December 1, 2008

Passerelle of the Week-Pakistan

From Wendy Waters:

If you’re looking for a different take on the Passerelle concept, I thought these photos are probably unlike any that most of your readers have ever seen.  

These rickety pedestrian bridges cross the Hunza River in the Karakoram mountains of Pakistan near the town of Passu.  They are the lifeline connecting villages on the East side of the river to the Karakoram Highway on the West side.

They were absolutely terrifying for us to cross as we were not accustomed to watching a raging river flow past under our feet.  But the locals including women and children would just run across, often carrying large loads.


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November 30, 2008

In Metro this time.

Derek Moscato, an early Price Tags contributor, had been penning an urban-affairs column for the Province.  The Province cut back on local content – an odd strategy for a local paper, and unfortunately he was nixed.  But he’s bounced back in Metro.  Here’s his first column.

Derek is a more forceful and entertaining writer than me.  Sometimes I think he overstates a case (generally when I don’t agree with him, oddly enough).  Otherwise he’s right on!

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I’ll add my plug for Vancouver Sun photograher Lee Bacchus’s and Bernie Lyon’s new blog, Splinter in Your Eye:

Images we like. Some we made, some we didn’t. The motif is largely Vancouver, B.C. in transition, with some exceptions.

It’s a mix of photography and drawing that aims to capture this fast-changing city.  Great idea.  But as one of the first images reveal, this is a city of a certain constancy too:

One can walk block after block along Hastings, from Main to Burrard, and by far most of the buildings have been around since before World War II.  The same is true of whole neighbourhoods in this city, like parts of Mt. Pleasant and Grandview.  Indeed, even the post-war neighbourhoods are largely intact in many parts of the southeast.

This is such a young city that one expects change and transition as the norm.  Indeed, I have a whole set of shots that illustrate the dynamic growth of the downtown peninsula.  But that shouldn’t blind us to the fact that much remains of our past, and much of that is protected by various heritage designations.  In short, we are not in danger of losing our past to progress.

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November 26, 2008

Got some responses to the latest issue of Price Tags that didn’t make it into the “Comments” but are still worth posting:

From Andrew Curran:

Fantastic work on the “Vaughan” issue. Having grown up in the 905 belt myself – I agree that it is an amazing place indeed. And Vaughan is truly one of the most remarkable 905 municipalities, taking pedestrian hostility to another level entirely. Indeed, the proliferation of these anti-places is what drew me into the field of planning in the first place.   John Barber – city affairs columnist for the Toronto edition of the Globe and Mail – has written several excellent articles on Vaughan that you would find interesting including:   A foul whiff from ‘City above Toronto’

In the latter article he refers to Vaughan as a “stain upon the civic escutcheon” – a phrase that I now regularly make use of when touring the 905!  A metropolis that knew where to draw the line

  From Keith Thompson:

The lower mainland has been pushed down the path of intensification a little earlier than Toronto if only because of the ALR – which was reviled by its opponents at the time it was introduced and is now being chipped away.

What we don’t have is a transit system to rival Toronto’s. People whine about the subsidies involved in running the West Coast Express, for instance, but don’t see twinning the Port Mann etc., as subsidies for cars. Urban areas with good transit systems are more efficient, free people to move around at lower cost, and get a lot of economic benefits from that mobility of the work force. Urban areas dependent on auto transportation incurr increasingly higher costs in the form of pollution, travel time and costs, and reduction in quality of life. Sprawl requires cars – lots of em! 


From David Peterson:

Here’s a companion piece to your current PriceTags. In the article linked below, from the Republic of East Vancouver mini-newspaper, last summer, Kevin Potvin explored the possibility that the region you’ve profiled has special political significance in Canadian federal elections. If true, that fact may be even scarier than what you’ve unearthed about the planning and design. Who knows, maybe there’s some cause/effect connection between the two.

A shot from Michael Gordon of his perception of the GTA near Gravenhurst:


 From Shirley Spaxman:

Fascinating issue – thank you. I do spend time in these areas when I visit family in Toronto and surrounds – twice yearly. Last year I got lost in the Colossus Centre – round and round looking for a certain restaurant where I was meeting my nephew, who lives in Stouffville. Thank god for cell phones – he found me and led me through the massive “landscape” to our destination spot. And at night, in the winter, all covered in snow, forget about it – impossible to tell one place from another. 

From Deb Jack:

Have you seen Highway # 10 in Surrey, lately?  You may have known that the province was widening it.  Seems to me to be a near perfect example of “uglification.”  It is as if there have been a series of channels laid down through the centre of the city.  “the concrete walls” as one woman said, offering no appreciation of fencing.   There are slabs of concrete, painted grey, (the precise colour we need during our winters), ostensibly replicating wooden fencing due to the vague markings.  There is no planting done, simply the green grass seed spray at the base.  The slabs are really big, I do not know if they control the traffic sounds or not.

I’d stopped using #10 in Surrey with the construction but had occasion to travel it 1/2 each on Thursday and Friday last week.  Am still recovering from the ghastly visual experience.  On the other hand, it could be construed to be an example of the primary driver of civil engineers, that all be “straight and grey.”  (It all reminds me of “The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy.”)   Further info re the interchange of Highway # 1 and 200 Street in Langley.  In the northwest cloverleaf there is, or was several years ago, if I recall correctly a special-built infant/daycare centre.  Encircled with fumes,
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November 25, 2008

Sam Newberg’s “Joe-Urban” newsletter just arrived in my box – always a treat.  Among other items (intermodal yards in Illinois, Jan Gehl in Melbourne) is a link to pics of Cheonggyecheon in Seoul. 

In 2005 the Cheonggyecheon River in Seoul was restored as a natural and public amenity. The river had previously been tunneled with an elevated freeway built on top of it, but in a move that would make John Norquist proud, the mayor of Seoul championed an effort to restore the river and create a wonderful urban gathering place.

I’ve referenced the Cheonggeycheon before, truly one of the world’s great transformations, but the pictures reveal how quickly it is greening up:

More pics here.

UPDATE: And while we’re at it, here’s an item that’s just come in from Stephen Ingrouille’s Transport Newsletter out of Melbourne:

“The Seoul city government has announced plans to build 207 kilometres of cycle paths over the next four years extending to all corners of the South Korean capital, according to officials.

The 120-billionwon (US$88m) plan is based on a ‘road diet’ program, under which the number of lanes for passenger vehicles in major roads will be cut to create new cycle paths. It calls for the construction of 17 main cycle paths totaling 200 kilometres that criss-cross the sprawling city and one downtown seven kilometre beltway. ‘

Any urban areas where commuters only rely on vehicles burning fuel cannot avoid blame for global warming and traffic congestion’, Seoul City Mayor Oh Se-Hoon said on Wednesday, on the city government’s website. ‘We will make sure that bicycles will compete with vehicles for commuting in Seoul’, said Oh, who rides his bicycle to work every day. …

The city will also construct bicycle parks at 16 subway stations – complete with shower rooms and lockers for cyclists before they transit to the subway.”

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You can link in the post below to Province columnist Keith Morgan where he writes about the “Upside of adding new asphalt to landscape.”

A few weeks ago I had a chance to visit an asphalt landscape – the most asphalty I’ve ever seen – and I didn’t see much of an upside.

Twenty kilometres northwest of Toronto is the Vaughan Corporate Centre, where Highway 400 intersects with Highway 407, the electronic toll road that the Ontario government built and then privatized (unwisely) to serve the northern sweep of what is called the 905 Belt (named after the area code) in the Greater Toronto Area.

It had quite an impact on me – much of which I have tried to convey in the latest Price Tags

Download an issue, and judge for yourself.

Off to Portland for a few days.  See you next week.

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