In the green

While Indian metros reel under unprecedented air pollution, Sujoy Dhar checks out the western Canadian city of Vancouver that has set the most sanest target by 2020: to emerge as the world's greenest city for locals and tourists

View from Granville Island

Not many know that of all the urban hubs in the world, Vancouver in western Canada’s British Columbia province has the longest uninterrupted waterfront path. We are talking about the 28 km Seaside Greenway of Vancouver which is a pathway that is crowned by the famous Stanley Park Seawall, extending from the Vancouver Convention Centre to Spanish Banks Park.

Vancouver is a coastal, seaport city sitting pretty on the western half of the Burrard Peninsula, bounded to the north by English Bay and the Burrard Inlet, and to the south by the Fraser River. Vancouver Island, across the Strait of Georgia, shields Vancouver from the Pacific Ocean.

While any time of the day if you are checking out the rather touristy Vancouver Convention Centre watching the seaplanes taking off and landing against the backdrop of a beautiful mountain scape (at Coal Harbour), you would see people merrily walking, jogging or cycling in this recreational spot in the city.

Gastown Steam Clock
Gastown Steam Clock

Green corridor for cyclists

The one green initiative that strikes you once you are in this city is the dedicated cycling lane. Cycling is the fastest growing mode of transportation in Vancouver. The protected bike lanes to key city streets ­— painted in green — has increased both cycling and walking trips.

Protected bicycle lanes are dedicated bike lanes with concrete medians and planters, bicycle parking corrals, or vehicle parking lanes that divide them from vehicle traffic.

This separation increases feelings of safety and comfort, which makes cycling an attractive commuting option for those who are not used to riding their bikes regularly.

When people walking know that people won’t be riding their bikes on the sidewalks, walking feels more comfortable, as well, the authorities say.

According to the city’s official website, Vancouver adopted its Renewable City Strategy in November 2015 — the first jurisdiction in North America to create a comprehensive 100% renewable energy target.

Since then, the city has developed an ambitious EV (electric vehicle) charging infrastructure strategy, enacted a Zero Emissions Building Plan, agreed to expand its Neighbourhood Energy Utility.

Its Greenest City Action Plan is aimed at urban sustainability.

A green oasis

Stanley Park is Vancouver’s green lungs attracting locals and tourists, cyclists and joggers.. almost everyone.

The park is a 400-hectare natural West Coast rainforest with a delightful view of a canvas that includes water, mountains, sky, and the majestic trees along its famous Seawall.

Vancouver advertises it for tourists as “kilometres of trails, beautiful beaches, local wildlife, great eats, natural, cultural and historical landmarks, along with many other adventures.”

But for a visitor from a part of the world where cities are nothing less than noxious urban nightmares, it is also about serenity and inclusiveness in a public space in sync with nature and an urban skyline.

Of the 28 km uninterrupted Seaside Greenway in Vancouver the Stanley Park Seawall is the best stretch. The Seawall is divided into two sections — one for walkers and joggers (closest to the water), and one for cyclists and inline skaters (inside path).

In Stanley Park, beautifully carved, red cedar portals of aboriginal motifs welcome visitors to the Brockton Point Visitor Centre and to the traditional lands of the Coast Salish people.

Marked by the traditional slant-roof style of Coast Salish architecture, they were constructed over three years and installed in 2008. The gateways were created by Coast Salish artist Susan Point, in collaboration with Coast Salish Arts and other stakeholders.

Here, you also spot nine beautiful totem poles that are carved in wood with secrets telling the stories of the land and its people.

Stanley Park is one place for walkers and cyclists as well as your brooding relaxation time. While you can sit back and enjoy the skyline and the waterfront, cyclists, joggers, runners pass by.

From mid-March to the end of October, you can also enjoy a one-hour narrated horse-drawn carriage ride through the park’s eastern side and its sites.

In the summer months, the Vancouver Trolley Company offers a daily 45-minute narrated hop-on, hop-off tour of Stanley Park. The old-fashioned San Francisco-style trolley stops at 15 of the park’s most popular spots.

And yes, wrap up the Stanley Park tour with the Prospect Point, which offers a panoramic view of the Lions Gate Bridge, North Shore Mountains and Burrard Inlet.

Stanley Park has also several forest trails to be explored by foot or bike.

Oceanfront Coal Harbour seaplanes
Oceanfront Coal Harbour seaplanes

Zero-waste Granville Island

If Vancouver has been ranked on top as one of the world’s most liveable cities for years, then Granville Island and Public Market here, is the biggest tourist magnet. And hold one, this is a tourist hotspot which is also a zero-waste zone where plastic bags are now a thing of the past.

Sitting south of the downtown peninsula under the Granville Bridge, it is technically a sandpit and not an island.

The Granville Island Public Market acts as a cultural hub with theatres, artisan workshops and craft studios.

In the early 1900s, Granville Island housed factories, plants and sawmills for shipping, logging and mining industry. Today Granville Island is a top draw for tourists and locals alike.

“By re-purposing established buildings, Granville Island was transformed from a run-down industrial area into a vibrant cultural hub while preserving the neighbourhood’s unique historical feel and becoming an internationally-renowned example of urban renewal,” say Granville Island authorities.

The authorities here replaced garbage cans with zero-waste stations that include separate receptacles for recycling and food scraps while reusable shopping bags were introduced to phase out single-use plastic shopping bags completely.

The Public Market attracts foodies with the shops and counters offering a lip-smacking range of food items — fresh from the ocean or oven. Stalls serve unique homemade products besides baked delights, pizzas or the shimmering seafood.

But while you indulge in gastronomical delights in Granville Island, the authorities have expanded food scraps collection to the Public Market, restaurants and other businesses and eliminated polystyrene foam packaging for quick-service food vendors.

Outside of the market, catch a theatre show, browse an art gallery show, or choose a kayaking or paddle-boarding tour.

And anytime, you are assured of some soulful music here by talented performers.. Granville Island rocks.

Vancouver waterfront view
Vancouver waterfront view

Gastown & green hotels 

If you are in Vancouver and not been to Gastown, then you surely missed a vital part of the city. It is one of Vancouver’s most vibrant and heritage-inspired zone with a strong connection to history while catering to locals and tourists with its shopping and dining attractions.

Besides its cobblestone streets, the Gastown Steam Clock, built in 1977 at the corner of Cambie and Water streets in the neighbourhood, also added to the popularity of the neighbourhood.

A tourist to Vancouver who wants to immerse in the cultural and heritage effervescence of Gastown and yet stay in a eco-friendly hotel, there are options galore around the place.

Vancouver beckons all those who want to go green in an urban centre.

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