partly to get through the morning rain, partly to avoid having to listen to any more of his musings. I could vaguely feel him crossing the street in my general direction as I entered Tim's for my morning cup. And for the record, I am now an abysmal 1 for 13 on "Roll up the Rim".

I shook off the rain, and joined the back of the line. I heard the door behind me reopen, and an addle-brained voiced rang out:

"You should go back to Africa and take your American money with you!"

I don't think that I was as shocked as the 20 or so other patrons at Tim's. They all just nervously looked at the man as he retreated back outside. The restaurant fell silent for a few seconds as people looked around. The servers resumed filling orders. There was a noticeable awkwardness in line, as the people ahead of me shuffled forward in line. No one looked up.

When I went to order my coffee, my voice cracked. It wasn't until then that I realized how shaken I had been. I hadn't felt overly threatened by the man following me and his racist outburst. Maybe it was the disturbed non-response from those in the restaurant. I cannot definitively say.

In light of Sunday's March Against Racism in Vancouver (which I did not attend, nor had any interest to), this little event opened my eyes. People still do not know how to react to overt displays of racism. I don't even know how to react, so I cannot blame them.

As a black individual, I've been exposed to prejudices as long as I can remember, at least since grade school. Each instance frustrates and bewilders me. I'm as far from stereotypical as just about any black male could be. I'm often accused of being "not black enough". As a professional, I have strived to make everything about my abilities and accomplishments. The colour of my skin is only that, the colour of my skin.

As I shake off this experience and continue on with my week, the colour of my skin continues to have no other bearing on who I am nor does it limit my capability.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Viaduct Alternatives?

A few more of my scattered thoughts on the potential removal of the Downtown Vancouver Viaducts:

I remember listening to the Meggs radio interview back in 2009, and then reading a few blog posts about the Georgia & Dunsmuir viaducts. My first instincts told me that this would be a popular project for those that have been directing the City of Vancouver's transportation program for the last little bit, once they were finished with the bike lanes.

The City's proclaimed transportation hierarchy is as follows:

1. Walking
2. Cycling
3. Transit
4. Commercial Goods
5. Passenger vehicles

Removal of the viaducts would eventually drive down the number of car trips into downtown by wrecking havoc on all trips coming in from the east. But the alternate routes from the east simply could not handle the added load:

Cambie St. bridge is more of a north/south route, but does not connect well to those coming from 1st Avenue.
Quebec St. is a busy route, and impassable on any event day at BC Place or Rogers Arena (formerly GM Place).
Pender St. does not provide a good connection to East Van, as it ends prior to Clark Drive.
Hastings St. is an unsafe route due to the number of jaywalkers in the DTES.
Powell/Cordova is the last option, but the route is a single lane in either direction for stretches.

Those who use the argument that removing the viaducts would provide for additional park space and development opportunity have obviously missed a pretty big factor: Skytrain. Both Stadium/Chinatown and Main St stations are elevated stations. To realize the benefits of the removal of the viaducts, Translink would be required to put an underground connection between the two stations, which would be extremely cost prohibitive, due to the known contaminated soils in this area.

I am very curious to read the Georgia and Dunsmuir Viaducts Study. Not sure when it will be released either.

Check this out: SFU City. SFU is hosting a forum entitled What's Up with the Viaducts? A Forum of Possibilities on April 7, 2011 at 7pm. Register here to attend.

Wanted to post a link to a blog post by Paul Hillsdon. He's been at it way longer than I have, and here are some of the options he presented in an open letter to Mayor Gregor after his election. It's completely pro-demolition, but I like how he has given much thought to the required alterations to downtown transportation.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Vancouver Viaducts

Interested in the future of the downtown Vancouver viaducts? Check out this upcoming forum by City of Vancouver and SFU, which I will be attending:

For any of you who have ever had to use the viaducts to commute, you know the importance of these routes to the free flow of traffic into and out of the downtown core to the east. City planners have long discussed taking down the viaducts, and one city councillor is actively pursuing this.

I think that it’s important that all options are fully investigated, and other opinions are expressed… imagine the speed with which the City of Vancouver brought in the Hornby bike lanes and the backyard chicken coups. The viaducts could be dropped just as quickly, without any communication of the impact on Vancouverites, and without consultation with those who live, work or travel downtown.

I’ll be posting more comments here in the next few days. Feel free to spread the word to others who live/work downtown.

My twitter: