Island Health plans new, "healthier" hostile design
Outside Island Health’s doors at 1250 Quadra Street, rocks are cemented in place. A “Private Property” sign, which threatens arrest for anyone who lingers, has been placed above the rocks.
Island Health says its values include “Courage: To do the right thing”; “Respect: To value each individual”; and “Empathy: To give the kind of care we would want for our loved ones.” In April, I wrote to Island Health to suggest that the rocks and sign, which are intended to keep people from sitting or sleeping there, didn’t quite fit with those stated values.
To their credit, Island Health wrote back in May, and they were on board:
They said that they only lease the space, but they talked to their landlord. The rocks had been there for over 30 years, but the landlord was willing to remove them. Hey, that’s great. One less piece of hostile— sorry, what’s that?
Out with the hostile rocks, in with the hostile racks. A new bike rack would still keep people from sleeping there, while letting passersby think that Island Health is a healthy, fun, bike-loving employer. There are numerous examples of this type of hidden hostile design in Victoria (raised lighting boxes in alcoves, centre arm rests on benches, etc.) which serve the same function as the rocks at 1250 Quadra.
I pointed out the issue with the proposed solution, and sent Island Health a link to a recent story about bike racks that were installed in Seattle to keep people from sleeping under a viaduct, only to be removed after public criticism.
Trying to pass off hostile design as bike-friendly infrastructure isn’t new to Victoria. The concept designs for the development at Douglas and Pandora included benches with bike racks that would keep people from sleeping on them:
I understand that Island Health may be slightly constrained by its relationship with its landlord, but I said they might want to try again, because simply removing the rocks would avoid replicating the harms through their new hostile bike rack. No dice, according to a final response in June:
Island Health agreed back in May that hostile design didn’t meet with their stated values. Now they are resting on their interest in “active transportation” to justify new hostile design, installed at their expense, which will lead to “healthier, more robust communities.” As a communications and branding exercise, it’s clever. It’s also hypocritical and gross, and will continue to associate Island Health with displacement.