Skip to content

Each parking meter Vancouver removes means one less place to lock up a bike!

Newly-installed pay station in 1400 block of West 10th, next to the remains of a parking meter it replaces. And in the distance a bike locked to a sign pole.

As the City of Vancouver slowly replaces 11,000 parking meters with an unspecified lesser number of pay stations it hast to be said that the city is also, in effect, eliminating 11,000 bike racks—at a time when COVID-19 is driving a huge increase in bike sales and cycling!

Cyclists have always used parking meter poles as ad-hoc places to lock up their bikes but no one will be locking their bicycles up to the boxy new pay stations.

So unless the city commits to adding a new bike rack for every subtracted parking meter this big changeover will result in a disastrous reduction in the number of places where cyclists can securely lock their bicycles. Read more…

Again the Elaine Apartments are for sale

For Sale sign on the lawn of the Elaine Apartments at 3819 and 3821 Cambie St. on March 17.

The Elaine Apartments at 3819 and 3821 Cambie Street are up for sale for the second time in less than four years—this go-round for $11 million, according to a current Avison Young listing.

The sprawling 76-year-old, 22-unit, three-storey apartment building on the southwest corner of Cambie Street and West 22nd Ave was last on the market in the summer of 2017. The JLL listing gave no price but I was told that the owners were asking around $5 million. My source was a resident of the Elaine who was also the building’s former long-time caretaker. Read more…

Just a halo I saw today

My best photo of the phenomenon around the sun, taken at 2:24 p.m. from the corner of Spruce St. and West Broadway Ave. It was gone within the hour.

Squinting up at the ring of mildly prismatic light that surrounded the sun early this afternoon (March 16) my homeless peer repeated the statement I had just made as a question: “That’s called a ‘sundog’?”

“Yes it is,” I declared, with all the positive assurance only the completely mistaken can muster.

There was certainly no mistaking the awesomeness of the natural phenomenon hovering in the southwestern sky of Vancouver but seeing something is one thing; knowing what it’s properly called is something else entirely. Read more…

Meditations on a crow’s well-known tendency to pry

A crow using its beak to pry flattened food off a storm drain in the 1400 block of West Broadway Ave. at 7:38 p.m.

As I watched one of Vancouver’s industrious crows pry a mashed-up morsel of food off a cast iron storm drain cover this morning (March 3) I couldn’t help but think: “why, it’s using its beak just like a crowbar!”

But I had it a bit backwards. The reason we humans call them crowbars is because we use them just like a crow uses its beak and/or feet.

The crow, still pecking away at the storm drain, has yet to notice the larger nugget of food behind it.

According to researchers at the Snopes fact-checking website pry bars have been nicknamed “crow bars”, “crow-bars”, or “crowbars” for at least 700 years:

“The use of the word ‘crow’ to describe an iron bar, usually with one end slightly bent and sharpened, is documented in English as far back as the year 1400. The device was so named because its splayed end resembled a crow’s beak or foot; by the mid-18th century it was known as a ‘crow bar,’ and by the mid-19th century the two words had been joined to form ‘crow-bar’ and then finally ‘crowbar.’”

Having discovered it, the crow braces the new nugget of food with a foot to better peck at it.

The earliest documented example Snopes refers to may be from an alliterative poem written about 1386 by St. Erkenwald (Bishop of London 675-693). According to Mentalfloss this poem mentions workmen “putting prises to” the corners of a container with “crows of iron.” However, I can find no trace of this in the text of the poem provided by the Internet Archive.

If at first you don’t succeed peck peck again—at a spot where you think you can get better leverage.

But in Act V of Romeo and Juliet, published 1589, The English playwright Shakespeare is clearly referring to a pry bar when he has Friar Lawrence ask of Friar John:

Friar John, go hence. Get me an iron crow and bring it straight unto my cell.

Something to crow about—that worked out better than planned!

Okay, enough about crowbars! I’ll stop prying into etymology now. But let me leave you with two crow-related things.

First is this nagging question: why do roosters crow but crows caw? I don’t know the answer but frankly, by the relaxed standards of this blog, the question at least deserves it’s own post!

Kelly the bus driver shows off his crow-inspired face mask at the intersection of South Granville and West Broadway.

Secondly, here are two photos of Kelly the Coast Mountain Bus driver resplendent in his blue Coast Mountain Bus Company uniform, his orange and yellow safety vest and his black and red crow’s beak face mask! Click the images to enlarge them.

Why is he wearing a crow’s beak face mask? Becaw-caw-caws!

Why the Vancouver House is best seen from Alder Street

The Vancouver House twist filled in by the new condo behind it, as seen from Alder St. and 8th Ave. at 6:53 a.m., March 3.

If downtown Vancouver condo towers could talk I imagine the new one at 1380 Hornby Street would tell the year-old Vancouver House at 1480 Howe Street: “I have your back”, while the Vancouver House would surely reply: “You complete me!”

Because that’s exactly what the 39-storey condo at 1380 Hornby does, depending on your point of view.

The Vancouver House and the Pacific condos combined, as seen from Alder and 11th at 4:30 p.m., February 26.

Called The Pacific by Grosvenor, the new tower on the north side of the one-year-old, 46-storey Vancouver House has the effect of visually filled in the latter luxury condo’s signature reverse-tapering asymmetry—at least when viewed from anywhere on Alder Street in the Fairview neighbourhood.

The Vancouver House and the Pacific begin to light up together, as seen from Alder and 8th at 6:21 p.m., March 3.

From the vantage point of Alder Street the optical illusion can be startling and soothing at the same time.

Instead of an off-kilter Vancouver House that generates low-level anxiety by always seeming on the verge of falling over, the Hornby Street tower merges with and visually props up the otherwise lopsided tower on Howe Street. This presents the viewer with a reassuringly ordinary and stable-looking tall building—one among among many downtown. Phew!

Nothing to twist and shout about?

The Vancouver House nearing completion, seen from Alder and 8th, May 23, 2019.

The Vancouver House twists a good 45 degrees through its height, from its 6,000-square-foot triangular base to its top nine storeys, which are 14,000-square-foot rectangles.

Much has been made of the innovative way Danish architect Bjarke Ingels used the twist from a triangular base to a rectangular apex to fit the luxury condominium in the tight space beside and over the northwest end of the Granville Bridge.

However, Ingels’ Vancouver House twists far more for show than for function, being one of an increasing number of similar twisting luxury towers, which have been planted like ostentatious claim stakes in exclusive real estate in cities around the world.

The Vancouver House still not done but already a glaring eyesore in the sunset of September 27, 2019.

Vancouver’s first so-called twisting tower was the 63-storey Trump International Hotel & Tower Vancouver, completed in 2016, when, according to its developer, it became one of 28 “twisting skyscrapers” in the world. The 46-storey Vancouver House, completed in 2020, is similar in many technical respects (except angularity) to the twisty, 43-storey Al Bidda Tower completed in Doha, Qatar, in 2009.

Of course, the real point of the twisting tower style is to stick out like a sore thumb; to be an unavoidable eyesore landmark that never blends in; that is always dissonant and never harmonious within its urban setting.

How ironic is it then that the Vancouver House luxury condominium tower—centrally positioned and garishly designed to do nothing but scream: “LOOK AT ME!”—has been muted in its intended effect in at least one direction by the purely accidental positioning of another luxury condominium vying for its own share of attention?

Apparently, loud condos, like soundwaves, may combine to cancel each other out—at least from a distance and from certain angles. Click the images to enlarge them.

Seen from Spruce St. and 8th Ave. the Vancouver House and the Pacific no longer overlap as one building, unfortunately.

More snow but less trouble

Fast-melting snow piled like cumulus clouds on a South Granville curb at 11:13 a.m.

“Surprise—it snowed overnight!” was the message conveyed by the sight and sound of the first car that rolled in to this homeless person’s parkade sleeping spot at 5:45 a.m. White stuff atop a red dumpster at the parkade’s mouth confirmed the unexpected intelligence.

Admittedly it wasn’t a huge surprise—the overnight low was forecast to get nearish freezing. And happily it wasn’t a huge amount of snow either.

Alley on north side of 1100 block of West Broadway, where—unlike the side streets—both asphalt and trees were already clear of snow by 7:52 a.m.

At 6:30 a.m. the north-south side streets—which take me from my parkade to the east-west arterial of West Broadway Avenue—were blanketed in automobile-roiled snow. At the same time, the bordering sidewalks wore only thin coverlets of slushy snow, already well-pierced by boot prints and dog tracks.

Pedestrians were left to plow their own way along West Broadway at 8 a.m., after plow trucks apparently cleared the roadway onto the sidewalks.

City salting and plowing trucks likely beat me to West Broadway because the situation here was reversed compared to the side streets. Broadway’s roadway was glistening wet and entirely free of snow, while its sidewalks were covered by wasting masses of the white stuff—piled (no doubt, by the plow trucks) and churned to the clumpiness of cottage-cheese by early morning foot traffic.

Temperatures in Vancouver are forecast to fall near or just below 0°C over the next two nights but no precipitation is indicated. Meanwhile, as of 2:44 p.m., the temperature is already up to a quite decent 9°C and it has several hours to get even warmer.

So, not to proclaim the arrival of spring or anything but it may be fair enough to say that wintertime is now just a nighttime thing. Click the images to enlarge them.