Nature & Public Spaces
August 9, 2020

At the HUB Tent: Saving the beach Avenue Bikeway

Drop by a HUB Cycling tent this Sunday, Aug 9 until 3 pm on Beach Avenue at Broughton Street to sign your support.

This incredibly popular and scenic route provides a safe, direct and flat connection between Hornby Street and Stanley Park for people of all ages and abilities, for recreation and commuting – all day, every day. It is a great use of limited open public space in one of Vancouver’s most popular and densely-populated neighbourhoods.

The Beach Avenue Bikeway will also relieve pressure on the very busy seawall route when bikes are allowed back on it post-COVID distancing measures.

Sign here if you agree and HUB Cycling will keep you updated on the future of this valuable cycling bikeway.

 

 

 

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PT: Ann McAfee was Co-Director of Planning for Vancouver from 1994 to 2006 at the time the extraordinary growth described in the post below was occurring.  This paper describes the immediate and possible future impacts of COVID-19 on planning in the Greater Vancouver area.  (Edited from the original here, with my emphasis added in bold.) It one of the best summaries of all the different forces and developments that will (or should) affect local and regional planning in the near future.

Despite the dispassionate tone of the paper, no doubt from years of writing planning documents, her summary is, if not radical, a challenge that will be profound for planners, politicians and leaders in community:

Local governments are challenged to reframe plans to respond, recover, restart, and rebuild in the context of limited funds and raised expectations. Post COVID plans need governments to understand economic distress and calls for social justice. Post COVID plans also need public understanding of fiscal limitations.

“Limited funds” and “fiscal limitations” are realities that will be imposed on us by the pandemic, and it won’t be pleasant.  Perhaps that’s why they have so far been largely undiscussed as society and governments cope with more urgent demands.   Ann is calling for planners to step up to the challenge.

 

Ann McAfee:

Three Programs Caught in COVID

Prior to COVID, three agencies launched strategic plan updates. The plans are aspirational; all seek to manage growth to address sustainability, resiliency, and equity.

In 2019, Vancouver’s City Plan and Transport 2050 invited people to share ideas. The intent was to listen to those with lived experience of the city and regional transportation system. Initial responses were not fettered by cost considerations. Subsequent steps proposed public discussion of scenario choices and tradeoffs.

In April 2019, Metro and TransLink staff compiled Regional Growth and Transportation Scenarios. Potential ‘Big Disruptors’ were seen to be climate change, shifting global economy, and new technologies. A pandemic and recession were not listed. …

 

Blurring the Distinction between Home and Work

Early indicators of increased numbers of employees working from home are mixed with two additional factors: an increase in office vacancies as employees work from home, and some businesses seeking larger workspaces to improve physical distancing. These work-from-home patterns could continue as an estimated 46% of the metro labor force are in jobs which could be performed, at least part-time, from home.

As people shop from home, the trend toward e-commerce is accelerating. Concern about future supply chains may reverse industrial job losses by encouraging manufacturing and food production to locate closer to markets.

Pressure to rezone business lands for residential and commerce could intensify. Vancouver’s experience with rezoning for these purposes is that the resulting increase in land value prices out production and service uses.

The value of ‘home’ is reflected in metro residential sales patterns and prices. May 2020 sales were 54% below the 10-year monthly sales average. By June, the market was rebounding. The June 2020 benchmark price for a detached home ($1.46 million) showed a 3.6% increase from June 2019. This likely reflects a desire to shelter-in-place in a single-family home.

 

Intensifying Local Business Trends

Prior to COVID, communities were experiencing a loss of mom and pop shops. The impact of COVID has varied in this regard. Food shops, remaining open as essential services, have increased sales. For other businesses, COVID closures are accelerating financial challenges.

To help local businesses reopen with physical distancing, cities are permitting private uses in public spaces. Examples include sidewalk patios and temporary use of parking lanes for queueing. Vancouver has approved longer term COVID responsive public space initiatives.


The desire for a region-wide response to economic recovery has increased calls from the business sector for the 21 regional municipalities to merge.

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Let’s make the Beach Avenue Bikeway (connecting Stanley Park to False Creek North) permanent.

This incredibly popular and scenic route provides a safe, direct and flat connection between Hornby Street and Stanley Park for people of all ages and abilities, for recreation and commuting – all day, every day. It is a great use of limited open public space in one of Vancouver’s most popular and densely-populated neighbourhoods.

The Beach Avenue Bikeway will also relieve pressure on the very busy seawall route when bikes are allowed back on it post-COVID distancing measures.

Sign here if you agree and HUB Cycling will keep you updated on the future of this valuable cycling bikeway.

Drop by a HUB Cycling tent this Saturday, August 8 and Sunday, Aug 9 between 9 am and 3 pm on Beach Avenue at Broughton Street to sign your support.

Read more »

Further to this post below, the ever-visual Jens von Bergmann (@vb_jens) shows graphically what growth on the downtown peninsula looked like between the 1986 and 2016 censuses.

But perhaps even more startling than the thousand-percent growth on the peninsula is the drop in population density in a large part of Vancouver – as seen here:

The change-in-people per hectare from 1971 to 2016 is, as expected, predominantly on the west side.  But also note the purple in the neighbourhoods from the Downtown East Side to Grandview.

This data is so contrary to the popular memes that it really isn’t part of the conversation about density and growth in the city. Often, when something doesn’t fit the narrative, it just doesn’t get acknowledged.

As well, both right and left use different rationales to achieve the same outcome: a near zero rate of change   The former argues for maintaining character and heritage: the latter opposes the gentrification impact new development might bring   Both argue that bigger issues must first be addressed.

And that’s why Colleen Hardwick and Jean Swanson have the closest voting records on rezonings for more housing.

 

 

 

Jens adds further comment:

In my mind it’s the disparity on where growth is allocated that is under-appreciated. And how not adding dwellings means we are losing population.

As people get richer, they tend to consume more housing: larger places, smaller households, more spare bedroom.  That’s not a bad thing in principle, but if we don’t add housing to make up for it, it leads not just to a change in neighourhood demographics but even to an overall drop in population.

In some low-density areas (parts of the east side) we have managed to at least stem the loss by adding laneway homes and maybe some suites (hard to measure), but that hasn’t been enough in all neighbourhoods.  The west side has not seen much uptake on laneways and suites (despite ample construction, mostly 1:1 replacements of SFH).

Grandview-Woodlands, Strathcona and the surrounding area has seen the fastest growth in family income in the city, and we have not added enough housing units to make up for that. So the result is predictably a drop in population. And also an overall shift in neighbourhood demographics that the entire east side has been experiencing.

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Livable City announces the return of our first ever live online event where you can ask your questions around how we all can create the safe places that we need our cities and towns to be amidst the global pandemic and social unrest.

There’s a lot of discussion and a diverse set of actions taken attempting to remedy the lack of safe space to be outside in our cities and towns. But what do we mean when we say safe space. What is safe space? And who are these spaces for?

COVID-19 was originally thought to be the “great equalizer” but the data has shown quite the opposite. What’s going on here and what can and should be done to change this?We’ll try and get through as many questions as possible working them into our panel-style conversation.

We have three amazing people with a diverse set of experience in shaping, designing and creating these places with strong emphasis on human connection and diversity:

Presenters:
Jennifer Keesmaat: former Toronto Chief City Planner, mayoral candidate and urban planner.

Doug Gordon: previous podcast guest, all around great guy and co-host of The War on Cars podcast.

Erica Woods: global HR executive at Canonical with a heavy emphasis on culture and diversity, employee relations, recruiting, and delivery of people-oriented processes and solutions.

Date: Friday August 7 2020

Time: 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time

To register please click this link.

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Last winter the International Road Safety Symposium was held in Vancouver. That event discussed how to enhance road safety for all users as well as why the Safe Systems approach is the only way to evaluate and assess road design and use. I wrote about some of the innovative work discussed at the conference here.

Several countries in Europe have embraced the Vision Zero concept which is to aim for no road deaths by any users on road systems. Key to the Vision Zero or Safe Systems approach is to design for all road users (vehicular, transit, bike and pedestrian) , adopting lower speeds and emphasizing safety for all.

One of the conveners of that conference was Dr. Tarek Sayed who teaches civil engineering at the University of British Columbia and has been at the forefront on research to mitigate road crashes. Denise Ryan in the Vancouver Sun reports on one of Dr. Sayed’s latest research findings that show a very simple way to decrease crashes~just make highway lane markings bigger.

In a recently published study Dr. Sayed found that overall crashes could be reduced by over 12 percent and vehicles leaving the road could be reduced by 19 percent simply by widening the “longitudinal pavement markings (LPMS)” on the road. If highway markings are widened from 4 to 6 inches and in some strategic areas widened from 4 to 8 inches, crashes are reduced.

Eight years of data  was collected on crashes in specific areas in British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec. After road markings were significantly widened, crashes were dramatically reduced. In British Columbia, widened road markings reduced collisions by over 27 percent.

The study was conducted in three Canadian jurisdictions, B.C., Alberta and Quebec, in partnership with government authorities over a period of eight years, comparing before-and-after data. According to the study, the widths of the LPMs were increased between 2012 and 2013, and showed a dramatic reduction in accidents.  Total collisions in B.C. were reduced by 27.5 per cent.

As Dr. Sayed observes “Road safety is extremely important. We talk about COVID-19 all the time, but we have 1.35 million (people) getting killed on the roads every year worldwide…We want to design highways that are forgiving and will minimize the chance of error by the road-user. In this case we want to help the road-user to stay in his own lane by making the road markings more visible.”

It’s extraordinary that something as simple as wider markings can so significantly reduce vehicular crashes. Denise Ryan’s article also offers the sobering statistics which show how far behind Canada is in managing traffic crashes.

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Journalist Douglas Todd is well known for carefully examining both sides of issues in his writings in the Vancouver Sun. On the weekend Mr. Todd wrote a very topical opinion editorial asking why there was not a continuous path along the Fraser River in the Southlands area accessible to public path users.

Indeed the Greenways Plan that was adopted by City of Vancouver Council  25 years ago envisioned a pathway all along the Fraser River that would be available to residents. When the Coast Mountain Bus Company controversially took acres of  industrial land  on the Fraser River at 9150 Bentley Street to use for bus parking it was landscape architect Art Cowie and retired biologist Terry Slack that pushed for a walkway open to the public along this part of the Fraser River. It was always intended that as redevelopment occurred along the river’s edge that the city would negotiate a right of way open to citizens.

The City has been successful in that negotiation and public pathways have been provided  with two of the three golf courses along the Fraser River west of the Oak Street Bridge. Both McCleery  Public Golf Course and Point Grey Golf Course have provided a public easement along the Fraser River. With the redevelopment of Deering Island a public pathway was also installed along the water, and a public park created on Deering Island.

(And a quick aside-the City in an in camera meeting was offered Deering Island decades ago for one million dollars for park land. At that time the City determined that they had an abundance of park land on the west side, and the land instead was sold to Park Georgia Realty who developed 38 single family lots, with architect Michael Geller.)

There was one section of the Fraser River Trail greenway south of the Point Grey Golf Course that was inaccessible due to a large stream embankment. The Simpson Family in Southlands who had lost a son in an accident in the armed forces chose to honour his memory and paid for the public bridge which is accessible to walkers, rollers, cyclists and horse back riders.

This meant that the greenways trail proceeded west through  the ancient territory of the Musqueam First Nation, and that trail joins up to Pacific Spirit Park at Southwest Marine Drive. You can see the exact route for wayfinding here.

But there is the elephant in the room~moving eastward on the Fraser River Trail past McCleery Golf Course, the Marine Drive Golf Club has refused to allow public access along its share of the waterfront. Instead, the club sadly barricaded access with threatening signs, and you can get a sense of the entitlement in the comments section they have left at the end of   Mr. Todd’s article.

The Marine Drive Golf Club in this century tried to keep areas of the private  club for male members  only and as shown in court records intimidated female members who wanted to use that  space as well.  After women members won a court decision to have access to all parts of the Marine Drive Golf Club, the men in the club went to the British Columbia Court of Appeal to have that decision on equity overturned. The men won.

As Gary Mason in the Globe and Mail wrote in 2007:

the B.C. Court of Appeal, no less, had ruled unanimously that the men could play their cards and tell their off-colour jokes without having to share their tables with members of the opposite sex. The lounge’s no-women-allowed policy was not, in the court’s view, a violation of the B.C. Human Rights Code.”

You can read Mr. Mason’s article here which outlines the treatment faced by female members.

Given the rancour of the male members  to sharing spaces with women members, you can also well imagine what the Marine Drive Golf Club’s  response was  over a decade ago when City staff politely requested the consideration of allowing a public right of way at the club’s riverfront.

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Last week I wrote  about Britain’s government prescribing biking   outlining the new British federal policy to increase fitness through diet and by  encouraging cycling use. Lloyd Alter in Tree Hugger also wrote about this new initiative and went a step further, outlining “In countries like Britain or Canada with nationalized medicine, there is much more of an incentive to keep people healthy and out of the hospital in the first place, since the costs are paid through taxes”.

But where is Canada?

As Christopher Guly in the Tyee writes Member of Parliament (and a member of the New Democratic (NDP) party Gordon Johns has twice brought forward a bill to adopt a national cycling plan. You’d think with the impact of the Covid pandemic that such a bill would be especially helpful as people want to keep moving as gyms and community centres remain closed down. Separated safe cycling lanes have demonstrated over and over again to be what is holding back a universal adoption of cycling as a more accepted municipal mode of transportation.

Mr. Johns who represents the  Courtenay-Alberni riding has already received support from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, along with such major cities as Toronto, Ottawa and Victoria”. 

The day last March that Mr. Johns reintroduced his private members bill asking for Federal support for cycling, it was also announced that Canada’s first national active transportation strategy would be developed. This plan will develop “a national active transportation strategy that promotes bicycle and walking-friendly communities and school travel, including identifying and harnessing current investments that fall within the strategy.”

An integrated national strategy on active transportation is helpful during the Covid pandemic where being outdoors and being able to physically move safely is more important than ever.

I have written about the initiatives of Winnipeg and Edmonton who were early adapters to the creation of active transportation streets in their municipalities. Vancouver eventually joined  the party a few months later in adopting “Slow Streets”.

But here’s the  exciting thing about this national initiative~eight organizations related to health including the Alzheimer Society and the Heart and Stroke Foundation have been supporting a national active transportation strategy. Finally some thinking on the intersection between  providing good infrastructure and impetus for active walking, cycling, and getting outside  which would reduce costs on the national health care system.

Member of Parliament  Andy Filmore who is leading the federal initiative has 20 members of parliament willing to work on the strategy~sadly there are no members from the Official Opposition party , the Conservatives.

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Here’s why the Spinning Chandelier as an accessible work of public art will be one of the most loved in the city – rather like “A-mazing Laughter” at English Bay.

Sure, “most loved” does not mean “best,” depending on your criteria, but those who dismiss it because of how it signifies class, or is an obscene expenditure when we have so many other priorities, or is just a marketing device, etc, will only annoy themselves when seeing how people engage with it.

Like this:

Nominations open for any more engaging works in the city.

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Are you looking for a communications role with a purpose-driven organization? Are you interested in exploring ways that sustainable transportation can make communities more livable?

Better Environmentally Sound Transportation is a non-profit charity with a vision of healthy, vibrant communities through sustainable transportation. We aim to activate better transportation options though initiatives, collaboration and leadership. For more about BEST, please visit our website at best.bc.ca

BEST is looking for a Communications Manager to articulate the impact and results of our programs, plan engagement opportunities, and craft stories about sustainable ways of moving around the Metro Vancouver region. The successful candidate will work collaboratively with the General Manager to develop content that engages audiences and positions BEST as a leader in sustainable transportation.

You can find out more about this position by clicking this link.

To apply for the Communications Manager role, please send a resume and a cover letter telling us about your career goals to hr@best.bc.ca. Applications will be accepted until the position is filled.

Image: TourismVancouver

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