Infrastructure
September 9, 2019

UBC International Road Safety Symposium~Nov 7-8

Following great feedback from the Vision Zero Summit, UBC’s Bureau of Integrated Transportation Safety and Advanced Mobility, in partnership with BC Centre for Disease Control, will host an International Road Safety Symposium to continue supporting expertise and knowledge exchange for road safety across BC. Renowned international experts from the Netherlands, Australia, and Canada will join municipal and provincial experts to discuss and share their experience and recent research with a focus on application, implementation and equity at the local level. The symposium will provide a forum for dialogue with all attendees to allow for focused discussions on specific issues and solutions.

The two days will cover:

International Expert Presentations followed by discussions on:
Road Safety Challenges in the Smart Mobility era
Causation and Prevention – how to best develop a crash prevention program
Road User Distraction
Transportation and Health
The Safe Systems Approach and critical success factors

Interactive Attendee Panel Discussions:
Active Road User Safety
Speed Management
Legal and illicit substances and road safety
Data Driven Transport safety -“linchpin” data issues, big data, and data-sharing opportunities
New and Advanced Mobility (e.g. ride-hailing, e-scooters)

Our distinguished line-up of international experts include:

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We live in a time where simple solutions to problems are often overlooked for technological answers. It’s no surprise given that many people perceive technology as helpful, and in many instances it is. But it’s always important to figure out what the problem is that a technological answer seeks to solve.

Take a look at this installation at a traffic intersection in Singapore that allows a senior citizen (who has the requisite senior citizen’s card) to “swipe” the pedestrian crossing button to get up to thirteen seconds extra crossing time on a busy street. The “Green Man Plus” system was introduced in 2009 for seniors and “those with disabilities” to be allowed extra crossing time. As ABC reporter Stephen Dziedzic stated on Twitter

“At some Singapore intersections you can swipe your Senior Card and the crossing light will stay green for a little longer, giving you extra time to reach the other side of the road. I find this very touching.”

 

While the Twitterverse thought this was indeed a very good idea to enhance equity, the question really is who is equal here? And instead of installing hundreds of these pedestrian installations that require a card to activate them, why not increase the crossing time on the timing of the light cycle in favour of all pedestrians, no matter who they are or when they are crossing? If people using the sidewalks and crosswalks are truly the most valued and most vulnerable users, why not treat them that way, and allow everyone a longer crossing time without a card to ask permission?

Locally, another example of technological invention also focuses on the wrong end of the problem.

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Toronto Star reporter Ben Spurr has continued the conversation about road violence against vulnerable road users in that city. It’s been a surprisingly uphill battle in Toronto where 190 pedestrians and 7 cyclists have died in the past five years. But Toronto is not the big city leader in road deaths in Canada. Vancouver is.

The City of Toronto has 2.2  road deaths per 100,000 population. Vancouver actually has a higher rate than the City of Toronto, at 2.4 road deaths per 100,000. And Montreal’s rate is almost half, at 1.3 road deaths per 100,000.   You can take a look at the statistics here.

The residents of Toronto have protested against road violence and demanded change in making their city streets and places safer for vulnerable road users. People who have lost loved ones due to road violence have organized and protested in groups such as Friends and Families for Safe Streets.

The City of Toronto originally implemented a 2016 Vision Zero plan that did not aim at the complete reduction of road deaths and serious injuries, but rather a percentage of less fatalities.

Toronto soon realized the folly of that concept as the “the number of fatal collisions in the past 5 years has seen a general increase compared to the previous 5 years. The upward trend is most notably seen in pedestrian fatalities.” 

In a June 2019 reboot of Vision Zero called  “2.0”-Road Safety Update ,Toronto’s Engineering Staff got serious about the safe systems approach, with Council adopting a speed management strategy, road design improvements, and an education and engagement plan. As well two pedestrian death traps were identified for special attention: mid block crossings (responsible for 50 percent of pedestrian deaths); and vehicles turning through crosswalks (causing 25 percent of deaths). The City also directly stated that their goal was now no deaths or serious injuries on the road, which is the true  Vision Zero approach.

Toronto’s data on road violence also mirrored that of  Vancouver’s~the majority of pedestrians killed are over 55 years old. But like Vancouver, driver education and the design and timing of intersection crossings still  does not reflect the specific requirements of seniors or those with accessibility needs.

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Have you fallen or tripped on City of Vancouver sidewalk? What are your rights and what can you do to ensure others don’t have that same experience?

Three recent graduates of Langara’s journalism school, Nathan Durec, Roxanne Egan-Elliott* and Mandy Moraes have done some investigative work on why sidewalks are the way they are, and what citizens can do about them as reported in the Vancouver Sun.

These three journalists point out that many people hurt themselves by tripping and falling on city sidewalks, and that “there is a a public lack of knowledge about recourse when it comes to injuries caused by sidewalks. It also highlights what some advocates say is infrastructure sorely neglected by the city and a maintenance system that may not be adequately serving the public’s needs, leading to questions about liability.”

The City’s 2,200 kilometers of sidewalks are the beginning of almost every journey in the City. Walking is identified as the ” top transportation priority” to accommodate increasing density in the city. But, as these three journalists write, while the City’s budget for 2019 has allotted 9 million dollars for bikeways and 8 million dollars for arterial road repaving, only 1.75 million dollars has been set aside for new sidewalk construction. Less than 800,000 is available to repatch existing sidewalks. Sidewalks with priority for work are in commercial areas or along bus routes.

Sidewalks provide the basic way of movement for people on foot and using mobility assists.Sidewalks need to be designed for all users, and highlight accessibility and comfort and convenience. But as Duke of Data  and Director of Simon Fraser University’s City Program states ” It’s an overlooked form of infrastructure. I mean, one hopes it’s seen as a form of central infrastructure.”

If you fall on a sidewalk, you should report it to your municipality.

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Douglas Todd in the Vancouver Sun opens up a conversation that is very timely: exactly what are we doing with landmarky twisty bending towers and jenga block buildings in Vancouver, and who are they really for?

In his article, Todd interviews Ray Spaxman who was Director of Planning for the City of Vancouver for sixteen years. Ray is originally from Kings Lynn in Great Britain (where George Vancouver came from) and is a very tall man who was known for a thoughtful approach to city planning and a strong advocate for public participation in planning. The term “livability” was coined by Ray and his team. An architect and a planner by training, Ray is also an artist, and during public hearings and meetings often captured  the entire room of people in one sketch. You can read a bit more about Ray Spaxman and his time at City Hall  here.

While his leadership of the planning department ended in 1989, his thoughtful legacy and staff choices led the department into the millenium.

When asked to define what “iconic” buildings are, Ray responded: “You either try to be iconic because you want to stand out, or you are iconic because you stand out.” 

Spaxman also bluntly pointed out that building developers want to sell condominium units to “wealthy people in foreign lands” and the term “iconic” has changed. Previously that term would be for places  where power and community melded in  “public gathering places,to the town hall, the church or concert hall” . The forms of those types of places are all recognizable and have deep symbolism to people.

Designers now want to imprint similar symbolism on their buildings for developers to sell a new kind of brand to a buyer that has not seen that type of product before.

But does it work?

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There’s new management in town for that place that attracts lots of passionate reaction, Granville Island. Owned and governed by the Federal government the island was originally in industrial use, with Ocean Concrete still continuing operations at their plant on the east side of the island.

Since the 1970’s the federally controlled island has morphed into a mix of market based businesses, artists and restaurants that employ over 3,000 people. This area was governed by the Granville Island Trust which will be dissolved in favour of the Granville Island Council. You can read Glen Korstrom’s article about the Council in this Business in Vancouver link.

The island has several challenges, the biggest being that vehicle movement and parking are the largest land use, taking over a quarter of the land area.

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It’s summer in Vancouver and time for a visit to Vancouver’s newest and much loved public space, the main branch of the Vancouver Public Library’s  rooftop garden created by landscape architect extraordinaire Cornelia Oberlander.

Even on one of the hottest days of the summer the outdoor space  is a cool oasis, with lots of corners to sit in and a cool breeze. There’s plenty of people up on the roof, but the space is big enough to accommodate students studying as well as people relaxing drinking coffee. (About that coffee~you still have to bring it in from outside the building, but it is perfectly fine in the library with a lid on it.I checked.)

There is apparently a challenge with the current landscape maintenance contractors  and they are no longer tending to the plants. Thankfully Cornelia’s palette includes lots of hardy plants and wild roses well adapted to dry conditions.

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Go back 40 years ago and there were two important events on university campuses~one was the  Fall used textbook sale; and the second was the Fall annual indoor plant sale. Everyone bought indoor plants for their rooms and apartments, and these sales were held at universities across Canada. Indoor plants were a  big “thing”.

As The Economist  writes, indoor plants which pretty much disappeared off people’s radar for decades are now back~and it is young people leading the trend towards houseplants. Even Greenhouse Mag describes the social media trend towards indoor plants, viewing the universally accessible Instagram and Pinterest as “democratizing access to high design”. That includes young people using houseplants in interiors as a fashion statement in keeping with “nature-infused design aesthetic”.

Google searches for succulents (a type of plant) have increased ten times in the last nine years. On a more practical level young people often live in apartment units without yard access, and while there is care involved for houseplants, “they are neither as demanding nor as costly as pets or children”.

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Just as there is growing interest in slow cooking with meals made from scratch, is there a return to thinking about doing other things in a more 20th century and long hand way?

Gayle Macdonald in the Globe and Mail talks about the “convenience-driven quandary” and asks: “What if we become so accustomed to computers and other AI-driven technologies doing everything for us that we forget the joy of doing things slowly, meticulously and with our own two hands?”

Take a look at the data. Online purchases have increased to 2.9 trillion dollars in 2018, from 2.4 trillion in 2017. And Canadians, who have been late to the online purchasing party have now  doubled their expenditures online from sales reported in 2016 to a  a cool 39 Billion dollars in United States funds.

That sum is more than what the current American president was going to spend on the southern border wall (that clocked in at 25 Billion dollars).  And here’s a story of what 25 Billion dollars will buy. 

Something else happens when goods and services are ordered online and delivered to your door. That is the isolating experience when you don’t have to walk or bike  or even go to a store, or have any interactions with people on the street or in shops.

As Macdonald observes ” loneliness – a close cousin of isolation – seems to be on the rise, with the U.S. Surgeon-General recently warning it’s an “epidemic” in United States and Britain appointing its first “minister of loneliness.”

While online shopping speaks to comfort and convenience, anthropologist Grant McCracken is wary of the ease of it, stating: “The industrial revolution declared war on space and time … and right through the second half of the 20th century, this war had no skeptics. Convenience was king. But in the last few decades we have seen a counter revolution. We saw the arrival of slow food, meditation, mindfulness, artisanal economies and a more measured approach to life by many people. All of which is better for humans and better for the planet.”

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Amazon has entered the prefabricated housing market in their offer of a house for 50,000 Canadian dollars or 37,000 U.S. dollars. Made in Beijing by Hebei Weizhengheng Modular House Technology company this house comes resplendent with solar panels, a kitchen and bathroom, and all wiring and plumbing in place for hook up to local systems.

Delivery to your site does cost an additional $1000 U.S. dollars.

The house itself appears to be a shipping container  but is already drawing criticism from small home builders. As the founder of Tiny Home Builders observes in the Seattle P-I:

This container home’s pricing is not unreasonable for a 20-foot home.Yet although it’s touted as a “container home. This does not appear to be a true shipping container conversion, so quality and rigidity may not be as high.”

Other issues include building materials that may not be the same in North America, andt the cost of accessing  electrical services and city sewers.

With a 25 day time from order to arrival, the 20 by 40 foot house’s location  will need to be approved by local planning authorities, and if is ancillary to the main dwelling you will need to figure out the correct location on the lot. Of course you will need concrete footings to place the dwelling, and potentially a crane to move the house into place.

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