April 8, 2021

Will you drive more or less after the pandemic?

Here’s a plausible scenario in which you’ll drive more – from Slate:

When the pandemic hit, Sheila worked at home. Seeking to minimize interactions with strangers, she avoided crowds and had groceries and essentials delivered to her house. But when the pandemic ends, finally, she’ll resume visiting stores and meeting other people, and her employer will blow the dust off the cubicles and reopen the office. For now, Sheila will return to work in person only three days per week, working from the ‘burbs during the other two. How might her teleworking travel differ from when she commutes in person?

Sheila obviously won’t be driving to or from work if she stays at home, but she’ll still take many other trips. Since she can’t exercise at her office, she instead drives to a gym four miles from her house. A lunch meeting is five miles away, and she combines it with a pharmacy run—generating a trip of 12 miles. At the end of the workday, she makes a final trip to a grocery store three miles away. If you do the math, she has now driven a total of 26 miles—more than when she went to the office.

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Daphne Bramham on the weekend wrote in the Province that “the chaos and disorder” in the Downtown Eastside  is so  “normalized that most Vancouverites have abandoned the neighbourhood, given it up to the homeless, the addicted, the mentally ill, and the people who prey on them.”

It is a true reflection of what has occurred and it is not equitable. There should be a standard of civility afforded to everyone to have safe, clean, accessible open spaces and streets everywhere in the city and to ensure public safety to every resident. By every measure that parameter has failed and the most vulnerable are impacted.

Ms. Bramham and Derrick Penner in the Vancouver Sun have written about the JJ Bean coffee shop at 14th and Main Street. The manager has had an escalating situation with several mentally ill homeless people in a host of situations, including “an altercation involving a homophobic slur, someone using drugs while barricaded in his café’s washroom, trash strewn in the alley and human waste smeared on the café’s compostables recycling bin.”

The coffee shop manager found that there was no direct way to find assistance with the challenges, and both the police and the city pointed at each other as places that should be able to provide assistance.

There is clearly no civic blueprint  to allow businesses to function while municipal attitude is to look away from people in crisis on the street, and finger point that other levels of government should be assisting.

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The Duke of Data at Simon Fraser University’s City Program Andy Yan suggested it first: if you have Christmas lights up on your condo railing or your abode, why not keep them up longer this year to get through the dark, dull, rainy part of each Metro Vancouver winter. No one will judge you, especially this year.

This idea of bringing in more light in the darkest part of winter is feasible too with the energy efficient outdoor lighting now widely used. And the idea of keeping Christmas lights up (or jazzing them up with colours that are not so directly Christmas festive) has been adopted elsewhere.

The City of Kitchener Ontario’s mayor Berry Vrbanovic is encouraging people to keep their Christmas lights up through January stating: “Seeing our neighbourhoods lit up with lights and decorations has been a wonderful way to feel connected as a community – I love the idea of stretching that festive atmosphere into the new year as we continue to get outside for safe neighbourhood walks and physical activity.”

And in Salem Virginia, residents are urged to keep Christmas lights up to honour the front line healthcare workers through January. This is part of a national campaign urging municipalities and organizations across the United States to keep Christmas lights up until January 31, and to spread the word on social media with the hashtag ##LightsUp4Heroes. In Colorado,the initiative is being embraced state wide.

There is also a historical precedent~in Great Britain, the feasting, decorations, Christmas cakes and puddings used to continue for a much longer period than what we typically do today, in tucking everything away by early January.

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A quote I don’t remember from “Death and Life of Great American Cities,” but, thanks to Farhad Manjoo at the New York Times, one worth repeating:

“Cities were once the most helpless and devastated victims of disease, but they became great disease conquerors …

“All the apparatus of surgery, hygiene, microbiology, chemistry, telecommunications, public health measures, teaching and research hospitals, ambulances and the like, which people not only in cities but also outside them depend upon for the unending war against premature mortality, are fundamentally products of big cities and would be inconceivable without big cities.”


For those who believe populous cities of massive density are, um, toast because of their pandemic vulnerability, one word:


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If you have not been on a walking tour or an event and met Vancouver historian John Atkin, now is your chance to hear him moderate a fascinating panel on the impact and outcomes of the 1918 Spanish Flu and the 2020 Covid-19 Pandemic.

The 1918-19 influenza outbreak and our current CoViD-19 pandemic have many parallels in government action, public reaction, and a concern for the economy.

Join our panelists Dr Margaret Andrews, Professor of History at Washington State University  and  Simon Fraser University’s Duke of Data Andy Yan for an enlightening discussion on pandemics then and now.

Funds raised for the Friends of the Vancouver City Archives, whose contributions support the work of the City of Vancouver Archives, including making materials from its holdings available online.

This event is sure to be oversubscribed so get your reservation in. The suggested cost is $15.00 CAD plus tax, and if you wish to provide a donation over $25.00, you will get a tax receipt.

Date: Thursday December 3, 2020

Time: 7:00 p.m. Pacific Time

You can reserve your space by clicking on this link.

Image: VIA


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You have seen it in Vancouver~long lines of vehicles  in the drive-in lanes at McDonald’s in Kerrisdale when there’s no one inside the quick serve restaurant. You may have wondered why there were so many people  idling in a queue, and just assumed it was an anomaly. But apparently it is not, and as News 1130’s Monica Gul reports Dr. Sylvain Charlebois who is the director of Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University is studying this phenomena. Dr. Charlebois has called it “the fake commute”.

It does make sense in that Tim Hortons and McDonalds have been reporting a doubling or tripling of business at some drive-in locations, and the locations that expected a 30 percent drop in revenue quickly gained ground. Sadly the drive-in quick service chains have been able to adapt well to the pandemic and will emerge with healthy profit margins unlike the independent retailers and restaurants that are not set up for quick serve window accessed meals.

There is a psychological reason that people are leaving home to pick up a coffee whether by foot, bike or vehicle. As Dr. Charlebois notes, people don’t just get up in the morning and sit to work at the home office station, and leaving to get coffee elsewhere creates a regularity and a “commute” to the home office.

Which means that even though people aren’t necessarily going to work, physically, or going to some place, people are still basically driving around or busing around to get their morning fix…A lot of people are struggling to physically distance themselves from their work.

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