Based on the concerns expressed to City of Vancouver on the type of temporary surface for the Arbutus Greenway’s pre-consultation period, Naoibh O’Connor writes in the Vancouver Courier.
She quotes HUB spokesperson Jeff Leigh (and regular Price Tags commenter) He weighs in on HUB’s broad and forward-looking view of the Greenway, and the issues of consultation and vision.
“Our goal is to get more people cycling, more often, and whatever accomplishes that is the way we’re going,” he said. “We’re not wedded to pavement or gravel. We’re promoting cycling as a transportation alternative. If our membership comes back and says, ‘We’re just as happy to ride on a gravel path,’ that’s fine. That hasn’t been our experience so far, but we really have to talk to our members and see.”
HUB has discussed ideas for its general vision for the final design of the greenway. The vision talks about the route being a social experience, that it be sufficiently wide for people to ride side-by-side, that it has room for all users and that it respects heritage and different neighbourhoods.
“But it’s at a very, very high visioning level. I think we really need to get to a consultation,” he said. “We look forward to that consultation. These are very early ideas about what it could be. But we see it as an active transportation corridor that we need to have all user groups have a say in.”
Eye-opening footnote: Writer O’Connor on the relevant volumes of concerns expressed to City of Vancouver on the type of temporary surface for the Arbutus Greenway’s pre-consultation period:
Between Aug. 5 and 11, 53 people weighed in by correspondence to the city — 28 expressed support for paving, 15 were against it, four were neutral or offered a suggestion, while six asked a general question.
[Note to self: never underestimate the power of a letter to council and City staff].
The pendulum swings, as we engage in fractious debate about how we change Vancouver’s Arbutus Corridor from an unused 9-km railroad into a multi-use treasure for future generations. So far, the “we love gravel, let’s not change much of anything” crowd has won the day.
Mark Battersby, a Kitsilano resident who protested the paving, said his group was mainly against the project because it was proceeding without consultation. He is concerned that plants like blackberry bushes were being cut back and the berries made inaccessible, and that cyclists would go too fast on the paved path. [Thanks to Metronews.ca for the quote]
But now come other voices, that start to represent more of the citizens of Vancouver. And it gives a glimpse of the difficulty faced by City staff and elected officials when planning things. There are plenty of competing interests, and none of them has a veto.
Since the City fought for decades, all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada, to make sure we got a 42-acre transportation corridor for all its citizens, how do we do this? Does it make sense to simply rip out the rails and then leave things as they are, or should we find a way to let all potential users of this transportation corridor have a chance to see what it is, and envision how they’d like it to be?
Here’s a compelling voice: SG Peters’ blog, in an open letter to Council called “The Public Part of Public Space”. The author writes from the point of view of accessibility, with wit and precision. How, wonders the author, can the broad public assess the Arbutus Corridor’s potential unless everyone can actually use it. How can the design incorporate ideas and issues involved in getting to it, onto it and riding it for someone excluded due to accessibility challenges? You could say the same about many other points of view, for that matter.
I am going to assume Mr. Battersby did not mean to suggest otherwise but, just to be certain we are all clear – my rights as a human being should supersede those of a berry bush. . . .
. . . But this isn’t really a plant problem; it is a people problem, presented under the guise of being a nature problem.
It comes down to how you imagine public space, which in turn comes down to who you include in the word public.
If you do not see me as having the same right to access public space as anyone else then you can come up with any number of reasonable-sounding excuses for excluding me. If you believe I have the same rights as you do, then you may get creative about how to improve a space but you will not suggest sacrificing accessibility to do so. . . .
. . . And while I think railway lines can be quite beautiful, I don’t think they qualify as a nature preserve, particularly when running through the centre of one of Canada’s largest cities . . .
. . . Sentimentality aside, we are talking about making an area already developed by humans of a previous era more useful and accessible to people in this era.
Of course aesthetics and berry bushes are important concerns, the question is where they sit in the hierarchy of considerations.
The same can be said for many potential corridor users from the broad public. Those who walk, run or ride; those who move quickly, those who don’t; those who want to sit and enjoy the views and the passing parade; those who want rails, those who don’t; those who have places to be and errands to run; and yes, those who want to pick berries or garden.
And I’m sure I’ve missed some group or another — but let’s not presume a veto-toting hierarchy based on organized yelling and exclusionary thinking. Let’s let everyone try out the Corridor, and then let’s design something wonderful for future generations through many decades to come.
The Guardian released a preliminary report prepared by Britain’s Royal Town Planning Institute on the state of planning in Britain, and the need for planners. Sure, this sounds like one of those studies, of course a planning institute will say that planners are needed. But here’s the thing-The Guardian’s Rowan Moore says a better Britain could be built if planners were given a chance.
“At one time or another, most people will have reason to be grateful to their profession – for mitigating the expansion of a neighbour’s house, for example, or stopping an open-all-hours club opening in their street. We take it for granted that noxious industries can’t pop up in residential areas and that historic buildings and green spaces have some protection. This is due to planning, an area of government that is nonetheless showered with exceptional levels of derision.”
Moore notes that the way planning systems are instituted in municipalities and regions is constantly changing to be speedier, deliver more service, and also to save money. Planning departments are being cut back in budgets, and developers and other governments want less red tape.
As reported by Moore “So it’s not surprising that the overwhelming majority of planners, according to a report to be published this week, believe that they cannot provide the benefits of planning due to the constraints and changes in their jobs. The report argues that reforms of the planning system often don’t work. It challenges the fantasy that, if only the bolts on the planning machine could be loosened enough, private enterprise would achieve the abundant flow of new housing that the country desires. It argues that there are economic costs to inadequate planning, such as uncertainty and the cost of poor decisions.”
Planning at a municipal and regional level can confirm livability and accessibility through planning that private developers cannot. The article cites Brindleyplace in Birmingham, where 12,000 jobs are now based, and Cranbrook in Devon, which may provide 7,500 homes.
“When building a kitchen, you don’t just plonk down a stove, sink and fridge and hope that they will end up in the right relationship to each other. You plan them. This gets more true as projects get larger and as space for building gets more scarce and precious, as is happening in Britain now.”
Both Britain and British Columbia are looking at how to provide affordable housing, create jobs, provide good accessibility and public transit, and create lively, sustainable communities. In British Columbia, there is pressure to cut red tape at municipalities so that buildings can be produced quicker, faster and cheaper. But is creating more buildings the answer to creating cohesive, connected communities? Can we really construct our way to housing affordability, enhanced public transportation, and better places to live without a consolidated comprehensive overview? Is it too late?
Following the examples set by the Central Valley Greenway and the Seaside (Point Grey Road) Greenway, here comes the Arbutus Greenway. A safe and delightful way for people on foot and on bike to get somewhere and enjoy their trip and the city.
Thanks to the Courier and Naoibh O’Connor: City crews have already laid asphalt down on a chunk of the Arbutus Greenway — from 16th to about 25th.
The next goal is to pave the segment up to 41st over the next few weeks, and ultimately the whole nine-kilometre route from False Creek to the Fraser River.
Jerry Dobrovolny, the city’s general manager of engineering, said the temporary path is meant to encourage the public to travel along the route in preparation for the launch of the visioning process this fall, which will examine what the corridor can become. “The goal is to get people using more of the corridor. We’ve heard from people who’ve lived next to the corridor for decades, but still may have walked only one or two blocks,” said Dobrovolny during a Tuesday press conference at the portion by Fir and West Fifth.
He noted Canadian Pacific contractors finished removing the track ahead of schedule and the asphalt is being put down where the rail used to be. It will be open for public use as each section is completed.
“Our goal is to get people walking much more of it. If you’ve walked two blocks, walk two kilometres. If you’ve walked two kilometres, walk eight kilometres. Experience it, see it and use it. And use that experience when you come to our open houses and involve yourself in our consultation process to design what will be a spectacular facility for the City of Vancouver.”
The article touches on the breadth of issues and the varying constituencies that will form part of the consultation and decision-making process. It’s a daunting task for City staff. Dare I say that not everyone will be happy, no matter what the outcome and final design will be?
The exhaustive and exhausting G-W Community Plan process came to an end Thursday when council approved the last iteration (with only Adriane Carr opposed due to the accelerated, mid-summer final-approval schedule). The amended plan reflected much of what the innovative Citizens Assembly had recommended but parted company with planning staff on the controversial Boffo-Kettle site at Venables and Commercial. The Vancouver Sun story is here.
The process itself will probably be mined for years for ideas about public engagement and attempts to hear the voices of citizens other than “the usual suspects.” What united the community was a concern about displacement of renters; the plan has a “pace of change” provision in which only 5 rental buildings, of a maximum of 150 units (out of about 4,000 in the area), will be considered for redevelopment in the first three years. It’s interesting the city has the power to do that within the framework of the Vancouver Charter.
A city graphic from The Plan.
An uncontroversial part of the plan involves zoning on Commercial Drive itself – keeping the existing 3 FSR and resisting lot consolidation to try to keep its streetscape of small storefronts alive and vibrant. Changes to the RT duplex heritage/character area east of The Drive sailed through, too; changes to that zoning to make it more like the successful RT8 zoning in Kitsilano will penalize with a reduced FSR any owner/builder who wants to tear down a pre-1940 house, and reward retention with infill, multiple-suite conversions, and other goodies. However, a group of architects and fellow-travellers under the title “Dynamic Cities Project” opposed the reduction of the outright FSR there to .5.
Is there any innovative mechanism to retain and renovate the small, affordable apartment buildings without renovicting the tenants? If so, I haven’t spotted it. It seems everyone has drunk the Kool-Aid of Affordability and Supply to such an extent that they’re willing to tear down buildings that would sell at $400/square foot and replace them with larger ones at $800/square foot. However, there is much new rental density, especially along Hastings and on Broadway, which most people supported.
Open space in park-deficient Grandview was an issue for many, but the plan only offers “enhancements” and new “plazas” to soothe the 35% population increase predicted by the plan. Is this the new normal for dog-abundant, child-friendly Vancouver? Will the city say okay, this new ratio of greenspace/person is enough for the 21st century, and let’s decommission parks elsewhere in the city and build affordable housing on them? Doubt it.
In the hearings, the sweep of the plan was hijacked, to a degree, by the split in the community over Boffo-Kettle led by the No Venables Tower group. Supporters of the project, including a carefully curated, heartwarming video of the Kettle’s clients, were encouraged in chambers by Councillor Jang and clearly won the day. Much of the controversy about the project focused on building height (12 storeys) rather than its proposed FSR of around 6.7 in an area where the highest density so far is about 2.5; staff’s response, presumably reflecting urban design concerns and the impact of such a large condo component on the nearby low-income apartment area, was to recommend 9 storeys, a lower streetwall and an FSR close to 4. Cllrs. Carr and Affleck voted against the amendment.
I spoke to council in favour of the plan (as presented, not as amended) but didn’t find the amended outcome surprising. This is a rich country which increasingly supports its mentally ill population (in the case of Boffo-Kettle) and impoverished renter population with private-sector bonusing. The din of the cash registers while property-transfer taxes flow into provincial coffers and the city increasingly stratifies is never matched by increasing public investments in social services.
To me the major sour note was Councillor Meggs, at the end when words of reconciliation would have been appropriate, chiding the community for its reluctance to accept what he considers to be adequate density for public transit. A 35% population increase is not enough? In a community of transit users, many of whom are poor renters, with the highest cycling rate in the city? Of course, he is the point man on the Subway to Nowhere, aka the Broadway line that will terminate at Arbutus Street. Did I say I tried to stay neutral?
The Lancet (an independent medical journal) has produced a series (“Physical Activity 2016“) to update their 2012 findings. It seems the authors of this series care a lot. And yes, urban planning has a big role to play.
In 2012, The Lancet published its first Series on physical activity, which concluded that physical inactivity is as important a modifiable risk factor for chronic diseases as obesity and tobacco. Four years later, the second Series presents an update of the field, including progress in epidemiological research, global surveillance, intervention strategies, and policy actions. The papers will also feature the largest harmonised meta-analysis on the joint health effects of sedentary behaviour and physical activity, and the first global estimate of the economic burden of physical inactivity.
The Series encourages policy makers to take physical activity more seriously and to provide sufficient capacity and funding to implement national policies. Without a rapid increase in action, the WHO target of a 10% reduction in physical inactivity by 2025 will not be reached. We must continue to strive towards the longer term goal: the integration of physical activity into our daily lives.
The Series contains around 13 articles, perspectives and related content. Those I read required free registration but not payment.
Background: Since the publication of the ﬁrst Lancet Series on physical activity in 2012—which recognised physical inactivity as a global pandemic and urged all sectors of governments and societies to take immediate action— the demand for eﬀective strategies to increase population physical activity levels has grown. A substantial body of evidence resulting from decades of research in the ﬁelds of exercise physiology, public health, epidemiology, and the behavioural sciences has shown that physical activity has broad economic and health beneﬁts and that under scientiﬁcally controlled circumstances, behaviour change is achievable for increasing physical activity in diverse groups. . . .
. . . Urban planning and transportation policies should prioritise actions that promote safe, equitable, and environmentally friendly active mobility and leisure options for all citizens
Caution: this is rigorous scientific material, for the most part. Those with a low tolerance for depth and complexity, or for opinions contrary to their own, need not dig into any of it.
On Smithe, looking roughly south, just east of Homer. This tree-lined passageway gets you on the way to Yaletown Park at Nelson and Mainland.
Light rail and train tracks are street hazards for people riding bikes. And problems happen more often than we think.
Thanks to co-author Kay Teschke for the link to this study from Ryerson and UBC.
Most such crashes occur when a bike’s front wheel gets caught in the “flangeway” present on all rails. Suddenly, the wheel is going a different direction from the rest of the bike. Wham! Or when the rails are simply slippery from rain, frost, fog and so on. The best advice is to cross the tracks with your front tire perpendicular to the track — or as near as possible to 90 degrees. This can be difficult if, as on Granville Island, the tracks are in the same place as busy motor vehicle and bike traffic.
Conclusions: In a city with an extensive streetcar system, one-third of bicycling crashes directly involved streetcar or train tracks. Certain demographics were more likely to have track-involved crashes, suggesting that increased knowledge about how to avoid them might be helpful. However, such advice is long-standing and common in Toronto, yet the injury toll is very high, underscoring the need for other solutions. Tires wider than streetcar or train flangeways (~50 mm in the Toronto system) are another individual-based approach, but population-based measures are likely to provide the optimal solution. Our results showed that route infrastructure makes a difference to the odds of track-involved injuries. Dedicated rail rights of way, cycle tracks, and protected intersections that direct two-stage left turns are policy measures concordant with a Vision Zero standard. They would prevent most of the track-involved injury scenarios observed in this study.
In metro Vancouver, such tracks are more rare than in active streetcar cities (like Toronto, where this data was gathered). But hazardous tracks persist on Granville Island, and elsewhere. It is remotely possible that Surrey will sprout a light-rail network one day.
Just to add a sour note to an otherwise sunny day with the soft launch of Mobi, here’s a tired, snarky column by a National Post columnist. Though published a few days ago, it seems like it comes from the last decade. ‘War on the Car’? So Rob Ford.
But what is new (and startling) is the disconnect between the free-market ideology of the NatPost and the antipathy to using the price mechanism to allocate a scarce resource like street parking in the West End, encouraging the use of surplus private parking otherwise noncompetitive.
VANCOUVER — A war is being waged in Vancouver’s streets. Led by green-by-all-means mayor Gregor Robertson, City Hall has identified and vilified its enemy, the car. The private automobile. …
Some of the city’s new traffic-clogging, business-blocking lanes are seldom used, but that’s of little concern to two-wheeler preachers and sanctimonious scolders who aren’t dependent on cars for their livelihoods. More dedicated bike lanes are on the way.
Planning a move to Vancouver’s West End, a densely populated, mostly working-class neighbourhood wedged between the downtown core and beloved Stanley Park? Better think twice about bringing a car. City Hall would much prefer you leave the thing behind. You’re better to sell it. Sell it now.
A staff report delivered to city council this month recommends that any newcomer seeking a city parking permit in the West End be slapped with a 700 per cent fee increase. Current permit fees for existing residents are far too low, at $80 a year, explain city planners. Better to charge incoming residents at a “market rate,” which the city has determined to be $50 a month, or a punishing $600 a year.
The proposed permit fee increase would not apply to other neighbourhoods.
According to Vancouver transportation director Lon LaClaire, there are 16,000 registered vehicles in the West End, about one for every three residents, and more than enough parking spaces to accommodate them all: 22,000 off-street (mostly underground) private parking spaces and 2,700 on-street permit spaces.
A 700 per cent fee increase for a city street parking permit would force car owners to consider either giving up their vehicles, or renting an unused private space from, say, a neighbouring building. LaClaire says there are thousands of empty parking spaces sitting underground.
Would the owners of those private parking spaces be persuaded to rent out their spaces to strangers? Who knows.
What is certain, says LaClaire, is that the proposed fee increase would discourage locals from parking their vehicles on the street. It would be a costly inconvenience for them, but a possible boon for West End visitors, who typically spend about 10 minutes circling the block, looking for a place to park.
Andrew Willis writes in the Globe and Mail’s Report On Business Executive Insight on Bank of England Governor Mark Carney’s part of the Carney/McKenna conversation on Friday to the Toronto Region Board of Trade.
He calls Mr. Carney “a banker in touch with the times” due in part to his efforts to make climate change a business priority.
Sharing a podium with Canada’s Environment Minister Catherine McKenna in a packed-to-the-rafters breakfast in a cavernous Toronto ballroom, Mr. Carney had a message to deliver: Climate change is real, it carries staggering risks and costs for business and corporate leaders, and politicians need to take action.
For many, this is not a new message. But why does the writer conclude that Mr. Carney is in touch with the times? The answer nearly caused me to guffaw through a mouthful of morning tea.
And the central banker only needed to look at the crowd Friday to know a call to action on climate change resonates. In a sea of suits at a downtown hotel, a significant portion of the audience had bike helmets on tables, or under chairs: They rode to the event, rather than drive. Mr. Carney is a banker in touch with the times.
At least in the eyes of Mr. Willis, the bicycle is now the mainstream symbol of changing times in his world of big money and big business. We’ve come a long way from the conversation being about “. . . all the pinkos out there that ride bicycles and everything”, (thanks Don Cherry and Rob Ford for the delightful slur).
Inside this story is a larger one. And right on time, as the Commercial Drive bike lane debate plods on, with no resolution in sight.
Kevin Griffin writes in Postmedia’s Vancouver Sun about new businesses springing up in response to the success of Vancouver’s existing bike lanes. This is all good.
First, in respect of existing businesses, Mr. Griffin updates those few who may have missed it on the bike-lane turnaround at the DVBIA, which represents 8,000 businesses of immense variety. He quotes Charles Gauthier:
Some businesses expressed a lot of concerns primarily that they thought their customers primarily arrived by parking and driving in front of their store,” he says.. . . But a 2011 Vancouver Separated Bike Lane Impact Study included surveys that talked to customers and businesses affected by the Dunsmuir and Hornby bike routes. It found a big difference between perception and reality: 20 per cent of customers arrived by car compared to 42 per cent by transit, 32 per cent on foot and about eight per cent by bike.
“What we have seen in the intervening years along Hornby Street is that things have settled down considerably,” says Gauthier. “We’re hearing less and less about it as a point of concern.
Mr. Griffin goes on to highlight several new businesses that are bike-lane-related. But there is something else hidden in the stories, which is the City’s reputation, and the reaction of visitors to Vancouver, amid these new opportunities:
We get a lot of families, parents going out with kids, and people who have heard that Vancouver is bike friendly,” he says.
“If we didn’t have this reputation and the infrastructure that you can obviously see, you wouldn’t do that. . . .
“. . . We see the smile on people’s faces when they come back,” he says. “They’ve experienced the city in a new way. They tell us ‘I wish our city could be like this.’
Says ModaCity’s Chris Bruntlett, about the move into bike-related filmmaking:
We’re telling Vancouver’s story and what’s coming out of this huge shift that’s got 10 per cent of trips to work on bicycle,” he says. “The eyes of North America are really on our city in terms of promoting and enabling cycling.
Here’s Bomber Brewing’s Blair Calibaba on their business success, located at the intersection of the Adanac and Mosaic bikeways. Don’t forget that Cycle City offers a “Craft Beer Tour”, encouraging travel (by bike) to parts of town off the typical Stanley Park – Gastown circuit:
Part of the draw for us was the location and being on such a busy avenue for cycling,” he says. “We knew we would get traffic and consistent customers. The city’s bike culture is growing incredibly in this city, thanks to the infrastructure and more cycling routes.
My take is that the bike lanes we have work fine for existing businesses, and are spawning new locally-focused and visitor-focused ones. Such opportunities will multiply as Vancouver’s AAA-network (*) spreads, and more and more destinations can be reached by people of all ages and abilities (AAA) on bikes.
I hope to see, some day in the future, more locals and tourists setting out (as they do now for other areas) for the Drive, — which is a wonderful area to explore and spend some bucks. And they will increasingly want to do it by bike. And it is the AAA bike lanes, and the network of them, which will get more people travelling to the Drive.
(*) All Ages and Abilities bike network defined.
Seen tonight in the West End, two Mobi bike-share stations with a “relay box” in place.
This box communicates to and from the bikes (via ZigBee), and from the box to the Mobi Mothership servers (via GPRS). The relay box is solar-powered, and the bikes’ electronics are powered from the front wheel hub dynamo (a.k.a. generator). Both communications protocols are oriented to short data bursts, and use little power, so are great choices for Mobi.
GPRS is a subset of the cellular networks. ZigBee is short-range point-to-point.
From the City of Vancouver:
July 15 2016 Temporary pathway installation gets under way next week
Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. (CP) was responsible for all rail removal along the corridor, with the exception of street crossings, as part of our land purchase agreement announced in March 2016. A total of 17 kilometers of rail and 16,000 ties were removed.
We are responsible for removing the rails at street crossings, work which will be completed at a later date.
Construction of the first phase of the pathway
The temporary pathway, which will be shared by pedestrians and those riding bikes or on rollerblades, etc. will be installed in sections; the first phase from Fir Street to 41st Avenue is expected to be complete by the end of summer 2016.
The pathway will eventually extend all the way south from 41st Avenue to Marpole. We will let you know when the pathway is open for recreation use.
Permitted use of the temporary pathway will include walking, cycling, rollerblades, and push scooters. No motorized vehicles or scooters will be allowed.
Powell St overpass mid-span observation point.
More about the overpass HERE.
I like following changes in opinion and shifts in the conversation. Here’s a sign of such a shift in the conversation underway in Toronto, and we can hear major echoes of it here in Vancouver. Clearly, our battle goes on, with rancor galore from those who oppose the changes in how City land is used for transportation by what mode.
Oliver Moore writes on Urban Transportation for the Globe and Mail.
About one quarter of Toronto’s land area is streets and sidewalks, and how the city uses that enormous resource will help determine how it develops in the decades to come.
At a time when cities are recognizing that mobility is no longer primarily about cars, Toronto is preparing to select a new leader for the transportation department. It’s one of the most important roles in the bureaucracy, with the ability to shape the city, and the choice will send a message about the future Toronto wants to build. . . .
. . . In an earlier time, roads were for moving cars and the main job of city bureaucrats was to make sure motorists weren’t slowed down. But cities are changing. Mobility is changing. Toronto has made initial steps in this direction, with the introduction of some protected bicycle lanes and dedicated transit corridors. And the prospect of bigger change looms, from the emergence of driverless cars to carving out space for pedestrians on Yonge Street.
In Vancouver, I understand that some 32% of its land is devoted to transportation, so changing priorities affects a lot of land. And new priorities need to be a prominent part of the conversation.
You can find out tomorrow, as Mobi bikes and people will be available:
Demo Stations: Tomorrow July 6th, we will be showing the Mobi bikes and handing out membership kits at our Burrard and Melville St. station from 11am- 2pm.
We will also be at the Dunsmuir and Beatty station from 3pm-6pm.
Come say hi!
More opinion on the Massey Tunnel replacement project, involving a really expensive, really big bridge. Dermod Travis writes in the Straight.
Here’s Mr. Travis’ reason #7 to hit “pause” on the project. The reference to Bellringer concerns a planned audit “to evaluate the quality of evidence to support the decision to replace the George Massey Tunnel”.
7. Stakeholder buy-in
With Metro Vancouver mayors giving thumbs down to the project, there’s not much public buy-in for it.
It’s why Bellringer’s performance audit could prove invaluable. 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?
Now that would really debunk myths, if they are indeed myths.
Dermod Travis is the executive director of Integrity B.C.