Art & Culture
May 29, 2020

Webinar: Enhancing Walkable Spaces Through Public Art

 

America Walks presents a new webinar  on walkability and public art.

Promoting walking in communities with noticeable disinvestment can be difficult. Public art is one way to lend to the revitalization of a neighborhood and invite people to be part of the process. This webinar will feature ways public art has been used to embrace the culture and history of a community while promoting engaging, walkable spaces. This webinar is intended for those just starting out on the walking path as well as those interested in learning more about the topic.

Presenters:

Ophelia Chambliss is a muralist, artist, educator in York, Pennsylvania who creates custom murals and public art pieces. She specializes in murals that project a message, serve a purpose, create community, and are a reflection of her client’s mission and objectives.

 

Karla Osete is an Artist in Residence at LaLinea Art Studio, Controller at CanAm Pepper Company, Mountain Bike Coach for the National Interscholastic Cycling Association and Former Vice President of 0S3 Movement. She was a 2017 Walking College fellow, has a master’s degree in Business Administration, bachelor’s in accounting and associate degree in Art and Dance.

Melissa Johnson, Cultural Recreation Manager, has been with the Town of Matthews Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resource Department since August 2017. She manages the Matthews Community Center and the McDowell Arts Center, oversees summer camps and all programs at these facilities, and oversees public art for the Town of Matthews.

 

Date:  Wednesday June 10, 2020

Time: 11am PST

You can register by clicking on this link.

Images: Walkscore

Read more »

I have been writing  that cities need to be nimble during this slow reopening shops and services.  Facilitating reopening of commercial operations will mean having the appropriate space to line up to enter with appropriate physical distancing.  And in some cases with food services, expanded outdoor space during the summer will mean the difference between being able to open with an appropriate number of tables to make a business profitable.

Brendan and Amanda Ladner  reopened  their Pender location of the  SMAK healthy food emporium as a takeaway, with an innovative  curbside “glide through” counter option using city parking spaces. They hoped that there would be a way that other restauranteurs would be able to have a streamlined way of using city owned space on sidewalks and elsewhere to start up their businesses in a safe and reasonable way.

At the Council meeting on May 27th, Council agreed to develop a quick process to allow applications for temporary patios, and agreed to waive the fees. These permits are temporary to October 31 and are non renewable. This initiative is similar to the one approved by the City of Winnipeg four weeks ago as a way for restaurants to operate when Covid guidelines mean they can be only at fifty percent capacity.

Temporary patios for restaurants must be right in front of the restaurant or beside it, and may use either the sidewalk or the “back boulevard”, that public space that is between the sidewalk and the building.

The patio may also occupy parking spaces and must provide appropriate ramps for accessibility to the space.

Vancouver restaurant owners will be able to apply for the temporary patios on June 1st  and can expect a two day turnaround for approval. Typically fees collected by the city are in the $3,000 range for a temporary patio permit, but all fees will be waived this year.

You can take a look at this Council presentation that outlines some of the potential configurations for the temporary outdoor patios.

Of course accessibility and the ability of all users to access the sidewalk as well as use the temporary patio is going to be paramount, and there’s no negotiation on that.

Take a look  at this YouTube video of an  outdoor patio  in downtown Ottawa on Preston Street  that could not provide the required two meter width requirement on the sidewalk back in 2018. Instead of simply moving their fence back for compliance, the restaurant argues to take out the two street trees or leave things as they are, because “the street is inaccessible anyway”.

Read more »

Everyone has been enjoying bluer skies, better views, great sunsets and better air quality with the reduction of vehicular and air traffic during the Covid crisis. ,Mount Everest is visible from the city of Kathmandu for the first time this century, even though it is 240 kilometers away.

In short, air quality has vastly improved in cities during the time of quarantine. BBC News reports that vehicle drivers are also willing to change their behaviour to maintain cleaner air and to be more environmentally prudent.

In Britain the lack of vehicular traffic resulted in a  17%  reduction in carbon dioxide emissions  recorded in  early April. Surface emissions from industry and brake dust were reduced by 43 percent.

In a survey of 20,000 drivers conducted by the British Automobile Association, fifty percent said they were willing to walk more, and forty percent intended to use their car less frequently. Remarkably 80 percent of those drivers surveyed said they would “take some action to reduce their impact on air quality”.

Just as in the national  Canadian survey  conducted by  Mario Canseco,  many Britons expect to continue working from home. While 73 percent  of Canadians expect to continue to  work from home, 25 percent of Britons driving said they would work more often from home, while twenty percent said they would be cycling more.

Edmund King, president of the British Automobile Association stated

Read more »

“Reimagining Brooklyn Bridge: Transportation Infrastructure as Public Space”.

We’ve invited leaders in urban design, transportation, and public policy to share their ideas, and offer insight into how cities can redesign existing bridges, parks, plazas, and streets to be better well into the future.

On a typical day, over 10,000 pedestrians and 2,600 bicyclists traverse the Brooklyn Bridge using a pathway as narrow as 10 feet in some places. In normal times, these conditions could be described as uncomfortable. In the context of a pandemic, they are dangerous.

As sheltering orders ease, we know the Brooklyn Bridge and the City at large cannot return to business as usual. How can we welcome people back to our streets and public spaces, while observing immediate needs for social distancing? How can we make people comfortable and safe, ensuring our infrastructure serves pedestrians and cyclists now and for the long term?

Panelists include:
– Allison Arieff, Editorial Director, SPUR
– Laura Bliss, West Coast Bureau Chief, CityLab (moderator)
– Jennifer Bradley, Director, Center for Urban Innovation, Aspen Institute
– Tamika Butler, Director of Planning, California and Director of Equity and Inclusion,         Toole Design
– Shin-Pei Tsay, Director, Policy, Cities and Transportation, Uber

Read more »

At the City of Vancouver where Council meetings  are turning out to be more of a cave spelunking expedition through the finer points of  Robert’s  Rules of Order, there’s been   well meaning motions to consider alcohol in public places and parks. The point ably made is that in terms of equity, not everyone has their own back yard  or outside space to drink a beer in during the pandemic.  Of course lots of people are already ingeniously decanting and imbibing in parks and public spaces, it’s just not sanctioned. Yet.

Master of municipalities CBC’s Justin McElroy has a two minute video on the CBC twitter site mulling over the possibility of “you being able to crack open a cold one in a place like Dude Chilling Park”.

One main  point missing in this idea of allowing individuals to carry their own alcoholic beverages to beaches, parks and city spaces.  People drinking alcohol will need to use washroom facilities more frequently. Where are the washrooms?

I have written over several years about why we need to have accessible public washrooms because every member of the public needs to go. It seems odd that during the pandemic we should not  be considering the universal installation of drinking fountain/water bottle stations, hand washing facilities, and of course, public washrooms before any provision regarding alcohol.

Lloyd Alter in Tree Hugger is even blunter, saying that we have to stop building roads and start building bathrooms. He equates the lack of washrooms with that of the budget for highways: “Authorities say providing public washrooms can’t be done because it would cost “hundreds of millions” but never have a problem spending billions on the building of highways for the convenience of drivers who can drive from home to the mall where there are lots of washrooms. The comfort of people who walk, people who are old, people who are poor or sick — that doesn’t matter.”

Lloyd Alter points out that post pandemic  washrooms that are touchless and sterilized will be important, and private companies, Starbucks and shopping stores  are not responsible for providing them.

Read more »

There’s finally more information about Vancouver’s Slow Streets in a press release that came out Monday, but still no overall “route map” available on the City’s website.The intent is to have Slow Streets on roads that are wide enough to maintain resident parking, and also allow for local vehicle access. The new Director of Transportation, the well respected and capable  Paul Storer is leading this work.

Vehicles will be temporarily sharing the road with pedestrians, rollers and cyclists on fifty kilometers of “Slow Streets”.  The  first twelve kilometers have already been opened, as described in  this article   by Gordon Price.

Gordon talks about the  Lakewood, Ridgeway and Wall Street sections of Slow Streets. The streets have jersey barriers of different kinds either on the street or at the street’s side, indicating that it is a slower street, with  repurposing for walkers, rollers and cyclists to maintain physical distancing.

There are two reasons for doing this: one, to facilitate  destination oriented routes for people not in vehicles; and second, to provide a way for families and others to exercise in a safer environment with physical distancing that could not be met on the sidewalks.

This presentation on the Covid-19 Mobility and Public Life Response which was given to Council last week provides  more background and rationale for the City’s response. In a survey conducted in April, the City found that walking downtown had declined by 40 to 50 percent, commuter cycling had declined by 35 to 50 percent, and transit usage had declined by 80 percent.  And if you see less vehicles downtown, you are right~there’s 48 percent less vehicles coming in and out of the downtown, with a 39 percent decline of vehicles coming in and out of Vancouver as a whole compared to April 2019.

The City’s three pronged approach besides the “Room to Move” outlined above also includes “Room to Queue” which is  providing expanded street space for people to queue outside of businesses. This can mean taking over the parking lane if needed outside of businesses. And to facilitate deliveries, “Room to Load” will provide special priority loading zones for business deliveries. The City also intends to work with local businesses to provide expanded patio spaces on road surfaces, with that information promised for next week.

While there is a graduated approach to opening businesses and services, it is expected that the use of private vehicles in the post-Covid city  could dramatically increase in the short term. For some, automobiles are seen as “safe, secure” types of travel. The intent of these Slow Street measures to facilitate easier travel by walking, rolling and cycling is to provide potential alternatives towards a more “equitable and sustainable transportation system”. 

Read more »

There’s an absolute feast of great speakers on webinars right now.

Courtesy of the School of Cities at the University of Toronto hear well known planner and author Ken Greenberg talk with Melinda Yogendran and Matti Siemiatycki  
“Towards a New Kind of City-A conversation on resilience and adaptation with Ken Greenberg”

Join new grad Melinda Yogendran and SofC’s Interim Director Matti Siemiatycki as they speak with Ken Greenberg about adopting new practices for building better, more equitable cities.

This Spring, Ken Greenberg was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Laws from the University of Toronto. With convocations cancelled, he published his passionate convocation speech, illustrating a message of hope for new graduates to seize the baton and use this crisis to move us to a better place.

If you would like to submit a question for Ken Greenberg in advance, you can do that here.

Speakers:

Ken Greenberg, Principal, Greenberg Consultants Inc.

Melinda Yogendran, Recent Graduate of the Master’s of Planning program, University of Toronto

Matti Siemiatycki, Associate Professor and Interim Director, School of Cities, University of Toronto

Time
Thursday May 28, 2020 9:00 a.m. Pacific Time

To register, click on this link.

Image: TheStar

Read more »

I have been writing about Open Streets, and how they are being used Post-Covid to make accessing services more comfortable for walkers, rollers and cyclists going to shops and services. There’s also a positive impact of Open Streets for businesses. Open Streets allow for wider sidewalk areas,  making customers  feel better about standing in line to access a business with appropriate physical distancing.  This provides enough space to wait on the street without  getting too close to someone simply walking by on a sidewalk.

The term “Open Streets’ refers to temporarily closing streets to through traffic, but filtering necessary local traffic, emergency vehicles, public transit, pedestrians, rollers and cyclists. Open Streets also provide separate road space for traditional sidewalk users who are going at a different pace than cyclists. Creating Open Streets also allows commercial businesses to use more of the sidewalk or the road way to conduct their business given the new physical distancing requirements.

There has been a concern that while the concept of open streets to facilitate movement during Covid times was admirable, what would happen if open streets became permanent? And isn’t that bad for business?

This is the truth about Open Streets. If people are accessing services through a filtered network that allows for expanded space for only transit, walkers, rollers and cyclists, each of those individuals represent one less vehicle on the road. Vehicle drivers win because there is less congestion.

And the data shows that businesses win too. This study done by Transport for London  shows that people walking, rolling and cycling and using public transport spend 40 percent more each month than car drivers. These numbers have also been replicated  in studies in Toronto and in New York City.

In London time spent on retail streets increased by 216% between shopping, patronizing local cafes and sitting on street benches. Retail space vacancies also  declined by 17%.

There is also an interest in thinking through shops and services at a local neighbourhood scale too where sidewalks are less crowded. These areas could also benefit from Open Streets. As local historian John Atkin notes on twitter “Thinking city structure, sidewalk crowding, community & ‘bubbles’. Lose exclusionary zoning, allow local retail pockets so we don’t overload the arterials. I haven’t had to trek outside Strathcona because we have 2 great shops + coffee to walk to.”

Creating “bubbles” of  services within an easy walking or biking distance in each neighbourhood adds a level of local resiliency.  It’s something we have zoned out of areas, making existing non-conforming retail pockets~like the one at 33rd and Blenheim in Dunbar~such an asset. The ability to access these commercial areas safely with cycle, walking or transit a priority would be a neighbourhood asset.

While cities around the world are developing filtered streets to accommodate the post Covid recovery, that’s no plan from  Vancouver yet.

Here’s another example of great work in the City of Newcastle Great Britain as written by Carlton Reid with Forbes.com. Newcastle which is bisected by a highway system wanted to “reassert the supremacy of the city over its traffic.” They embraced the chance to make a downtown plan that was “not anti-car, but pro-city”, ensuring that residents could easily and comfortably use their downtown and related businesses. Here’s how they did it.

Read more »

America Walks is hosting a new webinar,  In Praise of Walking: A New Scientific Exploration – a conversation with author and neuroscientist Shane O’Mara.

Author Shane O’Mara has just released  ‘In Praise of Walking: A New Scientific Exploration’. As a neuroscientist and walking advocate, O’Mara takes us on an evolutionary journey through how we started walking, the magical mechanics of it, and how we find our way around the world. It also explores walking in relation to repairing our mental and social health, sparking creativity, and how walking in concert can be coupled with critical policy change.

This one-on-one webinar is sure to inform your walking and walkability work and ethos, and we have built in ample time for questions and answers. This webinar is intended for those just starting out on the walking path as well as those interested in learning more about the topic.

Shane O’Mara is Professor of Experimental Brain Research (Personal Chair) at Trinity College, Dublin – the University of Dublin. He is a Principal Investigator in the Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience and is also a Wellcome Trust Senior Investigator. His research explores the brain systems supporting learning, memory, and cognition, and also the brain systems affected by stress and depression, and he has published more than 140 peer-reviewed papers in these areas.
He is a graduate of the National University of Ireland – Galway, and of the University of Oxford (DPhil). Heis an elected Fellow of the Association for Psychological Science (USA), and an elected Member of the Royal Irish Academy.

Webinar Date/Time: June 3rd, 2020

Time: 10 a.m. Pacific Time

REGISTER HERE at this link.

You can learn more about America Walks and this webinar here.

 

 

 

 

Read more »

Commissioner of New York City Parks Mitchell Silver sends  this unique approach to maintain physical distancing while sunning in Brooklyn’s Domino Park. This park is located on an artificial turf field next to a former sugar factory that was located on the East River.

The six foot diameter circles were occupied on a sunny Saturday with people sitting on nearby benches hoping to scoop up a circle should one be vacated.

As the New York Post observes, the new painted circles are being called “human parking spots”  and despite the dystopia of lying in painted circles on the ground, everyone adjusted to the required physical circle distancing quite well.

The physical distancing circles were in place to limit park capacity as outlined by Mayor de Blasio for the weekend.

Read more »