Climate Change
May 12, 2021

Vancouver’s Last Natural Salmon Creek & First Sustainable Street


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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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:

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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The Federal Government through Indigenous Services has just closed a request for written comments regarding environmental impacts of the proposed Senakw development which is located on the traditional territory of the Squamish First Nation near the south foot of the Burrard Bridge. The deadline for comments closed at the end of April, but you can read more about the process here.

These comments are being submitted to the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada, and are part of the planning phase where the public and First Nations provide information to the assessment. You can take a look at the overall  federal process here.

The Senakw development proposes twelve mixed residential and commercial buildings to be built on site near the south foot of the Burrard Bridge in four phases, resulting in the addition of 6,000 units, mainly rental. You can take a look at the website for Senakw here, and also view an introductory video by Khelsilem and Deanna Lewis, Councillors of the Squamish Nation.

The video gives a background of the history of the Squamish Nation lands and references the past and importance of this 10.5 acre  site. There are also  some flyover graphics showing how the proposed towers will nestle beside the Burrard Bridge.

There has been some confusion about lack of notification of the start of this process, but one group which has responded is the Kits Point Residents’ Association who posted their submission on their website.  This group  represents 1,100 households, sixty percent who rent in the area. You can read their full submission here.

The Kits Point Residents Association wants to know more about the environmental assessment process that the Federal government is undertaking, as well as the services, access and egress for the new development on this “irregularly shaped lot which is not fully buildable by virtue of being bisected by the Burrard Street Bridge.”  

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In the “you just can’t make this stuff up” department, here’s Breckenridge Colorado with a population of 5,000  nestled close to a good ski area.

Remember that town I wrote about,Longmeadow Massachusetts that created a fuss when raised crosswalks actually did their job and slowed traffic? Take a look at Breckenridge who decided not to have their open streets program, called the “Walkable Main”, this summer because it was too successful.

Why? Because it was “too popular and might cause problems for business with hiring staff to serve the 120 percent capacity the street creates” as reported in The Overhead Wire.

But it gets better. The Mayor and Town Council actually nixed the use of streets for anyone except car drivers, despite the fact that over 80 percent of both residents and businesses in Breckenridge wanted it.

As reported by “Drunk Engineer” on the Systemic Failure blog, Breckenridge Council member Dennis Kuhn said that residents on neighbouring streets did not like increased traffic on their streets, while another council member cited ‘safety issues’ with the closed street. Traffic, safety, and economic equity were cited as reasons for dissing the pedestrian open street.

The last word goes to the writer at Systemic Failure:

“Obviously the best way to improve safety is to drive lots of multi-ton vehicles down the main drag.”

Here are two YouTube videos about Breckenridge. The first describes the opening of Walkable Main in 2020, and the second is the building of “Bikeful Tower” of course put right in the middle of the Walkable Main when it was walkable.




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In this webinar Dana Bourland, Gray to Green Communities author, and Kimberly Vermeer, co-author with Walker Wells of Blueprint for Greening Affordable Housing, will illustrate that delivering on the human right to housing and combating the climate crisis go hand-in-hand.

Each will discuss the intersection between equity, housing, and sustainability. After the authors present key ideas from their books, the moderator, Dawn Phillips, Executive Director of Right to the City, will lead a discussion between the authors and the audience.

Thursday May 6

Time• 10:00 to 11:00 a.m. Pacific Time.

To register please click on this link.


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Do you know how to take the “Scenic Route”? Smart Growth America and Transportation for America presents  a free webinar.

How do you connect artists and transportation projects in real, tangible ways? Join Ben Stone, director of arts & culture at Transportation for America, Jen Hughes, director of design and creative placemaking at the National Endowment for the Arts, and some other special guests for our relaunch of the Scenic Route guide

Date: Monday May 10, 2021.

Time: 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm Pacific Time.

You can register for this webinar by clicking this link.

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The insistence that pedestrians cross at intersections  treats pedestrians and other vulnerable road users just like vehicular traffic and force them to behave as such, waiting their turn at an intersection. That seems a bit inequitable.

After a research dive I wrote about how Vancouver created “jaywalking lines” to get pedestrians to conform to walking between painted white lines at intersections in 1918. There’s also a history of shaming walkers that would have tried to cross the street mid-block, which is actually safer as there are only two traffic directions, not four as at an intersection.

The term  “jaywalking” referring to walkers crossing midblock was embraced by the automotive industry  in the 1920’s to free up the street for rapidly moving vehicles. Pesky pedestrians were relegated to intersections that were controlled by engineering traffic standards, with the concept that traffic engineers were better judges of pedestrian safety than the pedestrians themselves.

There is a sad reality on our fatality statistics in Metro Vancouver and in most places. The majority of fatalities are pedestrians over fifty years of age, mostly men, who are crossing at intersections WITH the walk light. And how are pedestrians getting injured and dying? It appears that the majority of crashes seem to occur with drivers turning left through the intersection when the pedestrian has the right of way.

Work with Vision Zero in New York City refers to every life using the road as being important, and strives to have no deaths or serious injuries due to road crashes. New York City is revisiting the mid-block pedestrian crossing and finding that it is safer.

Even in the 1990’s research conducted by the US Transportation Research Board found that  26 percent of all pedestrian accidents occurred by the “midblock dash”, 25 percent at intersections, and 50 percent by random vehicles mounting curbs and  other random crash sites. This shows that those marked crossings at  intersections are not as safe as assumed.

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“If one lives in the Canadian Pacific port and has not heard the term “jaywalker” then he or she can claim a particular merit as a law abiding citizen” the 1918 Vancouver Sun proclaimed.

The word Jaywalker appears to have originated in Kansas around 1907 where a newspaper article talked about jay walkers and jay drivers, with the word jay meaning a “greenhorn or a rube’, someone who was unsophisticated, poor, or a simpleton”.  

A jaywalker described someone who was “stupid by crossing the street in an unsafe place or way, or some country person visiting the city who wasn’t used to the rules of the road”. You can take a look a this work by Peter Norton that outlines the history behind making vehicle drivers more important than pedestrians in the United States.

In Canada the term “jaywalker” first appears in the 1913 Ottawa Citizen and is described as being “invented for the pedestrian who steps out carelessly to cross the street without looking for approaching vehicles. It is jay-walker and is a fit companion for “joy-rider”. 

It is a disparaging definition, assigning guilt and lawlessness to the most vulnerable road user, the person without a vehicle.

In Canada it appears that  Vancouver is the place where jaywalking  is  first identified and scorned. The Montreal Gazette in August 1918  had an article entitled “The Jaywalker”, and identified that  a “peculiar expression that had arisen in Vancouver”.  The article then describes a jaywalker as someone who crosses the street but not at the intersection and that rules to make persons cross at intersections had fallen into “innocuous desuetude”. The article then points out that in the United States not crossing the street correctly proclaims “himself to be a foreigner”.

As most of these historic newspaper articles are behind a paywall, I have posted them on my twitter feed if you want to read them as they were written.

In doing a deep dive into jaywalking, there are over 40 references to jaywalking in Vancouver papers before 1920. When you think of that time, vehicles could be driven on streets without insurance and a licence, and were seen as an example of a new age of industrious progress.

Early Vancouver newspapers describe crashes with pedestrians as  “collided” incidents, and then usually listed all of the fractures resulting for the victim. Vehicles had long blind spots in front of them, could not brake well, and there was no conformity of all to travel, signal, or behave on the road.

It was truly the wild west, and thousands of people, many who were children were dying on city streets. In 1928 28 pedestrians died in Vancouver,  72 were injured, and there were 10,500 crashes.

In 1930  40 people died on Vancouver roads.

Car manufacturers needed to sell vehicles and conformity was needed to ensure that vehicles could be operated on the street without pedestrian interruption.

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If you are on Southwest Marine Drive near Balaclava, you may have seen Anne Bruinn  doing wonderful things to transform space and also give a giggle to anyone passing by in a bike lane,  on transit, or a vehicle.

Ms. Bruinn scoured Craigslist and looked to recreate the Central Perk studio set from the television show Friends.

As written by Lasia Kretzel and Monika Gul for News 1130 there’s an outside living room set up on the boulevard, and of course there is the “Central Perk” coffee sign.

And she’s invited other people to come and sit down on the replica couches from that famous show, realizing that with pandemic restrictions people are not going into other people’s houses. Ms. Bruinn wins the coveted Price Tags STAR Award for “Seeing Trouble and Responding”.

“Friends gives me good feelings, and I wanted a set that made people happy, and makes you smile.And as long as I’m out there, I’m available. So just come at your convenience, stop in have a coffee. Need anything, I’m here. lf you would just went for a jog down by the river and you’re dying of thirst here I’ve got a bubbly for you. Or, have a seat and have a chat or whatever you need.”

Ms. Bruinn is a published author and writes in a popular blog called “Contests”.

She has been performing on the boulevard for a while, dressing as American Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders with the famous crossed mittens and as a dinosaur.

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