Urbanism
August 6, 2020

Webinar~Livable City “Creating Safe Spaces”

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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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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There has been discussion that density increases mortality during pandemics, and  the suggestion that suburbs are in fashion again  because they are more “healthy”. The idea is that travelling everywhere by vehicle and retiring to a large leafy house with lots of space may enhance needed Covid pandemic physical distancing.

New York City Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver shares this article from the Australian Times  by Jim Sallis and Deepti Adlakha that contradicts the idea that suburbs are safer. They conclude that the idea of density as unhealthy is “oversimplification and misleading when it comes to COVID-19.”

By researching thirty-six of the most dense global cities these researchers found a “near-zero” correlation between density and Covid morbidity and mortality. I have previously written about the work in Taiwan and Singapore where a centralized governmental approach took the pandemic very seriously from the outset and have had minimal cases and deaths. Taiwan has had 7 Covid deaths, while Singapore has had 27.

The researchers in this city study conclude that it is not density but  the “lack of space – both private living space and wider neighbourhood public space” that is the problem. The top five most-crowded neighbourhoods in the United Kingdom have seen 70% more COVID-19 cases than the five least-crowded neighbourhoods, even after controlling for local deprivation. It’s not how many people live in a certain area that matters, but the conditions they live in.”

Urban density, instead of being an enabler of a bio-medical emergency actually has “protective benefits”. Inhabitants living in higher densities walk more to services shops and schools  and two decades of data show this increased walkable accessibility lowers incidence of heart disease, diabetes and obesity.

In cities public health needs to be enhanced by well built and separated sidewalks and cycling facilities that “have a double benefit, both reducing the spread of COVID-19 by reducing any crowding in the streets and lowering the risk of deadly chronic diseases” by enabling exercise.

What is also crucial is the inequality and inequity of low income communities, where higher living densities means there is  less personal space to follow physical distancing guidelines. These units often without balconies and with less frequent access to public outdoor space “compound the issue of overcrowding – the risk of coronavirus infection may be up to 20 times higher when indoors than outdoors.”

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It was Intelligent Health’s Dr. William Bird MBE  who led the way in Great Britain allowing medical doctors to prescribe walking as a way to help patients with mental and physical health.

Now British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is encouraging medical doctors to prescribe cycling for weight management, and the government will be investing in infrastructure to facilitate that.  With amassing proof that excess weight is associated with more severe illness from Covid-19, biking is seen as a low cost way to encourage fitness and exercise.  The Guardian notes that cycling used for a work commute is “linked to a 46% lower risk of heart disease compared with a non-active commute.”

As the BBC reports  there is an equity issue as well.  While “36% of the adult population is overweight and 28% obese… people living in deprived areas are more likely to be admitted to hospital with a condition related to obesity.”

One in ten British children starting primary school is obese, and that number doubles to two in five by the end of the primary school years. Comparatively 40 percent of Americans are obese, while in South Korea and Japan that number is less than 10 percent.

In Britain it is estimated that nearly 5 million of the 66 million population is thought to have diabetes which costs the national healthcare program 10 billion pounds a year (17 billion Canadian dollars). Ninety percent of this population has type 2 diabetes which has a high co-factor of obesity.

Current data shows that being obese doubles the chances of dying from Covid, meaning that in a country where healthcare is provided nationally, well-being is a federal issue.

The head of England’s National Health Service observed “The evidence is now in: obesity can double your chance of dying from coronavirus. So this pandemic is a call to arms to adopt medically proven changes in what we eat and how we exercise” .

Images: ABCNews, TheIndependent

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Imagine running a business with very long hours and in the current Covid crisis, not a lot of customers. Curator and author Catherine Clement sent on this article from the The New York Times  which outlines how  husband and wife team Chang Wan-ji, and Hsu Sho-er, business owners in a laundromat in Taichung, Taiwan have survived.

Where estimates in Canada show that 52 percent of people see their mental health as not the same during the pandemic, the grandson of Chang Wan-ji and Hsu Sho-er wanted to help his grandparents who spent 13 hour days keeping their dry cleaning business open. There was no business in the shop, and without the normal customer interaction the days were long for these two business owners who are both in their mid-eighties.

Inspired by the racks of clothing that had been laundered but never paid for or picked up, the grandson started curating the clothing and putting outfits together of the forgotten items for his grandparents to model. In each image the octogenarians wear their trademark blue sneakers, and incorporate an unbelievable hipster vibe.

You can take a look at their instagram account at @wantshowasyoung which at press time had over 433,000 followers. And here’s the thing~there are only twenty posts, but they are tremendous images of the two dressed up in the unretrieved clothes.

As Chris Horton in the New York Times describes “The clothes they model are eclectic, funky and fun. Both can be seen in matching laced sneakers, and jauntily perched caps and hats. He sometimes sports brightly colored shades. One photo shows her leaning coolly against a giant washing machine, arms crossed, as he casually holds the open door, grinning. They pose at a place they know well — their shop, which provides an industrious backdrop of customers’ laundry, stacked and rolled into plastic bundles or hanging from racks.”

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Homeless during a pandemic: What are the challenges and looming threats?

Join Canadian Urban Institute  host Mary W. Rowe for our series about what’s working, what’s not, and what’s next, as we (re)imagine the right to home – Homeless during a pandemic: What are the challenges and looming threats?

Speakers include
Stephanie Allen, Associate Vice-President of Strategic Business Operations and Performance,BC Housing;
Eddie Golko, Participant, Us and Them;
Krista Loughton, Filmmaker, Us and Them;
Karen Montgrand, Participant, Us and Them;
Tim Richter, President and CECanadian Alliance to End Homelessness.

Date: Tuesday July 28, 2020

Time: 9:00 a.m. Pacific Time

You can click on this link to register.

Images: ReturnofKings,NightlightCanada

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Retired City of Vancouver planner Michael Gordon has created the YouTube  documentary video below about the history of Sen̓áḵw  between 1869 – 1966, what was once referred to as the Kitsilano Indian Reserve.  Michael states “It’s my personal reconciliation project throughout the ‘unsettlement’ and expropriation of the reserve in the 19th and 20th centuries.” 

Michael also shares this link of the Vancouver Archives’ written transcript of conversations between early City Archivist Major Matthews and  August Jack Khatsahlano between 1932 and 1954 about early First Nations life in the Vancouver area.

 

Image: CBC.ca

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