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Chasing a trick of the light on Saturday night

July 24, 2017

Police car flashers seen in the distance, north from Spruce St. and 10th Ave.

Saturday (July 22), at about 10:30 p.m., I was sitting on my bike at the intersection of Spruce Street and 15th Avenue, doing nothing more that enjoying the quiet stillness of a summer’s evening in the Fairview neighbourhood.

Looking north down Spruce Street I could see, in the distance, the bright blue flashers of a stationary Vancouver Police cruiser; for a lark, I decided to try catching up with it.

Intersection-by-intersection—from 15th to 14th to 13th and so on—I approached the flashing blue lights; but the closer I came, the farther away they seemed, until, at 8th Avenue, they disappeared altogether.

I wasn’t surprised. The police car that I was chasing wasn’t anywhere in the Fairview neighbourhood; it was on the other side of False Creek, on the north end of the Granville Street Bridge in downtown Vancouver—nearly two kilometres away when I first spotted it up at 15th Avenue (“up” being the operative word here).

It all depends how high you are above “see” level

The Wikipedia entry on the Granville Street Bridge lists it as being 27.4 metres above Granville Island; while a DaftLogic altitude finder map shows the centre of Granville Island as being 6 metres above sea level.

The DaftLogic map shows the altitude at Spruce Street and 15th Avenue as 58 m, descending steadily down to 39.82 m at 8th Avenue and then to 11.19 m at 6th Avenue.

This all adds up to the fact that from 15th Avenue and Spruce Street, all the way north to 8th Avenue, I was looking down on the north end of the Granville Street Bridge.

So I was able to see the flashing lights of the police car as if it were in Fairview for three reasons:

  • The position and height of the north end of the bridge relative to Spruce Street.
  • A serendipitous break in the tall tree canopy on 6th Avenue.
  • The high lumen/brightness of the Valor LED lightbars atop the Vancouver Police Department’s newish Dodge Charger cruisers.

And speaking of serendipitous sight lines in the Fairview neighbourhood. The Honda Celebration of Light fireworks display is again coming to Vancouver’s English Bay for three nights, beginning July 29.

Traditionally the Arbutus corridor railway cut—especially between 12th Avenue and 16th Avenue—with its railroad tracks and the thick blackberry bushes, has been the location from which a handful of Shaughnessy and Arbutus Ridge residents have enjoyed watching the 20-minute light show.

Since 2016, the City of Vancouver has taken ownership of the full 11 km Arbutus line; ripped up the tracks, ripped out all the messy greenery and laid down a flat, wide ribbon of asphalt.

So I’m half-expecting and half-dreading that there will be quite a crowd of looky-loos, armed with their lawn chairs and radios and beer coolers and snacks and garbage, converging on the newly denuded and misnamed “Arbutus Greenway” to watch this year’s fireworks. Click the image to enlarge it.

From → Fairview

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