If Mayor Gregor Robertson can lift his head from his bizarre obsession for building massive concrete barriers in the middle of city streets (a.k.a. dedicated bike lanes), here’s an idea he should consider that will benefit everyone in our fair city, even the forgotten pedestrian.
The idea comes from the lone opposition voice on city council, NPA Coun. Suzanne Anton, but if the mayor is smart, he will climb all over it and claim it as his own. It’s that good.
Anton wants to launch public consultation on the creation of “a major public square on Robson Street between the art gallery and the courthouse, permanently closing the site to traffic.”
She points out that the site in question has already been closed for more than a year anyway, so we’re all used to going around it. Instead of thwarting traffic for a few hardy cyclists, here’s a street closure that will benefit everyone, residents and tourists alike, by giving downtown Vancouver an instant heartbeat.
So much ink is spilled on the Downtown Eastside, the homeless, and other obvious victims of the system, we’ve kind of forgotten about the rest of us. With a little bit of imagination, Robson Square could become the place for all of us.
The city desperately needs a people place. During the Olympics, Granville south of Georgia, leading to Robson Square, became that place. Buskers and street vendors blossomed like March flowers, and people could saunter down the street without fear of being run over by a car or some crazed Critical Mass Hysteria cyclist, all flashing LEDs and saddlebags.
But the buses returned, and now chase the few remaining meanderers off the street like angry rhinos, honking and hissing.
Robson Street itself is the local shopping promenade, but it doesn’t really go anywhere. It just peters out at either end, becoming just another road.
Wouldn’t it be nice, therefore, to rescue Robson Square from jackhammers and traffic, and give the street a focus? No great city is complete without a city square. London has four of them (Piccadilly, Trafalgar, Leicester, and Covent Garden), four good reasons it’s one of the greatest cities in the world.
Robson Square is perfect: a meeting place of some of the city’s best architecture, and the sunny steps of the Vancouver Art Gallery are already the local equivalent of Rome’s Spanish Steps. Resurrect the skating rink, add a couple more sidewalk cafes and stir, and voila, the downtown has a soul. Finally.
Suzanne Anton, you go, girl!