In 1989, Ray Oldenburg coined the phrase “third place” in his book The Great Good Place. The “third place” was the importance of “cafés (not to mention pubs, piazzas, beer gardens and teahouses) as gathering places essential to our individual mental health and that of society as a whole.”
How many times have you gone into a coffee shop only to find every available table taken by a human hunched over a laptop, often with a set of headphones plugged in? The BBC News reports on a new trend-a cafe where “ people stand and chat, sipping wine and beer while children sit and play board games. The café, called Kibbitznest, is a wi-fi-free zone. It’s the latest in a string of cafés shunning internet usage in an effort to encourage face-to-face conversation.” In a society where the average person spends ten hours with media a day according to a 2016 Nielsen report, a “third place” is urgently needed. “Cafés like Kibbitznest harken back to the original purpose of coffee shops — to act as places for lively debate and intellectual discussion and, above all else, social interaction. Cafés were initially a “third place” after home and work, where people could talk and spend time with friends.”
In one American coffee shop, getting rid of wifi and banning laptops increased sales by 20 per cent. Hiring baristas that were conversationalists, lowering counter heights, and taking off food label information encouraged customers to ask questions. These cafes are spirited places for public debate and conversation-perhaps proving that everything old can indeed be new again.
Metro News and Jeff Hodson reports thatthe latest Royal LePage housing price survey shows a decline in housing prices in Metro Vancouver for the first quarter of the year. The reduction was not massive and is calculated as a weighted average of median home prices by the type of property. That decrease for the first quarter was 1.9 per cent.
“In a statement, Randy Ryalls, general manager of Royal LePage Stirling Realty, said the Metro Vancouver foreign buyer tax and eroding affordability cooled the market, but speculated the price drop may have bottomed out. “We are starting to see signs of a quicker-than-anticipated rebound in many regions across Greater Vancouver.”
The median price for a Metro Vancouver two-storey house was $1,503,146 down from 1,604,757 in the previous quarter. And the numbers for the City of Vancouver? “According to the survey, in the City of Vancouver, the median price of a two-storey detached home is $2,345,272; the median price of a bungalow is $1,304,675; and the median price condominium is $658,775.”
Meanwhile Joanne Lee-Young in the Vancouver Sun notes that March sales in Metro Vancouver increased by 48 per cent compared to February, suggesting that the “psychological aftermath of the foreign buyer tax” may now be over, with eager buyers back in the market. In Burnaby detached home sales increased from 47 in February to 100 in March, with apartment sales increasing from 137 to 220 units.
“It is definitely true that, outside of the top, things are very hot again,” said University of B.C. real estate finance professor Tom Davidoff, adding that aside from some initial numbers, he is also hearing chatter on the street that is reminiscent of frothier times. “I was walking around in Kits the other day and overheard a conversation: ‘it was $100K over ask, with no contingency and we still didn’t get it.’”
The snap back into the market of potential home buyers chasing fewer listings could also mean higher price increases in the next quarter of the year.
There has been some disappointing rhetoric about bridges, tolls, and congestion coming out of the stirred soup of next month’s Provincial election. While one candidate wants to restrict Port Mann bridge vehicle tolls to a 500 dollar annual upset amount-after that you are driving for “free”-another candidate says they will take away tolls entirely. Of course both of these approaches will induce further demand for vehicular travel, and further accentuate the 20th century approach to motordom where the car is king. Missing in this posturing is the reasoned and prudent approach to encouraging mass transit and car share, moving in the region as if livability and accessibility matter.
Metro Vancouver mayors have been discussing an approach reported by Marcello Bernardo with CKNW “seeking approval to toll all bridges, so the money collected can be spent on transit improvements, but there’s been resistance from Victoria. The Port Mann and Golden Ears Bridges have also been losing money because many drivers take alternate toll-free crossings.”
In Metro Vancouver “Port Moody Mayor Mike Clay says both pledges send the wrong message.You need to pay for this infrastructure somehow and you need to make it a little bit of a social penalty for encouraging people not to drive everywhere in their cars.” Clay is one of several Metro Vancouver mayors pushing for every bridge crossing in the region to be tolled.“Why isn’t it a dollar or two dollars on every bridge crossing?”
Mayor Clay also mentions a conundrum-while gas tax go to fund transit systems, electric cars are not taxed, and in “some cases, we’re supplying the electricity for the cars, so we need to be very careful about doing things that encourage sprawl and encourage the use of a single-occupant vehicle.”
And the big question-why are the political parties not talking to the Metro Vancouver Mayors Council about how to best move (no pun intended) the region forward? Most mayors will agree further growth and development needs to concentrate on transit hubs and stations, focusing on public transit, not the private automobile.
The Atlantic Monthly describes the innovative attempts of the City of La Paz Bolivia in changing driver behaviour in the streets, slowing traffic, and helping pedestrians survive. The “cebritas” program is a hybrid to that first introduced in the 1990’s in Bogota where mimes were sent out on the street to tease and admonish drivers breaking the rules.
La Paz is the highest capital city in the world, and decided to do things a bit differently. They have 265 local volunteers dressed in full-body zebra costumes who nudge “people toward good behavior. “On a lot of busy corners you will have police directing traffic, but their method of doing it is whistling at you, yelling at you, pulling you over, giving you a ticket,” says Derren Patterson, an American who owns a walking-tour agency in La Paz. “Whereas the way the zebras do it, if a car stops in the crosswalk, they will lay across his hood.” The volunteer zebras are popular at schools and hospitals, are interviewed on media, and participate in parades. Many are students.
The program is so well accepted that there is a “day program” that allows tourists to dress up as zebras and join the La Paz zebras in the streets. As an early program organizer noted ” “They may be dressed up as zebras, but they defend what is human about the city.” Last December the Zebras won the “Guangzhou International Award for Urban Innovation, which recognizes cities and regions with innovative approaches to improving public life. The award’s organizers commended La Paz for its response to a “very serious challenge” confronting cities worldwide—the subordination of pedestrians to cars—with “great humor and understanding,” and said they hoped the project might inspire “more civilized streets” around the world.”
We’re smug about having better healthcare than the United States. But on the respected Commonwealth Fund’s international scorecard of eleven advanced nations, Canada ranks next to last.
How to make healthcare better? Presenters are Dr. Stephen Pinney, a Canadian orthopaedic surgeon, former clinical professor at UBC, and former head of orthopaedics at St. Paul’s hospital in Vancouver, now practicing in San Francisco. in his new book, How Hockey Can Save Healthcare, he prescribes ways to expand coverage while reducing costs and improving your care.
Dr. Brian Day is founder of Vancouver’s private, for-profit Cambie Surgery Centre. He wants people to have the right to choose private, user-pay health care.
Thursday, April 20
12:30 – 1:30 pm
Room 1600- 515 West Hastings, SFU Harbour Centre
No reservations, but come a bit early to be sure of a seat.
The CBC has reported that the number of people sleeping on the street in Metro Vancouver has increased by 30 per cent since the most recent 2014 count. On March 7 and 8, volunteers counted 3,605 folks who had no home. Of this number, 1,032 were “unsheltered, including those sleeping in doorways, alleys, parks or couch surfing.” Another 2,573 people were sheltered, “including those sleeping in homeless shelters, extreme weather shelters, transition houses, jails or detox facilities.”
“The committee will do further analysis, including demographic breakdowns of who is homeless, but they wanted to release what they had now to put homelessness on the agenda of the B.C. election.“We’re not going to solve this anytime soon but we can do a lot better than we’re doing.”
There have been calls for the Province to work more diligently with local municipalities on this issue. Glenn Schafer of the Vancouver Sun has also reported that the numbers could be four times higher, with factors like a low vacancy rate and high rents contributing to the problem. Most upsetting, one-third of all homeless identify as being aboriginal, while homeless youth are ten per cent of this total number with 378 counted on the nights of the survey.
We can talk about tolls on bridges and the lack of good transit in Metro Vancouver and rue the spotty decision-making of the current Provincial government. But when it comes to taking care of our youngest and most vulnerable citizens that are sleeping rough on the street, they can’t wait for any debate. What will it take for the Province to truly commit to help the most desperate in our society? Shelter is a human right, the first expression of dignity and something that everyone should have access to.
Ralph Segal was the senior architect and development planner for the Planning Department of the City of Vancouver. He is a well-respected professional that cares deeply about the city, and who was involved in most of the major planning and design decisions in the City in the three decades prior to his retirement.
Quoting Ralph Segal “Thank you to Stephen Hume and The Vancouver Sun for the profile of Bing Thom, in which are cited his many prestigious national and international awards and medals for architectural excellence. As impressive as this list is, it does not even begin to touch on the equally important contributions he has made to mentoring and encouraging innumerable individuals and groups that he has inspired with his visionary advocacy and pragmatic approach to problem-solving.”
“A fitting commemoration to all these accomplishments would be the naming of a special public place, preferably in northeast False Creek, a downtown precinct now being designed, envisioned as connecting adjacent future and existing neighbourhoods such as Chinatown, Strathcona and the Downtown Eastside with False Creek. A prominent public meeting space named in his honour would celebrate the depth of his insights into how the art of city-building can be the vehicle that brings together people of all backgrounds and interests, furthering his philosophy of inclusiveness.”
The excellent work that Dr. Larry Frank is undertaking at the University of British Columbia has been reinforcing the importance of walkable cities and places to keep citizens mentally sound, emotionally happy, and physically fit. The Australian journal “The Conversation” has now joined into the conversation and asks a simple question-what would happen if EVERYONE built 8,800 steps a day into their routine? Would this be a game changer for the health of citizens and for the budgets of nations that fund universal health care?
“Considering only the people aged over 55, at a minimum it would reduce the need for hospitalisation by 975,000 bed days per year, for a saving of $1.7 billion dollars. Given there are health benefits at other ages, and the less healthy Australians not represented in our study could benefit more, the actual benefit is likely to be even greater.”
The study classified people over 55 as inactive if they took 4,500 steps a day or less. An active senior took 8,600 steps a day. Just the simple act of doubling the steps, or increasing walking time to roughly 40 minutes a day reduced hospital days by a third.
“With governments searching for ways to reduce spending, and 16% of the federal budget being spent on health, tackling physical inactivity of individual patients, as well as ensuring our urban centres are walking- and cycling-friendly would make a major difference.”
Given these findings, does it make sense for Provincial governments to provide funding to municipalities to make communities more walkable for seniors, and provide safe comfortable linkages to shops and facilities? How can we further link the health benefits of walkable livable places to the well-being and longevity of residents?
Sandusky is a town of 25,000 people with a metropolitan area of 77,000 located on the shores of Lake Erie in Ohio, about 115 miles or 185 kilometers from Detroit. This town was an important stop on the Underground Railroad, and was a place where slaves trying to reach Canada crossed Lake Erie to Amherstburg Ontario. It was once centred around a railroad, and hosted Charles Dickens in 1842. Sandusky has an extraordinary waterfront that is now being transformed out of industrial uses into recreational ones.
The town has embarked on an ambitious endeavour to relocate their city hall into the downtown near the waterfront, and to redevelop one of the old industrial piers, Jackson Pier into a recreational multi-purpose space for citizens, with potentially a water park and other amenities. In fact, the town just announced its public process was to commence.
Now you would think that taking an industrial pier and redeveloping it for the public would be something that would be embraced by residents. While walking, fishing and access to ferries will be maintained, parking at the pier end-something that used to be standard-might not be there. And that started an online petition against the proposed park as a “commercial decimation” of public property in downtown Sandusky. Why? People wanted the right to park at the end of the pier. In fact they want 40 spaces at the end of the pier.
You can go online and view a video with a proponent of Save Our Shoreline explain that people need access to water and need to drive to the end of the pier to get a “180 degree view” to feel better. There’s no mention of the recreational benefits of walking to the end of the pier, or the placement of a playground, or the benefits of a commercial establishment to provide food and a warm winter place for people enjoying the space. And no one has mentioned the Surgeon General of the United States’ advocacy of 20 minutes of walking a day, or the fact that in the 21st century view spaces can’t be taken up by cars. To create community demands walkable sociability, face to face interactions and ways to knit an old commercial pier into a greenscape opportunity for workers and potential downtown dwellers in the future.
Motordom, and the right of vehicles to champion potential public spaces, is still embraced by an older population that rues what was, and plans their future based on their own auto dependent experience. Let’s hope Sandusky will look across the water at Amherstburg in Ontario with King’s Navy Yard Park a ten acre waterfront park cited as one of Canada’s Historic Places, and now expanding to include more park space. And you will note-there is no parking along that waterfront.
For over a decade the city has worked on a revitalization strategy, with millions in grants to preserve historic clan and society buildings, with goals that are hard to object to. But many disagree with the results so far. Is there a way to revitalize Chinatown and keep its special charm?
To discuss the way forward, our presenters are Doris Chow, co-founder of the Youth Collaborative for Chinatown, and architect and urban designer Bruce Haden, who has twice chaired the City’s Urban Design Panel. Then it is your turn to question, observe, and offer your opinions. Please feel free to bring your lunch.
Thursday, 16 March
12:30 – 1:30 pm
SFU Vancouver, Harbour Centre Room 1600 – 515 West Hastings
Registration is not required but seating is limited. Please try to arrive early to ensure a seat.
Vancouver has gone through some questionable development proposals including casino and soccer stadium uses right on the downtown waterfront.These can be located anywhere, and it seemed strange to consider uses that would not take advantage of the extraordinary waterfront views. Well now it is Nanaimo’s turn. As reported by CBC a huge complex that could sport a World Hockey League team and rock concerts will be voted on by residents on March 11. Voters will be asked to approve $80 million dollars in borrowing, with 69.8 million to be spent on the centre, and close to 10 million being spent to clean up the waterfront location and to upgrade utilities. The site, located at One Port Drive is on the south side of Nanaimo’s downtown, is a last remnant of waterfront and has a mining and industrial use history.
In addition, 5.4 million dollars will be need to annually service the debt-this apparently is not going to result in increased property taxes. Of the 7 million dollars collected by Nanaimo Council for capital projects it is expected that two million dollars will be needed to annually service the debt.
The Yes for Nanaimo Event Centregroupthinks that once the arena is built, it will house a sports team and will fill up with name events and concerts and recoup the money. It is seen as a catalyst for development in the community. The NoVote2017 factions says the building is in the wrong place, takes away a view and will result increased property taxes and municipal debt. As one proponent noted “construction of the building could balloon to hundreds of millions of dollars and borrowing that amount of money will result “in serious consequences” for a city the size of Nanaimo. And these consequences will be carried by Nanaimo residents, forcing us to make tough choices about critical infrastructure and cut services to pay for the arena and service that debt.”
The World Hockey League also influenced voters by announcing this week that they would commit to bring a team if the arena was built. It can seem surprising that a Council would be willing to underwrite such a large expenditure without a guaranteed income. Price Tags will be watching to see whether voters approve this huge amount of borrowing.
There is very special event at the University of British Columbia on April 1 and all are welcome to attend.The University’s Ceremonies department announces the raising of the reconciliation pole which will be installed in the manner of a traditional Haida pole raising.
You may have experienced the “Speaking of Memory” exhibit which was at the Museum of Anthropology in 2014. It was an opportunity to meet people who had been in the St. Michael’s Indian School in Alert Bay. It was a powerful way to hear first hand the uprooting of a culture through the banishment of children into a foreign dormitory and educational system.
Master carver Jim Hart has sculpted this pole “which recognizes the complex aspects of reconciliation related to Indian Residential Schools, which were instituted by the federal government of Canada in the second half of the nineteenth century, and operated for more than 100 years, with the last school closing in 1996. Located across Canada, the schools separated an estimated that 150,000 children from their parents, families and culture. Many students died in the schools and many more suffered severe forms of psychological, physical and sexual abuse. Both Reconciliation Pole and the Dialogue Centre provide ways to develop an understanding of the history and lasting effects of the schools, not only on Indigenous peoples, but on Canadian society as a whole.”
Honouring a Time Before, During and After Canada’s Indian Residential Schools
Saturday, April 1, 2017
1:00 pm Main Mall, between Agronomy Road and Thunderbird Boulevard UBC’s Point Grey Campus
The University of British Columbia is located on the traditional, ancestral and unceded territory of the Musqueam First Nation.
This event is happening rain or shine, please come prepared with warm clothing.
A few hundred people will be pulling ropes to help raise the pole. There will be a ceremony director and then sub directors at each rope (approximately five or six ropes in all) who will tell the raisers what to do, when to pull, etc. The process will take approximately 1 – 1.5 hours.
Once again from Jen St. Denis with Metro News housing experts weigh in on the “gentle density ” proposals put forward by the Mayor of Vancouver at the Urban Land Institute chat on March 1. And those experts are “cautiously optimistic” that the City will meaningfully engage with discussions with single family neighbourhood home owners about density. That is going to require a process that Director of Simon Fraser University’s City Program calls “not top down”.
There is also hopefulness that the Mayor is committed to allowing staff to do this work. In a sobering look at what is happening in the west side neighbourhoods Andy Yan provided a map showing that hundreds of residents have been lost from those areas in the last five years, contributing to what the Mayor referenced as a “failing city”.
Andy Yan stated “The city’s facing this blue screen of death and if it’s not careful they won’t be able to engage this issue of housing for local incomes.” In simple terms, the Mayor must commit to an active engaged process with the existing single family residents before they too are displaced or move. As Andy Yan astutely noted “Planning and engagement in Vancouver needs to move away from being the sell job to the teaching moment”.
Remember the Tom Tom Annual Survey of Traffic Congestion suggesting that Vancouver is a parking lot of traffic? And Minister of Transportation Todd Stone calling the Massey Tunnel one of the most congested places in British Columbia according to a Canadian Automobile Association Survey?
Business in Vancouver reporter Patrick Blennerhasset cuts through the congestion chat by talking to a transportation expert, City of Vancouver Manager of Transportation Steve Brown. Steve notes that we need to define what we mean by congestion. Congestion can also be a very good thing-if transit or biking or walking is more efficient and gets you to a place faster, then congestion is your active transportation friend. The slower traffic, the safer active transportation users are too-while only ten per cent of pedestrians will survive a vehicular collision at 50 km/h that rises to a 90 per cent chance of survival with a vehicular collision at 30 km/h.
Steve Brown has great logic-“the key for Vancouver to continue to relieve congestion lies in creating alternative transportation methods to automobile trips…Over the last few years, we have seen a lot more concerns over congestion. And because we’re kind of falling behind on some of our transit infrastructure investments, we’re seeing that there are tending to be more trips lately relying on the road network.”
So…bolstering active transportation and transit reduces congestion, actually making driving easier for folks that want to do this. But doesn’t that defeat the purpose? And that is where misinformation comes in.
“Last year, Langley City councillor Nathan Pachal compiled the 2016 Transit Report Card of Major Canadian Regions. He gave Vancouver a high ranking in terms of public transportation—second only to Montreal—using Canada Transit’s Fact Book 2014 Operating Data by the Canadian Urban Transit Association, which gathers its data from transit agencies across the country and Statistics Canada’s National Household Survey. Pachal also called into question the accuracy of the TomTom rankings. He said during the transit referendum in 2015, discussion around congestion in Vancouver reached a fever pitch.”
And back to those Tom Tom Statistics-those are predicated upon counting the extra travel time during peak hours for a vehicle versus the time taken to travel during no traffic conditions, and then multiplied for 230 working days a year. Remember that Tom Tom’s clients are drivers, and therefore cities with freeways and highways that provide a quick exit are ranked highly, with no ranking given to alternative transit modes or active transportation.
While Vancouver ranked as the 34th most congested cities for vehicle users according to Tom Tom, “the INRIX Global Traffic Scorecard, has ranked Vancouver 157th worldwide in terms of traffic congestion.” Why? Because INRIX a Kirkland, Washington-based transportation analytics company, analyzed traffic congestion in 1,064 cities for its second annual report. Its methodology calculates congestion at different times of the day in different parts of a city using 500 terabytes of data from 300 million different sources covering over five million miles of road. ” This is a much more sophisticated analysis on “overall travel times” as opposed to peak versus free-flow times.
But neither of these two approaches factor in active transportation or transit, and measure a city’s performance by the efficiency of this type of movement. While Tom Tom may be getting a lot of attention, the INRIX Global Traffic Scorecard is perhaps a more accurate gauge. Here’s to an index that also factors in other users besides vehicular.
From climate change to refugee settlement, cities around the world are tackling critical and complex global issues. Metro Vancouver’s municipalities are increasingly recognized for their efforts and their important role that goes beyond our region’s boundaries.
What are the opportunities for Canadian cities overall in the global arena? How are the leaders of Canadian cities having impact on the world stage and in addressing global issues? Where are they not yet, but should be?
Pamela Goldsmith-Jones, Member of Parliament for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade, former Mayor of West Vancouver
Penny Gurstein, Professor and Director of the School of Community and Regional Planning and the Centre for Human Settlements, UBC
Kaye Krishna, Vancouver’s new General Manager of Development, Buildings and Licensing.
Thursday, Mar 2
Room 7000 – 515 West Hastings
Registration is not required but seating is limited. Please try to arrive early to ensure a seat.
Note that we do broadcast these events on the City Conversations Facebook page.
A high-profile and complex project, the Arbutus Greenway is a rightfully-recurring topic on this blog and other forums. Sometimes too recurring, though. It frankly elicited some fatigue last year with endless sustained and robust debate over its temporary surface treatments.
The City must have learned something useful from its first consultation round for the temporary greenway design, because the outreach process to inform the permanent greenway’s conceptual design is only half as long and almost over. As noted in Ken Ohrn’s previous post from January, the City is hosting three meetings and extending an online survey to the 15th to petition the public for its thoughts, opinions, concerns, and desires for the permanent future of this 9-km stretch of former rail corridor.
It is still early days for this project and the City is rightfully asking the big questions: What do you want? What should be preserved? What are the ‘must have’s? However, being impatient, other colleagues and I have preferred to consider the ‘next step’ logistical/engineering questions about how this space will actually work:
What exactly is going in the 20m right of way?
Is space being preserved for eventual 2-way light rail?
How will the design minimize conflicts between modes?
What surface treatments are you considering? How will you maintain them?
How are you going to manage the transitions across Broadway, W 16th, W 33rd, et. al?
What are you doing with buildings currently encroaching on the right of way?
still just a rendering for now
It was these and similar questions that, thanks to the Arbutus Communications Team, prompted an interview with Dale Bracewell, Vancouver’s Manager of Transportation Planning. We were originally going to meet on the greenway for a ride, but the weather had other ideas.
Over a half-hour chat, Dale walked me through the big picture and as much of the smaller picture as he could commit to at this stage. The City is still in the visioning stage but from previous consultation on the temporary greenway, known best practice, and feedback his team has received; there are already a number of lessons, known challenges, and likely themes the Arbutus Greenway will incorporate. Here are a few:
The Stanley Park Seawall is considered the local benchmark of greenway success. Elements that have traditionally ‘worked’ here will make their way onto Arbutus: accommodation of different mobility levels, integration with landscape and points of interest, separation of modes, etc.
Benchmark for a successful greenway – Seawall
Separation of modes will be a priority to reduce both actual and perceived risk of conflicts. This has been consistently communicated through all levels of project feedback. Depending on the area and availability of width, pedestrians and cyclists will be separated in some fashion.
Transitions across level streets will be a major factor in the design. Unlike other urban rails-to-trails greenways, Arbutus is neither sunken nor elevated, but level to the surrounding road network. Crossing minor roads will not be as problematic, but crossing major ones (Broadway, King Edward, W 41st) will likely require either some significant traffic network changes, expensive signalling, or level separation (bridges). This will drive some of the design’s biggest decisions and costs.
Green bridge over Broadway?
Integration with public transit will be another critical item. This thing might be part of the public transit network some day, so this is sensible. Easy access to and extra capacity at Arbutus extension skytrain station, W 41st St B-Line, and other crossing bus services will make their way into the Conceptual designs.
Protecting space for 2-way light rail is still on the table. This would be 8m-9m of the total 20m right of way. I’m not yet convinced there’s a business case for a streetcar or light rail here, but this space can be flexibly programmed in the short term while the transit corridor is being assessed/developed.
Other cities’ models will be reviewed. Ideas for some of the finer engineering and design elements that don’t come from the visioning exercise may be borrowed from other cities (i.e., surface treatments, design elements, lighting, etc.). This essentially includes programming opportunities and partnerships. Some facilities that the City is looking at are below:
Inspiration from Chicago – 606/Bloomingdale Line
And Sydney – The Goods Line
And Minneapolis – Midtown Greenway
And Auckland – Lightpath
Ultimately the greenway will offer improved direct connectivity to points north and south and transfer connections east and west. Whether it forever remains an active mode corridor or eventually includes a streetcar connecting Granville Island and…The Arthur Laing Bridge? Steveston?…it will be a popular and iconic public amenity. We’ll have trouble imagining what Vancouver was ever like without it.
For those not interested in ever getting those 36 minutes back, the full interview can be heard here:
As reported in Ville 30 the town of Gland Switzerland with a population of 12,500 have decided that the ENTIRE road network within the town will be restricted to 30 km/h with the exception of a few main arteries.
Why? To ensure that Vision Zero goals of safety and comfort for all road users are paramount, and to ensure a better coexistence with what the French call “soft mobility” users. Streets will use visual markers where those 30 km/h zones start, and streets will be narrowed using alternate on street parking, which will also slow speeds.
The town of Gland set up the goal to go to 30 km/h ten years ago and finally got approval from the higher state authority . With that approval the town is hosting public meetings to show their plans and will fully implement the speed restrictions in the spring. Further restricting vehicle speed to 20 km/h near the train stations is now being discussed.
The use of 30 km/h zones has been limited in British Columbia to a few main streets, school zones and areas in Victoria and Vancouver as well as the tiny town (population 3,500) of Rossland. Adopting a city-wide driving speed limit allows for uniform application and enforcement of the new speed limits, enhances road safety for other road users, and makes for a more comfortable convenient walking and biking environment. Kudos to Gland for leading the way.
This article by Wanyee Li in Metro News gets to the nub of a vital issue for one of the oldest, most historical and most loved parts of Vancouver. Vancouver’s Chinatown is not only one of the most continually occupied parts of the city, it is a district with great vibrant history, wondrous diversity, and a bunch of folks that quite frankly are responsible for the shape and structure of the city we experience today. And Vancouver’s Chinatown is the largest most contiguous Chinatown in North America. So why are we not treating this area as unique and as a special example of a historic area? Why are we in a hurry to accept pronounced and profound development that may erase Chinatown for future generations?
It was the families and merchants in Chinatown that singlehandedly stopped the expansion of the freeway in the 1960’s from bisecting Vancouver’s downtown and decimating the existing housing for new and improved “replacement” CMHC (Canadan Mortage and Housing Corporation) housing. In the short video below Bessie Lee describes how Chinatown residents wanted to make the city “livable”, despite the calls for urban renewal from the City Council and the City Planner. And the word “livability” is one that has become a watchword for Vancouver’s past, current and future planning endeavours.
There is an Open House on proposed changes to the Chinatown plan scheduled for this Saturday between 10:00 a.m and 2:00 p.m. at the Chinese Cultural Centre Auditorium at 50 Pender Street. But here’s the troubling part-the boards prepared by the City and even the background suggest that there is something “wrong” with the community in the first place. The intent of this increase in size and height is to “update” the Chinatown Economic Revitalization Action plan as a “three year review”. Under the guise of a “lack of density limit leads to buildings with low ceiling height and compromised livability” the City is suggesting massive sizes and densities completely out of scale with the neighbourhood.
So where did things go wrong? For some reason, despite the historic and important cultural nature of the shops, services, community centre and the Sun Yet-Sen Garden (rated as a top city garden by National Geographic) there are proposed changes to the Chinatown plan to allow for building heights of 150 feet (15 storeys) and frontages up to 200 feet. This is completely out of character with the existing scale and texture of the small, varying frontages and facades of the street, and recalls the concrete whitewashing of the community proposed by the freeway expansion a half century ago. The sizes being proposed are sizes developers are happy to work with. They don’t necessarily make for good infill structures that blend harmoniously in to a well established and existent landscape.
Urban planner and Director of the Simon Fraser University City Program Andy Yan notes that such massive building scale and size “doesn’t match the existing texture of the neighbourhood, which is made up of small independent stores and low-storey buildings. Given the pre-existing grain of the neighbourhood, I don’t think it’s appropriate to bring a development that is modelled [after] areas of surplus industrial brown fields. It’s invasive to an established neighbourhood like Chinatown.”
As reported in Metro News “city councillor Raymond Louie is quick to point out staff have the difficult task of coming up with a plan that meet both council’s demands as well as economic realities. Dividing land assemblies to less than 200 feet would not be cost effective…[Staff] are trying to balance off all the other aspects of what council has asked for – additional social housing, preservation of heritage, making sure that these buildings are built to the highest environmental standards, and making sure that these buildings are ready to hook up into our district energy systems. Louie says fears about big block stores displacing small businesses are unfounded because the new rules, if accepted, would limit retail storefronts to 50 feet. It’s one of many examples of the city is listening to public input.”
I would suggest that a fifty foot retail frontage is still a pretty vast space and not in keeping with the existing cultural fabric. But why are we trying to shoe horn development blocks in one of the most culturally sensitive parts of the city? Why does this area, which contains the fabric of a very early part of Vancouver be required to meet all the city and developer’s demands? As Andy Yan notes, Chinatown comprises just one per cent of the city’s fabric. Let’s treat it as the special unique gem it is.
City of Vancouver’s Council will hear a report today from the Independent Election Task Force. Created in early 2016, the 12-member group realizes that most electoral issues are under Provincial control, and have issued a call for “more choice and flexibility in how municipalities manage their elections . . ”
The broad-brush recommendations are:
Adopt a proportional voting system
Reform campaign financing — including closer scrutiny of ties between matters before council involving donors
Increase voter turnout, in part by extending voter rights to permanent residents (roughly 60,000 such people currently can’t vote)
Make detailed balloting data (in anonymous form) available as open data
Conduct an online voting pilot (a contentious topic, studied and rejected by a Provincial Panel in 2014)
From the Executive Summary: Vancouver City Council established an Independent Election Task Force to recommend changes based on Council directives concerning the delivery of municipal elections in the city of Vancouver. These directives all have the potential, if implemented, to contribute to improved public confidence in the electoral processes at the municipal level and increase voter engagement — with a key goal being to increase voter turnout to at least 60 per cent by 2025.
“For some reason, we’ve come to accept this road violence against pedestrians as part of the wallpaper of urban living – even as “walkable cities” are the holy grail of city planning everywhere.”
Peter Ladner in his latest editorial in Business in Vancouver calls it for what it is: we have an epidemic of Road Violence in Vancouver. Peter states in his editorial: “Never mind calling back Mayor Gregor Robertson from Mexico to clear our icy sidewalks. We should be asking him to stay home in January and protect seniors from being killed by cars. Vancouver is the pedestrian death capital of Canada, and January is peak month for pedestrian deaths in B.C. – expect more than seven.
Based on five-year averages, 61% of those killed will be 50 or older. Our pedestrian death rate is twice that of Toronto, where one pedestrian is injured every four hours, and 44 pedestrians were killed in 2016. In last October alone, 10 pedestrians died in five Lower Mainland municipalities. There were as many pedestrians slaughtered by cars in the city of Vancouver (11) last year as there were murder victims.
My son was walking to work across a marked intersection at Pender and Jervis, on a green light, at 7:30 on an October morning two years ago when a car knocked him to the ground. He is still suffering from the concussion he incurred. The driver stopped and leaned out the window to ask if he was all right, then drove off. It turns out his situation is typical: according to a BC Coroners Service report, 40% of pedestrians killed in Greater Vancouver were struck at intersections and in crosswalks and two-thirds were crossing while the light was green. It might also be the case that many of the pedestrians who got hit were, like him, wearing dark clothing. In some Nordic countries the widespread use of reflective clothing has greatly reduced road violence.
But it’s too simple to blame pedestrians. I remember the first time I saw the 30 km/h zone painted boldly on Hastings Street around Main – the most dangerous pedestrian intersection in the Lower Mainland. My first reaction was: “Why should I slow down because impaired people choose to lurch into oncoming cars?” Then I sobered up and reframed the question: “Why should saving a few seconds of driving be more important than killing someone?”
Peter notes that when some European countries adopted laws where vulnerable road users, not road drivers were assumed to be innocent, injury and fatality rates dropped by 70 per cent. HUB cycling recommends a 30 km/h speed limit on non arterial streets-the survival of a pedestrian crashed into at 30 km/h is 90 per cent at that speed, and only 15 to 20 per cent at 50 km/h.
Peter points out that it is the Province-Minister of Transportation Todd Stone-who could implement this and who “is not interested. Nor is he interested in photo radar and red-light cameras. Research in Europe found there were 42% fewer serious injuries and fatalities where photo radar and cameras were installed.” Minister Stone dismissed this as a “tax grab”. Peter suggests this is the same as saying “Seniors are expendable if it gets me votes from car drivers who want the freedom to kill them by breaking the law and letting ICBC pick up the bills.”
Getting to zero pedestrian fatalities needs ” lower speed limits, safer intersection design, better pedestrian signals, tougher enforcement to stop speeding and distracted driving (none of us should be taking calls from people while we’re driving), more reflective clothing, cyclists using lights and more. But mostly it means getting serious about this ongoing car violence against mostly seniors, in every neighbourhood, especially in January. “