Monday, February 18, 2013

A tour of walkability in Langley

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of giving Vancouver tweeter @neil21 a tour of some of the walkable areas in Langley. He also has a blog, Stroad to Boulevard, where he explores street metrics and there influence on place making and urban design.

I’m always impressed by Vancouverites that comes out to Langley because I know too many people in Vancouver whose world ends at Boundary Road. I find it amusing when people for Vancouver realize there are walkable, complete communities in the South of Fraser.

Our tour started with a walk around Downtown Langley in the City of Langley. The key theme from the City of Langley walking tour was that the community is in transition as the historic walkable core and industrial areas gets redeveloped into a larger walkable, complete community. We also drove through the Langley Bypass which is probably the most hostile, anti-pedestrian area in our region. Neil noted that the Langley Bypass is what most people think of when they think of the South of Fraser. I told him that while the City of Langley is complicit in creating the poor urban form on the Bypass, the Ministry of Transportation requires this form of development and the province share in the blame for shaping the built form in the area.

Our next stop was in Fort Langley which is another walkable community in the South of Fraser. While Neil was generally impressed with the area including the variety of housing stock available in Bedford Landing, he noted the tackiness of the faux-historical facades that exist in the village saying that it made the place look like a tourist trap. I couldn’t agree more and while the truly historic buildings in Fort Langley should be preserved, newer building shouldn’t pretend to be historic.

After Fort Langley, we drove through Walnut Grove. The general impression was that there was a missed opportunity to create a complete community as Walnut Grove is missing walkable, mixed-use commercial nodes.

The final part of the tour was in Willoughby where I pointed out development projects like Yorkson Creek which include higher-density housing, the mixed-use Willoughby Town Centre, and the proposal for creating a high street near the new Carvolth Park and Ride. Neil seemed impressed with the potential for walkability in this part of Langley, but questioned if instead of building a parking lot at the Carvolth Exchange, if it should have been built as a transit-oriented development from the get-go.

It is always fun giving people a tour of Langley and opening their eyes to the urbanity in other part of our region.

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