Advocacy, education and outreach in support of Vancouver's public spaces

By vancouverpublicspace

November 1, 2010 at 11:06 PM

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More ATVs for Vancouver beaches?

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VPD ATV Beach Patrol

VPD ATV Beach Patrol. Photo by Jeff Werner

All things considered, Vancouver’s beaches are pretty safe spaces. They’re particularly well used during the summer months, and the actual layout of the spaces – wide tracts of sunny sand – enables a form of natural person-to-person surveillance. Folks people watch and look at — and out — for one another. Had she been asked, Jane Jacobs might have called the formula “eyes on the beach.”

For these reasons and more, the VPSN is concerned that the Vancouver Police Department is proposing to purchase three ATVs with which to supplement its beach patrols. They’ve already got a few in the fleet as it is, so the intent is to add new ATVs to the already questionable existing stock.

Perhaps we’re still a little taken about about the recent acquisition of an armoured Brinks-style truck to deal with the City’s terrorist and sniper threats (!), but it seems a bit much, no? Are foot and bike patrols of uniformed and plain clothes officers really that ineffectual?

City staff have, on behalf of the cop shop, put a report out that will be in front of Council today. It requests over $20K to support the acquisition of 2/3 ATVs (funding for one is already being provided out of the Police Foundation piggybank). We wrote a letter in response and have excerpted it below.

Fingers crossed our beaches stay peaceful, crime free and ATV free.

:: To comment on this report – email MayorandCouncil [at]

The Vancouver Public Space Network is concerned about the City of Vancouver’s proposed financial support for the Vancouver Police Department’s procurement of three all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) for the purpose of beach patrols. It is our position that other methods and modes should be more fully explored before making this commitment. The people enjoying the public beaches of Vancouver – as reflected in the survey cited in the proposal’s accompanying administrative report – have expressed concerns regarding the invasive and aggressive nature of the vehicles, as well as their environmental impacts. The VPSN feels that further research should be carried out to explore alternative ways that public safety can be ensured on city beaches, without requiring the purchase and deployment of these vehicles.

As an organization, we share the City’s interest in “ensuring Vancouver’s streets, parks, beaches and public spaces are safe, pleasant and welcoming for everyone.” We do not believe that the case has sufficiently or convincingly been made that having ATVs patrol our beaches is necessary to achieve that goal. We are eager to engage with the City further on this issue, and would enthusiastically work with you in the exploration of alternatives.

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Thanks for bringing this up; I filled out a VPD survey on this a month or two ago, registering my dismay.

I sent the following to mayor and council:


It’s come to my attention that you will be shortly considering a request by the VPD to buy a bunch of gas guzzling all terrain vehicles that they can use to travel across Vancouver’s beaches. I implore you to please reject the VPDs request for funding for this project.

This is a terrible idea, for many reasons:

ATVs on beaches detract from the whole ‘greenest city’ strategy. They’re inefficient, produce greenhouse gases, and on a micro-scale, foul up the air in their presence. In a city that’s trying to encourage people to use lower-carbon technqiues for lawn maintenance, this is rank hypocrisy. Vancouver should be a leader in using environmentally friendly techniques and technologies in providing services to its citizens, and on this score, ATVs are retrograde.

ATVs on beaches are bad for the park experience. Vancouver’s beaches are a place to get away from cars, noise, and fumes and to get in touch with the city’s spectacular natural side; these ATVs, simply put, ruin the park experience for users. I don’t come to the beach to smell exhaust and I certainly resent the noise pollution that these vehicles produce.

ATVs are bad policing, part 1: Simply put, officers cruising down the beach on ATVs travel too fast, and must pay too much attention to the driving, and therefore are less effective as patrollers; they’re (hopefully) looking where they’re going, not keeping their eyes peeled for crime or sketchy situations. Officers on foot can dedicate far more of their mental energy towards patrolling, rather than operating their vehicle.

ATVs are bad policing, part 2: These machines put a barrier between the police and the community; instead of a friendly officer strolling the beach, or cycling along the path, who looks like a human being and can make eye contact, the public sees an officer sitting high up on a quivering machine, wearing some kind of strange helmet that can prevent easy eye contact. All of a sudden, the officer isn’t like the public; it’s a slightly less intense version of the same logic that says that foot patrols are more community-friendly than in-vehicle patrols. Think about the public reaction with officers on foot, bicycle, or, particularly, horseback; these officers are far more approachable than their motorized counterparts.

On the other hand, I love the ATVs, because you can hear the officers coming a mile away and hide your booze on time, so maybe they’re a good idea after all. Of course, at a time when the City faces a $20m budget shortfall, it’d probably be cheaper (and greener) to just put bear bells on the officers’ uniforms instead.



Heather says...

Great points D, and big ups to you for sending your concerns on to mayor and council!

I have always found these things incredibly obnoxious and oppressive. Never in any other city have I witnessed such a ridiculous spectacle as these motorized beach crack-downs which turn a peaceful evening at the beach into a militia encounter. Not only do these kind of measures disrupt the peace of our city, but they are indicative of a prevalent and very troubling tendency toward repressive, strong-arm tactics used in the regulation of Vancouver’s public spaces.

Pingback: VPSN News and Update – 26 November 2010 « VPSN Public Space Blog

the Dave you know says...

There is nothing more obnoxious and distracting than a police ATV rumbling past you on an otherwise quite, lovely evening at the beach. I roll my eyes in embarassment and dismay when I hear and see them. Police in Vancouver are generally very kind, curtious and understanding people… the very anti-thesis of the ATV’s they’ve chosen as their means of patroling. If they want to patrol the beach they should walk it like everybody else.

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