A must-read article (from, not surprisingly, The New Yorker) recommended by Peter Ladner, and seconded by me.  It’s about more than e-scooters – namely the micromobility revolution, the relation of technology to human beings, and at the end, a rather dark scenario as we return, post-pandemically, to the streets:

Some tasty nuggets from the complete article here:

Transportation wonks hailed scooter-sharing as the best solution to their “last-mile problem,” when the trip between the train station and home is a little farther than walking distance—around a quarter of a mile, for most people. Futurists saw it as the first transportation mode to incorporate mobile-computing and global-positioning technology in its core design, and touted the e-scooter as a harbinger of the battery-powered, software-controlled car of the future. But to detractors e-scooters were a fad, and scooter-share programs were a tech hustle that exploited a limited public resource—city streets—to enrich private investors. …

In the late two-thousands, the first wave of e-bikes arrived in the city as food-delivery workers, virtually all immigrants, began using them. For a fifteen-hundred-dollar investment in an e-bike, a worker can increase his nightly earnings by two dollars an hour—which could amount to thousands more in yearly earnings. …

On March 20, 2020, Cuomo put the state into lockdown. Within weeks, the food-delivery workers whom the N.Y.P.D. had been harassing were being hailed as frontline heroes. During the terrifying early days, particularly, it seemed as though ambulances and delivery e-bikes were the only vehicles moving. …

In renting a scooter—or a bike—you provide the hire company with information about you, your route, your travel speed, your driving style, and your destination. Cities grant scooter concessions in part to have access to these data, which are aggregated and anonymized according to rules that underpin the Mobility Data Specification, an open-source digital tool. This information is far more granular than the data that can be gleaned about subway or bus ridership. …

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The Downtown BIA presents their State of Downtown report this year via video:

It’s been particularly rough for Downtown in almost all categories because of the combined effects of a loss in office workers, resident shoppers, restaurant and arts patrons, tourists and event-goers of all kinds.  And yet the representatives of those markets are pretty optimistic, and expect that post-pandemic downtown will be a lot like the pre-pandemic.  (Where changes occur will likely be invisible to most – for instance, inside those office buildings, on transit, and how we communicate.)

A special shout-out and thanks to CEO of the BIA, Charles Gauthier.  Charles is retiring this year, after an indispensable career not just in leading the organization but in his outreach, understanding and negotiation with so many different constituencies that make up the complex core we call Downtown Vancouver.  The City is a better place because of him.

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There’s a premise out there (articulated pretty much at every rezoning hearing by Councillor Jean Swanson to justify a no vote) that newer, bigger apartments and condos constructed in a lower income neighbourhoods will have gentrification effects – in particular, an upward pressure on rents.  Seems reasonable to some, unverifiable to others – or at least no justification to argue against new development that will eventually become older and relatively more affordable.

Sooo … this research from the States will add fuel to the debate, which maintains new development can actually lower some rents.  Nor do an increase in amenities have a measurable effect.

From Planetizen:

A study years in the making has added a new reference in the debate about the effects of large new apartment developments on low-income neighborhoods located nearby.

The study, titled “Local Effects of Large New Apartment Buildings in Low-Income Areas,” was published by The Review of Economics and Statistics on May 6, but the research first attracted attention at the beginning of 2019. Planetizen blogger Michael Lewyn introduced the research findings (in what was then a working paper) as potential ammunition for the YIMBY response to rising housing costs in large cities with restrictive zoning codes and low amounts of residential development.

Now published in a peer-reviewed journal, the research finalizes its findings, as summarized in the study’s abstract: “New buildings decrease rents in nearby units by about 6 percent relative to units slightly farther away or near sites developed later, and they increase in-migration from lowincome [sic] areas.”

The researchers argue that new apartment developments achieve price reductions in nearby neighborhoods by absorbing high-income households and increasing local housing stock. “If buildings improve nearby amenities, the effect is not large enough to increase rents. Amenity improvements could be limited because most buildings go into already-changing neighborhoods, or buildings could create disamenities such as congestion,” reads the abstract.

For more of the latest on the subject, researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles recently published a survey of recent research on the consequences of new development for local housing markets.

FULL STORY: Local Effects of Large New Apartment Buildings in Low-Income Areas Published on Thursday, May 6, 2021 in The Review of Economics and Statistics Read more »

Here in the Gilford Street minipark in the West End, there is a restaurant – once the fabled Delilah’s (ask your older gay friends), now Robba da Matti – that has expanded their footprint (and their ceiling) to create something more enticing:

Even as they keep their airiness, they are also becoming more formal, more an extension of their indoor space.  Eventually more permanent.  Restaurants capable of creating outdoor rooms will have two year-round options based on the seasons – outdoors in good weather, where landscaping will be as mood-shaping as the interior design.

Expansion into the public realm will of course raise an issue.  How much should be privatized or made special purpose?

In the case of this restaurant, the expansion of the patio originally occurred where the space itself was little-used and didn’t block any walk-through option.  Now it has doubled.  Has it added vitality and helped keep a business alive – or is it an incremental intrusion and a concerning precedent for our public open spaces?


UPDATE: Dominic Brown commented below: “I think you’ve used a photo of the mini-park across Haro from the space in question, that shows a fellow relaxing in a big burgundy-coloured hammock under the cherry trees. That was me. I miss that place.”

You mean this one!


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Did you know that there is still one natural salmon bearing stream left in the City of Vancouver? That is on Crown Street south of Southwest Marine Drive, and you can see it as it goes through Musqueam Park. Fish that have used this creek are Chum, Coho and Cutthroat trout.

This stream and its location is also important, as it is next to the Musqueam First Nation, and Crown Street is also a major entrance to the Nation.

Even two decades ago the City of Vancouver had a surprising percolating font of innovation in the most unexpected place, the Engineering Department. There visionaries like Doug Smith of Greenways (who now heads up the Sustainability Department) and David Desrochers who was manager of Sewer Design stewarded new approaches to managing streets and stormwater. They believed that work could be done in a different, more ecologically sensitive way, and looked for opportunities to test new materials and work in their projects. One grumpy conservative engineer at the city  said that both of these individuals should lose their engineering accreditations for their innovative approaches. But that most certainly  did not happen, instead both Mr. Smith and Mr. Desrochers created work that garnered international attention and awards. And no one talks about the grumpy engineer.

David Desrochers along with  Wally Konowalchuk and Jonathan Helmus had been looking for a place to experiment with a more ecologically responsible way to innovate on  the standard street curb and gutter.  Crown Street with its proximity to this important  salmon stream  and  to the  gateway of the  Musqueam First Nations lands was chosen.

The work on Crown Street between Southwest Marine Drive and 48th Avenue was approved in 2002 . In 2004 funding of 1.18 million was approved with $545,000 being the city share of the cost. Other funding came from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities,($593,350) with the remainder from the Musqueam First Nation and through a Local Improvement Program initiative cost shared with residents.

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From The Atlantic:

If you’ve been able to work from home, you’ve had an enormous privilege. But devoid of choice and novelty, remote work has lost some of its romance for office workers who previously dreamed of ending their commute. …

What would be best for most office workers—and what’s most likely to happen for many of them—is something between the extremes of old-school office work and digital nomadism. … I’m here to argue for a particular baseline: three days in the office, and two at home.

Working from home also gives you more control of marginal time in the workday itself. At the office, if you need a break from your computer, that might mean going to stand in line to buy a salad or yet another coffee. At home, it could be washing dishes or folding laundry or doing a grocery run—stuff that would otherwise eat away at personal time. …  Working from home can also open up new choices about where to live; even if you’re commuting two or three days a week, you might be able to opt for a more affordable neighborhood, or a town that offers more outdoorsy activities that’s farther away from the office.

But working from home is also not what most people say they want to be doing full-time in the near future. …  Many people benefit from working and living in separate places. Commutes can have upsides. Last year, I was somewhat embarrassed to realize that I was among the half of American office workers who missed mine; the time I used to spend walking and riding the train every morning provided a psychological in-between, when all I needed to do was let my brain transition into work mode while I listened to a podcast.

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From Peter Ladner:

My son Brendan put me on to Horace Dediu.  He’s a cycling advocate who has done pioneering math on actually reaching our targeted GHG reductions in transportation and discovered that even massive adoption of EVs won’t cut it. The unavoidable sweet spot is the burgeoning world of “micro-vehicles”– between skateboards, mechanical bikes, scooters and golf car(t)s. Vancouver-based Veemo (right) is just one example.


Dediu, a Romanian-born Harvard MBA “known for his analysis of Apple’s business strategy and predictions of their financials,” applied his surgically-curious mathematical mind to transportation in this article, revealing the unheralded market for micromobility.


I would also highly recommend his drawn-out but utterly-mesmerizing-for-geeks podcast on How Micromobility Can Save the World.   (Zen cyclists would appreciate Dediu’s seven-minute Youtube meditation on a Zen master’s answer to “why cycle?”)

Brendan (SmartWhistler.org) matched Dediu’s math. He worked out that even if EV adoption were ahead of predictions and all internal combustion-engine sales stopped by 2040, transportation emissions in Whistler would be higher than today due to the slow pace of automobile turnover, population growth, and EVs’ hidden GHGs.

Achieving Whistler’s, Metro Vancouver’s or B.C.’s GHG reduction targets in transportation is simply not going to happen without a massive conversion to micro-mobility modes of getting around.

Not enough people realize how much that is already happening. Horace tells all.


(Click title for full article by Dediu.)

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From Michael von Hausen – the latest book from one of the pre-eminent urban designers in Canada, both a big-vision and sweat-the-details guy.  This one is especially relevant for those who actually want to get something designed and built.

Fresh strategies to streamline development approvals

WHY: Real estate development approvals, a vital part of community planning and value-building, may be the most underrated and misunderstood part of the development process.

HOW: New Pathways to Approvals provides you with a comprehensive how-to guide, from the start of a project through to final approvals. The strategies here will increase the speed and quality of approvals while decreasing associated costs and conflicts. Above all, they develop trust and goodwill, which can ultimately build btter communities.

WHO: This book is for seasoned developers, development consultants, aspiring students, politicians, municipal staff, and community members who want to create healthy and resilient communities.

Hard copies are available on Amazon. 



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NEW WEBINAR: The Collision Analysis You Want Your City To Do – To Save Lives
Join America Walks for a New Webinar!

What could we learn about collisions if we didn’t just rely on police reports? Oregon Walks volunteers put in 1400 hours to meticulously research and reconstruct the causes of every fatal collision in Portland from 2017-2019.
It may be a model for governments to adopt – if they are serious about reducing the inequitable burden of deaths and injuries. Learn how they did it, what it shows, and why “texting pedestrians” is just lazy clickbait.

The Collision Analysis You Want Your City To Do – To Save Lives

DATE: Wednesday, May 19th, 2021 at  8:00 to 9:00 am Pacific Time

You can register at this link.

Registration Link: https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/5647058050008595984

Ashton D. Simpson is the Executive Director of Oregon Walks, a community organizer, former U.S. Air Force Civil Engineering Technician, and a graduate of Portland State University’s Community Development undergraduate program.

As a progressive Black man growing up in Houston, and now living in Portland, he has seen firsthand the unequal development present in our pedestrian infrastructure, and the dangers this presents for vulnerable communities. “We must reimagine what pedestrian safety and healing looks like for our communities, and work to remove the barriers that prevent low-income communities from having the representation, investment, and infrastructure they deserve”. Ashton will fight to ensure that every community is a walkable one!

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