“Road Violence” in Toronto-Motordom’s Fatal Domain


There is a nasty positioning happening in the City of Toronto between advocates of motordom having full advantage of Toronto streets and the rights for vulnerable road users to also have a somewhat equitable share of the street. Toronto has demonstrated a  weak approach to vulnerable street user policy instead of steadfastly championing the right of citizens to be safe on the streets. Thirty-eight pedestrians and cyclists have died in Toronto this year. Shockingly eight have died this month. That is two people a week dying on Toronto streets in October.

The fatalities are largely people over 65 years of age who are hit by a larger vehicle. They are usually walking across an arterial road in the suburbs, and usually at a location without a crosswalk or traffic signal. You can also think of this as one vulnerable road user dying per 68,421 people. (A quick note, Vancouver is worse, with one pedestrian dying per 54,727 people).

The City’s response, instead of universally lowering speed (which is proven to reduce mortality and injury) or  re-examining road design or  regulating driver behaviour has been to focus on the visibility of pedestrians. And that reports the Globe and Mail has a lot of people really upset.

“Enough is enough, we have to end fatalities and serious injuries on our roads,” said David Stark, whose wife was killed when a vehicle mounted the east-end sidewalk where she was standing.The group – Friends & Families for Safe Streets – officially launched Tuesday at City Hall. It is spearheaded by people such as Mr. Stark, all of whom have lost a family member or close friend in a road collision.


In the early days of motordom, car crashes were termed “road violence” – a term that echoes protests from the early decades of motoring, when fatal collisions sparked outrage against “death drivers.”  “The gravity of the harm calls for actions,” said Yu Li, whose close friend was killed while cycling. “And the term of road violence will have that effect of bringing this to the conscience of everybody, that these are not accidents. These are preventable and these are tragedies with grave consequences.”

The group is calling for the city to go beyond the road safety plan announced this summer. That plan was slammed for its timidity when unveiled and was later beefed up. But critics say it continues to focus too much on small fixes and not enough on cultural change. A drop to the default speed limit – a key tactic in some cities – was not among the measures included.

I’ve been back four times to Ontario this year and the behaviour of vehicle drivers to vulnerable road users is markedly different. In Vancouver, most motorists yield to pedestrians and cyclists. That is just not the case in Ontario’s major city.

Being visible whether you are a pedestrian or a bicyclist is so important, and can be so challenging. The most dangerous time for pedestrians is in the autumn and winter, with Ontario statistics showing that over 40 per cent of serious injuries and 42 per cent of pedestrian fatalities occur at that time. (2010, Ontario Road Safety Annual Report). But wearing reflective clothing is a personal choice that a pedestrian or cyclist makes to be visible to vehicles. It does not condone speed, driver behaviour, or bad road design.

In Finland, every child going to school must wear three pieces of reflective items on their clothes and their backpack.  The safety reflector was developed in Finland in 1960, and it is the law that pedestrians wear reflective clothing and reflectors in the dark.   Indeed, wearing reflectors and reflective clothing is completely accepted as daily wear in Scandinavia. That part of the world also has the lowest incidence of pedestrian accidents.

A similar program in Great Britain reduced pedestrian deaths with children by 51 per cent. Studies show that wearing a reflector increases the visibility of pedestrians from 25-30 meters to 140 meters, increasing the reaction time from two seconds to ten seconds  for a car being driven at posted  municipal speeds of 50 kilometers an hour. That is eight seconds more for a  driver to react, and for a pedestrian to survive.

Sure reflectivity of pedestrians will enable vehicle users to see vulnerable road users. But reflectivity is not the sole response. A vigorous and truthful campaign to slow speeds, address problem streets and intersections, address driver behaviour and regulate is key. Toronto needs to step up to the 21st century. These tragic deaths on Toronto streets should be the tipping point. But will it be enough to change policy and attitude?



Vancouver Meter Maids and the Smarties


1026 meter maid.jpg

The Vancouver Sun has written an article about the the first meter maids in the City of Vancouver. And they were “maids”-all female. One of the nicest people at the City of Vancouver who went on to have a fruitful career in the planning department started as a meter maid. And Branca Verde, who is delightful and a very good judge of character is also persuasive and very good at collaborative problem solving. I am sure those are all skills honed as one of the meter maids hired to check those parking regulations.

Parking meters were installed in the City of Vancouver in 1976, and became a major source of revenue for the City of Vancouver. While the City does not like to say, the monthly return of parking meters can be very lucrative. Think of it-the city is  renting by the minute road space the city owns, and other than collecting the coins and regulating the space, it is a very nice cash cow. In fact in 2011 revenues from Vancouver meters were approximately 40 million dollars. 

In this article, Branca does reveal a few secrets of checking on parking. Downtown office workers would try to trick them.“People would park all day and re-meter,” Verde said. “The whole intent was to have a turnover for small business and their customers, not for someone to park all day.“We started putting a Smartie on top of the tire under the wheel well. They’d run out and rub out the chalk we’d marked their tire with and think they’d fooled us, but we’d find the Smartie still there.“It was pretty high-tech stuff.”


Today parking officers enforce a lot more bylaws than back then, including anti-idling, leaf cleaning and lawn watering during bans. And there are 9,900 meters today, more than triple the number back then.Today’s average meter rate is $2.23 an hour; in 1976 hourly rates were 10, 20 and 40 cents.Vancouver’s 104 parking officers wrote 377,324 tickets in 2015 (a figure for 1976 is not available).And they no longer appear in court, they record everything digitally.

With driverless technology, metering and enforcement could become a thing of the past. It was people like Branca that pioneered a truly 20th century vocation, and adapted a new use for candy Smarties as one of the tools of the trade.


Transit & Housing or the World’s Fair? Toronto’s Mayor Weighs In


In a surprising move to some Toronto Mayor John Tory has stated it’s not in the best interest of Toronto to be supporting an Expo  World’s Fair 2025. Now the Mayor is supposed to be relatively neutral on this issue, according to Mayoral etiquette.

Mr. Tory said Wednesday the cash-strapped city could not support a bid for a world’s fair without federal or provincial assurances that those governments would help pay for it, and do so without siphoning away money still needed for the city’s long list of transit and public-housing repair projects.

“I will tell you right now, I am not going to take money out of what we need to fund transit and housing to support an Expo, or just about anything else for that matter,” Mr. Tory told the committee after nearly five hours of presentations from Expo boosters.

Private-sector boosters paid for a feasibility study that concluded Expo 2025 could be held for just $1.9-billion in capital costs, a number that excludes billions needed for flood-protection and other infrastructure in the Port Lands. The event itself would cost another $1.6-billion to run, an amount covered by revenues and corporate sponsors, the report says, adding that it would create jobs and big economic benefits. Other Expos have not been nearly so cheap. Milan’s event in 2015 ended up costing $19-billion (Canadian). Shanghai’s, in 2010, cost an estimated $60-billion.

The late Mayor Rob Ford had a “war on the car” and announced an end to Transit City light rail in Toronto, insisting that subways were the only way to go in the vast metropolitan area. Needless to say the region is paying catch up in bringing the region together and going forward with a transit program. Kudos to the current mayor who is valuing good transit and housing for Torontonians over a world’s fair and the requisite summer party.

35,000 Drivers, Pedestrians and Cyclists in 2015. That’s the population of Penticton.


Did you know that 35,092 Americans died on roads last year. They were drivers, pedestrians and cyclists. They all had families. They didn’t think they would be dead.  A population of 35,092 is similar to the population of Penticton, Powell River, or Prince Albert. It is a lot of people.

Tree Hugger author Lloyd Alter notes the contradiction of the unfortunate and strange policies in the City of Toronto, “where the mayor wants to reduce congestion and speed traffic up, while at the same time, reducing the carnage on the road that killed or injured a thousand people since June, and which can mainly be done by slowing traffic down”.

It’s absolutely clear that vehicles and their movement have precedence over vulnerable road users, those pedestrians and cyclists. “Especially troubling, this national data shows that the most vulnerable road users – people walking and biking, statistically more likely to be old or very young, poor, or of color – are, each year, an increasingly larger proportion of traffic fatalities. These fatalities, and the more than 2.4 million serious and life-altering injuries that happen annually on U.S. streets, are statistically predictable and preventable through better street design and reduced vehicle speeds”.

There is actually a paradox right now-while cars equipped with airbags and seat belts have been saving the lives of folks driving them, the environment for pedestrians and cyclists has really not improved in the same way. Vehicles are getting better, and are becoming mobile living rooms, with video players and distractions. It is suggested that this increased distraction coupled with busier roads is the reason that American pedestrian deaths were up 10 percent last year, the biggest increase ever.

We know that road speed can mean the difference between life and death for a vulnerable pedestrian or cyclist. NACTO (National Association of City Transportation Officials) “have proven that better street design, coupled with smarter, automated speed enforcement, is the best way to increase safety and save lives on U.S. roads. In Seattle, shortening pedestrian crossing distances on Nickerson Street reduced crashes by 23% and brought excessive speeding down from 38% to less than 2%”

Redesigning our streets is absolutely key, because car drivers drive at the speed the road is designed for. Anyone driving Highway 17 out to Langley can attest that no one is driving the posted 80 kilometers per hour on that stretch. And there are many arterial roads in Metro Vancouver  where drivers are speeding above the posted speed limit.

Sure we can lower speed limits, but we need to couple that with road design and enforcement. Sweden has led the way with the Vision Zero program. The Medical Health Officer of British Columbia’s Annual Report this year, Where the Rubber Meets the Road calling for lower speed limits and better road design to halt the 280 deaths and 79,000 injuries resulting from annual vehicle crashes. As Lloyd Alter notes, we can’t wait for driverless car technology to save us. We need to start this conversation now.


First Driverless Commercial Delivery-Drivers out to Pasture?



It was not a matter of if, but when– did anyone think that driverless technology’s first commercial delivery would be a load of 2,000 cases of Budweiser beer?

Scot Bathgate sends in this article from the Toronto Star:

On Tuesday, Otto, the Uber-owned self-driving vehicle operation, announced the completion of its first commercial delivery, having delivered its beer load from Fort Collins, Colorado, to Colorado Springs, a roughly 190-kilometre trip on Interstate 25.”

It was last August that Uber bought “Otto”, a San Francisco start-up with many employees who had previously worked on Google’s driverless car technology.

“Though largely symbolic, the beer delivery marks the first commercial partnership for Otto, which was founded less than a year ago. Terms of the deal between Otto and Anheuser-Busch InBev, which owns the Budweiser brand, were not disclosed.”

“For this initial delivery, Otto’s truck departed Anheuser-Busch’s facility in Loveland, Colorado, in the early morning before reaching the interstate in Fort Collins. The truck drove through Denver — alongside regular passenger car traffic — and navigated to its destination in Colorado Springs without incident. Otto said a trained driver was in the cabin of the truck at all times to monitor the vehicle’s progress and take over if necessary. At no point was the driver required to intervene, the company said.”

Uber is now going to be testing Otto driverless commercial delivery technology on different road types and weather challenges. The company perceives this driverless technology as a potential game changer for commercial service delivery, with annual trucking industry revenue at $720 billion in 2015. Top brands such as Budweiser owners Anheuser-Busch deliver a million truck loads of beer every year.

No word yet on the future of the Budweiser Clydesdale horse driving team.


Street Art

A lot of photo success depends on having the “eye” for what works and what doesn’t. Some people have it in spades (thinking of you, Fred Herzog).  Here’s someone else who does:  Loes Heerink.


Keen photographers have the ability to elevate the ordinary into stunning imagery and photographer Loes Heerink has done just that with her series about the street vendors of Hanoi. Waking up at 4 am, the vendors—often female migrant workers—pack their bicycles to the brim with fresh flowers and fruit, walking miles throughout the course of the day to peddle their wares. Heerink lived in Vietnam for many years and became fascinated with these street vendors, so much so that she sought to capture their beauty in a unique way.

Drive-by Planning

Peter Ladner writes in Business In Vancouver.

Topics?  The Metro 2040 Regional Growth strategy, now officially honoured solely in the breach.  Tsawassen Mills.  Massey replacement bridge.  And motordom.

A.K.A. freeways to farmland.  Which seems to be our de facto growth strategy.


The justifications for the [Massey tunnel replacement] bridge have a Trump-like ring: instinctive gut appeal to frustrated SOV drivers, but making zero sense to anyone who knows how traffic congestion is really solved. The transportation minister’s claim that a big new bridge will reduce emissions from idling cars unbelievably ignores the massive increase in emissions from the new traffic that will inevitably rush in to fill a 10-lane bridge. The bridge is a desperation move to make the SOV great again, orchestrated by the same traffic engineers who keep making up claims about projected traffic increases on the money-bleeding $3.5 billion Port Mann Bridge that have never come to pass.

No one is suggesting the maddening congestion on Highway 99 doesn’t need fixing. Just not this fix. Nor is it reasonable to expect a future without cars, but we can’t afford the 25% efficiency of SOV traffic.

Projects like Tsawwassen Mills and the new 10-lane bridge are cementing Metro Vancouver into a heavily subsidized SOV-dependent future, in spite of overwhelming evidence that this will come at a huge cost to the social, economic and ecological health of the region.

Want the Five Star experience with Airbnb? Find a senior citizen host.



There is one group that has been quietly benefitting from Airbnb and it may surprise you-seniors.

Currently about 10 per cent of Airbnb hosts in Canada are seniors, and half of that group say they  are using the income to supplement their pensions. And Airbnb have been collecting those statistics as reported in this Globe and Mail article. Hosts aged 60 and older are Airbnb’s fastest-growing demographic. Senior women make up nearly two-thirds of all senior hosts. They also get the highest ratings from guests.

“Seniors come to Airbnb to earn a bit of money to pay for extra expenses. But it’s not just the increased earnings. It’s the whole component of social inclusion that comes with being an Airbnb host. This is a generation that grew up in an era where travel was about meeting people. It wasn’t about scoring the perfect selfie.”

In this Airbnb report hosts that are 60 years and older receive not only the highest percentage of five-star ratings, but the percentage of five-star reviews increases commensurate with the host age. Over 62 per cent of trips hosted by seniors garner a five-star review. Food for thought on your next Airbnb booking.


New York City Councillor Takes a Stand On Pedestrian Safety-Can We Do This Too?


This article  from Next City shows what happens when you have a very successful walking city like New York City. Those sidewalks get full and people spill onto the streets, which is not a good thing with traffic in the way.

Recently a city councillor  introduced a bill that would require NYC DOT to study 10 locations with heavy pedestrian traffic and come up with a plan to alleviate the overcrowding. New York’s pedestrian fatalities sound staggering-over 85 pedestrians killed out of a population of 8.5 million  and 7,000 injured since the start of the year-or one fatality for every 100,0000 population. (Just a quick note that Vancouver  has a worse record with 11 pedestrian deaths this year and with a population of 603,000 has  had one fatality for every 54,800 population) .

With Vision Zero in New York City Council is talking about a new era where pedestrian (and of course tourism by foot) gets priority. “Streets and sidewalks are 80 percent of public space in the city,” says Caroline Samponaro, deputy director for Transportation Alternatives. “This bill really gets at the importance of really making the most equitable, sane use of that public space. Many of our streets and sidewalks haven’t changed in more than 50 years even as travel habits and patterns have changed. We need to be able to do more than just stay alive while walking and biking,” she explains. “I think this bill calls that out in a good way. It forces the city to keep doing what they’re doing with pedestrian safety, but also push beyond that and think about what we are doing to make really dynamic public spaces.”

So it’s not just about using the street as transport whether you are on bike or foot, but actually using the space as public space to go to and linger in. Widening pedestrian spaces, providing places to sit in, and making a high quality pedestrian environment that everyone wants to use.

There’s still no date for when this bill will be going forward to New York City Council, but you can be sure it will be actively followed by many across North America, looking for groundbreaking ways to enact Vision Zero and enhanced walkability in our cities and spaces.


The Future of Classical Music in Cities


Image Credit: Groupmuse

As the son of a musician who has played in the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra for over 30 years, I couldn’t help plug this article from Wired. The future of classical music and the spaces in which we experience it may change forever because of an Uber-meets-travelling-symphony hybrid venture called Groupmuse:

Each Groupmuse consists of two 25-minute sets of instrumental music: the first set is always from the classics, and the second is up to the performers. “We’ve had Dvorak and then string quartet arrangements of Guns and Roses, we’ve had Chopin on the piano and then Brazilian choro music,” says Bodkin.

Professional musicians and those studying in conservatories can upload samples to a Groupmuse profile, which an internal team approves. Next, the Groupmuse team pairs performers with hosts who volunteer to host strangers and musicians in their home: a soloist for 10 people, a quartet for a house that can fit 50 listeners. Around 20 Groupmuse shows happen across the country every week, mostly in Boston, New York, Seattle and the Bay Area. Groupmuse suggests each attendee pays $10 for the show; musicians go home with an average of $160.

Added interest in the medium could provide financial stability for musicians and could provide opportunity for more interesting and substantial collaborations.



A Doctor’s Prescription for a Smart Seniors’ Laneway House


The University of Calgary has published an interesting analysis of some groundbreaking work between the Faculty of Environmental Design (EVDS) and the Public Health, Nursing and Medicine Departments.Knowing that by 2030 four of every five new households will be by seniors, and also that older people will  make up 80 per cent of the housing demand, the university wanted to explore homes that allow seniors requiring monitoring  and those with limited mobility to age in place. These are not for active seniors, but those that require sophisticated design in order to maintain independence and live near families.

The senior architecture design studio incepted a very cool small laneway house that could be constructed in the typical Calgary back yard. The difference between what we in Vancouver call a laneway house? These are smart moveable adaptable spaces designed for older people with slower reflexes and not as good perception, created in consultation with health care professionals, planners and architects. And those spaces are going to be examined and trialled by oldsters. This Global TV video walks you through a smart seniors moveable unit catering to seniors requiring assistance.

While advances in home health technology have the potential to solve some of the housing obstacles facing Canada’s seniors, limited commercial success has been experienced to date, in part because the technology has been developed in isolation from the expertise of architects and planners, the realities of the residential construction industry, and the priorities of the housing market.

 The CBC reports that the 460 square foot living quarters locate on a single family lot would be cheaper than a hospital or long-term care facility, and allow seniors closer access to family. The homes could be self-contained or have an above ground “umbilical cord” that could tap into water, heat, electricity, cable and internet from main home. These units would require a medical note, and would be rented just as a wheelchair or other assistive device is acquired.

The intent is for the units to be leased and to be moved from property to property as they are needed.When the unit is no longer needed it can be moved to another property and used by another senior. The City of Calgary is looking at how to permit a temporary use designation for these units, seeing this as a way to allow infirm seniors to continue to age in place in their own communities.


Daily Scot – Worth a Watch: Streets by VICE


Always provocative and cutting edge VICE has put together a series of short films profiling some of America’s most iconic boulevards and their relationship with the neighbourhoods they transect.  The Streets by VICE series drops in on eight culturally and geographically unique cities ranging from Austin to Chicago and from Biscayne Blvd to Market Street.  The premise:

“…..take one American city and try to tell its story by the history of one single street.”


Spoiler alert….. Perhaps not surprisingly the tales told are predominately about cities undergoing change and gentrification as communicated by firsthand accounts from longtime residents and community leaders.  As expected the opinions are mixed depending on what side of the street you’re on, nevertheless it’s an informative journey VICE takes us on; thought-provoking, fun, unique, Porn for the Urban Geographer and City Lover in all of us.


I suggest starting off with Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn.  From the Hipster epicenter of Williamsburg to the historic racial tensions of the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighbourhood,  this episode is a great jumping off point for the series theme.  Warning, the language and content from the characters in the San Francisco episode (Market Street) is not suitable for children.

If Streets by VICE ventured to Vancouver, what street should be profiled?  Keen to hear your thoughts in the comment section.

Another take on the Massey Tunnel/Massey Bridge Replacement


First off, the Province still seems pretty resolute at building the Massey Bridge despite mounting concerns about how the project is being handled. MLA Vicki Huntington has written asking for information from the Province about gaps and assumptions about impacts on traffic, agriculture, wildlife and the community. The governments’ current application for an environmental certificate shows traffic estimates for a tolled new crossing would be approximately 40,000 vehicles less than one with no toll.

Ms. Huntington notes,  “Many of my concerns centre around both the government’s traffic projections, and the lack of progress on a regional tolling policy review that was promised three years ago. I have repeatedly pressed the transportation minister to honour his promise to undertake that review, only to hear the same response: “There is plenty of time to talk about regional tolling.” I disagree. And Metro Vancouver mayors disagree. A Massey bridge toll could cost South Delta commuters more than $1,000 annually. It will affect not only how much traffic there is at the new bridge, but how much of it diverts to the heavily congested Alex Fraser.

This is especially concerning because many businesses on Annacis Island are already affected by traffic congestion, and some are considering packing up shop in search of greener pastures. With the proposed Massey bridge in place, the government’s own application says we can expect an extra 33,000 vehicles a day at the Alex Fraser by 2045. So the situation is set to get much worse.”

Dermod Travis has written a compelling article in Business in Vancouver regarding the financial costs of building the tunnel replacement. The Executive Director of Integrity BC, Travis notes that on the Massey Bridge’s website:

” …accounting firm KPMG – it has been advising on the project – says it’ll be in the neighbourhood of “$2 billion to $3 billion.” What’s $1 billion between friends? The government says $3.4997 billion (you read that right).Given the precision of the government’s estimate, it’s a tad worrisome that the Transportation Ministry was out doing test pile drives this spring.”

“It might be interesting to see how the geotechnical data used for the $3.5 billion estimate compares with the latest results. No one is chomping at the bit to release them. After cost comes performance. Three teams made it to the requests-for-proposals stage. Flatiron Canada is a member of the Gateway Mobility Solutions team and Kiewit Canada is part of the Lower Mainland Connectors team.”

“Together they’re responsible for the new Port Mann Bridge. They overshot the $2.4 billion fixed-price contract by $424 million…FSNC-Lavalin, Kiewit and Flatiron have completed five transportation projects in B.C. with a combined initial estimate of $3.8 billion. Final price tag? $6.5 billion.

With Metro Vancouver and all but one of its mayors giving a thumbs-down to the Massey project, there’s not much public buy-in for it. So here’s an idea: hit pause.

B.C.’s auditor general, Carol Bellringer, announced last year that her office would conduct a performance audit “to evaluate the quality of evidence to support the decision to replace the George Massey Tunnel.” If the government’s numbers are all on the up and up, what could it possibly fear from taking a few months to let the auditor general do her thing and report back?

Better a cost overrun avoided than a cost overrun paid out.”

The full text of Dermod’s article is available here.

A Tower by Any Name other than…


BBC News reports on what happens when your brand and your name is Donald Trump. The Vancouver hotel designed by Arthur Erickson that was to open with the Trump name is now delayed until 2017, with the name covered on the front of the building. Local City Planner Brent Toderian was one of the first people to publicly call for the  building to drop the Trump moniker. In December 2015 the Mayor of Vancouver also wrote a letter mentioning a petition with 50,000 names asking for a name change for the tower. Even the Premier got involved saying “Donald Trump does not represent our city.”

And in Toronto, the Trump building which opened in 2012 is now facing a lawsuit from investors who claimed they were “misled” into investing in the project.

Typically the Trump organization does not own these buildings but operates and manages the hotel portion and licenses the Trump name for a fee. The Vancouver building opening had a contest with a prize being a meet and greet of the Trump family. That’s on ice now too.  

The BBC also states  “In Dubai, a firm building a golf complex with Mr Trump removed his name and image from the property. In Turkey, the developers of Trump Towers Istanbul have tried to distance themselves from the Republican hopeful. And there have been protests outside Trump buildings in the US.”

There was an Angus Reid Institute poll released last December showing that 56 per cent of Canadians wanted to have the Trump name dropped from the Vancouver and Toronto towers.  I suspect that percentage would be a lot higher if the poll was conducted today. The name controversy overshadows the elegant 63 storey building, one of the last projects from a brilliant architect.


Snapshots from France

Pictures of the self-driving free bus that runs around the Confluence district in Lyon…



It putters along the quiet roadway at a speed slightly faster than a wheelchair, making just one turn, and occasionally slamming on its brakes if a pedestrian ambles into its path…


… and has a minder, who also keeps statistics of the passengers. Confluence is the former industrial district in Lyon on the narrow strip of land where the Rhone and Saone rivers meet. It’s rather suburban or “office park” compared with other places in Lyon, and has some dramatic buildings…



Lyon itself is quite flat, with the exception of the Croix-Russes district on the north bank of the Saone, and is dotted with docking stations for the public bike-rent system (Confluence is at the bottom left of the map) …


In Paris, we walked the Promenade Plantée, also known as the Coulée Verte, from Bastille all the way southeasterly to the Bois de Vincennes, about 5 km. Inaugurated in 1993, it is much older and much less well-known than NYC’s HighLine, but an incredible respite from the noise and bustle of Parisian streets…


French towns and cities are still wrestling, if that’s the right word, with the problem of dog shit all over the streets …


… but Paris is much cleaner than it used to be. “Le slalom sur les crottes” is fading into memory.


…and Uber is trying to lure people out of the crowded Metro with the promise, ha ha, that they can smoothly make their way through the uncrowded Paris streets. Ads like this were posted in many Metro stations.

One final shot (only the French would do this, peut-être?) – the terminus of the RER at Paris-CDG. The functioning escalator is descending, forcing passengers to haul their bags up the staircase!


Policy Theatre

An old definition of a political liberal was a conservative who hadn’t been mugged yet. In similar fashion, the North Shore News reports that a lousy day on local roads turned the District of North Vancouver Council’s planned meeting agenda from its multi-modal Transportation Plan into a very old fashioned kvetch-sesh about traffic.

“The District of North Vancouver is preparing to embark on a major review of its transportation master plan.

Staff’s suggestions included a protected bicycle network, updating the district’s parking policies, a focus on the Main/Marine transit corridor, better co-ordination of traffic signals and whether the district ought to become a vision zero community – a growing movement among cities vowing to design their streets in such a way that there are zero traffic-related deaths or injuries.”


Phibbs Exchange redesign – on the agenda

Interesting stuff. However, this being a rainy day, a more poignant topic of discussion arose from the attendees.

“…the informal session quickly turned to an airing of grievances as the morning commute of many councillors had been particularly exasperating with near-simultaneous crashes on the Cut, Stanley Park causeway and Westview overpass.”

The story continues by noting on some uncomfortably-predictable exchanges between councillors.

“Coun. Jim Hanson said he faces the prospect of losing staff at his North Vancouver law firm, as their commute from across Burrard Inlet saps their quality of life. Hanson said the plan ought to come with some immediate steps that will alleviate congestion.”

  • Congestion hurts [my] business.


the steady drip of Quality-of-Life being sapped

“We need to integrate our efforts with the other civic governments of the North Shore, who are contributing to density without in any way contributing to infrastructure, which is overtaxed,” he said.

  • It’s everyone else’s fault.

Coun. Mathew Bond, who is a transportation systems engineer, said his morning commute to Coquitlam took twice as long as it normally would have with a lineup of stop-and-go traffic on Highway 1 stretching 20 kilometres past the Ironworkers Memorial Second Narrows Crossing.

“People can change their behaviour today if they so choose,” he said. “Doing some small, incremental things over time over the next two, three or five years, will buy us some time to make those major infrastructure investments and do those plans that are going to provide long-term relief.”

  • Man who commutes 70 kms/day by car says [other] people should change their behaviour.

But Coun. Lisa Muri questioned whether residents could be persuaded to leave the car at home, especially when their work, errands or family commitments may require them to travel to several neighbourhoods, numerous times in the day.

“I don’t know how to change my behaviour to get from Lonsdale to Seymour without changing my whole family’s life,” she said. “It’s awesome to think that if you build it, people will get out of their cars and onto a bus or another mode of transportation but is it going to happen? . . .  People have cars. They want convenience. They want to be able to get to their destinations quickly.”

  • Woman counters with, ‘No, they shouldn’t.’

Instead, Muri suggested it may be time to pull up the drawbridge on the North Shore. “I envision there’s room for 100 people at the party and there’s 500 in the lineup out the front door and they all want to come into the party. I just want to say to the 400, ‘You know what? We’re full now. You’re just going to have to wait your turn.’ But we’re not doing that,” she said.

  • Let’s fix things by keeping others out.

Coun. Robin Hicks rubbished the notion that trying to stop population growth would solve any problems, noting that banishing the North Shore’s service workers to the farther-flung suburbs would only add more cars onto local roads.

“We can’t put up barriers or walls like Trump might try to do. People are just going to come here from everywhere,” he said. “We’ve got to learn to live with the population.”

  • That’s not a good idea; and we have to mention Trump.


eerily familiar

These are only reported snippets of conversation from the meeting. Perhaps it also included some thoughtful discussion on the notion of incremental change; and maybe participants went on to keenly demonstrate their understanding that traffic is not an ‘all or nothing’ concept and that ‘car vs. bus or bike for all trips’ is a false choice.

Once can only hope that such influential people employing such very old tropes was just a quick venting of understandable frustration at a stressful drive into work. We can further hope that their frustration does not translate into opposition for sensible change – even at the occasional expense of driving convenience and motorist entitlement. I certainly hope so; because at some point this winter, it may rain again.