Back from my second tour of British Columbia and its stellar cities of Vancouver and Victoria. Biggest takeaway: our northerly neighbors are sitting on a lot of drinkable water and open space, and are making advances in planning, green building and local agriculture.
One interesting new development is the Canucks are getting rather jingoistic: plastic flags on car roofs, maple leaf beach chairs and accessories are the rage. This is to keep identity separate from the nation's North American neighbor, which it has been apparently been trying to distance itself from as of late. (Don't want to be too direct--my Canadian reserve from my father's family comes to the fore).
- Swimming at Vancouver's English Beach in 66-degree bay water (tropical for northern Pacific) under snow-covered mountains of British Columbia's coastal mountain range--the city's water source. This was mid-July, mind. These people have 4 million people in land size that would hold 140 million in US. Who's the Superpower, anyway?
- Bike parking in multi-storeyed public parking lots. There were about 50 bikes in one downtown Victoria indoor facility, complete with locked storage. Bike transport is encouraged even on major bridges that have no dedicated biking-pedestrian lanes.
- The region is putting much more effort in promoting BC-grown or produced products: beer, fish, berries, bread (most every cafe bakes its own) and vegetables. Fliers in the local papers for supermarkets even label the source of each and every sale item (US, BC, Chile)
- Liquor and beer are taxed heavily. Locals say they pay more than any province. Ten dollars or more for a six pack for typical beer. Wine is $30 a bottle for what would cost $10 in the U.S.
- Higher-density buildings with Eco-efficient design are the norm for residential developments both in Vancouver and Victoria. Locals in Victoria aren't too happy with five-storey buildings going up in their medium-sized town, but they put up with it if it saves the incredible open space they have surrounding their city. Lakes, mountains, and forests within and surrounding both cities are the pride of every resident.
- Oddly enough, no hybrid cars. But plenty of Daimler's miniature Smart cars. Gas goes for about $4 per gallon.
- Street trees reign. Vancouver still has neighborhoods with 100-foot elm archways, like the US had before the Dutch elm disease hit during the late '60s.