Nature & Public Spaces
July 30, 2020

The Steepest Street in San Francisco

From sfgate via Dianna:

San Francisco is defined by its hills.

But which is the steepest?

It’s not Lombard Street. While the famous winding block between Hyde and Leavenworth, with its tight turns and postcard views, has become the celebrity of San Francisco streets, its incline even before the eight switchbacks were built in 1923 was a relatively paltry 27%. It may be the crookedest and most famous block in the city, but it’s certainly not the steepest. …

YouTuber and San Francisco native Joey Yee wanted to find out, and climbed the city’s actual steepest streets in a video posted on YouTube:

So, what is he grade of Vancouver’s steepest street?

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An Open Letter to NPA Park Commissioner John Coupar, from Peter Ladner.

 

Peter Ladner:  John, I hear you’d like to be mayor. But as cyclists know, if you tilt too far to one side, you can fall over and crash. To borrow another cycling metaphor, it’s all about balance.

Now that you have gone out on a dangerous limb to oppose safe cycling and walking for all in Stanley Park, I want to propose a slam-dunk opportunity for you to show some balance.

As a former NPA politician myself, I learned, as I’m sure you have, that canny politicians figure out where the parade is headed, and then step out in front and “lead” it.

Be careful limiting yourself to support from people stuck in their cars.

No doubt you’ve heard that so many seniors and others have taken up e-biking that you can’t find one to buy these days. They describe e-bikes as “life-changing” (no more hills— ask Angus Reid!) as they add to the numbers of people who have already made cycling the most popular form of recreation in our fair city. The Cycling Lobby is working feverishly to get more kids riding safely to schools. Don’t make their parents your political enemies!

Also, bike shops are booming and can’t find enough employees. Jobs!  Economic development!  Caution: never be against those.

But before I share my win-win proposal with you, let me share a few thoughts about what you are calling “the Stanley Park transportation disaster”. At first I thought there might have been another storm that blew down hundreds of trees and blocked roads. Especially when I saw your colleague Tricia Barker describe the situation as “horrible” and “devastating”. And I saw your retweet of someone saying traffic changes have “spoiled our beautiful park.” This could cause a person to get worried.

Then I realized what you were actually talking about was the discovery of the park by more than 400,000 (by now) cyclists taking advantage of the new protected lane(s) through the park – even while it’s accessible for everyone else now that one lane has reopened for cars.

Granted, quick and easy access from the North Shore is closed and 30 percent of parking spaces are blocked, but that isn’t stopping people from the North Shore from accessing the park, or drivers from finding parking spaces.

You and Tricia Barker – and some of my (literally) old NPA colleagues – are urging people to sign a craftily-worded petition to “Keep Vancouver’s most beautiful park accessible to all.” Everyone wants that, so it’s easy to get people to sign (29,000 and counting so far: let’s get more!).

I regret to tell you I’m not signing because I think you might twist my signature into meaning I support restoring two lanes of car traffic. I said “crafty” because that is nowhere spelled out in the petition, just the ominous threat that keeping a protected bike lane “could mean limiting access for people who choose to, or must, access the park by car”. I’m afraid I’ve lost a little trust in you, so I’m leery.

But how lucky we are there is zero data to show that anyone has been limited in accessing the park, or restaurants (operating at 50 percent capacity), or available handicapped parking spaces!

If you have this data, share it please.

 

Yes, we could do better. One simple example: the bicycle bypass through the parking lot at Prospect Point Café could easily be shared with cars that could then use some of the now-closed parking spaces, without ever crossing a bike lane. Join me in supporting that!

Entrance to Prospect Point parking lot, with plenty of room for shared lane

I fear that you can only deny facts for so long before someone calls your bluff and your credibility disappears – and with it could go some votes!

I find it sad that you have embraced the fictions that seniors and disabled people are being denied access to the park, and that the park is (going to be) so congested that its restaurants will be ruined.

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PT: It’s been awhile since we’ve seen Daily Scot (né Bathgate) on this blog – even though on some weeks he does text a daily observation.  Here are some:

 

DS: A great idea from TransLink, for those with bikes who would like to rack them on a bus but are too intimidated to do it for the first time:

 

DS: Port Moody must use the suburban planner’s manual: shared asphalt walk/biking path when there is a wide road begging for a separated lane.

 

DS: Turks and Caicos meets Coquitlam.  Fun colours on the North Road border as it takes on a population closer to the West End.

 

DS:Corten steel is back.  Victoria does it!  LeFevre & Co. are the developers – do great work and restored a lot of heritage buildings over the years.

 

DS: Every helmet is missing on these Mobibikes.  Is that because of Covid?

 

 

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There has been discussion that density increases mortality during pandemics, and  the suggestion that suburbs are in fashion again  because they are more “healthy”. The idea is that travelling everywhere by vehicle and retiring to a large leafy house with lots of space may enhance needed Covid pandemic physical distancing.

New York City Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver shares this article from the Australian Times  by Jim Sallis and Deepti Adlakha that contradicts the idea that suburbs are safer. They conclude that the idea of density as unhealthy is “oversimplification and misleading when it comes to COVID-19.”

By researching thirty-six of the most dense global cities these researchers found a “near-zero” correlation between density and Covid morbidity and mortality. I have previously written about the work in Taiwan and Singapore where a centralized governmental approach took the pandemic very seriously from the outset and have had minimal cases and deaths. Taiwan has had 7 Covid deaths, while Singapore has had 27.

The researchers in this city study conclude that it is not density but  the “lack of space – both private living space and wider neighbourhood public space” that is the problem. The top five most-crowded neighbourhoods in the United Kingdom have seen 70% more COVID-19 cases than the five least-crowded neighbourhoods, even after controlling for local deprivation. It’s not how many people live in a certain area that matters, but the conditions they live in.”

Urban density, instead of being an enabler of a bio-medical emergency actually has “protective benefits”. Inhabitants living in higher densities walk more to services shops and schools  and two decades of data show this increased walkable accessibility lowers incidence of heart disease, diabetes and obesity.

In cities public health needs to be enhanced by well built and separated sidewalks and cycling facilities that “have a double benefit, both reducing the spread of COVID-19 by reducing any crowding in the streets and lowering the risk of deadly chronic diseases” by enabling exercise.

What is also crucial is the inequality and inequity of low income communities, where higher living densities means there is  less personal space to follow physical distancing guidelines. These units often without balconies and with less frequent access to public outdoor space “compound the issue of overcrowding – the risk of coronavirus infection may be up to 20 times higher when indoors than outdoors.”

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It was Intelligent Health’s Dr. William Bird MBE  who led the way in Great Britain allowing medical doctors to prescribe walking as a way to help patients with mental and physical health.

Now British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is encouraging medical doctors to prescribe cycling for weight management, and the government will be investing in infrastructure to facilitate that.  With amassing proof that excess weight is associated with more severe illness from Covid-19, biking is seen as a low cost way to encourage fitness and exercise.  The Guardian notes that cycling used for a work commute is “linked to a 46% lower risk of heart disease compared with a non-active commute.”

As the BBC reports  there is an equity issue as well.  While “36% of the adult population is overweight and 28% obese… people living in deprived areas are more likely to be admitted to hospital with a condition related to obesity.”

One in ten British children starting primary school is obese, and that number doubles to two in five by the end of the primary school years. Comparatively 40 percent of Americans are obese, while in South Korea and Japan that number is less than 10 percent.

In Britain it is estimated that nearly 5 million of the 66 million population is thought to have diabetes which costs the national healthcare program 10 billion pounds a year (17 billion Canadian dollars). Ninety percent of this population has type 2 diabetes which has a high co-factor of obesity.

Current data shows that being obese doubles the chances of dying from Covid, meaning that in a country where healthcare is provided nationally, well-being is a federal issue.

The head of England’s National Health Service observed “The evidence is now in: obesity can double your chance of dying from coronavirus. So this pandemic is a call to arms to adopt medically proven changes in what we eat and how we exercise” .

Images: ABCNews, TheIndependent

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Imagine running a business with very long hours and in the current Covid crisis, not a lot of customers. Curator and author Catherine Clement sent on this article from the The New York Times  which outlines how  husband and wife team Chang Wan-ji, and Hsu Sho-er, business owners in a laundromat in Taichung, Taiwan have survived.

Where estimates in Canada show that 52 percent of people see their mental health as not the same during the pandemic, the grandson of Chang Wan-ji and Hsu Sho-er wanted to help his grandparents who spent 13 hour days keeping their dry cleaning business open. There was no business in the shop, and without the normal customer interaction the days were long for these two business owners who are both in their mid-eighties.

Inspired by the racks of clothing that had been laundered but never paid for or picked up, the grandson started curating the clothing and putting outfits together of the forgotten items for his grandparents to model. In each image the octogenarians wear their trademark blue sneakers, and incorporate an unbelievable hipster vibe.

You can take a look at their instagram account at @wantshowasyoung which at press time had over 433,000 followers. And here’s the thing~there are only twenty posts, but they are tremendous images of the two dressed up in the unretrieved clothes.

As Chris Horton in the New York Times describes “The clothes they model are eclectic, funky and fun. Both can be seen in matching laced sneakers, and jauntily perched caps and hats. He sometimes sports brightly colored shades. One photo shows her leaning coolly against a giant washing machine, arms crossed, as he casually holds the open door, grinning. They pose at a place they know well — their shop, which provides an industrious backdrop of customers’ laundry, stacked and rolled into plastic bundles or hanging from racks.”

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Homeless during a pandemic: What are the challenges and looming threats?

Join Canadian Urban Institute  host Mary W. Rowe for our series about what’s working, what’s not, and what’s next, as we (re)imagine the right to home – Homeless during a pandemic: What are the challenges and looming threats?

Speakers include
Stephanie Allen, Associate Vice-President of Strategic Business Operations and Performance,BC Housing;
Eddie Golko, Participant, Us and Them;
Krista Loughton, Filmmaker, Us and Them;
Karen Montgrand, Participant, Us and Them;
Tim Richter, President and CECanadian Alliance to End Homelessness.

Date: Tuesday July 28, 2020

Time: 9:00 a.m. Pacific Time

You can click on this link to register.

Images: ReturnofKings,NightlightCanada

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Retired City of Vancouver planner Michael Gordon has created the YouTube  documentary video below about the history of Sen̓áḵw  between 1869 – 1966, what was once referred to as the Kitsilano Indian Reserve.  Michael states “It’s my personal reconciliation project throughout the ‘unsettlement’ and expropriation of the reserve in the 19th and 20th centuries.” 

Michael also shares this link of the Vancouver Archives’ written transcript of conversations between early City Archivist Major Matthews and  August Jack Khatsahlano between 1932 and 1954 about early First Nations life in the Vancouver area.

 

Image: CBC.ca

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Dan Fumano at The Sun nails it:

Although polling — and election results — consistently show most Vancouverites generally support spending on biking and walking infrastructure, many fiscal conservatives are quick to point to those areas when it’s time for financial belt-tightening.

This week’s staff presentation proposes continuing with the planned rehabilitation work on the Granville Street Bridge, including seismic upgrading, at a cost of $24 million, but reducing infrastructure spending on the Granville Street Bridge, Drake Street and Gastown.

And it’s not just Council that will be enticed to cut cycling infrastructure out of current plans.  Park Board too.

It’s been the NPA Park Commissioners’ strategy (John Coupar’s in particular) to prevent any serious bikeways through parks (Kits especially) through delay and deferment.  This fits their agenda perfectly.  Now the question is whether Council will adopt the strategy for the city as a whole.

We are at this remarkable moment when cycling use has increased dramatically as a consequence of the pandemic.  Trips are measured in the tens of thousands, even the hundreds of thousands.  Users are more diverse – in age, ethnicity, style and location – beyond hope and expectation.

But even at a time of a declared climate emergency, the same ol’ stereotypes and politics seem to prevail.  When even the disabled advocates insist that two lanes of Stanley Park are needed for cars, and parking spaces are the highest priority, when golf-course improvements get green checkmarks over greenways, it’s apparent that the need for advocacy, for political champions on elected boards, and for community support are as important as ever.

Actually, more important than ever.

 

 

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This article in the Conversation.com from three researchers at Monash University explores what the new Covid normal looks like in terms of women’s safety and security in cities.

Even though 51 percent of the population is female, there is very little integration of women’s safety perceptions in the design and development of public space. And it’s not just public space that is an issue.

The Monash University researchers found that women’s perception of safety, not the risk was the determining factor in how they used public space. Perception itself is a challenging factor to measure and evaluate as it is personally experiential for each individual.

“Nuanced thinking and multiple gender-sensitive strategies” are required to engage women in public space. As each woman’s experience about safety is unique, there is a need for more gender specific data about experiences and knowledge.

Women’s safety audits were first incepted forty years ago by the  Metropolitan Toronto Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children. These audits allow users to pinpoint the factors that lead to feelings of being unsafe and like co-design invite suggestions for how to make places safer. With technology these audits still provide valuable information and ground truthing today.

Safety audits can be conducted in  “streets, residential areas, parks, markets and public transport – and offer a checklist of matters to consider. Part of any audit are issues like lighting, surveillance and sightlines.”

There are some interesting factors too, including  evaluating how many other women are using the space and how much time they spend in the space. The reasons offered are valuable  indicators on how to create good public space.

Safetipin is a digital crowdmapping platform as is Free To Be that offer women “geolocation software to pinpoint precisely where they feel safe and unsafe, and why. Safetipin now generates safety scores for very localised parts of the cities where it is active.”

These online safety audits move municipalities away from the traditional CEPTED approach (crime prevention through environmental design) often implemented in public spaces to one that looks at perceptions of safety and security with a gender lens.

As the researchers conclude: Women’s safety audits in their various forms are a means to meet the objectives… But, more than that, they amplify women’s voices and help them claim their right to feel safe and actively occupy public space.”

Images: Women Plan.It & Safetipin

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