The New York Times takes on the top reason cited by Americans for not biking or walking to work, from a recent survey on active commuting.
That issue? Time.
But, as the Times suggests, the 97 per cent of Americans who don’t use active transportation for commuting may want to rethink their reasoning. Read on >>
Patrick Johnstone is a city councillor for the City of New Westminster as well as a cyclist, writer, and engaged citizen. He’s going to be posting items on New Westminster’s Innovation Week, and has invited everyone to attend the events for the City’s eight day events for Innovation Week. You can also go to Patrick’s website here at https://patrickjohnstone.ca . Here’s Patrick’s first post:
Starting on February 23, New Westminster is running its second annual Innovation Week, an 8-day-long series of events celebrating how innovation in technology and organization can transform a City.
New Westminster is investing in becoming a smarter city through what it calls an Intelligent City Initiative. Innovation Week is a showcase for this model, and an opportunity to bring people from around the region together to dream about the cities of a rapidly-arriving internet-empowered information-dependent future.
The opening on Friday evening demonstrates how varied the topic of “innovation” can be. A free public reception in City Hall (511 Royal Ave) will include a digital media show by local students and artists where data from the City’s award-winning Open Data Portal is translated to digital signals that are in turn worked into video and musical performances. If that’s not enough, a local craft brewery will be there to release a Limited Edition brew formulated with the help of the Mayor of New Westminster – Jonathan Cote.
There are many events over the week that should be of interest to people across the region. The theme for 2018 is Transportation, so there will be forums and dialogues on topics like regional transportation and mobility pricing. But there are also discussions about digital inclusion, a livable Cities symposium, Public Art tours and a PechaKucha evening featuring regional transportation and planning thought leaders.
The interactive events of the week include classes for youth on coding and a Hack-a-Thon where teams of programmers will compete to use the City’s Open Data Portal to create apps to solve local government problems or gamify everyday municipal operations. A Business Expo will concentrate on the Tech economy, and a pitch event and forums will bring together Angel Investors and government funding agencies interested in helping new start-ups or established businesses. Through the week, you will be given reasons to dream, and information and resources to make that dream work.
A list of the several events is available on the Innovation Week website:
February 23 – March 3, 2018
Various Locations in New Westminster
Open to the public, most events free (but please register first to help organizers out!)
The iconic Toronto “Honest Ed” site is being redeveloped by Westbank at Bloor and Bathurst in the Annex area. The City of Toronto has gone with a straight up tower form without the podium massing commonly used in Vancouver. The development will have 801 units in five thin towers, the highest tower being 29 storeys. And no, they did not keep the Honest Ed’s sign intact, it was demolished. Spacing Toronto had a draw for a few light bulbs from the sign, as well as part of the sign with the letter “O”.
The City of Toronto has also launched a film series called “Street Level” and in the first film “Senior Planner Graig Uens explains how the redevelopment plans for Mirvish Village evolved based on community feedback & the City’s own planning policies”.
It is a fascinating take on how Toronto sees itself, its policies (the bike lanes!) and its processes. Graig’s talk describes the public process to get to the 29 storey tower massing, and mentions some of the heritage facade retention. The short film has a feel like the City of Angels film where Nicholas Cage viewed Los Angeles from the roof tops. Films on what city planners actually do are scarce~kudos to the City of Toronto for including their planner.
You can check it out here.
Various media sources including the Vancouver Sun have reported on the City of Vancouver Engineering’s plan to reduce 80 to 90 city metered parking spaces in Yaletown’s five blocks around the rather funky Mainland and Hamilton Street retail area. The area to be impacted is the metered angle parking that serves the commercial businesses. One, a flower shop, needs the space for commercial deliveries that occur several times a day. The Yaletown Business Improvement Area’s executive director, Annette O’Shea calls this parking reduction “absolutely devastating” and stated “There’s been no consultation whatsoever. The residents don’t know what’s going on, businesses don’t know what’s going on. We know we’re going to lose some parking. We totally accept that we’re going to lose some parking,” she said.But to have this slash-and-burn mentality of we’re going to lose all the parking, it’s totally unacceptable.”
The metered parking spaces to be chopped are among the top cash cow performers in the City of Vancouver parking meter stable, which brings in $50 million dollars a year, or over $4 million dollars a month.
The rationale for the stripping of metered parking is “safety” according to the City of Vancouver Fire Department. Unlike the rest of the downtown, these Yaletown streets uniquely have a street on the front and back of each building instead of a skinny back lane. This means that any fires can be accessed and fought from both sides of the building.
Street space been an ongoing issue for the last thirty years where the Fire Department has consistently asked the Engineering Department for less parking and even street widening for their vehicles in the West End. Traffic circles were considered bad for fire trucks until computer programs proved that they could easily negotiate around them, or use their edges. Speed bumps were also considered bad for fire trucks, not because of elapsed emergency time, but because firemen hit their heads on the truck roofs with the bumps.
Price Tags Vancouver has already reported about the City of San Francisco obtaining eight new fire trucks that are ten inches shorter and can make a u-turn in twenty-five feet. These trucks are being commissioned for the less wide and more curving street network in the downtown area. The new trucks also have cameras that give a 360 degree view around the engine for pedestrian and cyclist safety according to Vision Zero principles.
The City of Vancouver is holding a public meeting on February 22 at the Roundhouse Community Center between 2:00 and 8:00 p.m to discuss proposed changes.
Gord Price: I’ve been predicting the rise of the “Transportation Service Provider” – a consolidator of every mode of movement imaginable, integrated with technology, and designed to provide consumers with a suite of services for which they pay, as with telecommunications, one provider with a lot of money. Assuming a single provider or oligopoly can emerge.
So look to see some of the giants try to get even bigger and more diverse as fast as possible in order to dominate the market. Here’s the latest example.
SAN FRANCISCO — It’s Uber, but for bicycles.
For the first time in Uber’s history, the company is offering rides on roads in the United States using something other than cars. Starting next week, it will let certain users in San Francisco reserve pedal-assist electric bicycles through its app. The idea is that people will see the bicycles as a cheaper and faster alternative — not a huge stretch of the imagination for anyone who has been stuck in Friday evening gridlock traffic in San Francisco.
Uber is not supplying its own bicycles. It is working with Jump Bikes, a bike-sharing service that secured a permit in January to put 250 motorized bicycles — making it easier to tackle San Francisco’s steep hills — in locations throughout the city.
The pilot program is the latest indication of Uber’s ambitions to move beyond its ride-hailing origins. It is also working on autonomous trucking services, while aggressively expanding into the food delivery market with Uber Eats.
No one will argue with advocating for better walking facilities~wider sidewalks, brushed concrete with non-glare finishes, benches and amenities to make walking and wayfinding by foot in Metro Vancouver safe, comfortable and convenient. The very same can be said about having separated bike lanes so that cyclists no matter what their age and ability can safely and conveniently cycle. Studies have shown that people who walk or cycle to local shops and services go more often and spend more on a monthly basis than people who travel by cars. Biking instead of driving reduces air pollution, provides exercise and increases health. Being active is vital for personal and community health, connection and society. Biking does that. It’s the right thing to encourage.
So why is it that this is not universally recognized as something that all members of Vancouver City Council advocate? Why is the NPA, one of the parties on Vancouver Council voting against bike lane development, most notably on the Cambie Street bridge that has already seen a decrease in vehicular traffic since 2010 and an increase in people choosing to cycle? At most, car traffic will experience a ten second delay with the implementation of the recently approved trial bike lane.
Adrienne Tanner in the Globe and Mail observed that “It seems that almost everyone in the world except the NPA accepts that separated bike lanes are safer – and cities are rushing to build them. Manhattan is spending millions on more protected bike lanes (they already have 725 kilometres), and Portland has made them the default design for all new construction. Other Canadian cities, such as Calgary and Edmonton, are adding separated lanes. And Montreal’s new mayor has plans to more than double the number of protected lanes in her city.”
Jimmy Thompson in The Tyee makes it even clearer. Protected bike lanes reduce cyclist injuries and increase the volumes of people cycling. Women are more likely to commute by bike with protected bike lanes. Bike lanes mean fewer conflicts, and in Toronto driving times actually decreased by several minutes in the Bloor Street Bike Lane Study..
In the Vancouver NPA’s policy page from the summer of 2017 they maintain the “support of properly planned bike lanes that do not negatively impact our city, its residents, or businesses. We believe bike lanes can be built with the safety of residents in mind, while also having a positive effect on traffic flow and mobility that does not negatively impact the movement of goods and services or sacrifice ease of access to local businesses.” Why are they not supporting them?
Having separated bike lanes means that people who normally drive can try biking, and those that do not give up driving will have less congestion on the road. In a Canadian city with arguably one of the best year round climates for biking, the development of separated bike lanes should be championed, not discouraged. It’s time to get on the same page for developing a city that is safe, comfortable and convenient for all active transportation users, many of whom will be looking at party policy for voting in the next municipal election.
photo credit: Jean @cyclewriteblog
The Retail Council of Canada has released its annual report on how Canada’s shopping malls are doing. Canada’s top malls continue to thrive, but “disruption and re-invention” has been key while “e-commerce” (the Amazoning of retail space) continues to grow. With Sears Canada declaring bankruptcy there’s going to be over 15 million square feet of space available in malls across Canada. That’s the size of fifteen Tsawwassen Mills mega malls.
The report notes that shopping centres are now featuring “food halls” and full-sized restaurants, and are creating “experiences” that are entertaining and enjoyable. Pop up retail is continuing in popularity, and some of the top mall developers are reviewing options to add housing and other institutions to their shopping mall locations.
What is interesting is that most of these high achieving locations are not suburban malls, but are in urban locations close by density and good transit accessibility to shops and services. Four of the busiest malls nationally are in urban cores-Toronto Eaton’s Centre, Vancouver’s Pacific Centre, the Rideau Centre and the CORE shopping centre in Calgary. As the report notes “In the United States, none of the country’s top 10 malls are downtown. This can be attributed to factors including stronger urban cores in Canada as well as a combination of history, culture, downtown population concentration and mix, investment priorities, and transit access when compared to most cities south of the border.”
While Oakridge makes the most of B.C. malls at $1,579.00 per square foot, the lowest performing B.C. mall in the top thirty, Coquitlam reaps $879.00 per square foot. Compare that with the early indicators from Tsawwassen Mills which used to be available on the Ivanhoe Cambridge site, showing a meagre $279.00 per square foot on retail space.
You can take a look at the report available here on pedestrian traffic to shopping malls and other details. The Metro Vancouver region continues to have the highest average total sales productivity in Canada with $1,051 per square foot. It will be interesting to see how Tsawwassen Mills built on the most arable floodplain farmland in Canada, away from density and good transit will stack up next to Vancouver’s high performance more urban malls once the developer releases the sales per square foot statistics.
Without any official stats on Tsawwassen Mills Price Tags Vancouver is sharing a youtube video by Ivanhoe Cambridge. The video features a bunch of similar looking men, no women, no diversity as talking heads describing the developer’s philosophy and how this 1.2 million square foot mall was designed and built. It’s worth noting that in this video the talking heads state that the mall will be the centre of the community which “will build around it”. Here’s hoping they will share Tsawwassen Mills’ retail statistics soon.
The Van Bikes. ca blog is a lovely collection of stories about cycling advocacy and people that have supported advocacy, some for decades. Written by Colin Stein, you can take a look at the website at http://www.VanBikes.ca
The website has followed up on some pretty interesting advocates. Recently, Ken Ohrn, the co-editor of Price Tags Vancouver was featured with his story about living in Vancouver and becoming a cycling advocate. It’s a testament about will, being determined, giving back, and achievement. It’s so fun we’ve included the entire interview below.
A veteran of the Air Force, an engineer, and a former aerospace sector executive, Ken’s side hustle had typically been physical fitness. Not local politics. Life’s too short. So he didn’t really know what he was getting into when, in his sixth decade and no longer interested in knee-punishing, charley-horse-inducing long distance runs, he pulled his old bike out of the basement and dusted it off.
It started out innocuous enough.
“I discovered that a bike is a wonderful way to maintain fitness. You can get into cardio to as great or as little extent as you want.If you’re just going to go to the grocery store for a litre of milk, it’s leisurely and easy. If you want to do a long ride, you can push it, you can go up hills and so on. So you can peg your cardio wherever you want. A downtown resident today, at that time he lived nine kilometres outside the core — about 30 minutes, an ideal distance for breaking a sweat and getting the heart rate up.”
So one day he decided to go for it.
“I was thinking about going to the library downtown, and I thought, what the hell I’ll take my bike. It turned out to be easy, and fast — just as fast as taking my car, parking it, walking to the library, and so on. But I was really anxious about it. I didn’t really know all the unspoken and all the unwritten rules, and even the written rules about how to ride in a busy city. There were parts of it that were just horrifying — riding on Homer, narrow parked cars…it was just awful. But I made it. Give up? Not exactly. That’s what I like about engineers, they keep thinking about ways to get around the problem. Whereas I would have taken that as a signal that I didn’t belong there. I might have gone back to my artsy hovel and written slam poetry about the experience, or baked an angry-looking banana bread. “
But to generalize as broadly as I possibly can, most engineers (or fine, ALL engineers) are problem solvers. So Ken did what any good problem-solver does.
“I thought, somebody knows more about this than me. There’s always somebody who knows more. And I started looking around and, lo and behold, I found the Vancouver Area Cycling Coalition, who had a course. So I signed up. And I nearly walked out in the first half hour. Because I thought what the instructor was saying was crazy and dangerous.
“You belong on the road. If you’re coming to an intersection and you need to make a turn, take the lane. Get in there, position yourself in the lane, signal, make your turn.”
I thought that’s nuts. That’s totally crazy. Even if you’re comfortable cycling on the road, you may also be familiar with the style of cycling he was used to. It’s a style that now, upon reflection, was a terribly strange thing for someone to get used to.”
If you’re an urban planner, you live for this kind of stuff (or you’re responsible for it, you smack your forehead).
“I was cycling as a kind of enhanced pedestrian.
If I came to an intersection and I needed to make a left turn, I would stop, get off my bike, cross in the crosswalk, wait for the light, cross — unless there was absolutely no traffic.”
Problem-solver that he was, Ken took the information the VACC instructor gave him, compared it to the evidence, and came to a conclusion. They’re all still alive, so it must be something.
“I’ll do it. I’ll spend a month or two months, and I’ll make these lessons a habit. I’ll do what they said, and I’ll see what happens. If I die, well you know, that’s the downside.
What happened was that by about the middle of the second month, cycling had changed — from being mostly good but a tremendous producer of anxiety, to something that was simple, easy and fun. Because what they taught worked. Really worked.
So that anxiety disappeared and it was replaced with informed watchfulness. I knew what to look for, and I knew how to behave, and I knew where the problems were likely to be, and I could manage it easily. Nothing to it. It was a huge change.If you’re a child of the ’70s, you may remember a commercial for an electric shaver with the tagline, “I liked the shaver so much, I bought the company!”
Well, Ken liked the bike education experience so much, he joined the Board of the VACC.
“It was a time of transition. At the time I joined, the VACC was a very small organization, and, with due respect to everybody, with really limited horizons. The organization was not business-like at all. If I had to characterize them charitably, I would say that it was a debating society. I was really upset in the first three or four Board meetings, because somebody would bring up a topic — the latest outrage from the paper about helmet laws — and away we’d go. And an hour and a half later we’d still be going around in circles. That didn’t make any sense at all.”
So what was Ken’s contribution? Planning. Decisions about the capital budget. Helping steer it towards being more business-like. And ultimately, passing along some of the structures, systems and knowledge that would help the organization grow beyond his own ability to help it, more of a good thing that it may sound like. Perhaps not exactly what Ken may have meant, but having worked at HUB as staff, and having seen how the Board operates about a decade past his time, it appears succession planning was an important part of his time with the organization.
“A new crop of people came on about two years before I left, and we set up a very good vision, a very good set of values, and a very good set of objectives of what we want to do.
We had a vision for a committee structure that was five or ten years into the future, and then we smoothed it down into something that worked for the current day.
And the whole organization’s effectiveness went boom, just leaped up into the sky.”
In addition to helping cultivate a new breed of directors for the VACC Board, Ken also had a hand in filling the Executive Director spot when it opened up in 2010. It was an important hiring process, one which helped further stabilize the organization. And one which helped retain an important member of the advocacy community.
Erin was the obvious choice. And it was a good one.
“Of course, leadership is where an organization’s effectiveness comes from. It doesn’t come from anywhere else, it all comes from the top down.
And they’ve got it. HUB’s got it in spades.”
Ken moved on from the Board, but stayed quite close. An avid photographer since childhood, his retirement life began to include an almost singular focus on capturing cycling lifestyle and culture in all its forms. (“Somebody riding with their kids. The middle-aged woman with her groceries. Two people riding together on upright bikes wearing ordinary clothes. Images which are mainstream and normalized. The image of cycling.”) For a funded but still cash-strapped charity, contributions like free and full rights to Ken’s photographs, I can personally attest to, were critical, because they helped tell the story of cycling.
And contributions like his point to another important aspect of the advocacy sector, which may be intuitive to those familiar with non-profits, but perhaps not to those who think those organizations just run themselves. That is the power of volunteers, and one demographic pocket so important to the ongoing training and development of that segment of the workforce. People who are newly retired generally have a lot of experience, a lot of skills — writing, business, finance, who knows what.
So recent retirees are very attractive to any advocacy organization. I tell people who are newly retired — if you’re looking for stuff to do, there are 12 million non-profits out there and they’d love to have you working.
Be careful, because you’ll find yourself with a full-time job.
Photography alone didn’t do quite enough to fill Ken’s dance card, so he began to poke around, make connections between policies and politics, and soon found himself neck-deep in click-bait, bike-bashing articles and op-eds in the online media, around the time of the 2011 municipal elections. “If you ever wonder who has the time and stomach to participate in the ‘comment wars’… “They don’t pay taxes. They should all have to buy insurance.” On and on and on. So I made up standard canned rebuttals, I just cut and pasted these things, saved a lot of time. But as the election drew nearer, and the conversation got hotter, I got a death threat. I was using a pseudonym. They scoured through bicycle advocacy, they found my photograph on the HUB website and the fact that I was interested in photographs. My screen name was Camera Ken. So there’s Ken, interested in photographs, on HUB, got my name out of the phone book, phoned me at home, and threatened to kill me. Wow indeed. I just laughed and hung up. I phoned the police. They were very supportive. What I said at the time, and it’s still true, is that nastiness will only make me redouble my efforts. It’s going to make me even stronger and more likely to keep doing what I’m doing.”
Ken ended up becoming quite politically aware, and of course his experience in 2011 was especially galvanizing. As it was for the entire cycling community, especially with the likes of the now NPA party openly waving an anti-bike flag, and hoping to catch some flies. He recalls mayoral candidate Suzanne Anton declaring her intention, if elected mayor with a majority NPA council, to place a moratorium on bike lanes and to “take out” those they deemed beyond fixing, whatever that would have meant at the time. Nobody heard the qualifications. “We’ll take them out.” That was the message for the base. Lo and behold, they got their asses handed to them in the election. They were wiped out from council. Likewise in 2014. They had a less strident anti-bike program, but the mayoral candidate promised to revisit those bike lanes.
They also didn’t do particularly well. Plenty of editorials came out after the election around the city saying, look you guys, this anti-bike thing is a total loser.
In 2015, former City of Vancouver councillor and NPA outlier Gordon Price offered Ken to co-edit his popular, Vancouver-focused urban issues blog, Price Tags.
As adept a writer as he is a photographer, Ken leapt at the chance, and has been posting regularly ever since.
“I maintain a focus on cycling, because in the public conversation, the wind blows from positive to negative, back and forth, and if you don’t have a constant stream of reinforcing messages, the negative ones can start to dominate.
Politicians decide where the money is spent. We run the risk of electing the wrong people for the wrong reason, and having big chunks of this undone.
That’s a risk, and it’s within the realm of possibility. If the NPA had gotten elected in 2011 we wouldn’t have anything. If you think your vote doesn’t matter, or you think politics is a bunch of bullshit and it doesn’t matter, think about this next time you’re on the seawall or on a bike lane somewhere. Think about it. People can take that away.”
That’s all a bit scary to consider, so let’s end on an up-note.
Like that summer Ken’s sister-in-law Robin visited from Philadelphia. As Ken puts it, Philly — seriously, can I call you Philly? — is a total car city. (“She lives out in some suburb, there’s not even sidewalks. You have to get in your car, and it’s all ringed and criss-crossed with freeways.”)
She asked Ken to take her on a bike ride, and it was one of those glorious, south coast days. And the pianos were out, and of course Robin happens to be a music teacher.
“So we got on our bikes, we went to the aquarium, we went to the seawall where the pianos were. I’ve got a great photograph of her playing at the trade and convention centre, right at the pier that goes out into the ocean. And there are people dancing.
We’re finally heading back home again, and we’re at the lights at Cambie and 10th. And she pulls up beside me, “Hey Ken” she says, “I figured out what this is. This is transportation!”
I said, “Yes Robin, this is transportation.”
Ken Ohrn image
A unanimous pick by the Price Tags editors for the most Potentially Polarizing Planning Work~The Amazon solicitation from cities right across North America for its first location outside of Seattle. Why? Amazon says it will invest 5 billion dollars (those would be American dollars) in the construction of its second headquarters. Of course over 238 proposals came from cities putting in a bid to Amazon to become the second headquarters. Amazon has had those bids since the middle of October and plans to make the grand announcement in 2018.
And here is where it is polarizing. Of course Vancouver put in a bid, as reported by Price Tags Vancouver here. But there is a good side and a bad side to this. While 50,000 Amazon staff workers would be located here, they will all need a place to live. And while Amazon will bring in new money and salaries, will those tens of thousands of high paying jobs also raise the salaries of local Vancouverites not working with Amazon? Or will those high paying jobs in Amazon make the Vancouver market more unaffordable?
Amazon did have some basic requirements, asking for a city with a one million person population, an international airport and a place that was “stable and business-friendly”. Oh of course, one more thing~Amazon also said “Incentives offered by the state/province and local communities to offset initial capital outlay and ongoing operational costs will be significant factors in the decision-making process.”
Price Tags Vancouver’s Gordie 2017 for most potentially polarizing planning work.
Tom Durning of the Daily Durning sends this article from the Washington Post which quotes our very own City of Vancouver Planner, Gil Kelley. The article is about the millennial age group, the eldest now in their mid thirties. This population cohort stayed in cities, lived in apartments, eschewed vehicle ownership in favour of walking, cycling, car share and transit, and led the way to how we look at cities today, as urban fabrics of connectivity based upon walkable proximity to work, shops and services. It is no surprise that city planners and thinkers want to keep this population of people in cities instead of suburbs as they begin having families and buying houses.
As many are now priced out of buying single family housing in cities, the “missing middle” form of density is coming back into vogue. ” Urban planners, developers and architects are reviving the kinds of homes that might be more familiar to millennials’ great-grandparents: duplexes, triplexes, bungalows, rowhouses with multiple units, and small buildings with four to six apartments or condos. It’s the kind of housing that fell out of fashion after World War II, when young families and others fled cities for the houses, driveways and ample yards of the burgeoning suburbs… It hits the middle in scale — larger than a typical detached single-family home but smaller than a mid- or high-rise — and typically serves people with middle-class incomes.”
The City of Vancouver is now looking at new housing forms in duplexes and townhouses, which will provide more of the ‘missing middle” of housing density. “I think it’s very significant that we’re understanding people want to live in the core of urban areas again,” Kelley said. “We’re reversing a 60- to 70-year trend of people moving out to suburbs . . . This is not just a fad for a decade. This is a multi-decade shift.”
There is evidence that millennials do not want to “drive until you qualify” for home ownership, and in the United States this population outnumbers the baby boom generation in population. In the words of Gil Kelley ““It’s a huge wave. They’re demanding a place in the cities and housing that’s affordable to them.”
This ten minute video with University of British Columbia’s Patrick Condon and Scot Hein filmed in early 2017 discusses the “missing middle” housing form, and how it would fit into the Vancouver context.