Living in a new city is like a dream…

“I’ve lived in quite a few cities over the years,” said a friend last night after we had dinner in downtown Vancouver. “It takes about a year before you get used to it. For the first year, living in a new city is sort of like a dream, it has an unreal quality to it.”

We had been talking about my move to Victoria last September, and how I was still feeling like it was  a new city to me. I had also mentioned to him that I still sometimes miss Vancouver, even though I didn’t really like living here (there?) for the last few years that I did. In fact, when I still lived in Vancouver, I passionately wanted to leave.

What he said about the dream like quality of living in a new city also applies to the old one. Over the past couple of days, being in Vancouver for a course at UBC, I’ve had an unreal feeling. Partly that’s due to the fact that I’ve been getting up obscenely early (5:00ish), but something also doesn’t feel right. The city just doesn’t feel like the city I left ten months ago, which I suppose is natural since time changes everything. (What did I expect? That the city wouldn’t move on without me?!)

Doing lots of cycling while I’m here is fun. Vancouver is light years ahead of Victoria in terms of cycling infrastructure.

The course is going well – inspiring instructor, good coverage of urban themes, excellent reading list and interesting assignments. There’s a lot to get done in the next two and a half weeks though. This afternoon, I started work on a group assignment to critically examine an urban space in terms of the themes of the course. My partner and I are looking at Trout lake, looking at issues of gentrification, affordability, civic boosterism and public space. 2000 words, with maps and photos due Tuesday.

Next week, I have to produce a critical review of a popular movie (not sure which one yet) and how the city in which it is set serves as a “character” in it. How is the city represented in popular discourse?

Also on the assignment list is two exams and leading a seminar on daily readings.

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This entry was posted in Cycling, Education, Infrastructure, Public Space, Research, Travel, University Courses, Vancouver. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Living in a new city is like a dream…

  1. Francesca says:

    I vote you do your paper on Breakfast at Tiffany’s (contemporary is over rated!)

  2. John Luton says:

    I don’t think Vancouver is light years ahead of us on bicycle infrastructure, they are just addressing different challenges.

    Some of what they are doing is clearly more advanced than some of what we have, but the truth is in the numbers. Victoria still has the highest mode splits for cycling among commuter traffic.

    Vancouver’s Central Valley Greenway, for example, has been planned to replicate the success of the Galloping Goose. Some of the pieces of that trail are more spectacular (check out an overpass in Burnaby), but the Goose is still more functional in many ways (fewer gaps, less complicated arrangements with adjacent roads).

    On the road we have a much different challenge. Unlike Vancouver, Victoria has no grid system, so the need for cyclists is to retrofit major arterials to better accommodate commuter cycling. Vancouver has off-arterial routes made into bicycle priority streets, a very useful piece but not easy to apply here, though we do have some locations where through bike traffic is accommodated in a fashion similar to that found in Vancouver.

    On many of our main corridors, bike lanes are in place and more are coming. Fort St., for example, is probably one of the earliest “road diet” treatments in BC, where travel lanes were reduced to create bike lanes. It’s a very familiar facility now, but remember that it wasn’t always like that. In terms of coverage, probably more of our important network has bike lanes than does Vancouver and the burbs.

    The bigger projects in Vancouver like the Burrard St. Bridge and Dunsmuir are a spectacular success and they reflect local conditions and opportunities. We certainly have some local projects that, once realized will mimic these treatments to some extent, but again reflecting our local context.

    We always have more to do, but nobody is asleep at the switch here. In some obvious ways, Vancouver is ahead on the ground, but people vote with their feet, and we are still ahead when the counting is done.

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