The Livable Region
October 17, 2016

Thirty km/h School Zones reduce accidents in Edmonton

 Some municipal transportation staff  believe that lower speed limits do not in fact slow vehicles, making it safer for pedestrians and cyclists to also share the street. In Edmonton new lower speed signage around schools HAS slowed traffic.
As reported in the Edmonton Metro News last Friday in areas around schools subject to new  30 km an hour zones, there has been a marked decrease in car accidents with pedestrians and cyclists. There is also some handy information about stopping distances on the City’s website, as well as some very sobering statistics:

  • Children aged 5 to 14 years are at the greatest risk for pedestrian-related deaths
  • Children aged 10 to 14 years have the highest incidence of pedestrian-related injuries 
  • The most common action that results in injury or death of a child is crossing at an intersection

In Edmonton twelve school zones had new pedestrian crossing lights, freshly painted sidewalks, reader boards indicating drivers’ speed, and reflective stop sign poles implemented.

Collisions causing injuries to cyclists and pedestrians fell by more than 70 per cent from an average of seven before the change was implemented in 2014 to just two during the school year in 2015.

This is all part of Edmonton’s Vision Zero strategy to stop road deaths and injuries within the city. Some residents are now asking for the 30 km/h to be extended throughout the neighbourhoods.

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So far this year 11 pedestrians have died on Vancouver streets, the latest being a senior who was struck by a car at Yew Street  and 49th Avenue a few days ago. That is more than one citizen a month that is being killed, and the majority of those deaths are senior Vancouverites.  If it was a disease and  not cars killing residents, we would be calling this an epidemic.
In 2012 seniors (those folks that are over 65 years of age) were only 13.2 per cent of the population. Forty per cent of  pedestrian fatalities that year were seniors.
Two mindful and very involved women in the west side of Vancouver decided to do something about this. Lynn Shepherd and Sabina Harpe come from professional librarian and social work backgrounds and were deeply concerned with the fact that no one is looking at seniors’ pedestrian safety in Vancouver winters.  Even the City of Vancouver gives short shrift to pedestrian issues, with no dedicated staff resourcing,  lumping those issues with cyclists in a volunteer advisory committee to Council.
Pedestrians issues are very different, and it is also the disenfranchised that do a lot of walking-those too young , too  infirm, too old and/or too poor to choose other alternatives. They are truly the voiceless, and no matter how well meaning  any volunteer advisory committee is, the importance  of walking mobility deserves to be championed and staffed separately and aggressively at city hall.

Lynn and Sabina have done a lot of the work that the City of Vancouver should have done-they met with experts in the field, spoke to seniors groups and those with mobility challenges, and decided to focus on a project to encourage seniors to walk prudently and safely in winter, the time where most seniors are the most vulnerable to being hit by cars. They formed a committee through the Westside Seniors Hub at Kits House that included representatives from BEST, the Dunbar Residents Association/SFU, the Jewish Family Agency, Walk Metro Vancouver, Kits Community Centre, Brock House Society, ICBC and the Vancouver Police Department. They did their research and found that Sweden has had a three-fold reduction in vehicle and pedestrian fatalities and injuries since the adoption of a Vision Zero campaign in 1997. Besides encouraging better driver behaviour and pedestrian compliance to using intersections and crosswalks, visibility was key.
Vancouver’s low-light winters and rainy days mean that walkers need to be visible-the use of reflective items similar to those used in Finland could bring traffic accident and deaths down. While countries like Finland mandate that children must wear reflective items on their clothes, there is nothing like that in North America. By creating the “Walk and Be Seen Project” seniors that are walking in winter will be asked to walk with and trial various reflective items, including the reflective safety sash and snap on reflective bracelets. They are creating a pilot  project for 150 walking seniors on how to increase safety and visibility in winter by the use of reflective items. Their objectives are to encourage safe walking in low-light, complement ICBC and Vancouver Police Department safety campaigns, gather feedback, and use the date for further initiatives. And I completely expect those seniors to model behaviour and lead the way in us all wearing reflective items while walking  in our low light and potentially dangerous winter street environments, and start the dialogue on championing other pedestrian initiatives-road design, speed, and driver behaviour.
Kudos must be given to these two extraordinary women who are championing vulnerable seniors’ walkability and safety. You can find out more about this project at the Kitsilano Autumn Fair at the Kitsilano Neighbourhood House Open House from 10:00 a.m.  to 3:00 p.m. on Saturday October 22nd, or by emailing wbs@westsideseniorshub.org
 
 

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In the “why didn’t I think of that” department, The St. Louis Dispatch reports on an innovative idea-they are planning to turn a closed school into affordable housing for the system’s teachers.

“the Wilkinson School, closed in 2008 after 80 years of use, has been purchased with the intention of transforming it into affordable housing for teachers to help “attract and retain good teachers that might otherwise leave for better paying jobs in the county,” said SLPS Real Estate Director Walker Gaffney.

Former schools have been turned into apartments elsewhere in the city, but this is the first time St. Louis has explicitly aimed to house teachers affordably there. According to a report by the National Association of Realtors, St. Louis is one of a number of metro areas where rents outpaced income growth for adults aged 25 to 44 between 2009 and 2014. That’s put pressure on new public school teachers especially, whose salaries are on the low end for college-educated professionals.

The intent is to retain quality teachers in St. Louis and protect their rent increases as well. The article also describes that earlier this year, San Francisco’s lawmakers unanimously passed an ordinance that would make teachers nearly immune to no-fault evictions. Last month, after landlords sued, a judge threw it out. “The court is cognizant of the desire to prevent disruption of the educational process,” he wrote in his decision. “[But] that concern must be addressed some other way.”

Certainly converting unused schools into affordable accommodation for teachers is a way to retain good teachers and reuse closed schools. It’s a solution worth a ponder.

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Douglas Massey, the son of George Massey the MLA that championed the design and development of the Massey Tunnel which opened in 1959 has weighed in to the Delta Optimist about the proposed Massey Bridge replacement. Massey responds to comments that the tunnel is not ecologically prudent, warranting its removal.

“The George Massey Tunnel was built below the riverbed and does not interfere in the migration of salmon or other fish species, nor does it interfere in the flight path of birds. Should we not be more concerned about the environmental effects of a high level bridge, hundreds of feet in the air, combined with the new overhead high voltage transmission lines (that presently go under the river bed in the tunnel)? Would this not result in more bird kill?

Or with the proposal to remove the George Massey Tunnel and to dredge the riverbed deeper to make the Fraser Surrey Docks a viable operation at taxpayers’ expense? What effect will this increased depth have on migrating salmon or sturgeon who live in the riverbed? What effect would the increased number of ships navigating the river and the increased industrialization have on the foreshores and existing dikes and the habitat on the wetland marshes and would recreational kayaking still be viable?”

While Douglas Massey advocates for the right fit for the environment, another letter writer to the Optimist worries about the tolled bridge as being expensive for lower wage workers, and wonders if the tunnel could continue in operation as an HOV/transit-dedicated route “for those of us who are required to travel to Vancouver every day”.

 If only.

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There are a whole bunch of people (and I am included) that are seriously concerned with how driverless car technology will interface with those pesky cyclists and erratic pedestrians who seem to amble in undetermined ways along city streets. The most efficient way for driverless cars to operate is without any interruption-no bicyclists, no pedestrians. And that has been a worry in terms of thinking of street design, and the potential for pedestrians to be even more marginalized on city streets.
But Mercedes has some new info to help us feel even more uncomfortable about this-“When they crash, self-driving Mercedes will be programmed to save the driver, and not the person or people they hit. That’s the design decision behind the Mercedes Benz’s future Level 4 and Level 5 autonomous cars, according to the company’s manager of driverless car safety, Christoph von Hugo. Instead of worrying about troublesome details like ethics, Mercedes will just program its cars to save the driver and the car’s occupants, in every situation.”

Yes, it’s the next generation of the Trolley Problem. “  Say the car is spinning out of control, and on course to hit a crowd queuing at a bus stop. It can correct its course, but in doing so, it’ll kill a cyclist for sure. What does it do? Mercedes’ answer to this take on the classic is to hit whichever one is least likely to hurt the people inside its cars. If that means taking out a crowd of kids waiting for the bus, then so be it.

The moral confusion is deepened when we consider that autonomous cars may save millions of lives that would otherwise have been snuffed out by careless human drivers. That’s no consolation if a Mercedes chooses to use you as an airbag to save its owner, but maybe you’d already have been killed a few years before if a particular human driver hadn’t been replaced by a driverless car.”

Moral of story? If you see a new generation Mercedes coming down the road, it’s probably a good idea to stay on the sidewalk.

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If we design and develop our cities and our spaces around basic principles of walkability we would have healthier happier citizens and much more legible places.  You would think that the Quebec developer Cambridge Ivanhoe who are operating a 1.2 million square foot mega mall on First Nations land  would have thought through the experience of those making the most minimum ecological footprint to access the mall-those folks that are walkers and transit users.
But that has not happened. There are large slabs of lonely concrete smack on the highway with no shelters where transit passengers huddle in the rain to catch a bus. And if you are walking from Tsawwassen or from another part of the First Nations development, you are also out of luck-even though there is an access eastward from the residential development at Tsawwassen Shores to the mall, there are no crosswalks or easy pedestrian access points from the parking lot to the start of the mall. The design of the mall attempts to funnel folks on the east side of the mall and on the south side, where there ARE properly painted crosswalks and pedestrian amenities. On the west side? None.
You do see groups of people massed on either side of Highway 17 at 52nd Street who have decided to walk to the mall. Like many suburban places, people in Tsawwassen are great walkers, and think nothing of a stroll of a few kilometers for fitness and to see the ‘hood.
This lack of walking amenity was mentioned in The Delta Optimist by a local resident  who noted:  “Driving home in the dimming light of the evening last week, I noticed the tiny concrete island between the right turn lane and the rest of the lanes of 52nd Street on the south side of Highway 17 full of people carrying bags and hanging onto children. They were waiting patiently for the pedestrian sign to light up so they could continue walking east on Highway 17 towards the bus stop. As my car climbed the 52nd Street hill, I passed several school children happily walking down the sidewalk towards the mall. This was already a dangerous intersection before the mall (remember the woman on the scooter who was killed in 2014).
Once the days grow shorter and the weather becomes wetter and colder, asking people to walk across that busy highway in the dark is a disrespectful proposition…As a half-way measure in the meantime, I would suggest moving the bus stop into the mall parking lot. There must be enough room in that massive lot for a couple of buses to exchange passengers in a safe, out of the way location…We should be encouraging people to walk to the mall from Tsawwassen, and to take the bus from other locations, but I know I would be leery of letting a child go to the mall without an adult if it means crossing those busy lanes of speeding traffic.”

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The Vancouver Sun Editorial Board has published an editorial today with another take on the Tsawwassen Mills Mega Mall. Under the heading “Tsawwassen Mills Mall Symbolizes First Nation’s Independence”  the editorial states:
“Traffic chaos was but one of many complaints levelled against the new outlet mall before and after the opening. Early on, development opponents condemned the loss of what they believed to be arable farmland, and others raised their fists against rampant consumerism. Animal rights activists objected to the display of live fish in the aquarium and the taxidermy collection in the Bass Pro shop. Still others questioned whether the mall, in the absence of public transit and population nearby, offering retail outlets readily available at more conveniently located shopping districts, and on a road to nowhere other than the B.C. Ferries terminal and Deltaport, could be successful. And doesn’t the project seem at odds, one blog post asked, with Metro Vancouver’s goals of density and sustainability?”

The Sun’s editorial goes on to say that Tsawwassen First Nation Chief Bryce Williams called the project “reconciliation in action”, referencing the federal government’s acknowledgment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommendations. And Shane Gottfriedson, B.C. regional chief of the Assembly of First Nations, added that what the Tsawwassen First Nation accomplished “is what every First Nation would like for themselves.” 

The editorial ends by saying “Tsawwassen Mills is not just a shopping mall. It is a symbol of First Nations independence and growing economic strength. Given the significance of the project, opening just weeks after the Business Council of B.C. and the B.C. Assembly of First Nations signed a formal agreement to help lift indigenous communities out of poverty and build the province’s economy, the complaints seem almost petty.”

The full text of the editorial can be read here.

There is no doubt that this is a tremendously important venture  for all the  First Nations. The question is whether it is appropriate to comment on the mega mall which is contracted to a Quebec owned company and appears to have major regional impacts, including threatening the livelihood of small businesses in Ladner and Tsawwassen. Should the project be treated differently and not commented on?


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Business in Vancouver has published an article about the Really Big Deal-The sale of the Oakridge Transit Centre located on 41st Avenue near Oak Street.

Frank O’Brien and Bob Mackin reveal  that the sale price for the 5.6 hectare site was between $425 and $450 million dollars, the second most expensive land deal done in the province after the Jericho Lands. Despite the fact the land is public-owned, TransLink cannot talk about the deal due to the purchaser’s confidentiality requirements. It appears the buyer is Modern Green, who has been doing joint ventures in the province, including a residential project at UBC.

The Oakridge Transit Centre development lands have been approved for a density of approximately 1.26 million square feet of residential and retail, according to a 2015 City of Vancouver planning document. The proposed density is approximately 2.1 FSR (floor space ratio) over the entire site, or 2.5 FSR if a planned 2.3-acre park is not included in the calculation. The focus is on residential, with the city recommending that 20% of the homes be affordable housing.

“The majority of buildings will be mid-rise [six to 12 storeys]. The maximum height will be 15 storeys (or 150 feet), achievable in two identified locations,” said a staff report.

The city anticipates $73.5 million in development levies and community amenities.

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The New York Times interviewed Ed Humes who has written “Door to Door: The Magnificent, Maddening, Mysterious World of Transportation” looking at how we shaped the world around our personal ownership of a car. And Mr. Humes wastes no words describing the car as a social, health and economic challenge.

Next to our home, the car is our single largest household expense. We’re paying for it round the clock. Yet, it sits idle for 22 hours a day. Plus, it’s horribly inefficient in how it uses energy. The average car wastes about 80 percent of the gasoline put into it. By comparison, an electric vehicle uses about 90 percent to actually move the car.

Humes also quotes the National Safety Council’s data on car crashes showed that in 2015, 38,300 people died and 4.4 million were seriously injured. Roads are built for vehicles to travel much faster than the stated speed limit. People go to fast, and speeding is one of the major reasons for crashes. Humes points out that over a lifetime, we each have a one in 113 chance of dying in a car. Despite safety devices in vehicles, cars are driven too fast to survive collisions. And pedestrians?

A pedestrian struck by a vehicle going 40 miles an hour has a 10 percent chance of surviving, and one struck by a car at 20 m.p.h. has a 90 percent chance. So when we post a 40-mile maximum speed limit on a boulevard where pedestrians walk, we’re saying that in the event of a crash, a 90 percent mortality rate is acceptable.

In the 1920s, The New York Times referred to what we now erroneously call “accidents” as “motor killings.” There was more outrage then.

Humes describes that in the 1920’s there was a national movement to place speed governors on cars that would prevent cars from travelling at high speeds. The car industry pushed back. Humes sees the driverless car technology as taking the life-or-death decisions out of the hands of the drivers, and getting back to the days of speed governors on cars. Except this time the car industry is backing the technology. And Humes notes that until the driverless car technology is perfected, those speed governors are not a bad idea to be implemented now to  save lives and prevent injuries.

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