March 24, 2016

Traffic Cones. Orange is the New Urban: Mockery, Fashion, and Rogue Transformer @AwarenessCone #Philly @PBOTrans #PDX @Moschino

OMG traffic cones are all the rage. The revolution has begun and it has bounced off Twitter onto our streets.
First, I recommend following AwarenessCone on Twitter. A silly Philadelphia-based account, it mocks the traffic cone’s responsibility to protect us from danger with overqualified cones placed in menial, dead end positions. Their bio sums it up well:

AwarenessCone: a cone placed at the site of damaged infrastructure; a cone marking construction; a cone forgotten. Be aware.

Two examples are better than one.

Secondly, The Man systemic car culture wants everyone outside who’s not in a car to be dressed in clothing with high visibility (hi-viz). We all know black is the most slimming colour. Drivers are jealous of our active lifestyles. They want us to look chubbier than those in vehicles. They also want to take no responsibility for hitting and killing us with their cars. Activist people on foot and on bike and on board refuse to wear reflectors or bright clothing day or night in protest. Active transportation moderates get mocked as sell outs for having reflective trim on any clothing.
Moschino, always known for its tongue-in-cheek, society mocking designs, has a new line out for Spring/Summer 2016 called Dangerous Couture featuring ridiculous, high fashion, hi-viz clothing and their version of street signs (including little Do Not Enter signs as earrings).

Which all leads me to the third trend for cones. People are using them to control their streets. Call them safety heroes or vigilantes, drivers don’t know if they are City-issued or not and are slowing down. These movements are cropping up in various cities. PDXTransformations in Portland, OR was separating cars from bike lanes with traffic cones recently. Now its members have put up (illegal) 20mph speed limit signs and are getting local media coverage for their antics. (The Portland Bureau of Transportation has said publicly removing the signs is not a high priority with limited resources.)


We are not a “bike advocacy group.” We are a Transformation Action Group. We want our streets to serve everybody.
Our dream is that the people of Portland stand up to unsafe drivers and say ENOUGH. You can’t do that here anymore.

They are inspiring others.

If these rogue antics were organized in your town, would you be tempted to make a request? Is there a dangerous spot near you? Have you reported it to the City?
Clearly cones are trending and improved safety for all on our streets can’t be far behind.

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On Tuesday I cracked myself up in prep for an evening with Janette Sadik-Khan (JSK), former NYCDOT Transportation Commissioner and author of Streetfight: Handbook for an Urban Revolution. Here are the highlights.
Whether you livestreamed it under the covers or attended at the Vancouver Playhouse, you probably had at least one moment of inspiration, imagining the delight that street transformation can bring to where you live. What if the City of Vancouver became the largest real-estate developer in town like JSK was for NYC?
Her statistics were all US based but we’re used to that. When we translate their numbers to our population, the information is uncomfortably more relevant than we would like. She included in her slides pictures of Vancouver and local examples to go with them. For those of us who attended her last visit, a few of the NYC successes were the same and still had a stunning, audible impact on attendees; she has more data to back her up now. She is confident and motivating.
Gordon Price is consistently a top-notch moderator and interviewer. He was a gracious Canadian host, animated, and entertaining. He had a great rapport with JSK. Price asked the pertinent questions and got solid answers.
What’s as interesting is who attended. At $5 a ticket, there were all ages and abilities present. I wondered how many business owners or BIA staff were there. Did Nick Pogor attend?
Unfortunately, I didn’t catch all of the electeds who introduced themselves from my perch on the balcony. I was pleased to see Vancouver’s Deputy Mayor Heather Deal front and center, who is also a Councillor Liaison to the City’s Active Transportation Policy Council and Arts & Culture Policy Council, among others. It was announced for the first time publicly that Lon LaClaire is the new City of Vancouver Director of Transportation. He introduced JSK. At least one Park Board Commissioner attended.
There was at least one City Councillor from New Westminster, Patrick Johnstone there – a fan of 30kph. I was tickled that Nathan Pascal, City Councillor for Langley City was there in his first week on the job! I was even more delighted to hear that the Mayor of Abbotsford Henry Braun was there. It symbolizes a shift in decision-makers toward at least open ears and at most safer, healthier city centres in the Lower Mainland.
The first rule of Hollywood is: Always thank the crew.
JSK started by thanking the 4500 within New York City’s Department of Transportation. She acknowledged that they implemented the changes her team tried – often quickly. Being fast and keeping the momentum up is key.
Interview well. Be yourself. Be bold.
When JSK was interviewing for the top transportation job with then NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, he asked: Why do you want to be Traffic Commissioner? She answered: I don’t. I want to be Transportation Commissioner.
A City’s assets – the public realm – need to reflect current values. Invest in the best use of public space.
JSK on streets: “If you didn’t change your major capital asset in 50-60 years, would you still be in business?”
“We transformed places to park [cars] to places people wanted to be…we created 65,000 square feet of public space with traffic cones.” “Broadway alone was 2.5 acres of new public space.”
JSK talked about the imbalance between the space for cars and space for people. Crowded sidewalks of slow walking tourists that fast-walking New Yorkers were willing to walk in car lanes to pass or avoid. In Vancouver, we already see this imbalance in our shopping districts and entertainment corridors.
She appreciated working for a Mayor who would back her up on her bold suggestions and who asked her to take risks because it was the right thing to do.
Consultation + Visualization = Education + Transformation
People find it hard to visualize from drawings and boards. Create temporary space and program it.” Basically: traffic cones, paint, and planters are your friends.
“We need to do a better job of showing the possible on our streets.”
“Involve people in the process…Just try it out. Pilot it.

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There was much anticipation before the federal budget was unlocked yesterday. Many of us were particularly interested in how much money would go towards transit investments in our region and whether the 33.3% x 3 percentage split for transportation infrastructure amongst federal, provincial, and municipal governments would be adjusted.
At first I was underwhelmed by the initial commitment of $370M for transit projects in Metro Vancouver. It doesn’t seem like much for the next 3 years. I have been assured by those in the know it’s a great start for the planning and design of projects in The Mayors’ Plan (pedestrian and bicycle improvements, subway and LRT, for instance) with more funding to come after that. That depends on re-election, of course.
The federal government also announced it will cover up to 50% of transit project construction costs. It seems to me, assuming the provincial portion remains at 33% and the max of 50% doesn’t depend on the provincial portion changing*, 100%-50-33=17% for municipalities – a long overdue improvement in the funding structure.
My federal budget scoop on Monday about The Mayors’ Plan, directing our regional requests for federal funds, continues to be good scoop. The Mayors’ Council put out a PDF statement on the federal budget yesterday. The federal Infrastructure and Communities Minister Sohi meets our Mayors’ Council tomorrow. My source tells me we will get more details after that meeting. Stay tuned.

*The BC provincial election is May 9, 2017: contact BC political parties now urging them to put sustainable transportation in their platforms.

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Today Toronto Mayor Rob Ford died at age 46. RIP. Click here for my earlier post about it. It got me thinking about famous current mayors.
Mayor as celebrity is growing. Historically, we are now experiencing the most significant migration to cities globally and their growth, rapid change, and impacts are confirmed by how many mayors people now know.
Twenty years ago you might have known your city’s mayor and the one in the next town over, if you voted municipally. Now names like Lisa Helps, Don Iverson, John Tory, Gregor Robertson, Naheed Nenshi, Boris Johnson, Bill de Blasio, Dr. Zekra Alwach, and their nicknames cascade or erupt from people who haven’t even visited that mayor’s town yet.
Famous mayors in Canada – household names – contrast starkly with Rob Ford’s former lifestyle with their glow from bicycle riding, tweeting, and travelling to meet each other to share best practices and lobby the feds.
Perhaps one day Enrique Peñalosa Londoño will be a household name and people will gush his quotes – and not just that famous one:
“Every Sunday we close 120 kilometers of roads to motor vehicles for seven hours. A million and a half people of all ages and incomes come out to ride bicycles, jog, and simply gather with others in community.”
“A bikeway is a symbol that shows that a citizen on a $30 bicycle is equally important as a citizen in a $30,000 car.”
“We cannot continue to deceive ourselves thinking that to paint a little line on a road is a bike way. A bicycle way that is not safe for an 8-year old is not a bicycle way.”
“One symbol of a lack of democracy is to have cars parked on the sidewalk.”
“We’re living an experiment. We might not be able to fix the economy. We might not be able to make everyone as rich as Americans. But we can design the city to give people dignity, to make them feel rich. The city can make them happier.”

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Former Toronto Mayor Rob Ford died at age 46 today. Here’s CBC’s take on it. It’s a gracious and extensive piece that reflects on his personality, accomplishments, tragedies, and skims over or skips the sexism, racism, homophobia, and lifestyle that gave them so much news. It looks they’ve updated it from this morning’s post and it’s both more and less complimentary now. I hadn’t realized how deep was his love for football.
It doesn’t describe how embarrassing his time in office was for many Canadians – especially anyone travelling abroad while he was mayor – or his anti-active transportation stance that has delayed Toronto’s improved, urban greatness for years.
Here’s my take on what’s missing:

  • the protected bicycle lane in the centre of 5-lane Jarvis Street that was ripped out which struck fear in the hearts of active transportation supporters everywhere.
  • the homophobic comments on why City Hall didn’t need to have showers for active transportation commuters.
  • his insatiably addictive personality: he seemed addicted to food, drugs, alcohol, and later to being in the media – his behaviour more outrageous each time in order to get the exposure at the cost of any respect and his reputation.
  • his enabling family and the sad dynamic within it. His downward spiral was always to the advantage of his brother Doug Ford, whose poor behaviour looked good in comparison. I always wondered if their mother was like the mom in that very disturbing Australian film Animal Kingdom about a family gang in the 1980s.

However, Rob Ford changed my mind completely on the structure of regional districts versus mega cities. I used to think Metro Vancouver as a regional district didn’t have enough power or budget to make the decisions it needed to make. Also, that trying to get 21 municipalities, 1 Treaty First Nation, and Electoral Area A to agree on things was cumbersome and need to move faster, at the speed of business today.
I thought the solution was a mega city: 1 mayor for the entire region with a large city council like Toronto’s. Or, reduce the district into 5 municipalities (of course I had ideas on which ones to merge) and a Treaty First Nation. That would at least be more effective than what we have now.
Once Rob Ford was elected, I could see what could happen in the worst case scenario: A suburbanite mayor addicted to drugs, ripping out bike lanes, spewing hatred unprofessionally, and refusing to resign. The suburbanites in the mega city had voted for him and were still fans – he often did what he had promised to do – while the needs of urban Torontonians were neglected.
It also showed me that this was only a glimpse into the rural vs. suburban vs. urban tension. It has not reached its peak. Unfortunately, many issues including water, energy, housing, and transportation will erupt pitting suburban vs. urban or rural vs. urban residents in the future. G-d forbid.
Suddenly my appreciation for Metro Vancouver grew. It still doesn’t have much power (or the budget to go with it) to be truly effective. It still takes a long time to make major decisions – sometimes decades – because so many cities are involved. We have a lot of work to do to improve the governance structure of our transit authority. But it’s our Metro Vancouver.
My mayor looks out for the 10 block radius of our City and co-operates with most of the ones next door. My downtown lifestyle is so different from those on the West Side and in South Vancouver; it’s enough of a challenge to come to agreements with them. At least my City has no Agricultural Land Reserve or highway running through it. Those people are totally different.
Seriously though, last year’s transportation plebiscite showed how where you stand depends upon where you sit (and how you get there). Vancouver urbanists sounded like Ford’s description of Toronto’s “downtown elites” when trying to get people in “the suburbs” (now called “other cities”) to vote Yes. It takes a lot of work to get so many groups to work together. Each City has its own folks it represents from their point of view. But a mega city is not the answer. Thank you Rob Ford for that lesson.

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Janette Sadik-Khan, former NYCDOT Commissioner and new author of Streetfight: Handbook for an Urban Revolution, best known for making New York City’s Broadway car-free, will give a talk in Vancouver this evening at the Vancouver Playhouse.
For urbanist geeks this is the event of the year. Like a Blondie concert for Blondie fans or a Back Street Boys concert for BSB fans. You get the idea.
Some City of Vancouver staff will get a chance to have a private Q&A with her today. What will they ask without the eyes of the public on them? Chances are they’ll be inspired to take action.
Tickets are sold out. The last time she was here a venue of 350 free tickets sold out. This time, with tickets at $5 each and a venue of 668 seats, it’s still a sold out show. If you’re lucky enough to be going tonight, here’s how to seem cool about it.

  • Read a local review of her book by Yuri Artibise
  • Read the 6 strategic takeaways from her book by Melissa & Chris Bruntlett
  • Call her JSK when referring to her, assuming everyone knows who that is, like a true urbanist.
  • Dress urbane but without cultural appropriation. Wear a maximum of 1 scarf if you have a short neck.
  • Buy 2 tickets and arrive alone. Pick someone hovering hopefully at the event, ask them what mode they took to get there, and invite them to go with you regardless of their answer. It’s an easy way to seem super generous.
  • Be seen. Arrive early, grab a good seat, then stand to schmooze with others as they arrive. Totally ignore the SCARP student you gave a free ticket to. You’re from the Lost Generation and they don’t know how good they have it.
  • Use the following phrases and matching gestures: “This is not Amsterdam.” (wink, wink, nudge, nudge); “If you can remake it here, you can remake it anywhere.” (pistol wink nod); and “In G-d we trust, everyone else bring data.” (look serious but patient-with-others, adjust prescription glasses with one hand).
  • Know that the last phrase above was said by NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Or everyone at the Mayor’s Office. Call him Mike Bloomberg.
  • Bring a list of 10 new projects, find any decision-maker or even minor influencer at the City and demand that all 10 be built before the end of 2018. Make sure Kingsway and Commercial Drive are on your list.
  • Go to the mic to ask a question but instead announce your Bike Rave. Explain it’s not the official Bike Rave and not the alternate bike rave but your own bike rave.
  • Bring your copy of JSK’s book. Wait for an hour after the talk to get it signed, while preparing an intelligent question. Get dragged out by security when they announce Ms. Sadik-Khan can’t sign any more books because her hand has cramped.
  • Have a drink with friends, comparing her last talk to this one. Say “last time her focus was on making it seem simple and doable – a lot of paint and planters. This time seemed more strategic”. Confess you’re jealous of her lack of public consultation.
  • Drunk on ideas and inspired with a vision of what you’d like your City to look like, send an email to to tell them to go ahead, do more. You support it. After all, jesting aside, a misspelled-slightly-incoherent note is better than no note at all.


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Trending now: governments are raising or lowering speed limits
Lowering speed limits in Cities saves lives (and is one of 4 key actions to increase the number of bicyclists). You’ve probably seen the stunning and scary illustrations of a driver’s field of vision at different speeds that Carlos Felipe Pardo talks about. If not, click here and scroll down to the 4 images in Diagram 2.
While some provincial and state governments, including the BC “Liberals”, have been increasing speed limits on highways (with objections from police), more Cities are adopting goals of #VisionZero (zero traffic fatalities and serious injuries per year) and have reduced speed limits like New York to 25mph in 2014, Toronto to 30kph and Edinburgh to 20mph in 2015, and Seattle to 30mph in 2016.

Quotes from articles in links above:
New York: “I am not going to speed for nobody,” [cabbie Ernst Rodriguez] said.
Toronto: “I hope every driver treats every local neighbourhood street like it’s a street where their kids could be playing,” [Ward 22 councillor Josh] Matlow said.
Edinburgh: The easy-to-love capital city is rrrolling out a plan to cap the speed limit at 20 mph across 80 percent of its rrroads, including the entirety of its dense downtown.
Seattle: SDOT Director Scott Kubly said, “The laws of physics tell us that higher speeds will result in more crashes, injuries, and deaths. Lower speed limits allow people more time to see each other and react. These changes will significantly help people walking and biking to schools, parks, transit and other destinations. This is especially important since crashes with pedestrians and bicyclists make up five percent of total collisions but nearly 50 percent of fatalities.”

In BC, municipalities cannot lower speed limits on their own without additional costs. They can either ask the BC government to do it for all municipalities or they have to post signs on each block for anything lower than the default of 50kph. If there’s no speed limit posted, assume the default. That’s 2 signs (1 in either direction) on each block. Vancouver, Victoria, and Kelowna have recently asked the BC government (via UBCM) to lower the default (urban) speed limit to 40kph twice and their request has been denied twice.
The City of Vancouver is concerned about the costs to put up and maintain signs on each block. City engineers also wonder if speed limits are as effective as street design and other methods to calm traffic. (They usually cite the 3 Es to make changes work: Engineering, Education, and Enforcement.)
The City of Victoria decided to act on its own, pay the $90,000 estimated for their first move, and reduce the speed limit from 50 to 40kph on 8 streets plus the Downtown Core.
Should the City of Vancouver be doing more instead of waiting for the BC government to understand the safety and environmental concerns? On the other hand, every time Vancouver adds a greenway or active transportation corridor, the speed limit along it goes to 30kph. Is that enough?
But on the other hand, the main 4 ways to drive to downtown Vancouver (into a dense population of walkers and bicyclists) involve going 60kph over a bridge/viaduct right before entering our downtown. How do we send a message to drivers that they have entered a dense area and need to slow down by 20-30kph or never speed up to 60 before slamming on the brakes to 30?
If a number of streets downtown have synchronized light signals (green the whole way at a certain speed) couldn’t the speed at which to drive through a bunch of green lights be reduced with a little programming?
Discuss. Or better yet, write your MLA and your City Councillors. This is a timely topic at both levels.

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Remember the under-appreciated miracle that was The Mayors’ Plan?
That plan that almost all of the Mayors, 1 Chief, and 1 Director of Metro Vancouver agreed upon? Most voters had no idea what a huge accomplishment it was for 21 municipalities, 1 Treaty First Nation, and Electoral Area A to agree on the transportation infrastructure we needed as a region for the next 10 years – and in what order – just in time for our first transportation plebiscite.
The bad news is, those projects have been delayed ever since. The good news is, that plan is still useful. I’ve heard from a reliable source that The Mayors’ Plan continues to represent Metro Vancouver’s transportation needs to the federal government in recent budget preparations and negotiations. This includes a Broadway subway, LRT south of the Fraser, and 2700 kms of bikeways. My guess is that 11 new rapid bus routes will be the fastest to implement.
Further to Ken’s post earlier today Federal Budget — the Wish List in anticipation of tomorrow’s announcement, here’s another interesting bit from Toronto Mayor John Tory’s op-ed piece:

Every day, more than 2.7 million trips are taken on Toronto’s transit system. In Montreal, more than 2.2 million are taken on the Metro on an average day, while the Vancouver system sees more than 1.1 million.

[…] Taken together, their daily ridership numbers are higher than the combined populations of eight Canadian provinces and territories.

What’s not in The Mayors’ Plan? A 10 lane bridge to a fertile land that might soon be literally and figuratively below sea level. Let’s hope the federal budget focusses on sustainable transportation.
Stay tuned for more on this tomorrow.

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Shalom, PT readers!
My name is Tanya Paz. Please allow me to introduce myself.
I’m third generation Vancouverite on one side and first generation Canadian on the other. The Vancouverites on Mom’s side hailed from Scotland mainly and Dad’s parents were from Uzbekistan and Afghanistan. Dad was born in Jerusalem. My parental units met in Vancouver at Oak & 41st, naturally.
I grew up in rural Aldergrove in a house on 6.2 acres – an area now part of Abbotsford – and walked along Fraser Highway to school and back, sometimes carrying my alto saxophone 2.4 kilometres one way, amongst speeding dump trucks and semi-trailer trucks.
I was a Rotary exchange student in Funabashi, Japan for a year and I studied at Université Canadienne en France near Nice for a year. I moved to Vancouver to go to UBC in 1991, and have lived here since in various neighbourhoods. I’ve now lived in the same 496 square feet downtown for 21 years between the West End and Yaletown in an area known as Downtown. Just when I think it isn’t possible to love Vancouver any more than I do, I love it just a little bit more.
I have worked for women’s rights, affordable housing, and sustainable transportation. Most notable is my work locally, nationally, and internationally in carsharing. More information on my career can be found on LinkedIn.
I spend a lot of time volunteering for the City of Vancouver chairing the civic agency Active Transportation Policy Council which advises City Council on walking, bicycling, skateboarding and other modes, and transit.
I’m an urbanist geek who loves data, discussions, process, policy, articles, presentations, helping people change their behaviour, logistics, operations, civic engagement, non-violent strategizing, seamlessly integrated multi-modal transportation, matchy-matchy outfits, tea, and ice cream.
Disclosure: I am currently advising two start-ups: VeloMetro on their Veemo and Hedgehog Recycle. I copy edit Momentum Magazine.
Disclaimer: I fell off my bicycle in a protected bike lane on Hornby Street in September, didn’t hit my head, and have had a concussion since. It’s getting better and I’m expected to make a full recovery but trains, buses, cars, mean comments, loud noise, and bright light make it worse. I miss my bike.
Of course I’m on Twitter.

For kicks I paint bicycles, oil on canvas.

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