print logo

Life in the Fast Lane

 Megaphone (Canada) 20 May 2019

(Originally published: 12/2009) From February 4 to March 1, the curbside lanes of Hastings Street, Vancouver, BC, Canada will be transformed into designated ‘Olympic lanes’ A the only Olympic-exclusive road connecting Pacific Coliseum to the downtown core, the lanes will stretch between Seymour Street to Boundary Road. Only Translink buses and Olympic-accredited vehicles that have operational purposes at Olympic venues will be permitted to use the lanes, and exclusive use will be enforced by the Vancouver Police Department. (512 words) - By Robyn Smith

This February the residents of the Downtown Eastside will experience Olympic sporting chaos up close and personal, but not rinkside-curbside.

From February 4 to March 1, the curbside lanes of Hastings Street will be transformed into designated "Olympic lanes". As the only Olympic-exclusive road connecting Pacific Coliseum to the downtown core, the lanes will stretch between Seymour Street to Boundary Road. Only Translink buses and Olympic-accredited vehicles that have operational purposes at Olympic venues will be permitted to use the lanes, and exclusive use will be enforced by the Vancouver Police Department.

Minister Ric Matthews at First United Church says he supports the exposure the lane could bring to the Downtown Eastside, but that he has a few concerns about the possible impact on a community concerned with addiction issues.

"One of the key escalating factors in addiction is stress," says Matthews. "The Olympics will create stress. It intensifies the possibilities and the responses."

The speed limit for the lanes will remain at 50 km/h, but residents in the area have expressed concern over the increased possibility of collisions in the area-pedestrians can act in irrational ways on East Hastings St. A study conducted by BMC Public Health earlier this year revealed that 10 per cent of all pedestrian injuries in Vancouver occur in the relatively small area of the Downtown Eastside. Certain busy intersections, such as Main and Hastings, lack traffic-calming devices, like roadway-dividing medians, that allow two-stage street crossings and ease traffic overall.

Lesli Boldt, communications representative for the City of Vancouver, says the city is aware of community concerns about increased traffic in neighbourhoods. The city hopes that by giving transit a higher priority than normal, they can facilitate a net reduction of overall vehicle traffic through the Downtown Eastside during the Games.

The city held meetings in various neighbourhoods to inform community groups about the possible local impacts of the Olympics.

"A potential increase in traffic volumes in the Downtown Eastside was raised as a concern, and staff are working with community organizations to address this concern in advance of and during Games time," says Boldt.

There are also concerns about the links between an exclusive Olympic lane and the temptation to coerce people off the street. Matthews worries about an increased police presence armed with contentiously worded legislation in the neighbourhood. He is certain that the potential for confrontation will be heightened while the lane is enforced.

Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU) is developing a Pedestrian Safety Project for the area, working to address pedestrian safety concerns in advance of, during and after the Olympics. Details about the project will be announced and shared with the community in the coming few weeks.

Meanwhile, Matthews is offering First United Church as a place for residents to come and watch the Games in a low-key environment. He suggests that local businesses find ways to offer relaxing environments for patrons during the Games.

"We need de-stressing environments and places of laughter, as well as places of no Olympics. People just need more opportunities to hang out."

recently added

test