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Conference: Climate Change and Solutions from Innovation – Nov 12

October 30, 2014

Building up to the United Nations Climate Change Conference to be hosted by France in December 2015 (COP 21-Paris Climate 2015), the Embassies of France in both Canada and the United States are organizing a series of events called “FACTS” for French Ameri-Can Climate TalkS in seven North-American cities. 

FACTS aims to mobilize French, American, and Canadian public opinion on the issues of the conference and reinforce the dialogue between scientists, civil society representatives, NGOs, political figures, journalists and entrepreneurs from these countries.  

FACTS will stop in Vancouver. The Consulate General of France along with SFU Woodward’s, Clean energy BC, the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies, the Tyee, and Hoggan&Associates are proud to present “Climate Change and Solutions from Innovation” talks on November, 12th.



Waitlist reservations here.

Sandy James: Report from Walk21 Sydney

October 30, 2014

Sandy James – key organizer of the Walk21 conference in Vancouver in 2011 – is attending the current conference in Sydney Australia.  Here’s her report:



Paul Tranter’s talk was on the “hurry virus.”  He presented a compelling argument for walking to be considered in the same vein as the slow food movement, as a measurement of scale and of activity.

Daniel Sauter from Switzerland was back with the metrics he is reviewing in establishing the best way to measure and survey walking.

Adrian Baumann described how 150 minutes a week of walking can cure human and city ills. While some populations like China do a lot of walking, the Journal of the American Medical Association has found that pedometers do assist people in understanding how many steps are in 10,000 steps, the level they should be accomplishing daily, and how to figure out that distance. Things like light rail transport and  grouping retail and businesses around transit centres encourage people to walk more.

Peter Newman also presented, showing the lessening of the use of the car in Australia and in North America, and strengthening the argument for a stronger form of higher density. Dr. Newman favoured the highrise as the urban form.

The best presentation for me and the one that gave me the “aha” moment was by Dr. Ben Rossiter from Victoria, Australia.  Dr. Rossiter was looking at how to increase and enhance  seniors’ walking. In interviewing over 1,000 seniors and examining over 300 city walking/biking plans, he found that seniors are tremendously marginalized.

Seniors want separated walking and biking facilities. With older seniors, a fall on the street equates statistically  to death within six months. Dr. Rossiter also noted that most transportation plans do NOT separate walking and biking, and instead lump the two uses together. Seniors who are older use walking for their groceries and for their business purposes, and walking is their prime way of transport.


Observations on Sydney

The State of New South Wales has control of the road speeds and design in the City of Sydney. Road speeds are fast. Speeds are posted at 50 kmh, but are normally higher. George Street, the high street now has a limit of 40 kmh after an appalling record this year of over 12 people being killed by cars in the central business area. However, there is no enforcement of car speeds, and the car is king. Parking is stripped off George Street and cars come right up to the curb(the curb bib is flush with the street)  in rushing down the street. The pedestrians are also penalized by very short walk signals, which actually add double the time to their walking journey.

Sydney is a sprawling place that is approaching six million people. There is no greenbelt and developers have built with little regard for anything accept their own building siting. There is a new area on the waterfront called Barangaroo which is under control of the State government.  The proposed development is marked by two exceedingly high towers, with little urban fabric or thoughtfulness on the ground level. Jan Gehl was originally the planner on the project, but resigned in frustration when the State made it clear it was not going to accept a modified design.



The big message was the importance of fostering pedestrian advocacy, and involving seniors, with their experience and  their needs for  walking as transport in the equation.


There is no clearing house for information on walkability in Canada. A place where references and resources can be found in one place is needed, as well as contacts for information on best practices.


Next Conference

The 2015 conference will be in Vienna, with the 2016 being in the Middle East. The 2017 conference will be in Calgary, with Dr. Peter Sargious, a member of the 2011 conference steering committee, chairing.

Lecture: Ryan Walker on Indigenous Urbanism – Nov 5

October 30, 2014
From SFU Urban Studies:

Making Space for Indigenous Urbanism

Ryan Walker, Associate Professor, Department of Geography and Planning, University of Saskatchewan


Urbanists of the 20th century focused on Indigenous “urbanization” into the colonial city from reserves and rural communities. Urbanists of the 21st century must develop new concepts and tools to support Indigenous “urbanism,” or put another way, the participation in and enjoyment of an urban life.

This public talk will share examples of how space is being made in Canadian and New Zealand cities for Indigenous urbanism.  These range from small-scale intercultural practices between Indigenous peoples and immigrant newcomers in neighbourhoods, to large-scale relationship-building and governance processes between municipal governments and Indigenous communities.


November 5, 2014

Room 1400, SFU Vancouver (Harbour Centre)
RSVP here



Reprint: Compass Card needs course correction

October 30, 2014

Here’s a repost of the my Business in Vancouver column from last August relevant to  TransLink’s current dilemma on the tap-off requirement for the Compass Card:


TransLink’s Compass Card needs course correction before rollout

I am a creature of habit. You are too. It’s the brain’s way of being efficient.  By not having to concentrate on something done by rote, the brain uses less energy. We go into a kind of Zen state.

At least that’s what seems to happen when I’m on a bus or trolley. Once I’ve boarded, shown my pass or registered my FareSaver card and found my seat or a stable place to stand, that’s all I have to focus on. I’m in a state of timelessness until my destination.

I was part of a beta test for TransLink’s Compass Card – the stored-value, all-purpose card being slowly introduced by TransLink. It was then that I discovered how changing a habit can be quite traumatic.

Compass requires that passengers tap the card on a mounted pad when getting on – and again at the rear door when getting off.  That’s not a problem when using a card to get through a turnstile for a subway (you’re already alert), but it’s quite another thing when required to exit a bus or tram.

Chances are, your brain has geared down; you are unprepared. All of a sudden, on hearing your stop, you have to find your card, locate the pad, make sure the swipe has registered, get through the door and not cause a backup. When a crowd is piling up behind, with the doors closing and the bus about to pull away, yes, it can be traumatic.

In that situation I found my brain went into panic mode.  I jumped off the bus, swipeless, only to realize I would be charged extra as a penalty when the system was up and running – an automatic three-zone fare deducted from my card. And this happened repeatedly.

I realized that being prepared to tap out would take time and practice. In other words, it had to be a habit.

Unfortunately, when Compass is rolled out onto the bus and trolley system, the trauma part of the process is going to happen to tens of thousands of people all at the same time.

Read more…

The Daily Durning: A Dubai Incentive

October 30, 2014

DubaiWhy Dubai is giving away nine pounds of gold to people who ride the bus 

On November 1st, Dubai will celebrate its Public Transport Day. In an attempt to lure people out of their automobiles – and we do mean plural; the country has an average 2.3 cars per family – the emirate’s transport authority is giving away 4 kg (or about 9 lbs.) of gold.

Dr. Yousuf Al Ali, representative of the Roads and Transport Authority, says that the weeklong event aims to stir citizens to “shun reliance on private vehicles and switch to using public transport.”

And it’s not just gold bullion that’s up for grabs. In total, the prizes are worth one million dirham ($272,000) and include a street-ball tournament featuring the NBA’s all-time leading scorer, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, in attendance.

… In Dubai, where standstill traffic is endemic and only 13% of residents use public transport, the gold is up for grabs for anyone with a Dubai travel card.

Poll: Will City Council have a one-party majority?

October 30, 2014

Previous polls were about the mayoral contest.  But as the CBC video below noted, under a weak-mayor system that’s only one vote in the council chamber.  To govern effectively (or at least easily), a mayor needs a majority of council on his or her side – which is what Vancouver voters have delivered throughout this city’s history (with possibly one exception during Mike Harcourt’s tenure).

So will Vision Vancouver (or possibly some other party) elect the necessary number of council positions (minimum five) to have a majority?  Today’s poll asks whether you think they will, not whether they should.


Urban Event of the Year: Five Crucial Decades – Nov 5

October 30, 2014

I think it’s fair to say that it will be this:




The forum, “Five Crucial Decades of City Building,” will look at the two urban design trends: ‘concentrated’ versus ‘dispersed.’

Sustainable urban design theory continues to focus primarily on large interventions (landscape urbanism) and technological advances (green buildings).  Are there any urban design lessons to be learned from informal communities around the world – communities that demonstrably demand less energy and fewer resources than most formal sustainability initiatives ?

With case studies from different parts of the world, looking at issues ranging from urban densities and transportation structures to land tenure and livelihoods, this forum presents the much-needed opportunity to foster ideas exchange around an unexamined topic that is crucial, yet absent, from the current discourse.

Chan Centre, UBC

Nov 5

1 – 5 pm


Five reg


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