Homeless in Vancouver: Winter paints the town white as a blizzard of wind and snow hits

    1 of 8 2 of 8

      Slip-sliding cars, disabled trolley buses, abandoned Mobi bike share bicycles, people skiing down West Broadway—that can only mean more snow!

      As a trolley bus sits disabled at just after 5 p.m., a person (one of two) can be seen cross-country skiing eastbound on the sidewalk of West Broadway.
      Stanley Q. Woodvine

      And indeed, on Sunday (February 10), the snow was back in Vancouver and not just for an afternoon.

      This time it fell in the kind of appalling quantity and duration that means it could stick around for days!

      So last Sunday’s snow was just a reconnaissance?

      I know that last Sunday I said I wanted a good photo of snow falling against this red brick backdrop but…
      Stanley Q. Woodvine

      I first noticed the snow this afternoon when a noticeable rise in temperature made me look up from the book I was reading in the parkade where I sleep.

      It was just after 2 p.m. and thick, fluffy snow was obscuring my view of the red brick condo across the alley, just as it did a week earlier. But unlike the snow last Sunday, which fell in fits and starts, this Sunday’s snow—once it had begun—wasn’t going to stop any time soon.

      Blowing snow at Birch and West Broadway at 2:42 p.m.
      Stanley Q. Woodvine

      I immediately packed up an left my parkade, heading for the intersection of West Broadway and Granville Street.

      Block by block, as I walked my bike and trailer, the snow only grew in intensity. Thanks to strong southerly wind gusts, the snow was being blown almost horizontally, so that it wasn’t falling so much as landing—like miniscule aircraft.

      Boarding an eastbound a functional trolley bus in the 1400 block of West Broadway at 3:22 p.m.
      Stanley Q. Woodvine

      By the time I arrived at my destination in the 1400 block of West Broadway, the intersection with Granville Street presented an almost generically Canadian winter tableau.

      But if the slow-moving traffic through lanes of dirty, churned-up, snow and the grinding rasp of plow blades doggedly clearing those lanes could’ve been plucked from any city in Canada, there were still some uniquely Vancouver touches that could seen through the obscuring blizzard.

      A westbound snowplow on West Broadway at 3:53 p.m.
      Stanley Q. Woodvine

      There were the city’s singular (in Canada at least) fleet of electric trolley buses—a succession of which could be seen going out of service in the eastbound lane of the 1400 block of West Broadway—every one of them defeated in their turn by the snow.

      An out-of-service trolley bus in the 1400 block at 5:20 p.m.
      Stanley Q. Woodvine

      And every so often, some brave soul could be seen on a bicycle making their uncertain way through the rutted snow on West Broadway. (Though, by 4 p.m., every cyclist I saw was sanely walking their bike on the sidewalk.)

      When I stopped in the 1400 block West Broadway McDonald’s at 2:52 p.m. there was even one of those fair-weather Vancouver friends—a Mobi bike share bicycle, which could be seen leaning against an inside wall by some window seating. However, there was no rider for it. Someone, I was told, had abandoned it there some hours previously.

      A Mobi bike share bicycle seen abandoned to the storm at 2:52 p.m. and since left outside by restaurant management.
      Stanley Q. Woodvine

      At 7:12 p.m. the Mobi bike’s LED readout plaintively read “OVERTIME”, “Time=29h56 Km=0.0”, and “Return the bike to a station”. This was when a McDonald’s manager finally dumped the bike out on the street.

      And speaking of trolley buses and and snow—what of those vaunted kevlar tire socks that TransLink began purchasing in 2017 to give extra winter traction to buses on Vancouver’s hilly transit routes?

      None of them, it appeared, were used on the South Granville slope, where—by all reports—the snow made the usual trolley bus service scarce indeed.

      A Coast Mountain Bus Company operator told me, in fact, that the tire socks were only being used on the long, sloping transit route to and from Simon Fraser University.

      Well, tomorrow is another day. Hopefully though, it will not be another day of heavy snow.

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

      Comments