History & Heritage
October 15, 2020

VCPC Panel: Aftershock, Looking Back at 1918 for a View of the Future

A century after the 1918 Flu, Vancouver is once again grappling with the effects of a pandemic. The boundaries between past and present begin to blur when we look closely at what happened in 1918 and where we are now.

Linking the past to our future, the Vancouver City Planning Commission’s Chronology Project is holding a panel discussion 102 years after that heartbreaking day when the virus claimed so many lives – October 27, 2020 – to explore how the 1918 influenza changed Vancouver and whether we should anticipate similar changes in the months and years ahead. The panel is part of a VCPC series of discussions on the post-pandemic city.


Mary Rowe, President and CEO of the Canadian Urban Institute.

Dr. Kelley Lee is a Canada Research Chair Tier I Professor of Public Health at Simon Fraser University.

John Atkin is a civic historian, author and heritage consultant.

Additional panelists to be confirmed.

Moderator Uytae Lee produces produces a video column with CBC Vancouver called About Here


Tuesday, October 27

7:00 – 8:30 pm PDT

Online Event


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Here’s more data showing  that simple changes to speed and design of city roads can make all the difference in reducing pedestrian and cyclist fatalities and serious injury.

Planner Eric Doherty posted this article from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety that shows that ‘centreline hardening’ using rubber curbs and bollards at intersections to force drivers to slow down and proceed carefully through intersections  reduces left-turn speeds and increases safety for pedestrians in the intersection.

In the United States pedestrian fatalities have risen 53 percent from 2009 to 2018 and are 17% of all traffic deaths. As over half of Vancouver’s fatalities are with turning movements in intersections, tightening the corner for drivers to proceed slowly would also be safer for pedestrians.

Seattle’s Transportation Engineering champion Dongho Chang has reported out on the implementation of leading pedestrian intervals at forty locations in Seattle.

I have written about Leading Pedestrian Intervals that give pedestrians an advanced green crossing time ahead of car traffic, enabling a pedestrian to be well into the intersection before any driver turning movements through the same space.  The leading interval time is usually between six to eight seconds.  Over 2,200 of these devices  have been installed in New York City which has seen a 56 percent reduction in pedestrian and cyclist fatalities.

In one year Seattle has seen a 33 percent reduction in pedestrian collisions  with the installation of Leading Pedestrian Intervals compared with three years of previous data at the same intersections.

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As it becomes clearer that we simply can’t drive our way out of congestion, some cities like Paris are planning on keeping walking and cycling as the main way to get around within busy downtown areas. I have already written about the City of London England which sees the continuation of wider sidewalks with more amenities and the placement of more protected bike lanes as Covid infrastructure that will stay.

These are not new trends, but simply the acceleration of trends that were already in place, to have cities and places that were designed for people to live in place and walk, roll or cycle to schools, shops and services in a two kilometer area.

Fiona Harvey of The Guardian writes about  health innovations . It was researchers at the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP)  that have developed a scale to assess “walkable cities”~those places that ” improve health, cut climate-heating transport emissions and build stronger local communities and economies.”

Surprise! Cities in the United States rank pretty low on those parameters as they are dominated by vehicles and vehicular infrastructure which makes an easy walk to and from a commercial area pretty impossible.

The following criteria were used: the number of people living within one hundred meters of parks, streets for walking only, and squares;  the number of people that are living within a kilometer of healthcare and education; and the average size of city blocks (smaller is better for walkers and means less detouring).

Of course those walkable places also have lower air pollution, a less obese population, “more children’s play time, fewer road deaths and better performing local businesses, as well as reduced inequality. Walkable places are safer too.

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There’s  a lot of content in free webinars and some real opportunities to learn more about emerging areas of planning. The Centre for Conscious Design has an impressive list of fellows including neuroscientist Dr. Robin Muzumder. 

They also have an ambitious set of free webinars straddling many of the major cities across the globe. Here is the chance to hear from practitioners in other places, as well as our own cities.

You can take a look at three upcoming webinars on Conscious City’s Toronto link. From October 19th to the 23rd they are hosting a “Shaping the Equitable City” event. One webinar is “Harnessing Change”.

How can evidence-based design be used to strengthen the wellbeing of entire communities?
Communities from coast to coast have been using DIALOG’s Community Wellbeing Framework to guide conversations on meaningfully improving their wellbeing–through the design of a park, the planning of a neighbourhood, or the construction of a building. Geared to grassroots organizers, designers and place-makers of all capacities, this workshop equips participants with the tools to facilitate design processes for wellbeing in their own communities.

Presenter: Antonio Gómez-Palacio Principal, Planning & Urban Design
Antonio’s professional experience and research focuses on the intersection of architecture, planning, and urban design. An informative and engaging speaker, he’s internationally recognized for transforming cities into vibrant urban places that respond to their social, economic, and environmental contexts. Antonio has worked on a wide range of projects focused on urban intensification, master planning, mixed-use, transit, heritage, economic development, and sustainability. His project work includes light-rail transit (LRT) projects for Mississauga, Brampton, and Edmonton, downtown plans for Halifax and Regina, and campus plans for Seneca College and Laurentian University.

Date: Thursday October 22, 2020

Time: 2:00 p.m. Pacific Time

Click on this link for further information.

Images: ConsciousCity,ActiveHouseSymposium

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Last week the Duke of Data, Director of the  City Program at Simon Fraser University Andy Yan and I ventured to do some retail market research at Tsawwassen Mills Mall. I have written about this merchandising mega mall since before its inception and covered its opening day. The CBC interviewed retail consultant David Gray four years ago who said

“It’s not going to be a slam dunk They’re not going to be a convenience mall or mall for locals. Sure, locals will shop there, but for them to be successful, they’re going to be what’s known as a destination mall or a mall where people are going to make some pretty major time investments for their shopping trips.”

Mr. Gray was right. The mall has had challenges attracting staff and now provides buses for employees to get to the mall and back. And while there was a burst of interest when the mall first opened, it has not been able to keep all the shops open with approximately 20 percent creatively shuttered behind facade treatment that blend into the mall decor.

A walk around the mall does provide 2.5 kilometers of walking. But it is a huge space to maintain with 1,100,000 square feet and has 188 storefronts.

At the time of opening the mall, which is the third in the Ivanhoe Cambridge  mega mall stable along with Cross Iron Mills near Calgary and Vaughan Mills near Toronto hopes were higher for retail success. Ivanhoe Cambridge saw this location as centred in the third largest urban area in Canada, and felt that traffic would come from all over the region. With the mall’s location near the ferry terminal and connecting to Highway 99, customers spend the most time at the mall than any other in the developer’s portfolio, 113 minutes.

But think of that~they have driven 30 minutes if they came from Vancouver, and just the size of the mall means that you are spending a lot of time just traversing the place from one store to another.

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Everyone knows someone who has been “doored”. That’s the awful mishap that happens when you are riding a bike along a line of parked cars and someone opens a driver’s door and the bike and you make contact with the door. There have been many serious injuries and fatalities that have resulted from this awful, and very avoidable experience. Drivers are simply not trained to look behind before opening the driver door of vehicles when exiting.

Last month the Province of British Columbia increased the fines for opening the door of a parked car when it is not safe to do so to $368, four times the current fine of $81. But the second part, teaching a good method to ensure that drivers specifically checked behind their parked cars before exiting, was not addressed.

Of course the Dutch have already thought about this and have developed the “Dutch Reach”.

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If you missed the excellent discussion sponsored by America Walks with planning consultant and author Angie Schmitt and Charles Brown, here’s another opportunity to learn about Ms. Schmitt’s work and new book, “Right of Way” Race, Class and the Silent Epidemic of Pedestrian Deaths in America”.

Angie Schmitt is one of the best-known writers in the United States on the topic of sustainable transportation and she was a long-time reporter  for Streetsblog USA. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Atlantic, Bicycling, and GOOD. 

Last year, 6,590 people were hit and killed while walking in the United States — the highest number in 30 years.

In the new book, Right of Way: Race, Class, and the Silent Epidemic of Pedestrian Deaths in America, journalist Angie Schmitt shows us that these deaths are not unavoidable “accidents.” They don’t happen because of jaywalking or distracted walking. They are predictable, and occur in geographic patterns that tell a story about systemic inequality and the undeterred reign of the automobile in our cities. The victims are disproportionately people of color, immigrants, and poor. Far too often, the victims are unfairly blamed and forgotten.

Join us in diving into the research and realities behind why pedestrians are dying, and how we can imagine and demand safer, equitable cities here in the Bay Area.

Moderated by Marta Lindsey, Walk San Francisco’s communications director.

Co-presented by Walk San Francisco, SPUR, and Island Press.

Date: Wednesday October 14, 2020

Time: 5:00 to 6:00 Pacific Time

To register, please click this link.


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North Van City does it again.  Whenever the City or Park Board of Vancouver looks like they will consider doing something risky – like allowing liquor to be consumed in parks and public spaces – CNV does it first.  Curbside patios?  CNV did it years ago on Lonsdale.

And now as Vancouver just starts the process for the redesign of Beach/Pacific, CNV will redo Esplanade – a six-lane arterial the divides Lower Lonsdale:

The English Bay masterplan is a different kind of project, at a different scale, and definitely not the first time for Vancouver has redone a vehicle-dominant arterial. (Burrard and Hornby Streets!)    But this a major step in Metro for a small municipality to undertake.  Not without some nervousness.

The Esplanade) corridor works fairly well for transit, goods movement and people in passenger vehicles. It is, however, not an optimal experience for people on foot, travelling by bike or for local businesses.

Cycling groups have been adamant the street’s bicycle infrastructure must be improved from the current painted bike lanes sandwiched between the road and the curbside parking.

Coun. Holly Back signaled she would be very protective of parking out front of businesses.  “That’s a major concern for me, having been in business in lower Lonsdale. I totally understand the safety concerns for cyclists and everyone else but those businesses are going to suffer hugely,” she said, adding she hopes the Lower Lonsdale BIA will be included in the consultations. …

Mayor Linda Buchanan said the city depends on the Esplanade corridor for a lot of things and warned that Complete Street Project will have to balance those many needs.


“This is as a trucking route. We can’t take trucking off of this. It’s a major road network for TransLink, and we do need to be able to move goods,” she said. “I just want to make sure that when we are engaging with the public that they are very clear on what are the givens for this road – what can change and what can’t change.

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