After the Canadian men's hockey team closed out the Olympics with a thrilling gold medal, the volume of people who spilled out of homes, restaurants and bars surprised even the most seasoned city official.
The local government, long a champion of pedestrians and bikers as partners in urban planning, immediately ceded the streets to the foot soldiers marching in honour of Canada's record-setting medal haul.
The thing is, even without any cars on some roads and bridges, walking in Vancouver that special day didn't seem that much different than any other.
There are usually throngs of people on the city's high-rise-sprinkled peninsula, and they love to walk. If there's one statistic indicative of ease of travel by foot, it's population density. Thousands of people living in a single square kilometre simply won't put up with barriers, obstacles or drive-thrus. And nowhere else in Canada even comes close to Vancouver's population density.
The country's most desirable place to live (if residential real-estate prices are to be believed) boasts "streets built for people to enjoy," says Walkable Cities judge Gil Penalosa. "The expanded SkyTrain transit system is located above and below ground, and bike lane networks and street-level activity encourage walkers to experience the city and connect with each other."
But the city is not stopping there. The public art-flanked City Greenways—routes for walkers and bikers connecting the city—is opening more sections every year and will soon reach its goal of being no more than a 25-minute walk from every residence in the city.
Neighbourhood Walk: Gastown
With its cobblestone streets and old brick buildings, Gastown is always big with out-of-towners, but the Steam Clock and souvenir shops have nothing on the new restaurants and pedestrian gems.
Head to the undiscovered Crab Park, where a beach and views of the city and North Shore mountains make for a great picnic. The new Carrall Street Greenway accesses the False Creek seawall with large sidewalks, perfect for a stroll.
This story was originally published in the May 2010 issue of up! magazine as part of the Canada's Most Walkable Cities 2010 feature, profiling 10 of Canada’s most pedestrian-friendly urban centres. Take a look at more of Canada's Most Walkable Cities.