Homeless in Vancouver: VGH now offering medical care for bicycles

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      The new VGH Cycling Centre sits on the northern edge of the Vancouver General Hospital grounds on 10th Avenue, tucked between Willow and Laurel Streets.

      You can’t miss it; just look for the red bike stand and tire pump bolted to the sidewalk out front.

      Those are the two things that caught my eye a few weeks ago as I rode by. I wondered if they were there for the use of any cyclist in distress; part of the effort to get cyclists off West Broadway (9th Avenue) and onto 10th Avenue.

      The answer, it turns out, is an unequivocal yes and no: yes to hospital employees. No to the rest of us.

      I was pumped but now I’m a bit deflated

      Stanley Q. Woodvine

      The Cycling Centre is located at 860/866 West 10th Avenue in what used to be the VGH's laundry building. It’s there exclusively to cater to the needs of hospital employees who ride their bicycles to work.

      It’s open 24 hours a day, all year round. It has 174 bike racks (including 12 outlets for electric bikes), eight bike lockers, change rooms—with shower facilities—storage lockers, air pumps, and bike stands with tools.

      A full one-year membership with change-room access costs $165 per year.

      What a great thing for hospital employees! So when can the rest of us get something like that? I, for one, would be willing to pay for the privilege.

      Striking out on West 10th Avenue

      Speaking of West 10th Avenue: a few days ago a pedestrian on the north sidewalk of West Broadway at Heather Street actually yelled at me as I rode my bicycle in traffic.

      He wanted me to know that West 10th was a bicycle route…did I know that?

      As I passed him, I laughed. Didn’t he mean “pedestrian route”?

      I use West 10th Avenue often enough and I see the large bicycle icons painted on the roadway but who’s kidding who? Cyclists have West 10th as a bike lane the way bowling balls have bowling lanes.

      Except it’s considered wrong for cyclists to knock pedestrians off their pins.

      The fact is, the four blocks of 10th Avenue that parallel the Vancouver General Hospital grounds—between Oak and Ash—are one long pedestrian crosswalk, marked or otherwise, as far as the pedestrians are concerned.

      Hospital employees, patients, and their visitors all think nothing of blithely stepping out onto the roadway without so much as a glance to assay oncoming traffic.

      There is no other stretch of road like it that I know of. This fearless and mindless attitude on the part of pedestrians must have something to do with their close proximity to emergency medical services—that’s the only way it makes any sense to me.

      I use West 10th as a connector between Oak and Ontario when I’m not in a hurry. Any time I might save from the absence of traffic lights I more often than not lose to slowing, swerving, and stopping for jaywalking pedestrians.

      I’m not really complaining. it’s a pleasant, tree-lined stretch of road. And the pedestrians’ happiness to have a place of their own kind of rubs off on me.

      When I am in a hurry, like when I come back to Fairview from an East Vancouver bottle depot, I always take West Broadway.

      Stanley Q. Woodvine is a homeless resident of Vancouver who has worked in the past as an illustrator, graphic designer, and writer.