Branno and I are on a trip to visit a bunch of family in British Columbia; my parents in White Rock, his parents just north of Nanaimo on Vancouver Island, and a brother and family who live at the foot of Grouse Mountain in North Vancouver. We’ve been here less than a week and it’s pretty hard NOT to notice how amazing this place is. My Toronto friends and I often joke calling it “Saint Vancouver” because people who live in the Pacific Northwest don’t have a bad thing to say about it – they rightfully love it! Some of the license plates here in British Columbia boast the slogan “The Best Place on Earth”.
I am a born and bred Montrealer who now proudly calls Toronto home – to be clear, I love where I live. Toronto is a bustling metropolis with arts, culture, a multicultural culinary landscape, sports, and serenity (if you know where to find it) but it’s very unlike British Columbia where being active seems to be very much an ingrained lifestyle. Adopting a healthy lifestyle can be done wherever you live – here are some observations as to why British Columbians do it so well.
1.) Vancouver is a city with a vision led by Mayor Gregor Robertson who is a breath of fresh air – literally, one of his key platform issues is making Vancouver the greenest city in the world. Robertson cycles to work while Rob Ford has been pulled over by the cops on his way to work three times for talking on his cell phone, reading a book, and blowing past a stopped street car. Ford abolished a vehicle tax that could have been used to fund public transit – Robertson on the other hand has listed his main priorities while in office as ending street homelessness (Fords solution? He thinks they should “get a job”), affordable housing, and improving public transport. The four key platform issues Robertson and his council are working hold the health and safety of Vancouverites as a top priority.
2.) Bike lanes and pedestrian walkways are actually considered in transportation plans in British Columbia. My parents live in a relatively rural area that is just north of the American border. It’s largely a retirement community with houses next to blueberry and llama farms. I was shocked to see bike lanes on every road in their town – literally, they are even on highways. In Vancouver, car lanes have been removed to allow for dual bike lanes going the same direction! It’s as if pedestrians and cyclists come before drivers. It’s been said that 75% of the factors that influence a person’s health occur outside the healthcare system. Having a city that encourages walking and biking instead of driving does reduce the rate of obesity. Check out this article from The Globe and Mail for more on how urban planning impacts health here.
3.) Seniors are getting busy. I have been to the swimming pool twice this week and both times I would say over 50% of the patrons were seniors doing aquafit, swimming laps, and socializing with one another. In the changing room after my swim, I heard an elderly woman say that the pool would be closed starting next week for one month. She went on to say that she would walk and bike more instead of trying out another pool in the area that her friend suggested. I saw this same woman leave the pool on her bicycle and no word of a lie she had to have been in her late 60’s or early 70’s. My mother who hates exercising has taken up the gym and golfing since moving to BC. Branno’s mum is part of a dragon boating team!! I’m not quite sure why seniors are so active here – maybe it’s the weather, clean salty air, or a desire and willingness to engage in a healthy lifestyle that is so common in these parts.
More to come on why The West Coast Way is something to consider.
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