Walking & Mobility
July 8, 2019

Why is Walking in the United States becoming Deadlier?

A few decades back a trip to Europe was a more dangerous experience if you were driving on the roads, biking or walking in European cities. But as Joe Cortright who contributes to Strong Towns and runs the City Observatory notes that paradigm has changed. Meanwhile the pedestrian fatality rate on roads in the United States has risen by 50 percent in just one decade, from 4,109 dying in 2009  to 6,227 dying in 2018.

While Europeans have high rates of vehicle ownership, pedestrian fatality rates are lower, declining 36 percent in the last eight years from 8,342 deaths to 5,320.

Cortright asks~if more people walk in Europe than the United States, why aren’t fatality rates the same or more for pedestrians?

As Cortwright observes: “It’s worth noting that this trend is occurring even though walking is far more common in Europe, streets are generally narrower, and in older cities, there aren’t sidewalks, but pedestrians share the roadway with cars. Despite these factors, Europe now has a lower pedestrian death toll per capita than the U.S.”

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From @nm_nvan:

Here’s an update of each councilor’s record of voting for the 311 market rental units in the 8 projects that have come to council this term. Renter advocate @JeanSwanson  managed to maintain her perfect record of voting against market rental units.

When one crosses the bar from activist to councillor, usually one grasps the difference between politics (the art of the possible) and ideology (where the perfect drives out the good).  In that respect, Swanson’s record is not unexpected. The curious one is Pete Fry’s.

 

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While the City of Vancouver dithers about reducing speeds to 30 km/h in their neighbourhoods, the City of Montreal just gets it done, and they are reducing speed on their arterial roads too. Montreal is not just doing lip service to Vision Zero, the concept that no serious injuries or deaths should result on city roads. They identified reducing speed limits as essential, especially where pedestrians and cyclists used the street.

In Vancouver we don’t talk about Vision Zero officially, as the previous Vision controlled council did not like the term for their own political reasons. It’s time  for this Council to take control and bring the right term  back.

It has been proven internationally that the one way to save lives on roads is to lower speed limits. That increases the survivability of a crash for a pedestrian and cyclist, and also allows for more reaction time for the driver. It is also more sustainable to travel at slower speeds, and allows the streets to function in a sociable way for residents walking and cycling, instead of just facilitating fast vehicular traffic.

As the CBC reports some of Montreal’s  boroughs have already adopted speed limits of 30 km/h in neighbourhoods and 40 km/h on arterial roads. Listen to the messaging from the Mayor of Montreal, who says that not only is it important to methodically implement slower speed limits for enhanced street use and livability, but that those limits need to be lowered quickly. They are serious about reducing injuries and saving lives.

Montreal’s Vision Zero plan is direct and to the point. Besides reducing speeds, they are banning heavy trucks from some of the street network, improving safety around schools, and improving crosswalk visibility. I have already written about the City of London banning certain trucks and requiring sideguards on others. London realized that one kind of truck was in three years responsible for 70 percent of that city’s cycling deaths. Those trucks  are now completely banned from the inner core of London.

The City of Montreal has buy-in from the  public health department, Quebec’s automobile insurance board and both the Federal and Provincial Ministries of Transport. Montreal has also led a fulsome public process engaging with citizens and over thirty different groups, including the trucking industry.

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I’ve heard this twice from people that are experts in their fields, and now the BBC News writer Matt McGrath is reporting  on a new study published in  Science that recommends planting trees~billions of trees~to counter global warming.

Trees have a natural ability to capture carbon dioxide on a remarkable scale, and estimates suggest that there is a capacity the size of the United States that could be reforested around the world. Of course while tree planting may be an effective strategy it is still critical to arrest fossil fuel emissions. Estimates in the research study suggest trees can neutralize two-thirds of all carbon burden. That means that planting 900 million hectares of trees would result in an additional storage of 205 billion tons of carbon.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said that if the world wanted to limit the rise to 1.5C by 2050, an extra 1bn hectares (2.4bn acres) of trees would be needed. The problem has been that accurate estimates of just how many trees the world can support have been hard to come by.This new report aims to show not just how many trees can be grown, but where they could be planted and how much of an impact they would have on carbon emissions.

Scientists from ETH-Zurich used Google Earth mapping software to create a predictive map exploring where new tree canopy could be located. Excluding farms and cities, they estimate that globally nearly 1 billion hectares of tree cover could be added. And those trees once matured “could pull down around 200 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide, some two-thirds of extra carbon from human activities put into the atmosphere since the industrial revolution.”

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One of the key things to keep in mind when travelling:

You never get a second chance for a first impression.

A cliche of course – but also the reason why it’s so exciting to visit a city for the first time.  So many impressions to absorb, to replay and construct into an original mental map.  When the pieces come together in your head – crudely to begin with, more detailed every day – then the city is yours.

The major roads, the landmarks, the transit line you need, the safest bike and scooter routes.  The closest grocery store, a gym, a docking station.  How to get downtown, to the best beach, to the restaurant with the reservation on Thursday, to the shop on that hip street you read about.  Every trip adds more names and reasons to remember them.

By the end of two weeks, here was my mental map of the TLV I saw:

We’ll unpack it in the coming week.

 

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There’s no two ways about it — TransLink, Metro Vancouver’s transit authority, is #1 in North America for year-over-year transit ridership growth. Seattle’s King County Transit is #2. And Kevin Desmond has led them both.

Desmond, now in his 4th year at the TransLink helm, didn’t emerge as a transit planning professional as a result of education, nepotism, or some cultish, hippie-era, preternatural NUMTOT trip (though, thanks to Gord, he’s now officially hip to the ELMTOT jive).

No, Desmond came to transit by mistake. An upbringing in the Bronx — OK, technically Westchester County, but he could walk to the #5 Dyer Avenue train — was followed by various positions Mayor’s Office of Operations during the mayoralty of Ed Koch, working with New York City agencies implementing public policy.

You know, typical New York stuff, like counting trees (there were 800,000), and helping untangle a parking revenue corruption scandal (big money). Which eventually led to an invitation to join the Department of Customer Services at New York City Transit. And so began Desmond’s love affair with transit — as he credits it, a cloying mixture of public policy, public service, and running a business. His great challenge in ’80s and ’90s New York City? Trying to figure out how to drive transit ridership up in a mega-city of abundant transportation options. His focus was to paint transit as a desirable consumer product, and to do so with the support of “a lean mean, growth-oriented consumer product organization”. And it worked.

Desmond tells Gord all the stories…of how he tried to bring more attention, and money, to the bus system in New York, when the subway tended to suck up all the oxygen….what prompted him to swap coasts in what eventually became a 12-year stint as chief executive of King County Transit in Washington State…how his efforts in the Puget Sound region culminated in a successful $54 billion tax package ballot measure for transit that included a multi-phase plan for high-capacity light rail (jealous much?)…and what ultimately led him to Vancouver.

He also waxes on about Transport 2050, the largest public engagement in TransLink’s history. But what we really wanted to know was what Desmond thinks of ride-hailing players like Uber and Lyft, slagged by Price Talks guests (among many, many others) as malignant, transit-killing tumours on the rumps of cities across the continent.

“Not something to be feared,” he claims. Why? You’ll have to listen to find out.

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When it comes to the inevitable disruption that will be caused by the proliferation of electric bikes, scooters and every possible hybrid, we are so not ready.  It’s the one big thing I learned from last month’s trip to Tel Aviv, and saw this:

Scooters (and electric bikes) are everywhere in Tel Aviv – by the thousands.  Like an invasive species, it took only two years for them to fill a mobility niche, and there’s likely no possible way to exterminate them now.

Though there is the occasional sighting in Vancouver, so far the private scooter-share companies – notably Lime and Bird – have been prevented from taking root.  Like Uber, the Province has kept them at bay by making their use functionally illegal.  Here’s the situation as described in the new Active Transportation Design Guide:

Legality of E-Scooters and Other Small, One Person Electric Vehicles

At the time of writing, e-scooters (and similar small, one-person electric vehicles such as hoverboards, motorized skateboards, and self balancing electric unicycles) are not permitted on public roadways or sidewalks in B.C.

The B.C. MVA defines these vehicle types as motor vehicles, but they do not meet provincial equipment safety standards for on-street use. E-scooters and similar vehicle types may only be operated where the B.C. MVA does not apply, such as on private property that does not have public vehicle access, and on trails or pathways (if allowed by municipal bylaw).

Many of the laws that ban e-scooters were developed under different mobility contexts. As demand for these technologies and others grow, the policies may need to be updated.

Um, ‘may’?   Scooters, in particular, are gaining global popularity.  They’re cheap, compact, flexible, zero-emission, noiseless, practical, fun and hip.

There is no way to stop people from buying them.  And if the law says there’s no legal way to use them, then the law will be seen as irrelevant unless rigorously and punitively enforced. And why would we do that when this is exactly the kind of transportation we want to encourage in a ‘climate emergency.’

There will be more to come on the particular circumstances in Tel Aviv.  But we need to prepare ourselves now for the impact of this new mobility.  May I suggest we send the necessary authorities to Tel Aviv for a couple of weeks with instructions that, during that time, they cannot use a car.

 

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I have written before about the work of Stanley Woodvine who writes for the Georgia Straight. Mr.  Woodvine is a homeless writer as well as a graphic artist, and brings a unique perspective to the city.  I wrote about his take of people carrying large sandwich boards in the city, and the scramble for retail positions in a shifting storefront market.

Stanley Woodvine also likes to dumpster dive, and his combination of interest in city events and looking for that elusive item hit paydirt. And his latest find is truly  the stuff of legends~Stanley’s  “pastimes of binning and blogging unexpectedly came together on Friday (June 28) when I pulled actual blueprints for a Granville Street Skytrain station out of a cardboard Dumpster in the 1400 block of West Broadway.”

Unbelievably a set of blueprints for the proposed new Granville Street station were dated May 24, 2019, and stamped by  architectural firm Musson Cattell Mackey Partnership (MCM) and building contractor PCI Developments. The plan showed that the new Broadway subway’s Granville street station will be on the northeast corner of West Broadway and Granville Street where the existing Royal Bank building is at 1489 Broadway.

The drawings themselves detail a five story mixed use building above ground with a curious six floors of parking for 332 vehicles below ground, completely out of keeping with the density of the project.  Mr. Woodvine surmises that the five stories being built above ground may merely be a platform or podium for a tower that will require this parking capacity as part of their development permit. The drawings indicate the location of the “future residential elevator” which confirms Mr. Woodvine’s hunch. He also notes that the future tower may be 40 stories based upon the parking capacity noting that the new 40-storey condo tower at 1335 Howe includes 430 vehicle stalls.

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Do you know which state sells the most automobiles? It is California, and their automobile market of two million annual sales of vehicles  is roughly the same as Canada’s.  California also leads in having ten per cent of all vehicles already electric powered.

As the New York Times reports the size of that state’s vehicular market and the potential for Canada to adopt California’s strict car emission standards may be sufficient to roll back the proposed lower emission standards.

The current President of the United States intends to roll back current emission standards which required carmakers to develop vehicles with an average of 54.5 miles per gallon by the year 2025. A plan to make that standard only 37 miles per gallon would dramatically increase climate change causing greenhouse gases.

In a move described by a political professor as showing that the current Canadian Prime Minister “doesn’t want to appear to be Trump’s poodle”  

Justin Trudeau’s government is signing a deal with California to adopt that state’s more stringent vehicular polluting standards. That means that the market for cars in Canada will need to adhere with the higher standards already in place in California. This may be enough to sway automobile makers to maintain the higher standard, with one-third of American states standing behind it as well as Canada.

Canada has traditionally adopted the standards proposed by the American government instead of independently adopting standards proposed by a state. While the move to an adopted state standard of higher emission control could pressure manufacturers to create solely less polluting vehicles, there is also the chance that a two market system would be created. That would be a market where better performing vehicles are sold in Canada and in thirteen states, with the rest of the states going for more pollution emitting vehicles.

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