For more than three decades, Canada Place has been a key welcome mat for visitors to Vancouver — but now that mat is starting to crumble.
Outside the waterfront landmark where cruise ships dock and international conventions are regularly held, the sidewalk is in a state of disrepair, with pedestrians tripping on the cracks and rubble. There are even areas where water regularly pools.
The area is especially hazardous for people in wheelchairs.
“Last week alone I was spit out of my chair a couple of times, and landed on my butt,” a man who only identified himself as James told Global News, adding he’s seen the walk deteriorate over the past two years.
“It’s pretty dangerous. I’m surprised no one has gotten hurt.”
Vancouver Coun. Sarah Kirby-Yung says seeing the broken tiles and pieces of rubble strewn around the sidewalk was concerning, but not surprising.
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“This isn’t an isolated incident,” she said. “We see a number of sidewalk issues across the city. I hear a lot about it from residents and visitors, and it’s a basic service from the city.”
Back in October, Kirby-Yung introduced a motion pointing out the poor condition of many sidewalks throughout Vancouver, asking staff to make repairing those walkways a priority.
“In recent years,” the motion reads, “the people who live and work in Vancouver, as well as visitors to our city, have noted and openly commented on a significant decline in the physical state and cleanliness of our city, offering up and reporting on numerous examples such as streets with potholes, overgrown street medians, and neglected sidewalks that represent a variety of safety hazards.”
The motion asked staff to “elevate the priority” of sidewalk and street maintenance and to include language in the 2020 budget committing resources towards that goal.
The motion was unanimously adopted by council, and the 2020 budget ultimately included $1.4 million for sidewalk rehabilitation.
But no movement appears to have been made on the issue, which Kirby-Yung says could be due to misplaced priorities.
“It’s been really tough to get this council to focus on those basics,” she said.
“I don’t know if it’s because they’re more excited about the bigger, global issues, but at heart we are a city, local council and it’s our job to take care of things that take care of people’s daily lives.”
Some effort has been made to patch some of the holes outside Canada Place, but the fixes haven’t been permanent enough to remove the hazard.
Kirby-Yung says more money needs to be reallocated to address the problem.
“Bottom line is it comes down to the budget and what we spend out money on,” she said. “There is nothing more important than taking care of the basics.”
The city encourages people who notice an issue with a sidewalk to use the VanConnect app or call 3-1-1 for urgent, safety-related issues.
—With files from Jill Bennett and Jordan Armstrong