Policy & Planning
January 10, 2019

A Spring Day, 1964 in Vancouver~A Tale of Two Neighbourhoods

Sitting at Beach and Davie Streets in the Spring of 1964.

Forwarded from Tom Durning, this remarkable image shows a different sea and cityscape from half a century ago.  From the trees, plants, the hats and coats we can assume this is a spring day. But look at the composition of the photo,  with the men in the foreground and the women with the swing coats in the far distance. There is a sparseness and an emptiness in the image, and a sense that everything is in its place.

Contrast this with the oldie but goodie YouTube video below, also from 1964 .

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The City of Delta’s management continues their 20th century fascination with car culture. Last month I wrote about the extraordinary Council report  where the  Delta engineering department recommending concrete barriers to facilitate vehicular movement at 16th Avenue and 53A Street in Tsawwassen with solid double  yellow lines for car traffic at this “T” intersection. There have been a number of vehicles that have ended up in neighbours’ yards and  there is NO marked pedestrian crosswalk. Vehicles in Tsawwassen never stop for  pedestrians.

This residential intersection  is on a bikeway and pedestrian access point to a park, schools and to the commercial area, but no provision was made for vulnerable road users in this design. In fact the words “pedestrian”  and “cyclist” were not mentioned once in the report to Delta council.

Subsequent to our comment last month, this report was pulled  and the Delta Engineering Department has gone back to the drawing board. But not before temporarily plunking concrete barriers with tips that now preclude safe pedestrian travel on one of the corners of the “T” intersection.

Motordom reigns supreme with the City of Delta.

 

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The January winter is always a time where people evaluate effectiveness and success, and looking at New York City’s High Line is no different. This article by Justin Davidson in the New York Magazine describes the author’s ennui with the place, as it transformed from an old 30 foot high 1.45 mile (2.33 km)  long train bridge to a wildly successful people place.

Davidson minces no words describing the High Line as “an elevated cattle chute for tourists, who shuffle from the Whitney to Hudson Yards, squeezed between high glass walls and luxury guard towers. The views are mostly gone, which is a good thing because stopping to admire one would cause a 16-pedestrian pileup. The rail-level traffic mirrors the congestion overhead, caused by construction so hellbent on milking New York’s waning real estate hyper-boom that any patch of land bigger than a tick’s front yard is considered suitable for luxury condos.”

I spent time with Mitchell Silver, New York City’s Park Commissioner and Robert Hammond, one of the founders of the High Line walking the length of the project, and described that here. Mitchell observed that locals stay away from the High Line during “tourist season” hours, and also stressed that the width of the walkway~fifteen feet~was inadequately narrow, despite best intentions. The reuse of an  old highway overpass in Seoul Korea has resulted in the creation of Seoullo 7017, a fantastic arboretum and linear park thirty feet in the air. When I visited this project last year, designers also said that their walkway~which was also fifteen feet wide~was too narrow as well. This project is well-lit and open 24 hours a day and has a bakery and a daycare on its deck.

Seoullo7017

While it is popular to believe that the High Line has been responsible for the rejuvenation and revitalization of this very old meatpacking district, I beg to differ.

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In the City of Delta there has been a council switcheroo, with the old city manager coming back as the Mayor, and the previous Mayor, octogenarian Lois Jackson coming back to “support” the Mayor as a Councillor. New Mayor and former city manager George Harvie is backing the same old agenda as Jackson did, once again demanding a multi million dollar pedestrian overpass at 52nd Street and Highway 17 linking the new golf course Tsawwassen Springs development (where the Mayor resides) with the Tsawwassen Mills mega mall.

You can see in the current design shown below that there are simple improvements that could be made to make the crossing more comfortable and safer for pedestrians and cyclists. And one of the things that Delta could do immediately is lower the speeds on 52nd Street, which the city has posted at 60 km/h at this location.

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We’ve all heard the story of tourists from Europe buying air tickets to Sydney Australia, not reading the fine print, and finding themselves in Halifax Airport about  to be transferred to a smaller plane to the Sydney in the Maritimes’ Cape Breton.

Similar things happen in the 911 emergency network.  On Christmas Day a person in distress reached out to 911 in Surrey B.C. through Facebook~unfortunately she had contacted Surrey in southeast Great Britain. As Global News reports there just happened to be a police officer from Toronto in the British Surrey Police department office, visiting one of the police telephone operators. This officer linked the distress call through the Vancouver  Police Department who coordinated with the RCMP detachment in Surrey, B.C.  While the British Surrey dispatcher kept the person on the line, the RCMP  in Surrey B.C. located the lady and got her to support services. In British Columbia calling  911 connects Metro Vancouver and 25 regional districts with emergency services. This call centre receives over 1.45 million calls annually.

But perhaps the most extraordinary 911 emergency answer came to a call made by mistake from the International Space Station.

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There is now a three part trilogy in Vancouver where a valued public resource~public trees~have been hacked or poisoned on public lands. Two of the previous public tree mutilations were performed to improve private views. You may have read the latest in the Vancouver Sun where after the December windstorm Park Board staff discovered  at Spanish Banks near Tolmie Street a group of conifer trees had been delimbed and their tops sawed off.

And it wasn’t someone looking for a quick fix to grabbing a Christmas tree, as the  tops and limbs were found in the park. How could someone have done this without anyone seeing? And why has this happened? Howard Norman of the Parks Board minced no words saying “In my experience, this is strictly view-related. That’s the only rational reason I can think of.

The trees were partially sawed through and were then broken in windstorms. The trees will continue to develop, but their  canopies will be significantly altered, suggesting  the involvement of a  nearby view property owner that may not know the wrath of Vancouverites when public trees are sullied. The Park Board is working with the Vancouver Police to ascertain who the culprit is, but finger-pointing is already focused upon the exclusive hilly view properties across from the beach.

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Clothing street bins have flown below the radar, have proliferated, and have turned out to be deadly. This  Vancouver Sun editorial  notes that in the last four years five people in this province have died in this containers, seven across the country. Several municipalities including Vancouver have sealed these clothing bins up. University engineering students are working on better designs for the bins. But why do we have the bins in the first place? If we are able to have the clothes picked up by the charities or drop them off at a charity store, is that not a more prudent solution that also allows for better connectedness to the organizations and to their works? Why did we allow the public realm to be peppered with these clothing bins? And who is benefiting from clothing  bin profits?

In Metro Vancouver clothing bins are ubiquitous, in different shapes and colours, but all serving the same function~they are donation bins on public and private property with a mail box lid type for people to deposit of cast-off clothes. It is assumed that somehow the charities hosting the bins pick up the clothes, clean and sort them, and ensure that the needy get access to these  donations, or that they are sold so that the sponsoring organizations can benefit. However the needy still have to pay for the clothes, and the fact that people die in these containers suggest that the people we intend the clothes to go to can’t afford them  or don’t have access to them.

There is a dearth of information on what really happens to those clothes, and those donations become part of a more complex story.

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Britain’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (with the wonderful initials of NICE) have drafted guidelines for planners and British municipalities to prioritize pedestrians, cyclists and transit over cars. In Metro Vancouver there is no pedestrian plan for the City of Vancouver, and for the City of Delta pedestrians are barely mentioned in the Transportation plan. A clear set of national guidelines in Canada would be helpful to create “safe, attractive and designed” roads that give people other options besides driving. Happily Britain’s Department of Transport supports the policies and understands that increasing walking and cycling prevents chronic diseases including diabetes and depression.

NICE has made the connection that well designed  transportation systems coupled with walkable accessible  built environments can keep people fit and active, which benefits the individual and the universal health care system. Designing for safety and security when walking or cycling is key, as well as for the most vulnerable users who may have limited mobility.

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Vancouver has been creating raised crosswalks for  twenty years. These are generally located near schools and are walkable speed humps that are at the same grade as the sidewalk on either side of the street. The raised crosswalk serve to  elevate the pedestrian, and slow vehicular traffic which should be travelling the posted school speed limit anyway. You have probably seen the raised crosswalks located outside the Vancouver Airport.

The first temporary raised crosswalk in Vancouver was installed by Neighbourhood Transportation Engineer Jim Hall on the east side of Emily Carr Elementary School near Oak Street and King Edward Avenue. The first permanent raised crosswalk (and here is the Council report written by Engineering Traffic Manager Winston Chou) is on east 22nd Avenue at Commercial Street, adjacent to Lord Selkirk Elementary.

The raised crosswalks clearly have a function of slowing traffic and allowing pedestrians to be more visible crossing a road. But take a look at this news report from Longmeadow Massachusetts where drivers are complaining that they are damaging their cars going over the raised crosswalk.  This crosswalk is located right beside a school, has  vivid green signs to alert drivers to slow down, and was built to slow cars to 35 miles per hour (roughly 52 kilometers per hour).

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A few years ago autonomous vehicles (AV’s)  were being hailed as a technology that was transformative and coming very soon. Driverless vehicles provide a solution to the pesky problem of what to do with seniors who should not be driving, and suggested an orderly way to keep vehicles moving efficiently in cities. But the downside has started to become evident, including how to deal with the ethics of a car created to save its occupants ahead of more vulnerable road users like pedestrians and cyclists. And what to do and who to blame if an autonomous vehicle kills a vulnerable road user? While the technology has apparently driven a vehicle across the United States, it has not advanced enough to deal with the intricacies and complexities of city driving.

Chandler Arizona was one of the “lucky” places where autonomous vehicle trials by Google’s Waymo first commenced, but there have now been over twenty attacks on these vehicles. From tire slashing, stone throwing, to braking in front of these vehicles and trying to run them off the road, local citizens are expressing their doubts and fears about the technology. I have written about the “edge cases” and how the killing of a lady in Tempe Arizona walking her bike across a highway exemplifies the situations where the technology could not ascertain the vehicle needed to stop.

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