New Mobility
May 20, 2020

Free Webinar ~The Neuroscience of Walkability with America Walks

America Walks is hosting a new webinar,  In Praise of Walking: A New Scientific Exploration – a conversation with author and neuroscientist Shane O’Mara.

Author Shane O’Mara has just released  ‘In Praise of Walking: A New Scientific Exploration’. As a neuroscientist and walking advocate, O’Mara takes us on an evolutionary journey through how we started walking, the magical mechanics of it, and how we find our way around the world. It also explores walking in relation to repairing our mental and social health, sparking creativity, and how walking in concert can be coupled with critical policy change.

This one-on-one webinar is sure to inform your walking and walkability work and ethos, and we have built in ample time for questions and answers. This webinar is intended for those just starting out on the walking path as well as those interested in learning more about the topic.

Shane O’Mara is Professor of Experimental Brain Research (Personal Chair) at Trinity College, Dublin – the University of Dublin. He is a Principal Investigator in the Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience and is also a Wellcome Trust Senior Investigator. His research explores the brain systems supporting learning, memory, and cognition, and also the brain systems affected by stress and depression, and he has published more than 140 peer-reviewed papers in these areas.
He is a graduate of the National University of Ireland – Galway, and of the University of Oxford (DPhil). Heis an elected Fellow of the Association for Psychological Science (USA), and an elected Member of the Royal Irish Academy.

Webinar Date/Time: June 3rd, 2020

Time: 10 a.m. Pacific Time

REGISTER HERE at this link.

You can learn more about America Walks and this webinar here.





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As a consequence of flattening the covid curve:

… we’ll also have to flatten these curves:

The hand-drawn chart above reveals the obvious: the morning and evening rush-hour peaks coming in and out of the CBD. Even though the chart was done in the late-1970s, the TV helicopters tell us it’s still true twice a day.  At least they did until March 16.

Of course there has been one big change: there are less cars coming into the CBD than a half century ago:

Why is that green line below the blue one?  Transit mainly.  No SkyTrain or Frequent Transit Network back before Expo 86 – and since then, the region has largely accommodated growth in transportation demand by expanding transit supply.  That allowed the existing road network to serve a larger population, increased jobs and more demands without having to build a lot more road space.

Simply put: without transit, the road system doesn’t work.  Transit was our way of both serving population growth and taming motordom without having to build and expand the freeway and arterial network.  It didn’t reduce congestion very much (as any commuter will attest) since drivers took advantage of a free good – road space – and pretty much filled it to the maximum anyway.

So what happens post-covid? Here’s a simple thought experiment, based on nothing but speculation.  (That’s why PT asked for someone to model this.)

Transit has seen a drop in ridership of 80 percent.  Past experience, even today in China, tells us that it will take some time for ridership to recover.  And even if it does, there will be a lot less capacity to accommodate transit users, given the need for physical distancing.

Let’s be generous and say half the riders in that 80 percent drop return to transit.  The other half decide to drive.  They’ll certainly have the rationale: transit can be crowded and contagious, cars are clean and spacious, gas is cheap and roads are free.

There are also pluses and minuses to consider: how many will work from home, or not have any work to commute to?  How much road space, particularly curb lanes, will be repurposed, especially to allow more distancing for pedestrians, cyclists and restaurant patios?  How many job locations will disperse from the centre (and will that alleviate or worsen congestion)?

But here’s the critical question: what will be the impact on the roads and bridges of those additional numbers that do begin to commute by car, who will be competing for the modest amount of free road space available, especially if they all want it at roughly the same time?

Well, we should soon find out.

For that matter, it won’t be just commuters in vehicles.  Commuters in trains too.

Top state and city officials (in New York) are already contemplating the need for radically different routines, including transit systems with limits on occupancy for trains and buses. That could require staggered shifts for millions of workers.

I don’t know that it’s going to be possible to have rush hours,” said Rick Cotton, the executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates commuter trains to and from Manhattan.*

There really is only one practical way to address the resulting congestion, whether on trains, buses, roads or sidewalks.

Don’t have rush hour.  Flatten that traffic curve.

If in the short term, there’s going to be a net increase in driving, the best case would be a redistribution of traffic across the day and across the network.  Yes, it could in theory be done by road and transit pricing connected to apps that allow people to make informed decisions, adjusted as needed to flatten whatever peaks emerge (somewhat like flattening the covid curve to make sure hospitals are not overwhelmed).

But that assumes a social and political consensus (and the technology) to intervene, to rethink our priorities, make radical changes in how we live our lives, manage our transportation systems and respond to the previously unimaginable. A very unlikely scenario.

Except we just did.


*Why the Path to Reopening New York City Will Be So Difficult


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Finally – over a hundred days into the covid era – a city leader has articulated an initiative for “Reallocation of Road Space to Support Shared Use during Pandemic”.   Lisa Dominato but forward the following notice of motion, bumped to May 12 for discussion.


  1. The City of Vancouver declared a local state of emergency on March 19, 2020 in response to the global COVID19 pandemic;
  1. The Province has recommended physical distancing of 2 metres (6 feet) to prevent the spread of COVID19;
  1. The Province has also recommended the public continue to safely enjoy the outdoors, including local parks and public spaces;
  1. The Provincial health officer has commented publicly in recent weeks that partial street closures and one way travel/routing can be an effective way to enable physical exercise and safe distancing during the pandemic;
  1. Cities across Canada and around the world are undertaking measures to reallocate street space and roadways for pedestrians to safely exercise, access businesses and employment, while maintaining a safe distance due to the current pandemic;
  1. Vancouver City Council has previously endorsed motions to support slower residential streets and encourage safer shared use;
  1. The City of Vancouver and Park Board recently identified congestion in and around Stanley Park, and subsequently closed the Stanley Park roadway to cars and one lane along Beach Avenue to enable safe physical distancing during the COVID19 pandemic;
  1. The City of Vancouver has initiated a street reallocation initiative that focuses on Room to Queue, Room to Load, and Room to Move during the COVID19 pandemic;
  1. The ongoing pandemic necessitates that the City reallocate road space on an urgent basis now and develop plans for mobility and space use as part of our post-COVID-19 recovery and new economy.

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT Council direct staff to expedite efforts to identify and implement appropriate reallocations of road space, such as high use greenways and streets adjacent to parks where space could be reallocated temporarily to enable safe shared use (pedestrians, cyclists, motor vehicles) and support safe physical distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic response, and

FURTHER THAT Council direct staff to communicate information to the public and businesses regarding the suite of street measures available to the City for reallocating space to support access to local businesses, to support loading and curbside pick-up, and to support physical activity and distancing in neighbourhoods across the city, and

FURTHER THAT Council direct staff to report back to Council in fall 2020 on refined options for mobility and public realm use us as part of the post COVID19 recovery and new economy.

Note No. 8 in the Whereas’s.  Had any readers heard of a City of Vancouver street reallocation initiative that focuses on “Room to Queue, Room to Load, and Room to Move”?  Nothing was sent to Price Tags (perhaps too low below the horizon) – nor has much been said of note from the City’s leaders, particularly the Mayor. 

What a lost opportunity to reinforce other initiatives promoted by the City: reallocation as a health response, a climate-emergency response, a local-neighbourhood planning response, an active-transportation response – all of the above at a time when the difficult-to-do has become the necessary-to-do.  (Speaking of which, one would hardly think it necessary to direct staff “to communicate information to the public and businesses regarding the suite of street measures available …”)

Lisa’s motion more importantly goes beyond the immediate pandemic: she sees reallocation as important to a recovery- and new-economy response.

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This is what Beach Avenue looked like at 3 pm on Friday afternoon – May 1:

Here’s the video: Beach Flow May 1

The vehicles and the bikes pass by each other on either side of the cones, about the in same number.  They both pass by in informal pelatons – clustering in groups that go about the same speed.  Each member feels comfortable, the speed seems right, there’s enough space.  That’s flow.


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On Wednesday afternoon, I had a fun and enjoyable conversation with John Irwin, the COPE member of the Park Board.  I’ve known John since I was an NPA councillor and he was, sometimes, a sparring partner (though we agreed on cycling).  The fun when debating with John is, between him and me, who gets to finish their thoughts before being overtaken by the other.

John is on the ever-well-meaning Left – a COPE guy of long standing.  In elected office, his is the politics of conversation, consultation and collaboration – a strategy of re-action, always hoping for togetherness.  Great when it works.  Puts action off when it doesn’t.

Exhibit A: Providing for mobility in Kitsilano and Hadden Parks.

But this is the time of the virus – a moment when the previously un-doable gets done very quickly.  Exhibit B: the Beach Avenue flow way.

The necessity for change in Kits and Hadden Parks is inarguable: It’s unsafe because different users don’t have space to share, and they can’t social distance without it.  So each pisses the other off.

What, John, I asked, can be done this month to provide enough space for all the different users to walk, run and cycle while respecting each other?   While the Park Board has placed ‘champions for social distancing’ along the seawall and in parks, it hasn’t provided the space to do it properly.

Except along on Park Drive and Beach Avenue.  The Park Board, I’m told, took the initiative to both close Stanley Park to most vehicles and to provide connected space on Beach.  When I got a ‘process’ answer on the problem in Kitsilano (“We need to work with the City …” blah, blah), I pressed him on Beach: Will you turn it all back to the way it was before the virus?  Will the Beach flow way disappear and cyclists return to the seawall, in some cases jammed together like they are in Kits Park?

Finally, John was unequivocal:

“I will oppose, I will fight to prevent the removal of the lanes on Beach Avenue.”

After a summer or more of use, I doubt John will be alone in a fight to retain the flow way in some form.  My guess is that most Vancouverites, having accustomed themselves to a pleasant walking and cycling experience along Seaside (and hopefully other greenways in the city), will be supportive, even demanding, of this street-use reallocation.  Even on Kits Point.


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It’s a tale of two different governments. Despite the unanimous motion of the UBCM (Union of British Columbia Municipalities)  asking the Provincial government to give  municipalities the power to create neighbourhood zones of 30 km/h, the government has said no.

That means that if a municipality wants to create a 30 km/h zone as is being done in other residential areas around the world, each street will have to be signed with 30 km/h signs, a tedious and expensive process for any municipality.  The Province has put thumbs down on allowing cities to simply designate neighbourhood 30 km/h zones, a much more coherent approach, and quite frankly what every other European city is doing.

You have to remember that the engineering staff that reports to the current Provincial government is pretty much the same  as that of the previous Liberal government. Those were the folks that  brought us the bike lanes on Highway 17 (which Patrick Johnston has written about trying to ride).

That Engineering staff also produced a  whole bunch of too wide intersections for pedestrian and cyclist crossings on  Provincial highways, and generally design for vehicular traffic comfort as if it is still the 20th century. That reticence is one of the reasons pedestrians and cyclists die in this province, and why the Provincial Medical Health Officer Dr. Perry Kendall’s report on mitigating vehicular deaths is really not celebrated as the watershed document it is. In this province  there is an increase in vulnerable road user deaths, and limiting speeds are a key strategy to make roads safe for everyone.

Look at the different response of the City of London that TODAY made all the roads in the central London congestion charge zone 20 mph which is roughly 30 km/h. And look at the rationale. There’s a

 long-standing policy of making 20 mph the speed limit on all London roads where people live, work and shop closer to realisation, and with it, the accompanying reduction in the road danger caused by higher speeds.

London’s TFL (Transport for London) seeks to have 140 kilometres of roads with 20 mph speed limits by 2024, which will put pressure on other roads to also accept the lower speed limits. And why?

They clearly state that there is a correlation between higher speeds and crashes, with speed a factor in nearly 40 percent of crashes where there is a fatality or serious injury. Couple that with the fact that a pedestrian has a 90 per cent chance of surviving a crash at 30 km/h but only a 10  per cent chance if crashed into at 50 km/h.

But back to the Province. What will it take to understand the importance of slower neighbourhood speeds to lower auto emissions, enhance livability, and make walking and cycling safer and more comfortable with slower neighbourhood speeds? How can the work internationally and the unanimous request of  the organization representing all municipalities be spurned?

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Students, staff, faculty and the general public are invited to join us at KPU Civic Plaza in February and March to discuss mobility challenges facing the South of Fraser urban-region.

These two free ‘Mobilities 2020’ events are for anyone interested in transit, universal access, pedestrian, cyclist safety and transit justice issues, particularly in the fast growing urban-region South of the Fraser River.

Confirmed panelists include: Stan Leyenhorst (Universal Access Design); Andy Yan (SFU City Program); Sandy James (Walk Metro Vancouver); Patrick Condon (Founding Urban Design Chair, UBC); Douglas McLeod (City of Surrey, Manager Transport Planning); Todd Litman (Victoria Transport Policy Institute); Don Buchanan (City of Surrey, Transportation Planner); and diverse citizens/activists.

These evening Geo-Forums are on Thursday, Feb.27th (7-9pm) and Thursday, March 19th (7-9pm) at KPUs new Civic Plaza Campus (just North of the Surrey Central Skytrain Station). Both evening KPU Geo-Forums will feature panel and Q+A discussions with city public transportation officials, urban planners, scholars, transit, universal access, cycling and pedestrian activists.

All are welcome !

Mobilities 2020: Two Public Geo-Forums on transit, pedestrian & mobility issues
Dates: Thursday, Feb 27th, 2020 & Thursday, March 19th, 2020
Time: 7:00-9:00 pm.  Please click here for Free Registration
Where: KPU Civic Plaza – 6th Floor  Surrey Central Skytrain Station, 13485 Central Ave, Surrey B.C.


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It will probably get worse.

From The Guardian:

London has achieved the impossible by eradicating the private car – and still having desperate traffic congestion,” says Prof Tony Travers, the director of LSE London, a research centre at the London School of Economics that explores the city’s economic and social concerns. “People keep saying we need to get the cars off the road. In central London, there aren’t any.” …

London brought in (a congestion charge) 17 years ago. … The number of cars in the City of London fell 15% either side of the introduction in 2003 of the congestion charge – allied since April 2019 with an ultra-low emission zone that more than doubles the daily charge for older diesel cars to £24. The city is also blessed with quicker, cheaper public transport alternatives. …

So why is traffic moving more slowly than ever?  Among most analysts, there is consensus on two underlying reasons: more vans and more Ubers. But in case we should feel righteously smug, Travers adds a list of contributors to the gridlock: “Cycle lanes, in some places, are bad. Ubiquitous four-way pedestrian crossing. Wider pavements. Any one of those makes perfect sense individually. But the buses are completely screwed.”

The bus easily outstrips the tube and rail as the main mode of transport for Londoners – even more so among disabled people, those with mobility problems and the poorest residents. Frozen prices, plus the introduction in 2016 of the hopper fare, which allows unlimited journeys within one hour for the cost of one trip, have made buses even cheaper under the current mayor, Sadiq Khan. However, the network has shrunk and patronage has declined in the past four years….

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There’s been a lot of buzz on social media about the societal and cultural shifts  to make streets safer, more sustainable, and more equitable for all road users. This week the Third Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety released their recommendations in Stockholm. Under the auspices of the World Health Organization and the Government of Sweden this work highlights the importance of synthesizing road safety, security, climate change and sustainable development goals.

The old model looked at road building, safety and health, and sustainability as separate line items instead of a synergistic model.  The first tenet developed by the Academic Expert Group was the reduction of all road speeds in cities to 30 kilometers per hour unless a “higher speed” can be proven safe. This provides more equity and less health risk for pedestrians and cyclists without the opportunity cost of fatalities and serious injuries.

Secondly globally road safety should have a more holistic approach involving  utilities, businesses, and cities, broadening the traditional responsibility of governmental authorities.

The need for oversight and quality assurance for all users of transportation corridors is is vital for citizens and sustainability, especially when transit and highway systems are controlled by one entity.

The list of participants in the process of developing these recommendations include top public health practitioners, and Dr. Fred Wegman, the inventor of the Safe Systems Approach.

You can watch the interview below of the Academic Expert Group participants as they explore their interests in developing a new road map to safe roads.

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Following up on the Province of British Columbia’s “Move Commute Connect’ strategy which intends to double the percentage of active transportation trips by 2030, the Province has just announced some new legislation. This legislation will allow the Province to enforce signalling and speed limits of vehicles. New regulation will also finally deal with the pesky challenge of what to do about things on the road that are not pedestrians, bicycle riders or car drivers.

Think of it. In British Columbia segways, hoverboards, electric scooters, electric skateboards and electric motorcycles are really not supposed to be on roads. And they really are not supposed to be on sidewalks either. The idea is that you are using those technologies on private property, at your own risk. The Province is allowing for a three year pilot for municipalities to explore how these items could be used, either on roads, sidewalks or bike paths, with an evaluation after the three year period.

The darling of these “micromobility” ways of moving is the E scooter. They are also cash cows for the E scooter industry with the investment in installation in cities being paid back in just a matter of a few weeks. It is no surprise that horror stories of E scooters littering sidewalks in cities have emerged, as different scooter companies try to get their piece of the pie.

But what problem are E scooters solving? Kelowna has a fairly successful trial of them on the 12 km. trail system between UBC Okanagan, downtown Kelowna and Okanagan lake. But in a study done in Paris it was found that if scooters were not available 47 percent of people would have walked, 29 percent would have used public transit, and 9 percent would have biked, with only 9 percent saying they would have used a car.Should we be encouraging E scooter use if it is taking people away from walking and cycling and using transit?

And exactly who is using the E scooter? reports on a study that found that people in the $25,000 to $50,000 salary range were more likely to use E scooters, and surprisingly showed that 72 percent of women thought positively about using a scooter than men at 67 percent.This is interesting in that men still account for 75 percent of E scooter trips.

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