I grew up in the forests of North Van above Edgemont Village.
We lived so far up the mountain you could hear the Grouse Mountain Skyride. Dad used a whistle to get us to come home for dinner. For provisions we would drive down to the village to shop at Stongs and ponder the immensity of candy choices at Peter Rabbits. We attended church at Highlands United and going to the library was a weekly event. On Friday nights, we ordered Chinese food from Harold at the Woodbine Inn.
In those days, there were cars, but I don’t remember it ever feeling dangerous to walk around in the Village. What happened? Now when you try to cross on foot in any direction at the Edgemont and Highlands intersection, it requires an advanced degree, acrobatic abilities, and the diplomatic skills of Chrystia Freeland.
Buses, SUVs, trucks, skateboards, cyclists and cars all prize this intersection for their own use. Maybe I am just overly sensitive to the issue because Mom moved into the Amica at Edgemont and I worry about her perambulating through all that traffic. I just can’t stop thinking about how amazing it would be if Edgemont Village permanently closed her inner two blocks to vehicles. That’s right. Why not make the middle of Edgemont – from Queens Road to Crescentview Drive – a place for people, not cars?
Don’t worry, I can already hear your screams. Where would we park? How can I go shopping without my car? I counted the number of those ridiculously perilous angle parking spots that the Village would lose to regain human scale at her heart. It’s only 40-odd spaces. The danger those spaces represent to vulnerable road users like people on bicycles cannot be underestimated. Instead of promoting vehicle traffic, couldn’t we prioritize walking and other forms of active transportation? Just for those two blocks?
Urban planners in places like Whistler, Revelstoke and Kimberley purposefully created parking lots that move cars away from town squares and central business districts to promote a sense of community and create spaces for celebration and fun. Something similar has happened in Edgemont – except the parking is underground. The new Grosvenor-built Connaught development has 371 parking spots beneath it. There are only 82 new apartments. Even if every condo owner maintains two cars, there are still 207 new parking stalls within a block of the center of Edgemont. I’ve checked and so far this parking is publicly available, free and there are a ton of spots. You can access the parkade off Ayr at Ridgewood.
Business owners must be delirious with happiness. All those new parking spots should bring more customers, no? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying we should all drive to the Village. Far from it. If you can, you should ride, walk or take the bus instead. But this new re-working of the space for parking means we could pretty easily redesign the heart of our unique Village without vehicles.
Already people visit Edgemont as part of their tourism experience. They go to Cleveland Dam to see the fish at the hatchery or walk in the forest then go for coffee in the Village. It’s so quaint and beautiful. If only there was no traffic.
Could Edgemont Village be reconceived as the mountainside people space it used to be? As an erstwhile ad campaign once proclaimed: “Edgemont. She’s a beauty.” That campaign was on the money. She is a rare beauty, let’s give her back to people.
Heather Drugge is a sustainable transportation advocate who has used her bike for transportation for 20 years. She’s looking at getting an e-bike and maybe a jetpack next.