COVID Place making
August 7, 2020

Make the Beach Avenue Bikeway Permanent!

Let’s make the Beach Avenue Bikeway (connecting Stanley Park to False Creek North) permanent.

This incredibly popular and scenic route provides a safe, direct and flat connection between Hornby Street and Stanley Park for people of all ages and abilities, for recreation and commuting – all day, every day. It is a great use of limited open public space in one of Vancouver’s most popular and densely-populated neighbourhoods.

The Beach Avenue Bikeway will also relieve pressure on the very busy seawall route when bikes are allowed back on it post-COVID distancing measures.

Sign here if you agree and HUB Cycling will keep you updated on the future of this valuable cycling bikeway.

Drop by a HUB Cycling tent this Saturday, August 8 and Sunday, Aug 9 between 9 am and 3 pm on Beach Avenue at Broughton Street to sign your support.

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There has been discussion that density increases mortality during pandemics, and  the suggestion that suburbs are in fashion again  because they are more “healthy”. The idea is that travelling everywhere by vehicle and retiring to a large leafy house with lots of space may enhance needed Covid pandemic physical distancing.

New York City Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver shares this article from the Australian Times  by Jim Sallis and Deepti Adlakha that contradicts the idea that suburbs are safer. They conclude that the idea of density as unhealthy is “oversimplification and misleading when it comes to COVID-19.”

By researching thirty-six of the most dense global cities these researchers found a “near-zero” correlation between density and Covid morbidity and mortality. I have previously written about the work in Taiwan and Singapore where a centralized governmental approach took the pandemic very seriously from the outset and have had minimal cases and deaths. Taiwan has had 7 Covid deaths, while Singapore has had 27.

The researchers in this city study conclude that it is not density but  the “lack of space – both private living space and wider neighbourhood public space” that is the problem. The top five most-crowded neighbourhoods in the United Kingdom have seen 70% more COVID-19 cases than the five least-crowded neighbourhoods, even after controlling for local deprivation. It’s not how many people live in a certain area that matters, but the conditions they live in.”

Urban density, instead of being an enabler of a bio-medical emergency actually has “protective benefits”. Inhabitants living in higher densities walk more to services shops and schools  and two decades of data show this increased walkable accessibility lowers incidence of heart disease, diabetes and obesity.

In cities public health needs to be enhanced by well built and separated sidewalks and cycling facilities that “have a double benefit, both reducing the spread of COVID-19 by reducing any crowding in the streets and lowering the risk of deadly chronic diseases” by enabling exercise.

What is also crucial is the inequality and inequity of low income communities, where higher living densities means there is  less personal space to follow physical distancing guidelines. These units often without balconies and with less frequent access to public outdoor space “compound the issue of overcrowding – the risk of coronavirus infection may be up to 20 times higher when indoors than outdoors.”

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It was Intelligent Health’s Dr. William Bird MBE  who led the way in Great Britain allowing medical doctors to prescribe walking as a way to help patients with mental and physical health.

Now British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is encouraging medical doctors to prescribe cycling for weight management, and the government will be investing in infrastructure to facilitate that.  With amassing proof that excess weight is associated with more severe illness from Covid-19, biking is seen as a low cost way to encourage fitness and exercise.  The Guardian notes that cycling used for a work commute is “linked to a 46% lower risk of heart disease compared with a non-active commute.”

As the BBC reports  there is an equity issue as well.  While “36% of the adult population is overweight and 28% obese… people living in deprived areas are more likely to be admitted to hospital with a condition related to obesity.”

One in ten British children starting primary school is obese, and that number doubles to two in five by the end of the primary school years. Comparatively 40 percent of Americans are obese, while in South Korea and Japan that number is less than 10 percent.

In Britain it is estimated that nearly 5 million of the 66 million population is thought to have diabetes which costs the national healthcare program 10 billion pounds a year (17 billion Canadian dollars). Ninety percent of this population has type 2 diabetes which has a high co-factor of obesity.

Current data shows that being obese doubles the chances of dying from Covid, meaning that in a country where healthcare is provided nationally, well-being is a federal issue.

The head of England’s National Health Service observed “The evidence is now in: obesity can double your chance of dying from coronavirus. So this pandemic is a call to arms to adopt medically proven changes in what we eat and how we exercise” .

Images: ABCNews, TheIndependent

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Imagine running a business with very long hours and in the current Covid crisis, not a lot of customers. Curator and author Catherine Clement sent on this article from the The New York Times  which outlines how  husband and wife team Chang Wan-ji, and Hsu Sho-er, business owners in a laundromat in Taichung, Taiwan have survived.

Where estimates in Canada show that 52 percent of people see their mental health as not the same during the pandemic, the grandson of Chang Wan-ji and Hsu Sho-er wanted to help his grandparents who spent 13 hour days keeping their dry cleaning business open. There was no business in the shop, and without the normal customer interaction the days were long for these two business owners who are both in their mid-eighties.

Inspired by the racks of clothing that had been laundered but never paid for or picked up, the grandson started curating the clothing and putting outfits together of the forgotten items for his grandparents to model. In each image the octogenarians wear their trademark blue sneakers, and incorporate an unbelievable hipster vibe.

You can take a look at their instagram account at @wantshowasyoung which at press time had over 433,000 followers. And here’s the thing~there are only twenty posts, but they are tremendous images of the two dressed up in the unretrieved clothes.

As Chris Horton in the New York Times describes “The clothes they model are eclectic, funky and fun. Both can be seen in matching laced sneakers, and jauntily perched caps and hats. He sometimes sports brightly colored shades. One photo shows her leaning coolly against a giant washing machine, arms crossed, as he casually holds the open door, grinning. They pose at a place they know well — their shop, which provides an industrious backdrop of customers’ laundry, stacked and rolled into plastic bundles or hanging from racks.”

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Dan Fumano at The Sun nails it:

Although polling — and election results — consistently show most Vancouverites generally support spending on biking and walking infrastructure, many fiscal conservatives are quick to point to those areas when it’s time for financial belt-tightening.

This week’s staff presentation proposes continuing with the planned rehabilitation work on the Granville Street Bridge, including seismic upgrading, at a cost of $24 million, but reducing infrastructure spending on the Granville Street Bridge, Drake Street and Gastown.

And it’s not just Council that will be enticed to cut cycling infrastructure out of current plans.  Park Board too.

It’s been the NPA Park Commissioners’ strategy (John Coupar’s in particular) to prevent any serious bikeways through parks (Kits especially) through delay and deferment.  This fits their agenda perfectly.  Now the question is whether Council will adopt the strategy for the city as a whole.

We are at this remarkable moment when cycling use has increased dramatically as a consequence of the pandemic.  Trips are measured in the tens of thousands, even the hundreds of thousands.  Users are more diverse – in age, ethnicity, style and location – beyond hope and expectation.

But even at a time of a declared climate emergency, the same ol’ stereotypes and politics seem to prevail.  When even the disabled advocates insist that two lanes of Stanley Park are needed for cars, and parking spaces are the highest priority, when golf-course improvements get green checkmarks over greenways, it’s apparent that the need for advocacy, for political champions on elected boards, and for community support are as important as ever.

Actually, more important than ever.

 

 

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This has all the marks of astroturfing*.  Seen in the West End on Bute at Harwood.

There has to be a backstory here.  Who’s behind it, what is their goal?  (It’s not just about bike lanes.)

For those who think the Beach Avenue Flow Way is too popular and too necessary, that we can’t go back to “just the way it was”, prepare for a fight.

 

*Astroturfing is the practice of masking the sponsors of a message or organization to make it appear as though it originates from and is supported by grassroots participants.

 

 

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Banksy is a British artist who has achieved fame by leaving public statements of art in the public realm in many countries. Yesterday he released an instagram video of his latest installation on one of London’s iconic subway train cars.

Banksy dresses as a maintenance worker as he gets down to prepping the walls with stencils of rats after shooing transit riders away. It’s all an allegory of what happens when you don’t use masks in public places during Covid times, and a bit of a directed  comment on the debate over mask wearing in public that is raging on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.

The artwork “If you Don’t Mask, You Don’t Get” shows a rat that is sneezing, and another rat spraying anti-bacterial soap. Banksy even signed his name on the train door.

Sadly and I hope it’s not really true, BBC News reports that Transport for London was not amused and has already removed the art because of their strict anti-graffiti policy.

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Pedaling Through Pandemic: How (E-) Cycling Can Keep Post-COVID Cities Moving

In a short time, the coronavirus crisis has forced communities worldwide to reevaluate their mobility networks, especially as public transportation faces reduced capacity for the foreseeable future.

Enter the bicycle, which—in combination with an electric pedal assist—is filling a portion of the gap.

Join the Maryland Department of Planning and the Smart Growth Network  as Melissa Bruntlett and Chris Bruntlett, authors of Building the Cycling City: The Dutch Blueprint for Urban Vitality, discuss how cities across the globe are adapting their streets to this new reality and are working to ensure this ‘bike boom’ sticks long-term.

Date: Thu, Jul 16, 2020

Time: 10:00 AM – 11:30 AM Pacific Time

Register here by clicking this link.

Images: BikeAuckland

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There is some interesting thought coming from  Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) in Scotland  on best practices for post-Covid economic recovery.

They are proposing to “Walk Back Better” joining 27 organizations including Public Health Scotland, Scottish National Heritage and the University of Edinburgh in placing walking as a national priority in planning local development.

Director of RTPI Scotland Craig McLaren stated “As we look towards a post Covid-19 world, we want to see a commitment to walking and cycling embedded into how we design our towns and cities with walking environments placed at the heart of the recovery.”

What this means for Scotland is that through their National Planning Framework and the National Transport Strategy  that walking will be seen as the first precept to design and develop approaches to stimulate the recovery. Several initiatives that were installed as temporary, including wider sidewalks and  streets closed to vehicular traffic to encourage walking and cycling will remain, and reductions in vehicular speed limits will become permanent.

The initiative also is centering the recovery on the physical and mental wellbeing of citizens , advocating for walking as the base of every journey.

You can find out more about Scotland’s National Walking Strategy here.

 

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Let’s just repeat these numbers from the Daily Hive:

According to Green Party commissioner Dave Demers, Park Board staff estimate visitation within Stanley Park is up by 50% since May 1, and they have counted 350,000 cyclists over the last 67-day period.  …over the same period in 2019, there were about 60,000 vehicles in Stanley Park, which is a figure that includes high-occupancy cars and tour buses.

We are now measuring cycling counts in the hundreds of thousands, rounding off to the nearest ten-thousandth.  That, for anyone who remembers the early days of cycling infrastructure, when success would be measured in the hundreds, is boggling.  And not just in Stanley Park.  Here’s Point Grey Road this weekend:

Foreshortened shots can be deceptive, but anyone who was there would have realized that the traffic counts this weekend would also be measured in the closest thousandth – more, I expect, than anyone who opposed the transformation of PGR would have imagined.  Here’s a video from the same location on July 5:  Point Grey Road on a Sunday.

And yet, this quite astonishing growth really hasn’t changed the narrative for most of the media: it’s still a bikes-versus-cars dynamic, with a presumption that cars are in the majority and have right-of-way – another repeat of the same ol,’ same ol’ since the 1990s.  Except now we have horses to throw into the mix.

Stanley Park Horse Drawn Tours owner Gerry O’Neil has been operating in the park for decades — offering tourists a way to see the sites while riding in an open carriage.

His horses and carriages, with a top speed of five km/h, must now share the one lane dedicated to vehicle traffic, and that is causing problems….

“Ideally, scrap the trial and get all the stakeholders involved so we can all have our say and take into consideration everything that’s in the park,” he said.

Let’s see: several hundred carriage passengers, several thousand drivers, tens of thousands cyclists.  Should be an easy choice.

The comfort of consultation is the notion that all needs can be met.  Sometimes that’s achievable, but more often priorities must be chosen.

If everyone and their needs are to be accommodated (this is where the ‘isms’ come in)  then Gerry is right: go back to the way Stanley Park was – two full lanes for vehicle priority.  Cars and buses can then pass his carriage safely.  Bikes can compete for the spaces in between.  Pedestrians and cyclists can crowd together again.

The pandemic forced our decision-makers to make choices.  Overnight.  With little to no consultation.  Because of the virus.

Bikes got priority.

If that hadn’t happened, we wouldn’t know now that the result would be cyclists measured in the hundreds of thousands.

 

 

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