Policy & Planning
January 18, 2021

The Point Grey Elephant in the Yard~Seaside Greenway Public Realm

In 2016 when a report  on  Point Grey Road becoming the Seaside Greenway went to Council, there was much discussion about separating walking from biking, and ensuring that sidewalks were adequate and wide enough. You can reference that report here.

Of course some residents had usurped public city owned boulevard property as their own, by adding in shrubbery and fences, and were none too pleased when the City needed that public property for public things, like sidewalks and boulevards.  There was even discussion from residents that they would be more likely to crash into pedestrians and cyclists with the hedges and trees removed. You can’t make this stuff up.

It is always instructive to look back at what people feared of and to look at how things actually progressed. When the Seaside Greenway was approved, real estate values on Point Grey Road apparently  increased by 30 percent. It is a traffic calmed, quiet street.  And yes, there is an elephant in the yard, in the 3600 block of Point Grey Road.

I have written that  privately owned landscaping on public property may always be challenged. As the city grows and enhances walking and cycling mobility there will be more vigilance to ensure that homeowner landscaping does not impede proposed city works, or indeed, city owned property.

Sadly, the Point Grey elephant’s enclosure does take up some publicly owned property too, and the fence was not moved as part of the improvements for the Seaside Greenway.

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If you have been walking on the Seaside Greenway on the southside of False Creek, you may have noticed that it is a bit of a slime fest  and hard to walk on for several sections. In 2015 the City had a summer drought and cut back on the use of things like pressure washers, according to this CBC story. 

But the story also said that pressure washing could continue for health and safety purposes, and there is no drought now.

What happens when it is a city owned greenway where hundreds of people walk? I had heard that the city was no longer using pressure washers for regular maintenance, but could not find any report or reference to that change of practice on the City’s website. Perhaps PriceTags readers would know.

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A new year and time to remind the Province that some initiatives are simple to make movement around places more palatable for more people during the pandemic and after. There is an increase in people wanting to walk, roll and bike and get outside. Regional parks in Metro Vancouver had a 61 percent increase in visits in June of 2020 compared to June of 2019. Sadly access to most regional parks requires a vehicle.

We saw nimble work in some surprising places with  repurposing roads for all street users, with Winnipeg and Calgary leading the way. The City of Vancouver was a little slower in their rollout of “Slow Streets” which referred to streets where walking and cycling were supposedly encouraged by signage for slower vehicle driver  movement.

Sadly the barriers of choice for Slow Streets were very moveable rather light plastic jersey barriers, which of course were scuttled to the side of many of the designated  streets by vehicle drivers, much the way a spent beer can is kicked to the curb when there’s no deposit on the return.

But  look at what Brussels in Belgium has achieved~they have a metro population of 2.5 million (Vancouver’s metro area is 2.46.)

With the extraordinary statement that motorists “should simply no longer feel welcome” the Transportation Minister for Brussels announced that  in the inner city a new 30 km/h (20 mph) speed limit covers the entire city centre. This applies to all streets except for ring roads and some traffic arteries.

In Brussels fifty people annually  die or are seriously maimed by speeding drivers. The intent is to have more rail use and less vehicular traffic in the inner city for air quality purposes , and to reduce vehicular traffic by 33 percent. The goal within ten years is to have the entire city consisting of traffic calmed zones, with more right of way space dedicated to pedestrians, open spaces and bike lanes.

Helga Schmidt in Taggesschau.de points out that enforcement will be achieved by the increased use of speed cameras set up throughout the city. By announcing the intended  measures last year, the agency in charge of mobility in the Brussels-Capital area already has undertaken consultations with transportation businesses, transit operators, police and the public.

Extra funding has been allocated for addressing streets that are still dangerous to vulnerable users, as well as for assistance in processing fines for speeding drivers.

Contrast this with the request of the Union of British Columbia Municipalities  (UBCM) in 2019 who unanimously approved the motion to ask the Province to allow municipalities to be able to make 30 kilometer per hour neighbourhood zones.  UBCM wants to make it easier for municipalities in B.C. to follow the leads of other jurisdictions  in slowing driver speed limits to increase livability in neighbourhoods.

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Curbs are being poured along Beach Avenue from Stanley Park to Hornby Street.

The City approved this permanent change from cones to concrete after a few months of consultation – albeit a ‘temporary’ permanent change, subject to the English Bay master plan currently under design by PFS Studio and Snøhetta.

 

These interventions also deal with some of the confusion and conflict resulting from this fast pandemic response in the spring when bikes were removed from the seawall.  Cyclists tended to ignore stop signals primarily designed for vehicle traffic – so now the crossings provide clarity, safety and a slowing down of two-wheelers.  (Hopefully eye-level signals for bikes will be installed where necessary.)

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Last month I wrote about Arianne, the six year old Ladner girl that had difficulty crossing Central Avenue with her siblings and her grandmother. A vehicle driver had rushed around the corner nearly hitting the children. Arianne wrote to Delta City Council telling them that a crosswalk was needed to the stores and to the park, and how hard it was to see around the corner. She finished the letter by reminding Council that she was “six years old”.

Arianne also sent in a splendid illustration of the corner where the incident happened. She drew a very nice spider on her letter, and created her own petition. She then got thirty signatures for her petition. All during the pandemic.

 

The one person you never want to disappoint and i would also argue disagree with is a six year old who  has done their homework, evaluated the problem, and proposed the solution.

Thankfully as Sandor Gyarmati writes in The Optimist Delta Council at their December 9th meeting  has agreed to add a crosswalk improvement at this intersection with  “overhead illuminated signs with overhead and side mounted flashing beacons, new pushbuttons, replacement and addition of LED street lights and pavement markings.”

The work is scheduled for next year, and you can be sure Arianne will be making drawings of the improvement, and monitoring it to ensure it works efficiently and correctly.

Images:DeltaOptimist

 

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This week I wrote about the chemical in tires that has been killing the Coho salmon in Puget Sound streams. When there is heavy rain or runoff (quite a common occurrence in the Pacific Northwest) huge fish kills from leaching tire particulate chemicals were found to be devastating to salmon stocks.

All vehicles electric or not have tires, and this adds one more reason to look at travelling smarter and not so intensively by private automobile. Ian Fisher notes that electric cars with their greater mass (battery packs) and high performance wear down tires faster than fuel pumped tire vehicles, showing once more that automobile dependency, of any kind, seems to be  environmentally incompatible.

Ian referenced this article from Green Car Reports that shows that tire and brake wear will probably be next for emissions testing, since Emissions Analytics have found that particulate matter tire wear can be “1,000 times worse” than from internal combustion engined vehicles. Particulate is defined as the solid matter shed by vehicles, different from vehicle exhaust gases.

In a study, Emissions Analytics looked at a popular family car with well inflated tires. The study found the vehicle’s tires “emitted 5.8 grams of particulate matter per kilometer, compared to 4.5 milligrams per kilometer from the exhaust. That translates into a tire-wear emissions higher than exhaust emissions by a “factor of 1,000”.

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Bowinn Ma is the provincial Minister of State for Infrastructure.  A Minister of State, not an actual Minister (as many of her fans anticipated).  But she nonetheless has a rather ambitious to-do list.

This* is what’s in her Mandate Letter:

  • Extend the Millennium Line to Arbutus, with an eventual terminus at UBC
  • Prompt design and construction of the Surrey-Langley Skytrain.
  • Widen Highway 1 through the Fraser Valley
  • Replace the Massey crossing
  • Complete the Pattullo Bridge Replacement Project.
  • Support planning for key transit projects, like high-speed transit links for the North Shore and the expansion of rail up the Fraser Valley.

In short: the biggest roads and the longest trains.  Not all on her own, of course; responsibilities for TransLink alone are split among three Ministers of various kinds.   But the part of her portfolio that she will be tested on will be getting the big road projects unstoppably underway before the next election.

So if conflict is to occur, it’s less likely to be among her colleagues than between her mandate and her rhetoric when it comes to shaping growth with big-time road infrastructure.

The implicit expectation by the Premier may be that the high-growth parts of our region – east of Langley, south of the Fraser – can become more like the region he represents (Langford and the western communities of Victoria), where working people should still be able to afford a house to drive to and won’t pay tolls to get there. And to do that we need more big roads, bridges (or tunnels), with some incidental room for transit.

Ma has argued that such a strategy is futile.  Widening highways and building untolled crossings to reduce congestion just begets more congestion.  (She made a celebrated speech in the Legislature on that very point – here.)

 

So why would the Premier appoint an MLA whose public position is that the era of big roads is (or should be) over?  The chattering classes (Price Tags division) have come up with some possible reasons:

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The City of Cleveland is sponsoring this talk by Enrique Penalosa, the past mayor of Bogota, Colombia on Equity by Design – Sustainability, Mobility, and Building the Cities of the Future.
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Mr. Penalosa implemented a massive urban improvement plan for Bogota´s city center which included demolition and redevelopment of severely crime-ridden areas, the creation of a land bank for providing quality low income housing, and the establishment of an innovative urban project of the highest quality for more than 400 inhabitants.

Since leaving office, Mr. Peñalosa has worked as a consultant on urban strategy and leadership advising officials in cities all over the world on how to build quality, equitable and competitive cities that cannot only survive but thrive in the future. He was president of the Board of Directors of the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, a New York based NGO promoting sustainable and equitable transportation worldwide.

Join us for a conversation with Mr. Peñalosa on how he advanced equity for all residents through thoughtful transportation planning and urban design − and what we should all consider when building the smart cities of the future.

 

Date: Friday December 11, 2020

Time: 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Pacific Time

To register please click here.

Here is Enrique Penalosa talking about the historic downtown area of Bogota where public spaces and streets were revitalized during his leadership.

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A six year old girl was trying to cross Central Avenue in Ladner between the Lions Park and London Drugs. She was with three brothers and sisters and her grandmother. A vehicle driver  came from around the corner at great speed and almost hit the four children. This six year old girl decided to Do Something About It.

She drew a picture of what had happened to her family and wrote a letter to Delta City Council.

In her letter she wrote:

“Dear Town Council

I think  we need a cross walk by lions park to the stores.

Lots of people cross there and it is a very busy road

and it is hard to see around the corner. I am six years old.”

She then drew up her own petition form to collect names and addresses of other people that also thought getting a crosswalk across Central Avenue between the commercial area and the park was a good idea. In knocking on doors and approaching people she also found out that other people had stories about almost being crashed into at that location. The six year old collected thirty signatures and addresses which she carefully appended to her letter to Council.

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It seems strange that in a place that says in their Transportation Plan that  pedestrians and cyclists are the first priority  that we still have not become serious about ensuring that the most vulnerable road users  have clear, accessible sidewalks and bike lanes when it snows. From the perspective of anyone with a mobility deficit, in a wheelchair, or walking with a baby stroller unimpeded sidewalks cleared from snow just makes sense. Add in the fact that everyone should be shopping locally to support businesses hit by the pandemic.  So why are cities not providing this basic service, of ensuring cleared sidewalks for residents  to access local commercial areas?

I have previously written about the City of Winnipeg that gives  their crews a 36 hour window for priority cleaning, and that includes sidewalks, which just like roads are labelled priority one or priority two. After a blizzard  the City of Winnipeg  will be clearing 2,900 kilometers of sidewalks stating “The sidewalks are done the same way as the streets”.

In Vancouver? Nada. Vancouver makes it the responsibility of residents to clean the section of sidewalk in front of their house, and makes business owners responsible for the areas in front of their store fronts.  But the City of Vancouver does not respond equitably by  clearing their own snowy sidewalks adjacent to city parks and services, and pedestrian curb crossings can be treacherous. It just makes sense to snow plough out the corners where pedestrians cross, keep the snow out of bike lanes, and give Vancouverites a fighting chance when the snow falls, freezes, and stays.

It was balmy in Toronto last week, but the Toronto Star Editorial Board is not fooled and has bluntly  told the City of Toronto to start cleaning snow off sidewalks.

Just as in Vancouver, “Toronto leaves the responsibility for clearing sidewalks in the central core, the densest part of the city with the most pedestrians, to individual business owners and residents. Not surprisingly, they do a fairly haphazard job of it. And it’s pedestrians, including vulnerable seniors and those with disabilities, who face the dangerous consequences of that.”

With the pandemic curve not looking so positive, walking might be one of the few safe, open activities if there is another lockdown.

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