This is it. We've arrived.
We're here, and we're not going away. Cycling culture is beginning to make its mark on Vancouver's red hot hot hot real estate scene, so you know it's big. You can resent us, mock us, ridicule us or even hate us, but whatever you do, you'd better get used to us, cause we're here to stay. I would like to think that we cyclists were a grass roots movement which grew in numbers. I wish we had become bigger and stronger so that along the way the world recognised the value in our lifestyle, until finally we became the new normal, and we shaped the very nature of mainstream, but no. Instead, what once was an alternative subculture simply became a clever marketing trick, so that now for a mere $300,000 you, too, can have 25,000 hipster neighbours and a apartment the size of the double garage of yore.
|The Independent at Main|
What used to be the parking space for the two cars any self-respecting family of four would have owned back in the day is now the square footage of your average abode. The Independent is marketed as a "Crafted Lifestyle," and sold as "Affordable Luxury." The truth is that parking spaces add zeros to the price tag of condominium living, and the gap between housing costs and salaries here in Vancouver is enormous and growing. A lovely friend of mine (clearly a tolerant, good humoured man) is a prominent architect here in town, and one evening we were discussing the costs of housing development. He said that the raw cost of building a parking space is $25-$40,000 for developers, so that by the time profit (who works for free??!), taxes and government levies are added in, housing your car adds $60,000 to the price tag of a condo here in Vancouver. Sixty grand!! You can buy a pretty nice little car for that much money.
|The Car House|
But it's inevitable, this shift. It is a reflection of the distribution of wealth in this crazy, mixed-up, modern world. According to Oxfam, this year marks a crucial tipping point. By the end of 2015 the richest 1% will have more wealth than the rest of the world combined. So it makes sense that here in Vancouver, developers have also created the smallest little tiny micro condos in the country to market to the average Joe. Again, they are marketed as Affordable Luxury, and again, they are the size of a garage of old.
|The Burns Block|
That is a photograph of the Burns Block, which is just down the road from where I work, in perhaps the most gentrified part of town. If it had been built a mile east of here, in Coal Harbour, you'd find bathrooms bigger than that. But take a good look, because what you see there is the face of the future. Unless, of course, we change our course. So who is the 1%? I don't know about you, but whenever I hear that phrase, I always think about the 0.001%, those very, very few ultra rich people, when in fact if you're reading this, (and clearly you are!!) you might just be one of the 1% yourself. In truth, if you are calculating the global 1%, Americans ARE it , because on a global scale, all it takes to become one of the top 1% of earners is to earn $34,000 a year, whereas to be one of the 1% of Americans, you have to earn a lot more than that. In Canada, once you are approaching $200,000 a year you are a member of the 1% club.
(And if you are a member of that particular club, you wouldn't be riding the bus, so you would have missed the Toronto Transit Commission's big cock-up with the sign they recently erected... and you know that no matter what excuse they gave, the truth is that they took it down for a lack of balls all round. Heh heh.
So I hate to admit it, but I kindov like that Independent place. It's silly, really, because it's so obvious that it was built and marketed toward the young hipster demographic (IS there really such a thing as a hipster demographic?!!) because the developers want to make a profit, and not because of the health and environmental benefits of the cycling lifestyle. But it doesn't matter why it was built, only THAT it was built. A lot of the commuters you see out there on the bike routes these days are cycling because the cost of running a car in the city has become prohibitive. Last I checked, a monthly parking stall in the financial district here in downtown Vancouver was between three hundred and three hundred and fifty dollars. Never mind the price of the car, the insurance, the petrol and the cost to the environment. People who are riding to work every day feel better for it, and they benefit the rest of us with their decision, too, and that works for me. Oh, and also, it's good to ride because Legs.
How can you argue with that?!