Technology
December 9, 2019

Can Road Pricing Arrest the SUV in Cities?

Finally the SUV (sport utility vehicle)  epidemic which is killing pedestrians and responsible for an alarming uptake in automobile emissions is getting  national press attention.  I have been writing about the fact that SUVs are the second largest contributor to the global increase in CO2 emissions in the last ten years. The power industry is the biggest contributor. Other industries such as cement, iron and steel production and trucks and aviation lag behind the emissions produced by these vehicles.

The SUV is the automobile manufacturer’s cash cow, getting around the usual standard safety regulations required for cars because it is built on a truck platform. These SUVs are not built for city driving where they are now recognized as killing machines. Trucks and SUVs suck up 60 percent of all vehicular sales, and the SUV is solely responsible for a 46 percent increase in pedestrian deaths. A pedestrian is twice as likely to die being hit by the higher front end of an SUV.  Statistics show that drivers in these massive rolling living rooms are 11 percent more likely to die driving one.

Here’s the math: currently 25 percent of global oil is for vehicular consumption and related CO2 emissions. SUVs are responsible for an  emission increase by .55 Gt CO2 to 0.7 Gt CO2, as they require 25% more energy than the average mid-sized vehicle. Even with more “efficient” SUVs, this form of vehicle is the reason that there is a 3.3. million oil barrels a day of growth in the last eight years. That’s 3.3. million barrels a day of oil so that people can ferry themselves and family around in an overbuilt, oversized den-like vehicle.

The International Energy Agency has a big warning that the enchantment with SUV’s will undo the progressive shift to electric cars, by requiring an additional two million barrels a day of global oil by 2040, directly offsetting the carbon emission savings from nearly 150 million electric cars.

As Naomi Buck in the Globe and Mail states: Savvy marketing persuades buyers that SUVs are safe, comfortable and prestigious. And even if the ads show them carving through magnificent outdoor landscapes or parked next to glinting oceans, that’s not what these vehicles are really about. To quote Mercedes-Benz’s promotion of its latest G-class SUV: “More spacious. More special. Welcome to the great indoors.”

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If you are on the 2200 block of West 4th  in Vancouver there is a striking transformation at Leis de Buds which gets you thinking about Seasonal Stuff. Firstly right beside a handy bench is a mailbox waiting for your letter from Santa.  And west of this mailbox is the best ever little geodesic dome housing seasonal~and not so seasonal fragrant plants.

The whole effect at night is simply magical with the glow from the dome. It also talks about the importance of having different articulation on commercial storefront facades to allow such a temporary transformation with the glowing dome. It also provides light in the tiny plaza with a scale comfortable enough to sit in and relax.

 

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Around the region, a new generation of civic leaders is emerging – councillors like Nathan Pachal in Langley, Patrick Johnstone in New West, Matthew Bond and Jordan Back in North Vancouver District, Tony Valente in North Van City – GenXers and first of the Millenniums. . Like Dylan Kruger – at 23, the youngest councillor to be elected in the history of Delta. . . These newcomers do not all fall on one part of the ideological spectrum, but they do share a common generational perspective.  As described by Dylan in his notes on a divisive rezoning this week: .
It is not sustainable in the long run, to see a vast exodus of folks in their 20s and 30s (from Delta). We cannot have an exclusionary community based on income, any more than we can have a community segregated by age. Delta needs to be what it has always been – a place where everyone is welcome, and where there are housing options for you, regardless of what the numbers are on your birth certificate or your income tax return. .
The proposal in question was for a 35-storey high-rise on Scott Road and 75A, which included an affordable housing component that would see 70 units (20%) offered under the Affordable Home Ownership Program in partnership with BC Housing.  . Cllr Dylan Kruger voted in favour, along with Mayor Harvie, but the rest of council voted against and the proposal, after a contentious public hearing, decisively lost.  Knowing this was a critical vote, Kruger took the opportunity to write out his position.   Here is an abridged version (the full text can be found here). . . A Vote for Delta’s Future . I think this is a well-put together application. The building is aesthetically pleasing, and would certainly be a Delta landmark if approved. The unit mix is appropriate for the desired market, which is first time home owners, young professionals, young families and seniors looking to downsize. … Read more »

Last week, the City of Vancouver hosted a free public workshop on the Granville Bridge Connector project.

Currently, there are six design options being considered, with hopes of bringing forward a preferred design to council in early 2020. In theory, feedback from public engagement and workshops will be used to inform the selection of a preferred design.

In an effort to apply a lens of equity to this project, the city organized a Mobility Equity workshop, facilitated by the ever-insightful Jay Pitter.

To kick-start the workshop, Jay offered insight into what equity is, what equity can look like, and how that relates to transportation. Key takeaways:

Streets are contested spaces. Streets have been designed or re-designed for the efficient and high-speed movement of vehicles, often at the expense of people. As a result, aspects pertaining to safety, both physical and social (e.g. personal security), are often an issue.

This begs the question: to what extent has efficiency been prioritized over safety and security? To what extent do women, elderly, LGBTQ, visible minority and immigrant groups (among others) feel safe and secure on our streets? To what extent have such groups been overlooked in planning and design?

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Last week three people within 30 hours in Metro Vancouver lost their lives doing a very simple act-walking on the street. A senior was mowed down by a truck driver in the early afternoon. And a 40 year old woman and a  man in his thirties lost their lives at 5:00 a.m. and 5:50 p.m., both times on dark streets. The man had tried to cross the street near the Ladner McDonald’s,had tripped on the median and was then struck by a vehicle driver. He was the father of three children ranging from 13 years to 18 months. His eldest children had lost their mother ten years ago.

There is already a go fund me page for the young family of that  Dad, Robbie Oliver, who was self-employed as a roofer. He was well loved and respected in Ladner, and the community has already held a candlelight vigil for him at the site of the accident.

We somehow have to stop thinking that  these needless deaths are necessary collateral to the use of vehicles. This CBC article with author Neil Aranson  talks about making cars smarter . The large denlike vehicles so popular today increase the likelihood of a pedestrian fatality by 50 percent. Neil who wrote ” No Accident: Eliminating Injury and Death on Canadian Roads” also suggests that while the European Union and Japan require pedestrian survivable design in their manufacturing rules, North America does not.  Outrage and insistence is needed to get vehicular manufacturers to do better.

But there is more to safe streets than vehicular design. Speed, visibility, road design, and driver behaviour  are also important factors.  The B.C. Coroners Service in their 2019 report identified that “from 2008 to 2016, more than one-third of traffic fatalities involved drugs or alcohol.

Of the 314 traffic fatalities in B.C. in 2018, 18 percent were pedestrians. Across the province 43 pedestrians died in 2017; that number increased to 58 people in 2018. ICBC, the insurance corporation estimates that in Metro Vancouver 2,100 vehicular crashes involve a pedestrian annually. A study done by Transport Canada in 2011 showed that 63 percent of fatalities at urban intersections were pedestrians aged 65 or older.

November, December and January are the danger months for pedestrians in Metro Vancouver. There is darkness, rain, and road glare and many intersections are not well lit. The City of Vancouver has hinted at installing more Leading Pedestrian Intervals (LPIs) which allow a pedestrian a “lead green time” when crossing. NACTO (the National Association of City and Transportation Officials) cite LPIs as reducing pedestrian crashes by 60 percent. There are several thousand LPIs installed in New York City, and the cost per intersection is minimal at $1,200 U.S. dollars.

Reducing speed at intersections allows for drivers to have more reaction time. And in Europe as part of Vision Zero (Zero deaths on the road) Finland requires pedestrians to wear some type of small reflective toggle.

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