Vancouver’s viaduct variables

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What shall we do with the Georgia and Dunsmuir Viaduct?

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. November 11, 2015

Now that the filming of Ryan Reynolds’ Deadpool has ended, I guess we can start talking about how awful the Vancouver viaducts are. If you are unfamiliar with these viaducts, they are the two roads that connect Prior Street, Strathcona to Expo Boulevard, Stadium/Downtown. It’s the big concrete bridge that runs alongside the SkyTrain from Chinatown to Rogers Arena.

Built in the 1970s, the viaducts were designed to be an entry point into the urban core of Vancouver. I’ve taken it to and from the city as long as I can remember, and it has never—ever—been a pleasant experience. Now, with the inception of the bike lanes, the viaducts are hazards left, right, and centre. And let’s not forget about it also being a seismic calamity waiting to happen. So when the city council voted to replace the ultra thin, unsettling Hot Wheel tracks with a six-lane, ground-level road that offers neighbouring areas more space for parks, residential, and commerce, I was all in.

But once the viaducts are torn down, what will ultimately take their place will be high rises. Let’s not lie to ourselves, we are running out of room in Vancouver, and building upward seems to be the only feasible solution. While some people have a problem with that initiative, I don’t. Done correctly, buildings can be as beautiful as the waterfront. Buildings can become the ripples of the city, where the waves are the ripples of the ocean; both can be majestic and encapsulating to look upon.

The problem with so many big cities is that their infrastructures end up fencing people from one corner away from people in another corner. Basically, crossing the road becomes a great hassle, so people don’t do it. This creates a divide, which eliminates cross-community engagements. The viaduct truly makes it difficult to traverse. Nevertheless, we should not make the same mistake. The great big cities of the world—London, Paris, and New York—have channels that connect pedestrians, not just vehicles. In Hong Kong, people never have to touch the solid ground; there are walkways connecting to every part of the city, some call it a “pop-up city.” I digress; we shan’t be one of those, albeit it does sound cool to live in such a futuristic metropolis.

Those designing the new roadway systems are assuring us that it is going to be better. I believe them, because honestly, I don’t see how it could be worse. I fear that one day we are going to be like Los Angeles with layers upon layers of highways. With the demolition of the viaducts, I can feel relieved that at least for the moment we are taking a step away from that.

Not a walk in a park(ing lot)

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The problem with hoarding parking spaces

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. September 30, 2014

Unless you have paid to reserve a spot to park your vehicle, you have no right to block a space on a public road with a lawn chair, a traffic cone, or an empty milk jug.

While some residential street parking requires a visible permit, many others don’t. This can cause unpredictability for those who drive to and from work. Drivers tend to have little patience to seek out an empty spot; so instead, they will just mark one as their own. Parking spaces are a limited commodity, especially in neighbourhoods where homes don’t have driveways, and garages are used as multi-purpose storages and home fitness centres. With each family having an average of two cars, the streets can become crowded, causing people to wrongfully reserve public property.

While homeowners will argue that the property immediately in front of their house belongs to them, that is untrue. The area belongs to the city and that means anyone in the city can use it. Although the “No Parking” sign people buy from dollar stores is forthright, it often ushers a tone of entitlement, instead of asking for others to be considerate. Perhaps—in Canadian fashion—there should be “Please, I had a long day at work and would like to just get home with as little effort as possible” signs available at Dollarama. Alas, there are not. And unless it’s a government-issued sign, it doesn’t have any authority.

Private or reserved street parking in residential areas do not exist in this city. It doesn’t matter what sign or obstruction you have, you cannot claim a space that doesn’t belong to you.

Street parking is completely legal, and if you see someone who has placed objects on the road to assert their territory, throw them in the trash, because that is littering. With that being said, drivers should also know that according to Vancouver’s city bylaws, a vehicle may only be parked in front of a stranger’s house for a maximum of 72 hours, unless signage states otherwise.

I understand that having someone else parked in front of your house feels like a violation of your privacy, but it isn’t. You live in a community with people who have equal rights as you. The same way you don’t have a reserved spot on the bus or SkyTrain when you get on board, you cannot have a reserved parking space on a public street.

Driving is all about sharing the road, but just as important, it should also be about sharing parking spots. So what? Walk a little for once.

Beautiful women a hazard for male commuters

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Traffic accidents increase due to the sexy summer fashion

Formerly published in The Other Press. June 4 2013

A satirical article, by Elliot Chan, Traffic Hazard

Summer is a beautiful time of year, unless you’re a male commuter. Research released early last week by The Men’s Automobile Limitation Experts (MALE) has confirmed that during the summer months, men are 32 per cent more likely to be involved in an automobile accident.

Dr. Carson Donovan, head researcher at MALE, explains the breakthrough discovery: “It’s not that men are bad drivers when it is sunny. They are still far superior,” he chuckles, “It’s just that beautiful women become a greater disturbance. They hide themselves in the winter, and then bam! Summer arrives. Imagine having a stripper pole at every intersection. I won’t give any change to dirty panhandlers, but I’ll drop a dollar for the honey leaving the petrol station. You know what I mean.”

“It is unbelievable how some chicks dress at bus stops,” Dr. Donovan adds with a wink and a masculine elbow nudge. “If we want to protect the safety of our male drivers, they should not be allowed to wear such revealing clothes—even on a sunny day. Sorry boys, but it’s safety first.”

Close behind driving under the influence and excessive speeding, attractive girls at bus stops are the main cause of male-related traffic accidents. Every minute a man across the province is getting injured due to a hot girl sighting.

Benjamin M. Williams, loving husband and a father of two girls, wants the government to make a change. “I am a man that worries about his family,” says Williams, “just the idea of other guys getting distracted by women on the street frightens me. I often drive my daughters to school and I would hate for anyone to get distracted and hit my 2001 Subaru. Beautiful girls should not be allowed to dress so provocatively.”

Dakota Patrice, executive and founder of the Mind Your Own Business, I’m Not A Helpless Woman Foundation had this to say: “Women don’t dress for men to notice them. We dress because we need to wear clothes. Men should just watch where they are going. What? We should wear sweaters when it’s 30 degrees out? We’d get all hot and sweaty.”

When asked to introduce a new dress-code bylaw for female transit users, the mayor of Vancouver, Gregor Robertson, replied, “Distraction is a natural part of driving. God knows how many times I’ve nearly ran into the car in front of me just because I was watching some dog poop. Stunning girls are just like pooping dogs; you can’t stop them.”

‘Traffic’ detours through Vancouver

Joyce Wieland executing O Canada (1970). Photo Credit: Bob Rogers

Formerly published in The Other Press. Oct. 10 2012

By Elliot Chan, Contributor

The first two floors of the Vancouver Art Gallery are currently closed due to renovation, but up on the third we find the metaphorical construction of an art form. An ambient of drills and saws could be heard as the escalator took me up to their latest exhibit. An uneasy sensation passed through me; I’d arrived in a cold artificial world. This well-traveled exhibit garnered its name from the concept of everyday human transition: Traffic. There couldn’t be a more suitable name to portray conceptual art, a form that took us down an eerie route of change, arriving at an evolved form of life with mass media and mechanics.

Various Montreal intersections were captured in grey-scale photographs, a work by Françoise Sullivan showed the physical form of a city morphing with the culture. Along the way, we saw more photographs, not only of landmarks, but also of people and household furniture. A piece by Suzy Lake called “Snapshots of real life conversation” showed multiple shots of a young woman, each picture displaying a different expression, seven of which are mysteriously circled by a thick felt marker. In “La Table Ronde” by Robert Fones, a circular table was photographed over the course of a month, presenting the accumulation and depletion of clutter.

The use of language plays a significant part in conceptual art as well, and is of course expressed throughout the exhibit.

Further down another corridor, we found a repetition of a sentence written out in cursive. The statement, made by artist Brian Dyson, said “I will not make any more boring art,” with the word “boring” crossed out with an “X.” Another artist, John Baldessari created the same piece, but chose to leave the word “boring” uncrossed.

Upon a white wall and within a painted acrylic square was the bold phrase “Get Hold of This Space.” The minimal piece by Gordon Lebredt was no Matisse, but it was a well-organized conceptual idea, which allowed it to take liberty of a wall better suited for a picture of a beach.

Television monitors were scattered all around the exhibit as well. In one piece called “Internal Pornography” by Lisa Steele, three televisions were set up beside each other, each showing a different channel. One channel showed a concerned a woman lying in bed, pensively discussing subconscious thoughts; another displayed the lower region of a nude woman drawing and cleaning an illustration of her inner female organs on and off her skin.

Although some pieces were disturbing and no doubt controversial, others simply suggested introspectiveness.

A black and white photograph by Garry Neill Kennedy entitled “School Photo”showed a bleak looking fourth grade class from 1972. The caption beneath it read “This piece is related to my involvement of attempting to remember all the people I’ve ever known. I was transfixed by the idea and wondered if such a task could ever be accomplished.“

Conceptual art stems from ideas, rather than actual products, and are then created and displayed. The “idea” per se is inside the paintbrush, the camera lens, and the sculptor. When looking at a piece, one must see beyond it and ask the question of “why?” instead of the question of “how?”—or “what?” for that matter. It is the artist’s concept and not their intention; the result is as unpredictable as traffic itself.

The exhibit, Traffic: Conceptual Art in Canada from 1965-1980 will be on display at the Vancouver Art Gallery until January 20, 2013.  In addition, At the Intersection of Painting and Photography by Ian Wallace will arrive at the end of October.

What: Traffic: Conceptual Art in Canada from 1965-1980

Where: The Vancouver Art Gallery

When: Now until January 20, 2013