COVID Place making
May 6, 2020

Speedsters Take Advantage of Open Road during Pandemic

ICBC (the Insurance Corporation of B.C. that provides mandatory vehicular insurance) has been posting extra social media reminders for drivers to slow down and not risk hospitalization while Covid protocols and cases have priority.

In British Columbia there has been an increase in speeders on the road since the Covid Crisis began. You would think with less traffic there would be fewer crashes, but as Kristen Robinson reports less traffic means “some speed demons are taking advantage of the open highways.”

On Vancouver Island, Saanich Police impounded 16 vehicles for speeding in four weeks compared to  two impounds in the same period last year. All were going over 40 kilometres an hour over the posted speed limit. In April Coquitlam RCMP towed twelve  vehicles for speeding  in a two week period, including one that was travelling 50 kilometres an hour faster than the posted speed limit. The Province’s public safety minister Mike Farnsworth stated “It’s really quite shocking”.

And it is not only in British Columbia where emptier roads have meant speedier traffic. This article in Bostonomics found that while traffic fell by 50 percent on roads in Massachusetts during the Covid Crisis, the rate of fatalities on state roads had doubled since April.  There have been 27 road deaths since April, with 28 road deaths in the April before. But traffic volume in 2020 has been half of that experienced in the previous year.

While Massachusetts transportation officials blame the increased fatalities on speeding and distracted driving, Highway Administrator Jonathan Gulliver observed:

It’s somewhat of a psychology here that when you have the open road and you’re not used to it, that you’re going to see what you can do and try to get to your destination as fast as possible. That’s something that we do not want people to do.”

The advice the Highway Administrator gave is also salient in British Columbia:

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May 4 to 10 is Mental Health Week in British Columbia.

An Ipsos poll conducted in April found that 54% of respondents found themselves feeling lonely or isolated as a result of this physical distancing time.  Sixty-eight percent of  Canadians between 18 to 34 years were the most impacted, but the numbers indicate other age groups feel similarly. Between 35 to 54 years of age 58 percent felt isolated.

There’s also financial worries, with another Ipsos poll showing that 40 percent of Canadians would not have any resources beyond one week  if they lost their job during the pandemic.

While Canadians have participated in “herd community” by staying home to lessen physical sickness and mortalities, mental health and well being is important too in this unique and challenging time.

The University of British Columbia  along with the British Columbia Psychological Association are offering people in this Province “Psychological First Aid”.

The Psychological First Aid Service offers “Psychological First Aid” telephone calls, free of charge, to any BC resident (19+) affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Calls are made by registered psychologists.

“Psychological First Aid is a brief (up to 30 minute) telephone consultation to provide you with information and strategies to help you cope with the stress associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. It is designed to help people who usually cope with daily life pretty well, but who might be feeling overwhelmed during this very stressful time.”

The service can be used as many time as needed by filling out the online request form. You can take a look at this page which offers further information about this service.

Images: MHScot & BloomingMinds

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Finally – over a hundred days into the covid era – a city leader has articulated an initiative for “Reallocation of Road Space to Support Shared Use during Pandemic”.   Lisa Dominato but forward the following notice of motion, bumped to May 12 for discussion.


  1. The City of Vancouver declared a local state of emergency on March 19, 2020 in response to the global COVID19 pandemic;
  1. The Province has recommended physical distancing of 2 metres (6 feet) to prevent the spread of COVID19;
  1. The Province has also recommended the public continue to safely enjoy the outdoors, including local parks and public spaces;
  1. The Provincial health officer has commented publicly in recent weeks that partial street closures and one way travel/routing can be an effective way to enable physical exercise and safe distancing during the pandemic;
  1. Cities across Canada and around the world are undertaking measures to reallocate street space and roadways for pedestrians to safely exercise, access businesses and employment, while maintaining a safe distance due to the current pandemic;
  1. Vancouver City Council has previously endorsed motions to support slower residential streets and encourage safer shared use;
  1. The City of Vancouver and Park Board recently identified congestion in and around Stanley Park, and subsequently closed the Stanley Park roadway to cars and one lane along Beach Avenue to enable safe physical distancing during the COVID19 pandemic;
  1. The City of Vancouver has initiated a street reallocation initiative that focuses on Room to Queue, Room to Load, and Room to Move during the COVID19 pandemic;
  1. The ongoing pandemic necessitates that the City reallocate road space on an urgent basis now and develop plans for mobility and space use as part of our post-COVID-19 recovery and new economy.

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT Council direct staff to expedite efforts to identify and implement appropriate reallocations of road space, such as high use greenways and streets adjacent to parks where space could be reallocated temporarily to enable safe shared use (pedestrians, cyclists, motor vehicles) and support safe physical distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic response, and

FURTHER THAT Council direct staff to communicate information to the public and businesses regarding the suite of street measures available to the City for reallocating space to support access to local businesses, to support loading and curbside pick-up, and to support physical activity and distancing in neighbourhoods across the city, and

FURTHER THAT Council direct staff to report back to Council in fall 2020 on refined options for mobility and public realm use us as part of the post COVID19 recovery and new economy.

Note No. 8 in the Whereas’s.  Had any readers heard of a City of Vancouver street reallocation initiative that focuses on “Room to Queue, Room to Load, and Room to Move”?  Nothing was sent to Price Tags (perhaps too low below the horizon) – nor has much been said of note from the City’s leaders, particularly the Mayor. 

What a lost opportunity to reinforce other initiatives promoted by the City: reallocation as a health response, a climate-emergency response, a local-neighbourhood planning response, an active-transportation response – all of the above at a time when the difficult-to-do has become the necessary-to-do.  (Speaking of which, one would hardly think it necessary to direct staff “to communicate information to the public and businesses regarding the suite of street measures available …”)

Lisa’s motion more importantly goes beyond the immediate pandemic: she sees reallocation as important to a recovery- and new-economy response.

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The Park Board may have closed facilities like tennis courts for their usual purposes, like, um, tennis, but that hasn’t stopped Vancouverites from finding recreational and fitness opportunities outdoors.  Which Dr. Henry thinks is okay so long as you-know-what is maintained.

As with golf courses, perhaps it’s time to evaluate what other uses can be shared with a single-purpose space.

Video here for a look at what cross-fitters will do for their fix. Gym on a tennis court

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As the curve is flattening for Covid-19 in British Columbia, the time for physical distancing in the north is starting. In the Yukon territory The Guardian reports that residents are asked to keep one caribou’s length from each other.

Just in case there is a resident in the Yukon unfamiliar with the length of the typical caribou the Yukon Health and Wellness Department has added the following image as well. One caribou’s length is roughly the same as two huskies end to end.

And in case you are not familiar with huskies, they have added another image for physical distancing, that of eight loaves of sourdough bread. People living in the Yukon are often called ‘sourdoughs”. This is after the sourdough starter comprised of yeast and bacteria that was vitally important in the Klondike Goldrush of 1896 to make bread. As most food brought into the area froze, flour did not, and became an essential staple in making sourdough bread.

While the Yukon territory has 11 confirmed Covid-19 cases, they are limiting travel from their borders with British Columbia and Alaska.

For those that are south of the Yukon, here’s a  physical distancing  graphic using Elon Musk with a set of maraccas.

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This time of quarantine shows you can never adequately predict the future or where it will take you.  Last week there were two excellent webinars hosted by Urban Logiq and Boston University’s School of Public Health  looking at planning and social issues related to Covid-19. What these informed discussions provided was a guide to the new normal, and some measured predictions on the  post Covid-19 city.

Director of the City Program at Simon Fraser University Andy Yan spoke in the Urban Logiq discussion. Andy sees the biggest change in the emergence of regular life is going to be spatial, with a “revitalization of localization” in a new interest in neighbourhoods.

“New urbanism” including the concept of  all shops and services within a 15 to 20 minute walk/bike  commute is not going to happen because it is the right thing to do, but because people have experienced the importance of those aspects in their neighbourhoods during the pandemic. This  brings up the importance of municipal land use allowing for neighbourhood  “corner store” retailing, for local grocery stores serving the immediate neighbourhood area.

Calling the current time the Covid “end of the beginning” Andy’s prediction is the Post-Covid city will influence spatial design and city use for “years and decades”.  The “key to recovery”  is increasing biomedical security. But think of it~who ever imagined biomedical safety  would be a driver in how we think of and use cities?

Here are some main trends~redefining the working neighbourhood; reimagining seniors care as aging in place; new neighbourhood based vocations; new management styles; and a renewed interest in working from home.

Andy Yan perceives “the internet of neighbourhoods” as being a key driver in post-covid times, changing the paradigm of place from city focus to this finer level. This “revitalization of localism” addresses the vulnerability and fragility of the city in crisis, by creating smaller scale areas of independence and self reliance.

.The care model for seniors needs to be seriously rethought and I have written before about  an Ipsos study that shows that 93 percent of homeowners over 65 intend to remain in their current homes. The Covid crisis in care homes, and the isolation experienced by seniors walled in during the pandemic is another factor making staying put more appealing.

And look for new work directions too. New skill sets will be in demand, including neighbourhood level nursing and health care, detail oriented  grocery store stockists and delivery, and the importance of the “caring’ economy, taking care of the most vulnerable, the very young and the very old.

The gentle but consistent management style demonstrated by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and the Province’s Medical Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry signal a change in management style  from dictatorial to one that inspires and influences. This style also emphasizes the importance of working in teams and in groups to  accomplish tasks.

We’ve also done a pretty good job of adapting to working from home too, and that will be part of the shift of the post-covid city. I previously have written about Mario Canseco’s survey showing that 73% of Canadians expect to continue to work from home. Sixty-three percent think that more companies will be nixing business travel and promoting more online teleconferencing.

Andy Yan did use one of his “Yanisms” in describing the new lifelong learning education needed in the post-covid city as “not creating a wood axe, but having the nimbleness and flexibility of a swiss army knife”.

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The Canadian Urban Institute is sponsoring a “Cities in the Time of Covid” Series and the next free webinar on the impact of Covid on housing and homelessness will be held Tuesday May 5 at 9:00 a.m. Pacific Time.

The Institute is is not-for-profit organization based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The institute operates in several fields related to urban planning and is involved with specific issues such as affordable housing, the competitiveness of city regions, smart growth, energy and water solutions, age-friendly communities and brownfield reclamation.

Details for the webinar are below. You can register here on this link.


CITIES IN THE TIME OF COVID SERIES: How does our approach to housing & homelessness change?


Tuesday, May 5 9:00 am – 10:00 pm Pacific Time.

How does our approach to housing & homelessness change?

Leilani Farha, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Housing
Margaret Pfoh, Aboriginal Housing Management Association
Tim Richter, Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness
John Van Nostrand, Parcel Developments


May 5, 2020 9:00 AM  Pacific Time  Time (US and Canada)



Image: National Observer

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