The Seven O’Clock Cheer has become so much more than support for the health care providers who are on the front line.  It’s also a way to support ourselves.

The West End is ideal for human exchange: a single voice carries over lanes and roofs to hundreds of others on balconies, who break out in their own applause.  A beautiful cacophony.  And eye contact.

Often spontaneous events burn brightly but fade quickly.  Still, the nightly cheer goes on.  Naturally, people make their own contributions; they take advantage of this amazing performance space; they find ways to keep it going.

One who does is Caley Honeywell (caleyonsax – Instagram)  She plays her saxophone from the rooftop of her building on the edge of Stanley Park.  From a block away, it doesn’t sound like any saxophone you’ve ever heard.

After some blares and improvisations, she breaks out in ‘O Canada’.  Listeners even a short distance away can’t quite tell where the sound is coming from.  It goes right to the heart.

Here she is – “Pied Piper of Unity” – in a video taken by neighbour Alex McCullough:

 

Read more »

 

I’m on the sixth day of a two-week quarantine after returning from Australia, and, though well-supported by friends and neighbours, I can appreciate the toll that isolation will take – and I’m one of the fortunate ones.   Those more at risk because of mental illness, those impacted by job loss, parents caring for at-risk children, all of us dealing with the fear and reality of sickness and death … these stressors will only become more intense in coming weeks.

Sandro Galea, who studied the impacts of quarantine during the SARS epidemic in Toronto, says isolation can contribute to a range of mental disorders like anxiety and depression, but can also trigger heavier consumption of drugs and alcohol, and even post-traumatic stress disorder.

“We humans are ultimately social. We’re social creatures and we do need interaction — physical and social — with others.

Physical distancing orders will remain in place until at least May.  So how are we to achieve both separation and interaction?  When will we begin to take the first steps towards a safe return to a more normal life.  How, simply, will we find a way to move about, to exercise, to share urban spaces with others.

Sandy James knows how.

Read more »

Beach Avenue looking west & Aquatic Centre August 3 1974

 

If anyone ever wanted to look at what priority the automobile was given in the last century, this image tells the story. 1974 was the year the “new” Aquatic Centre was opened, replacing the Crystal Pool that had been built on the same site in 1928. The Martello Towers are part of the “grand gesture” to the modernism of the street, where no  walker or cyclist can be seen.

This was the same year that the Knight Street Bridge was opened, and Granville Street north of Nelson was closed to vehicular traffic for conversion to a pedestrian mall, which opened that summer.

The image is another great one from Diane Sampson who found this at the Vancouver Archives.

 

Read more »

Medical Health Officer for British Columbia Dr. Bonnie Henry provides daily briefings on  the Covid-19 pandemic, its impact on British Columbia and what we can do to “flatten the curve” of infection.

In looking at lessening the  pandemic, Dr. Henry is “getting back to the pump” which is an expression used in public health to describe the work of Dr. John Snow.  Dr. Snow is  often called the father of epidemiology, which is the  study of disease incidence and control.

In 1854 Dr. Snow who was a London physician used geographical co-ordinates to figure out where cholera, which was infecting and killing people in the Broad Street area of  Soho London, was coming from. He traced the disease to  a public water pump on the street. By removing the handle of the pump, and asking patients to wash hands and practice good hygiene the infected water was not consumed and the cholera cases diminished.

Dr. Snow had plotted the domiciles of the people who were infected and were dying looking for patterns and connections. What he found is that all the cholera infected had been drinking water from this one well, which was not very deep and which had been contaminated.

The action of removing the handle of the pump was controversial at the time when it was assumed that disease was airborne, and found in bad scents. By using meticulous locational analysis and a “simple and direct” action, Dr. Snow stopped the deaths and saved lives.

It was this same methodical approach that made the difference in the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic that infected 27 percent of the world’s population.I have written about  how New York City had lower death rates than other cities by instituting four important principles. The City had a “robust” and organized public health infrastructure, the healthy were distanced from the infected, a  citywide public health campaign was launched, and disease surveillance was implemented.

One hundred and two years later  with a pandemic of a virus where there is no vaccine the advice is similar.  Physical distancing,  isolation, hand washing, a robust public health campaign and tracking of disease is paramount.

Dr. Snow had recommended handwashing and hygiene almost 170 years ago to prevent cholera. Even today epidemiologists have estimated that handwashing with soap can reduce diarrhoea by 47 percent and save one million lives in third world countries.

But you can look to the first world too about the need for better handwashing. In a study done in the United Kingdom in gas stations, sensors indicated that only 64 percent of women and 32 percent of men were washing hands with soap. That  indicates  that even with the knowledge of what to do, that failed in practice.

Read more »

In one of those stories that you have to see to believe, a herd of Kashmiri goats have taken over a village in Wales. Because of a Covid-19 lockdown in the Welsh village of  Llandudno the goats have no one to tell them to stay in their hilly habitat and away from the town~and the town gardens.  Llandudno is a seaside resort on the Irish Sea and has a population just over 20,000. That is humans.

Llandudno is surrounded by sheer limestone cliffs called the Great Orme. That area is host to many species of birds, and of course are the perfect environment for goats. It also is the place of the longest toboggan run in Great Britain, which is 750 meters long.

Surprisingly the goats are actually mentioned in the town’s official page,with a rather flowery excerpt from a booklet called “Aliens of the Great Orme”. In the 1800’s a man bought a few  Kashmir sheep that had been imported to France from India.  Squire Christopher Tower brought the goats to Llandudno and with their fleece made a cashmere shawl that was presented to King George IV. This started a trend for cashmere shawls, and of course King George IV got a couple of the Kashmiri goats too.

While goats have been attributed to eat just about anything, it appears the Great Orme goats which have gone feral are more discerning. They eat ” elder, gorse, hawthorn, bracken, bramble, ivy, stinging nettles and privet, according to the time of year.”

Well not these goats. They are now roaming through the streets and into gardens with the manager of the Landsdowne House Hotel saying “They are becoming more and more confident with no people, adding that its saves him cutting his hedge.”

Read more »

The idea of closing roads for pedestrians and cyclists is nothing new. The popular Ciclovia which originated decades ago in Bogota Colombia closes streets to vehicular traffic on weekends in many South American cities. Residents take over the streets for strolling, rolling and cycling. Bogota’s ciclovia runs on Sundays until 2:00 p.m. and also on major holidays. I have participated in ciclovias in Lima Peru and in Quito Ecuador where major thoroughfares are closed, providing “open streets” for active transportation on Sundays.

The COVID-19 pandemic provides an unique opportunity to rethink our use of major streets. While the Province’s Medical Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry encourages walking and rolling for exercise and mental and physical health, she is also cognizant that people need to stay six feet or two meters apart in their small family groups.

That’s where the problem is. As I have written earlier,  sidewalks in Vancouver are just not wide enough. The standard for new sidewalks varies from 1.2 meters wide to 1.8 meters wide and does not offer enough space for two people to pass each other safely with  the Covid-19 required distance.  Sure you can spill onto the street, but that’s not something someone with a baby carriage or assistive device can curb jump to do.

It also is telling how clumsy we are at imagineering more space for pedestrians. We know how to put in bike lanes adjacent to sidewalks , but we just are not good at giving walkers and rollers more space.

But look at Calgary and Winnipeg.  Madeline Smith of the Calgary Herald reports the City of Calgary is doing a demonstration test by closing six major roadways on weekends to give their citizens places to walk. They are all located close to where people live, and provide an opportunity to get out and exercise with close family members without worrying about being too close to other people. If you are familiar with Calgary, you will appreciate the scale of the closures, which are listed here.

The Mayor of Calgary Naheed Nenshi made it clear that the street closures were for exercise, and not for crowded gatherings of any kind. And he provides a very clear rationale for why these weekend closures are happening-to keep physical distance and to allow people to exercise.

“It’s going to be much more along the lines of just making sure that if we need to use roadway space so that people have room, we will do so.”

In the Calgary case, the routes run close to parks and the river valley, offering people the chance to make a loop during their exercise routines. With an  effective first closure, Calgary is looking at extending these closures for weekends during the pandemic.

Read more »