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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

Event: Tales from the West End – Nov 5

October 30, 2014



Bring your stories and photographs of the West End to share with your neighbours over a coffee.

The event will include stories told by Mary Gavan, a Vancouver-based storyteller and recipient the 2011 Storytelling World Award.


November 5

6:30 to 8:30 pm

JJ Bean, Bidwell and Davie

Event is free, no registration required.

More information here.

Let’s play another round of the No-Win Game, City Heritage version

October 30, 2014

In the ‘You can’t win’ file this week, Barbara Yaffe’s column in today’s Sun:



The Sun’s columnist has previously highlighted the City’s failure to address the loss of pre-1940 character homes, particularly on the West Side:

Barbara Yaffe: Vancouver becomes increasingly insipid on the streets where we live

City must save our heritage by making old homes easier to protect

Published: Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Other media have also featured Disappearing Dunbar and Beautiful Empty Homes of Vancouveras well as the many calls for action by Elizabeth Murphy and others active in the Vancouver Neighbourhoods Coalition.




Sooo … in response to community demand, the City takes some interim steps to discourage demolition.  You can probably guess what happens.  From Yaffe:

City Council earlier this year ordered restrictions on demolitions after public opposition to the widespread tearing down of character homes on the city’s west side. The measures “to identify and encourage retention of pre-1940 character houses” are intended to be temporary as the city was already reviewing its heritage practices, according to a June 2014 report to City Council. …

Now any pre-1940 home with “character merit” ­— based on criteria such as roof form, front porch, exterior wall materials — is subject to the new, restrictive rules to discourage demos.

But such a designation is a kiss of death, automatically causing property values to plummet.

That’s because any new purchaser of a character-designated house cannot easily knock down and build anew, which is what most buyers these days want to do with older homes. …

Here’s the part I love:

Clearly the city’s new character home policy is poorly designed, having been fashioned and implemented without community consultation. Even the Vancouver Character House Network, which opposes demolition of character homes, criticizes the city for failing to consult: “The public needs to be involved.”

The city’s interim measures also reek of unfairness and may have unintended consequences. …

When the many owners of character-designated homes become aware they face a situation similar to that of the Todds, the city is likely to face a backlash, perhaps strong enough to convince a new council to revisit this onerous policy.

As with so many issues, there’s a belief that somehow if there was only more consultation, policy that pleased everyone could have been crafted, with no deleterious effects, no unfairness, no unexpected consequences.  Like calls for tax reform, it’s so easy to do – unless you actually have to make a decision about who benefits and who loses.

The problem with the Yaffe column is not that criticism of the choice is unfounded; it’s the failure to recognize that choices involve trade-offs .  And that this was a response to a demand that the City must take action, and quickly, before hundreds more homes were lost – a demand that she herself made.

Ohrn Words: Bad choice/Good choice

October 30, 2014

Earlier this week, the CBC published this Bike to Work Week story, with the laziest, dumbest and most unhelpful photo illustration I could imagine.  Their illustration showed Tour-de-France-like championship-caliber hyper-athletic young men in elaborate lycra costumes riding in a pack in a thunderstorm amid what looked like a rush hour traffic jam.  Right.  Bike to Work Week in Vancouver. Right.  Thanks a lot.


If the illustration had been chosen by fiendish propaganda experts specifically to terrify and drive away potential people from riding their bikes to work (or at all), I don’t think they could have chosen a worse one.

But now it’s much better.



CBC News story here.

Ohrn Images: Fit for the Rain

October 30, 2014

At the Dunsmuir and Richards HUB Bike to Work Week celebration station this morning, and watched with delight the steady stream of people riding by on their bikes.  Including this person.
Note the fenders, bell, every-day raincoat, kickstand, chain guard, U-lock held onto rear carrier with bungee cord, snazzy helmet, relaxed upright posture.


Ohrn rainy


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