New Bikes in 1899


While looking for something else on microfilm in The Province from September, 1899, I came across an article on new bicycles. Even more than today, there was a tremendous bicycle craze at the turn of the 20th century that only faded about 1908 when Henry Ford’s Model T made cars relatively affordable.


And knowing that many PT readers have the same love of bicycles as bears have for garbage cans, I thought this would be a suitable post for a summer Friday afternoon.


You Can Buy a Vancouver Laneway House!



Image Vancouver Sun


As reported by Jen St. Denis in the Metro News there’s some big changes coming for single family homes that add laneway houses to their properties. In some areas, laneway houses will be allowed to be stratified and sold, but ONLY if the original character home remains on the same lot.

This is a big, but not unexpected change. Originally the laneway house concept came out of the CityPlan process as a way for older home owners to have a “granny flat” and leave the house for the kids. But like the basement suite which went from unauthorized to allowed in single family zoned areas in the city within a decade, City Planner Gil Kelley notes that the new proposed strata coach house  provides ” a set of enhanced options for more units on lots in the low-density zones. These would be the option of individual owners coming forward, so it’s very much single lot owner driven infill development — it’s not developer sponsored.”

Laneway houses that are already built or lots where the original house is NOT a character house will not be allowed to strata the laneway house.  On the westside there has been a trend to demolish character homes and replace them with much larger ones. The proposed zoning would apply to all RS (single family) zoned areas. As Gil Kelley notes, if one or two per cent of homeowners build new laneway houses, that could “represent thousands of new homes for rent or ownership”.
Also noted in the Council report going up next Tuesday was that in the RT zoning areas in Mount Pleasant and Woodlands, the number of units on a single 33 foot lot will increase to three units from two units. This will be accomplished by “a new detached form for duplexes that allows for two separate houses on a lot, with a larger house at the front and a smaller house at the lane:” essentially, a coach house behind a main house”. 

These are small but important changes to provide a variety of different housing forms as the city deals with affordability and accessibility to housing in the city. While the Council report goes to Council next week, the changes will not be enacted until after a Public Hearing,  expected this September.

Three bedroom challenge



Summer Nights and Lighting the Dome


Daily Hive image

In the “cool things to do for kids of all ages” department The Daily Hive reports on a very innovative light installation at Science World. Every weekend throughout August you will find a sphere like model of the Science World dome next to Olympic Village’s Tap and Barrel. By touching the model dome you can create colours and patterns on the actual Science World dome. Called “OH!” the public will be able to interact with the installation every Friday and Saturday through August.

Alex Beim of Tangible Interaction, the company that designed the installation says “What I really want is for people to be present in the moment, and feel connected to the city and people around the installation. The goal was to create a space for social interaction and we feel that OH! does just this.”

OH! Science World Public Light Control 2017
When: 9 pm to 11 pm during the following dates:

Friday, August 4 to Sunday, August 6 (Pride Weekend)
Friday, August 11 and Saturday, August 12
Friday, August 18 and Saturday, August 19
Friday, August 25 and Saturday, August 26
Where: False Creek seawall at the Olympic Village, next to Tap and Barrel (1 Athletes Way, Vancouver)


The Friday File: Handyman Goes Rogue with Eight Steps and $550 versus $150,000




CTV images

We can all relate to this-as reported by CTV News  several neighbours had fallen down a steep dirt path to a community garden located in Tom Riley Park in Etobicoke, Ontario. After the municipality was alerted, the city took a look at the small slope and declared that yes indeed, a little stairway was needed. The city estimated the cost of the proposed stairs at 65,000 to 150,000 dollars.

A retired mechanic named Adi Astl thought he could do this cheaper and faster. Amassing $550 from his neighbours, he built a set of stairs down the slope of the community park. But these stairs, while practical, are not built to municipal standards and “Toronto bylaw officials have taped off these privately-built stairs”.


“I thought they were talking about an escalator,” Astl told CTV News Channel on Wednesday. Astl says he hired a homeless person to help him and built the eight steps in a matter of hours. Astl’s wife, Gail Rutherford, says the stairs have already been a big help to people who routinely take that route through the park. “I’ve seen so many people fall over that rocky path that was there to begin with,” she said. “It’s a huge improvement over what was there.”
Astl says members of his gardening group have been thanking him for taking care of the project, especially after one of them broke her wrist falling down the slope last year. “To me, the safety of people is more important than money,” Astl said. “So if the city is not willing to do it, I have to do it myself.”

Mayor of Toronto John Tory did acknowledge that the city’s estimate for the stairs was “completely out of whack with reality.” Meanwhile Mr Astl’s stair have been cordoned off and he’s been admonished that private citizens can’t build public structures. Meanwhile in the common sense department, area resident Dana Beamon noted she’s pretty pleased with Mr Astl’s stairs. “We have far too much bureaucracy,” she said. “We don’t have enough self-initiative in our city, so I’m impressed.”



Massey Crossing Tunnel Vision,Locals Speak Out about Bridging the Gap



There is now direct crossing controversy in Delta where the editor of the Delta Optimist has gone on record favouring the option of an overbuilt Massey Bridge for safety reasons-strangely advocating exactly the points put forward by the Delta Mayor and City Manager in their thousands of dollars paid ad in the Vancouver Sun. This crossing upgrade is not supported by the Mayors’ Council or Metro Vancouver. Commenters immediately took the editor to task as being a spokesman for the Corporation of Delta.

The editor said: “Delta has focused its persuasion efforts on the need to safeguard the public and the economy, particularly as it relates to the tunnel’s seismic situation, as well as the costs and shortcomings of other crossing options…it’s not technically feasible to upgrade the tunnel to meet current seismic standards, a finding of a report done a decade ago after the first phase of seismic work had been undertaken. A more recent report says the tunnel would only be able to withstand a one-in-275-year earthquake, which is far below today’s one-in-2,475-year standard. As far as building a new tunnel rather than a bridge, a favourite rallying cry of project opponents, reports in Delta’s package show it would be more costly ($4.3 billion vs. $3.5 billion), have greater environmental impacts and take far longer to get the necessary approvals.”

Now  there IS a response from Delta residents that believe they have been (no pun intended) railroaded into a bridge that does not serve their purposes. As one reader noted he was aghast that Delta would speak for the taxpayers of that municipality without asking them. As the reader wrote “In the bridge case, there is ample evidence that the community is very disturbed at the prospect of this huge bridge” and asked for some direct community consultation.

Meanwhile in Richmond a letter writer to the Richmond News noted  “There is no doubt the Fraser crossing needs to be improved in order to be effective for all traffic and transit needs. However, the safety record of the tunnel speaks for itself. If “the potential for a catastrophic failure of the tunnel is real,” why are the Dutch with a similar and older tunnel not concerned with its safety?” The writer also noted that in an earthquake “The road system as it exists will fail before the tunnel will. In the event of a serious earthquake, it will make no difference if a bridge is safer than a tunnel. The bridge, should it survive, will not serve any purpose. If Richmond has the catastrophic results that are predicted with an earthquake of this magnitude, the crossing will be inaccessible and irrelevant…The fact is that in a seismic event as major as this report discusses, the real issue of the crossings will be how to evacuate and support the affected areas and people, not the economy of Delta or Surrey.”


Housing Starts Fall in Vancouver


Thirteen Cranes 2008

Leslie Hossack image

Business in Vancouver reporter Frank O’Brien reports that housing starts-the construction of new housing in the City of Vancouver has fallen by 80 per cent when compared to the first half of 2016. The figures are from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC)  and show that starts have declined from 5,784 to 1,860 units.

While it is  not unexpected that single family detached housing starts have declined from 708 to 462, the surprise has been in condominium apartments, which fell from 3,290 in the first half of 2016 to 880 in the first half of 2017.  That is 73 per cent less. Despite very high construction levels, a report from the Urban Development Institute found that there was little inventory of  unsold condominiums.

“Total housing starts across the Metro Vancouver region also fell, but by a smaller margin, to 12,200 units so far this year, compared with 14,840 in the same period a year earlier. Increases were seen in the larger suburban communities of Burnaby, Surrey, Coquitlam and New Westminster.

Eric Bond, CMHC principal market analysis in Vancouver, noted that the number of homes under construction hit a record high of 39,141 units across all of Metro Vancouver in May and remained near that level in June. He suggested the downturn in Vancouver starts may relate to developer fatigue. The constraints on builders are very real in terms of the availability and costs of equipment and materials, which means further increasing the pace of construction is challenging,” Bond said.

Vancouver developer and architect Michael Geller said the lack of condo starts in Vancouver may be linked to a current backlog of applications. “[The developers] are probably waiting for permits.”

vancouver-bc-december-1-2016-builders-and-the-generalVancouver Sun image

Worrying About the Eclipse and Cars!



In one of those absolutely classic motordom moments, the Oregon Department of Transportation  is already warning vehicle drivers to “be prepared to be stuck in their cars for hours during the solar eclipse.”  The Portland Oregon area will see almost 99 per cent of the eclipse commencing at 9:00 a.m. on Monday August 21.

On that Monday the “biggest traffic event in Oregon history” will occur with  “State emergency management officials (are) estimating one million people from out of state are coming to Oregon to watch the eclipse. More rental cars and RVs will be added to our highways, not to mention rural single-lane roads to and from campsites.”

Yes. It is Carmeggedon. “One of the things that we’re doing is tracking rumors, and we’re hearing a rumor on Twitter that a lot of people from Seattle are going to be coming down very, very early on Monday morning of the eclipse and that’s going to complicate the morning commute in the city of Portland.”

The good folks at Oregon Department of Transportation looked for a comparable, and came up with the traffic gridlock  resulting from the January 2017 snowstorm, when “People left work early when flakes started to fall, only to sit in gridlock for hours, running out of gas.”

Overloaded cell service may mean paper road maps will be needed. There is also a concern that drivers will stop their cars to look at the eclipse. Just as in Medieval Times  when it was thought an eclipse would mean the end of a king, it’s probably a good thing not to be driving a vehicle, especially in Oregon.



A Running Start

Now that the GreeNDP cabinet is in place, with Metro Vancouver well represented, here’s the brand new Parliamentary Secretary for TransLink looking for input.  Via Twitter, of course.

Just a thought in passing — does anyone here have any ideas?  Freeways?  Gigantic bridges?  More cars?  Referenda on everything?

What do the Mayors think, I wonder?

Via Twitter:

Bowinn Ma, P.Eng @BowinnMa
….. mins ago
As your ParlSec for #TransLink, thinking long term is essential. What do u want to see for the future of #PublicTransit in #MetroVancouver?


Love those bright young faces.  The ParlSec, Ms. Ma,  is lower left.

Mobi: First Year’s Numbers

From a standing start at zero bikes and zero stations a year ago on July 20, Vancouver’s Shaw and Vancity-sponsored bike share system has become just another get-me-around choice that you can make.  And people are using it a lot.

Here are a few numbers to describe Mobi’s start-up year.

  • 400,000+: total rides since July 20 (where a bike was taken from one station and returned to another), with an average of 2,500-3,000 trips per day
  • 3,915 trips: Busiest day (July 1, 2017)
  • 72,602 trips: Busiest month (June 2017)
  • 1.14+ million km to date
  • 19 minutes: Average trip duration
  • ~3km: Average trip distance

For me, the telling bike-share operational statistic is “average number of rides per bike per day“.  Since the number of bikes has been growing steadily to around 1,200 today, from zero a year ago, I can’t do useful math without a whole lot more fine-grain detail.

However, we do know that on the peak day (July 1), the rides per bike was around 3.3.   This is OK, if not spectacular.  My guess is that the big ride-per-bike-per-day numbers occur in big mature systems with broad geographical spread. Vancouver’s Mobi is new, comparatively small and operates in a limited size area.

It’s also worth noting, for a moderately complex system startup like this, that operational glitches have been small.  What I tell people is this:  “It just works“.

Observations on New York City, Central Park and the High Line


I have just returned from New York City where I spent a day with Mitchell Silver the Park Commissioner for New York City, and Julie Grimson, City Conversations Manager for the City of Sydney Australia. Mitchell is a renown city planner who was the planning director for the City of Raleigh  and was formerly the head of the American Planning Association. He has a wonderful office in the historic Arsenal in Central Park. Robert Moses’ old office adjacent to Mitchell’s is now the board room for staff meetings.


Famed City Master Builder Robert Moses in his office in the Arsenal, Central Park, 1940’s


Mitchell Silver and Julie Grimson in what was Robert Moses’ “closet” in the Arsenal

One of the prime drivers of public space in New York City in Central Park and on the High Line has been the creation of conservancies or public “trusts” that bring in massive donations and bequests to fund the maintenance and improvement of public space. As Christopher Nolan who is the Chief Landscape Architect for Central Park notes, the challenge was incentivizing public space as something that people would leave money to, and to have people see it as important as endowing a building. Today 75 per cent  of the funding  for Central Parks’s 65 million dollar annual budget comes directly from the conservancy. The conservancy also undertakes all the basic care in the 845 acre park.


Chris Nolan, Chief Landscape Architect, Central Park Conservancy

The same approach in forming a conservancy has been taken by the “Friends of  the High Line” originally formed by Joshua David and Robert Hammond. This group raised over 150 million dollars in private and public funds. The High Line was an old abandoned elevated train track that connected several warehouse buildings in the old meatpacking district. Today with an annual operating budget of $11.5 million, the Friends of the High Line maintain and run the daily operations at a cost of $5 million dollars a year.

The High Line is a surprise-it is an elevated wonderland of plants in a pastiche carefully designed and placed by master plantsman Piet Oudolf. The plants themselves are in soil that is only 16 inches deep. There are elevators that go up to the High Line for disabled access, and many volunteers gardening and counting plants along its 2.33 kilometer length. There is an amphitheatre, a water feature for children to play in, lots of public art discoveries, and plenty of people enjoying it. It is already one of the top attractions of things to do in New York City, with over seven million annual visits. Locals  plan their own visits to the High Line around “peak times” on this elevated greenway. As Mitchell Silver notes, the amount of pedestrian traffic suggests that the walkway should have been wider. Cyclists and skateboarders are banned, and there are refreshment locations, benches, and lots of good people watching.


Mitchell Silver describes the High Line as the incubator for the rejuvenation and revitalization of the meatpacking district. The Google Corporation purchased the former Port Authority Building, a massive  fifteen story building in this area in 2010 for  their headquarters.  The Google  building has 2.9 million square feet (the size of two Tsawwassen Mills Malls) in its interior. There is now a hotel and the new Whitney Museum of American Art abutting the High Line. There is no doubt that the renewal of this elevated space has instigated  new interest in the area.

 Public Art installation on High Line by British Columbia Artist Sascha Braunig



NYC Park Commissioner Mitchell Silver, Julie Grimson, City of Sydney Australia, and Robert Hammond, Founder of the High Line. Robert is also one of the producers of “Citizen Jane”, the acclaimed documentary on Jane Jacobs.

Alex Washburn who was the Chief Urban Designer for New York City used to say candidly that if projects could be implemented in New York City with the tangle and complexity of public interests and municipal by-laws, that those projects could be considered in any other North American place too. And maybe with the experience of the New York City High Line and  the new High Line like project in Seoul Korea called “Seoullo 7017” (which is reusing an old 1970’s elevated highway as a greenway to make the city more pedestrian friendly)  we should be  rethinking  the potential use of the  Vancouver Georgia Viaducts.

Perhaps reusing and readapting these urban engineering artifacts is a way to  creatively rebirth new people places.  New York has proven that their conservancy model works, not only in traditional landscaped parks, but in elevated engineering remnants of another urban age.



The Woonerf Arrives in Winnipeg



There is a little more Dutch in Winnipeg these days as that city welcomes its first “Woonerf”. As reported in the Metro News this is a street innovation  for pedestrians before vehicles, and achieves “calming the street down through design”.



A typical Dutch woonerf

The location of the woonerf  at John Hirsch Place used to contain an old rail line. Now there is a curbless lane that  allows for slower vehicular traffic and no delineation between bikes, cars and pedestrians.

There are bollards  near the edge of the lane to keep people from driving on the landscaping (and I have seen bollards in Amsterdam that retract to allow for emergency vehicle entrance). There is seating for walkers which as soon as it was placed became a place to be with the locals.

Besides providing a pedestrian link between Waterfront Drive and a park and further trails,  the woonerf has become a new public space. Similar to the “DeepRoot” cell system installed in Vancouver’s Olympic Village for the ongoing sustenance of the street trees, Winnipeg has installed a similar system for increased street tree soil volume and rain water capture.

While this is only a demonstration project, we all toast Winnipeg for their first woonerf-and suspect with citizen use and demand, it won’t be their last.


Jobs Jar 2 — DVBIA Manager Partnerships & Engagement (Temp)

Lots going on as the city grows and changes.  In particular, a focus here on public spaces.  And on fun.

Apply HERE.

Excerpts from job posting:

The Manager Partnerships & Engagement has primary accountability for retail district operating and marketing plans; public space activation; and event sponsorship. The role will ensure key aspects of projects/plans are established including planning, implementation, budgeting, tracking, metrics, ongoing maintenance, etc. A primary focus of the role is to engage stakeholders and members in order to influence the ongoing activation of public spaces and to foster engagement of members and the public.

. . . .  This is a 13 month term maternity leave contract with some overlap and training with the current employee. This is an incredible opportunity for someone interested in making Vancouver more fun!

Jobs Jar – DVBIA Ops Manager (Temp)

Looking for a 13-month gig and a big boost to visibility?  Apply HERE.

The Director Operations has broad accountability for both the day-to-day operations of the organization as well as overseeing member engagement and services in order to ensure that members are informed, supported by, and work collaboratively with the DVBIA. A primary focus of the role is to oversee the operational plan and ensure effective and efficient operations by managing the day-to-day financial, marketing, facility and personnel activities as well as the programs that serve the association’s membership. The role will ensure appropriate oversight and direction is provided and that the programs/services are carried out in the best interest of the DVBIA.

This is a 13 month term maternity leave contract with some overlap and training with the current employee.

  • Oversees the day-to-day operations of the DVBIA by providing administrative and technical leadership to staff on financial, marketing and personnel related matters
  • Builds relationships with community stakeholders and Association members to provide information and ensure that members see value in the services provided
  • Oversees the DVBIA’s member database/information systems by providing overall oversight in order to facilitate timely and appropriate communication/engagement with members

Civic By-Election October 14?

Since Vancouver city councillor Meggs has resigned in favour of a senior staff position in the spankin’ new GreeNDP gov’t in Victoria, Vancouver voters may be heading to the polls on Oct 14, subject to City Council’s approval of the date.

BTW, the vacant Vancouver School Board seats do not have a by-election date or plan as yet confirmed by the Prov gov’t.  Hopefully, these two by-elections can be made coincidental.

Who, I wonder, will toss their deposit into the coffers?  How hotly will this seat be contested?  Do any voters care?

  • Vision:  Patti Bacchus?
  • NPA:  Kirk (synch those lights!!) Lapointe, Gabe Garfinkle, Sarah Kirby-Yung, John Coupar?  (Which of these has mayoral profile and gravitas? )
  • Greens:  Pete Fry?
  • OneCity:  Judy Graves
  • COPE:  hello, anyone?
  • Christy Clark:  everyone knows her vote record in Vancouver makes this a slam-dunk. And talk about mayoral profile.  Yowzers!

For the trivia-minded, feast on this sure-fire party starter:

By-elections are very rare in Vancouver. The last one was in 1992, when then-Councillor Bruce Yorke of COPE resigned due to ill health. The NPA’s Lynne Kennedy won the seat.

Yorke gained his Council seat in 1985 in another by-election, beating Phillip Owen to win a place on Council.

Over its more than 125-year history, Vancouver City Council has had just 16 by-elections.


Full Page Advertisement to “Get The Facts” on the New Massey Bridge



The game of “Whack a Mole” got a little more complex in Delta where the Corporation decided to take out a whole page ad in the front section of the Vancouver Sun to get across their various points. Delta is insisting that no matter what the rest of Metro Vancouver or the Mayor’s Council says, Delta needs their ten lane overbuilt multi-billion dollar bridge to serve their 100,000 population, and the region better get on board.


With the underwhelming and sufficiently  slanted  title of  “Politics and Misinformation Must Not Stop Bridge Construction” Delta offers “the facts” on the George Massey Tunnel Replacement Project. With no footnotes to direct references, we are told “Twinning the Tunnel is NOT AN OPTION!”  “THE EXISTING TUNNEL CANNOT BE SUFFICIENTLY UPGRADED!” And my personal favourite “A REPLACEMENT TUNNEL IS MORE EXPENSIVE!”. Delta suggests that a replacement  tunnel would be $4.3 billion dollars versus $3.5 billion dollars for that ten lane bridge. Imagine-in Delta’s estimates, we are only looking at financial costs, not the ecological savings of developing a tunnel with a more sound ecological footprint that does not suck up hectares of the most arable lane in Canada.

There is more hype in the rest of the ad  with no direct referencing but you get the point. There are eleven factoids and Delta is letting us know “Public safety is at risk and the solution is known-the new bridge is necessary, supported by facts and vital for the economy of the region and the province”.

There’s a website you are encouraged to go to for vital information on this which surprise surprise, just goes straight to the Corporation of Delta’s website.

One of the Province’s most trusted urbanists told me that he had reviewed the statistics for Delta and realized that they  had a very heavy reliance on industrialization and the Port. That comes out in the “oops” statistic where Delta tells us that “twelve per cent of the traffic moving through the tunnel are trucks”, and that is “MORE THAN 3X HIGHER THAN OTHER BRIDGES IN THE REGION”. This is not about  accessibility for the region-this is for the Corporation of Delta to continue industrializing the Fraser River and expanding truck shipping from Deltaport.

But Delta has answered all the questions to their satisfaction, with  their taxpayers footing the bill for their front newspaper section largesse. Let’s hope that non-biased crossing review is coming soon, and doesn’t require full-page newspaper ads.



Opinion – the New Point Grey Road

Here’s Pete Meizsner’s take on the new PGR, complete with bafflement about a few residents’ opposition to the changes.

Point Grey Road used to be a busy commuter route between downtown Vancouver and UBC, with thousands of cars using the route daily to avoid traffic on West 4th and Broadway. Now it’s a low-traffic street, which improved property values and quality of life.

It begs the question, what are the vocal minority of naysayers really concerned about? Is it really the cost of the upgrades, or is it the hundreds of cyclists and pedestrians now passing by? Would these homeowners prefer a seawall along the waterfront in front of their properties (and their views)?

There’s no shortage of issues city hall deserves criticism for, but an improved cycling and pedestrian route in one of Vancouver’s most spectacular settings isn’t one of them.

Personally, I do understand commuter motorists’ problems at having their high-speed high-volume arterial turned into a traffic-calmed neighbourhood street.  But the remaining arterials on 4th Avenue, Broadway, 12th Avenue, 16th Avenue and 25th Avenue seem to have survived quite nicely and absorbed the 6,000 – 8,000 motor vehicles that formerly used PGR per day.   Who knows, maybe a few people have even changed their commute to involve a bike or a bus.