Cycling
February 5, 2018

Want to Save Lives? Then Champion "Leading Pedestrian Intervals" in Metro Vancouver.


Like most things, when you look at pedestrian crashes and fatalities, these tragedies can be averted in a very simple way~but there is the cost to motordom of not getting on its vehicular way with the briskness drivers have come to expect. Many of the pedestrian fatalities and serious injuries happen when vehicles are turning left through a marked pedestrian crossing when the pedestrian has the right of way.  You can of course go ahead and build substantial infrastructure to narrow streets and build proper infrastructure. But there is one very simple way  to save lives at low-cost.  That is using the “pedestrian interval” as demonstrated in the YouTube video below.

 
As this article in CityLab states “Leading Pedestrian Intervals”  or LPI s  are streetlights that give walkers a head-start before cars venture into an intersection. Given even a few seconds of priority, most people wind up at least halfway into the crosswalk—where they’re plenty visible to drivers—before cars are allowed to go straight or make turns (including the ultra-dangerous left).”
When San Francisco, Los Angeles and Seattle adopted Vision Zero (with the goal of no lives lost to road violence) they also used LPIs at heavily used intersections. “New York City has been a leader, adding 2,201 since 2014 for a total of 2,483 across the boroughs. Now, nearly 20 percent of signalized intersections citywide have LPIs, according to a report by the advocacy group Transportation Alternatives. They give pedestrians a 7- to 10-second head start. Most are located in the city’s highest-risk traffic corridors.
And there are huge cost savings. The average cost of reconfiguring a crosswalk for an LPI is $1,200. As a New York City spokesperson noted “They don’t require any trench digging, concrete pouring, or lane closures. Sometimes new push buttons and controllers are needed; often engineers simply study local traffic patterns and reprogram existing lights.”
Research is showing that the use of LPIs can reduce pedestrian-vehicle collisions by 60 per cent.  A 2016 study of 104 intersections in New York City saw a decline in pedestrian and bike fatalities and severe injuries of  40 per cent. A report done by Transportation Alternatives suggests that these “head-start” lights for pedestrians may be the reason for the huge decline in New York City’s pedestrian fatalities, as many are the result of vehicles failing to yield in intersections. As the executive director of Transportation Alternatives states “Dollar for dollar, this is a really smart, life-saving investment that ought to be a part of any city’s effort to eliminate traffic deaths.”

 

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As reported in the Richmond News seniors who receive Old Age Security and Canada Pension Plan benefits of  $586 and $866 a month respectively are still unable to pay the cost of a bachelor apartment rental in Richmond.The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation statistics show that in 10 years a one bedroom rental unit in Richmond has risen 44 per cent to $1,185 a month.
Few people who have worked all their lives come forward to say they are living below the poverty line. But Judy Lyk, a retired social worker has. A single mother of three was unable to save for retirement and also had financial problems that led to a bankruptcy.  The lack of affordable adequate housing is what Richmond’s  Chimo Community Services calls a “significant contributor to domestic crisis situations.” Ms Lyk was found living in a community shelter and represents the expanding realm of homelessness. One of the first occupants of a 129 unit subsidized rental building, Ms. Lyk is left with $250 a month for food and sundries as the rent even with a subsidy for the small bachelor apartment is $880.
Diane Sugars the executive director of Chimo community services observes “People have this idea of a person with addiction, or a man sitting in a doorway. It’s not that; it’s changed. It’s seniors, yes, but it’s also families who are faced with the inability to meet their rent. If they’re evicted, they struggle to find a place with affordable rent.” While an additional 130 subsidized units have been built annually in Richmond, more subsidized rental units are needed especially for families and seniors who “fall off the ladder” in a tight housing market.

 

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As cities mature and the population ages, the classic use of cars as the main way to get places is no longer an option for many seniors. Statistics Canada has reported that in 2009 nearly 30 per cent of seniors with licences have Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia.  In 2009 that total was 20,000 people. As reported in Vox.com “Americans are getting older: 14 percent are currently over the age of 65, and that’s expected to surpass 20 percent by 2030. Modern medicine has extended people’s lifespans — and people are spending more years with less physical independence. And yet a smaller percentage of seniors move in with family or to retirement homes than in the past.” 
What that means is that there are a whole bunch of senior citizens that should not be driving or cannot drive that live in areas that are car oriented, without good transit connections. Those communities that were seen as perfect for young families with station wagons and SUV’s are not easily connected by transit or alternative ride share services for people without wheels. In the United States, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that drivers over the age of 75 are more likely to be in fatal crashes. Drivers over the age of 85 years of age are more likely to be in fatal crashes than teenagers.
Seniors who are isolated have lower life expectancies and poorer health. While 90 per cent now want to live the rest of their lives in their current home, access to shops, services and social activities like volunteering must continue.  While assisted transit services like HandyDart are available, they must be booked in advance, and are often not on time. Some communities are planning ‘lifetime Communities” districts, which incorporate shops, services, parks and community centres that can all be reached by walking or a wheelchair. Other experts see Uber or Lyft as being vital to fill the gap between HandyDart and the use of a personal car, indeed even calling on cities to name ride sharing as part of paratransit services, with Uber and Lyft even delivering groceries and goods to seniors. These ride share services will provide “an easy means of getting around for people who can no longer drive — allowing millions of seniors to remain in their homes without becoming isolated.” 
It is already being reported that seniors are comprising up to 40 per cent of  Uber rides taken in some communities. Despite fears that the application would be challenging for seniors to use, it has been accepted, and the app now allows others to book for seniors if they do not have a smart phone.  Up to twenty-two per cent of the seniors’ population are “elder orphans” without spouses or children to provide driving assistance, and ride share provides them with independence.  As one  ninety year old observed:  “I can go wherever I want – the road is endless with Uber.”

 

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If you have been walking on Seymour Street between Robson and Smithe you have probably heard it~kind of a high-pitched hissing noise, with a bit of a pulse to it. And no, it is not a heat pump or something related to a building’s air conditioning. That sound is actually a deterrent to keep loiterers and folks that would otherwise chat, sit near, or take up space near the parkade running the noise.
Called the Mosquito, this technology was invented  in Great Britain and has a patented small speaker that produces a high frequency sound that can be heard by people who are 13 to 25 years old. That sound is broadcast at 17 Kilohertz (KHz). For older people, and in this case the Seymour Street sound, the setting is at 8 KHz and can be heard by people of all ages. There’s even a way to put place the Mosquito in a “royalty free” music channel, to ward away teenagers but attract older people. “Classical or Chill-out music that would keep the teenagers away to some extent…Launched in the year 2008, it is popular among clients who prefer to use music as one of the strategies to deal with anti social behavior!”
So back to Seymour Street~as reported by CBC News, a guy walking his dog noticed his pup was upset walking along this block. He found that the noise emanated from a box mounted in a stairwell in a nearby parkade, and was designed to deter people from gathering there. Calling these “audio pigeon spikes” a complaint was made to the City of Vancouver. And apparently others have noticed this noise as well, making walking down the street unpleasant for passersby.
Rob De Luca, public safety director for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, said the devices can be disruptive when used near public spaces, like a busy sidewalk.
“Broadly, these things can raise some concerns,” said De Luca. “The experience can be painful for certain people. It can very much be a blunt instrument. It doesn’t discriminate on people who are offending or not offending — it hits all ears alike.”
It appears that the Mosquito devices are legal in Canada and the complaint has been forwarded to the Vancouver Police Department.  It is worth checking out the comments section of the CBC article where commenters have listed other locations where these Mosquito devices are installed. And if you want to hear how annoying the Mosquito noise is, you can hear this sound by following this link.

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The last Gordie Award of 2017 goes to the people and youth of Vancouver that stood up to ensure that the disenfranchised could have a shot at temporary modular housing that was to be located in Marpole. The  owner of the site at 59th and Heather had agreed that the city could build two temporary structures of 39 units each to house tenants that were over 45 years of age, with many with physical and medical disabilities. Fourteen of these units would be wheelchair accessible and staff would be available around the clock. Priority was to be given to the local homeless that rely on St. Augustine’s Church nearby to eat.
Local residents received notification from the City about the location of the modular housing and several reacted in protest not wanting this housing located in their community.
Kudos to the students at neighbouring  Sir Winston Churchill Secondary School who researched the issue and then spoke out.  They believed in YIMBY, “yes in my back yard”. As a member of Marpole Students for Modular Housing stated “I do understand that people can be set in their ways and they aren’t open to that kind of change. But I think this is one of those changes that is important for the benefit of our society as a whole and for our community being a better place in general…“I think the majority of the fear is not the fault of the individual, but the fault of society as a whole.”
The students held their own rally supportive of the modular housing and spoke for the inclusion of the people who will be living in the housing .The project is expected to be operational in early winter 2018.

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The Gordie Award for the 2017 most puzzling planning work and process goes to the work occurring around Chinatown and the public process to have people heard. There is no doubt that this neighbourhood is not only one of the oldest in the city, it also has great historical and cultural context and is of national importance.  This community has also suffered from great cultural bias and abject racism in Vancouver’s history.  Price Tags Vancouver and noted journalist Daphne Bramham have been writing about the “deboning” of Chinatown. Retired Vancouver city planners have come back to speak out  on how the City and its development wing has got this wrong from the original context agreed to by the community and by those city planners, and need to get back to the hard-earned principles about this place.  This is not about spot condos~this is about how to maintain and strengthen a community that created Canada, and do the work right.
The most puzzling planning work and process also goes to how citizens of this community were treated at City Council’s public hearings, where people with a second language were required to have their translation time counted within the time alloted for an individual to speak. When the City sent out information that it was reviewing its public process after this embarrassing incident, it was noted that the information was only sent out in English, not in the other major languages used in this city. Every voice is important, and adds to the conversation.  As reporter Ms. Daphne Bramham notes:
“Vancouver’s history is so recent that some of its retelling still hurts. But that is all the more reason this unique neighbourhood and community should be given the help it needs to survive and thrive.”

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Christopher Cheung has written a delightfully fun piece in the Tyee about his foray into the instagram world of people photographing~well, themselves. His office window is smack adjacent to a popular instagram location on the top of a Gastown parkade. These people all came to the top open deck of the parkade to photograph not the area, the view, but themselves. And that is where Christopher’s story begins.
“All visitors have a mobile phone or DSLR in hand. They aren’t there to photograph buildings; they are there to photograph themselves in front of buildings, dressed in a diversity of styles: preppy, street and vintage throwbacks. Most of it is for Instagram. The app has 800 million monthly users (and counting) sharing images from their lives, sharing creative content and connecting over hobbies. Celebrities, small businesses and global companies use it too. Aside from simple portrait photographers, there are other surprises. I’ve seen skateboarders record tricks on video. I’ve seen TV crews shoot fight scenes. I’ve seen teens set off a bomb of blue smoke for dramatic effect. And, strangest of all, I once saw four guys — all in black, puffy jackets — place a puppy in front of a Ferrari for photos.”
Since most of us would doubt that four duffle coated men would put a small white dog in front of a Ferrari and photograph it on the roofdeck of this rather derelict rooftop parking lot, Christopher provides the photo. Surprisingly even though his office window overlooks the parkade he is largely ignored by the instagrammers. It seems, just like in real life, when someone is in pursuit of a great photo of themselves outside distractions are superfluous. Even taking photos of the instagrammers taking photos was mostly ignored.
“I don’t know why I didn’t think to document these visitors earlier — especially the ones who set off the blue smoke bomb. But from then on, I was determined to capture all who came up to the rooftop to visit.”
And of course Christopher placed his photos of people taking photos on instagram at @lotspotting. He also has a fullsome discussion on the use of instagram in rediscovering these lost corners of the city, and revisits the magic of Vancouver photographer Fred Herzog in the candidness and reality lacking in the instagram staged photos.
“Urban windows are a curious thing. They are part of the voyeurism that is life in a city. Looking through them from the street or looking through one at the street stirs both isolation and intimacy. American artist Edward Hopper captures one such window in Nighthawks, which has become an iconic image of urban loneliness. The painting shows four figures in a downtown diner late at night. They are appear to be strangers, but are sharing a moment together. The perspective is from the outside looking in. Instagram isn’t so different from urban windows.”
 
 
Photos~Christopher Cheung
 
 

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Everyone was pretty excited when Statistics Canada and the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) released a batch of data suggesting that up to 20 per cent of newly built row houses and condos could be owned by foreign investors who do not live in Canada. But as Dan Fumano observes in the Vancouver Sun there may be more to the story, just as Price Tags Vancouver commenters have been noting in their own observations of what was looked at~and what was not~as part of defining who was buying what.
Calling this first data release ““the tip of the iceberg,” Haig McCarrell, director of the Statistics Canada division overseeing the Canadian Housing Statistics Program (CHSP) suggests that the next  data release in the Spring of 2018 may contain further research clarifying some unanswered questions. Non-resident property ownership does not define what happens to that property, and also does not define other ways of registering the title to such property.
“For example, a property owned by a B.C.-incorporated shell company with foreign owners would, for the purposes of this month’s release, count as Canadian-owned, McCarrell said. Eventually, StatsCan wants to determine how much Canadian real estate is owned by “resident corporations with foreign owners.”Another area where McCarrell hopes to shed light is overseas residents buying Canadian properties in the name of spouses or children.
If a foreigner buys a Canadian home with money generated overseas, and puts the property in the name of a child attending school in Canada, it would not count as foreign-owned in this initial StatsCan study. McCarrell said future CHSP research could compare tax filings and property title records to find, for example, certain neighbourhoods with disproportionate numbers of multi-million properties owned by “students” with no declared income.
There’s no doubt that Vancouver’s market is unaffordable to people trying to work and live here. How this is happening and who is holding the property is important. Shell companies that are registered in Canada holding housing units would also be defined as Canadian owned, not foreign, and foreign ownership is defined as anyone whose principal residence is outside of Canada, regardless of country. McCarrell is also looking at the Victoria and Kelowna housing markets as well. The data will provide some benchmarking and will inform decisions on policy on how to create and manage housing for the folks that actually need to live here, and provide needed guidance on where to curb speculation on Vancouver housing as a commodity, not a necessity.

Source: Statistics Canada

 
 

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David Hulchanski teaches housing and community development at the University of Toronto and was a professor at the University of British Columbia in the 1980’s. In December he came to Vancouver to give the Warren Gill lecture at Simon Fraser University on The Socio-Spatial Restructuring of Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal. Dr. Hulchanski has been researching the  growing divide between the rich and the poor in Vancouver  where the west side and downtown areas are becoming more wealthy, the middle class is moving more to the east side, and the lowest income population is leaving the city entirely. This wave of change is counter to the changes that intuitively happen in most cities. Dr. Hulchanski was quoted in this article by Jen St. Denis of Metro NewsPeople are being excluded from specific parts of the region by income. That’s always gone on, but it’s massively going on now. This is a spatial segregation of people.”
Dr. Hulchanski was critical of the federal government’s newly announced Housing Strategy which has a confusing set of objectives, but believes more locally supported policy like Vancouver’s new housing plan is important.  The local strategy envisions 36,000 housing units for those earning less than $80,000 a year. He also described the impact of private and public trends and policies in cities, noting ” A just city demands that all developments must be in the service of everyone.”   If you missed the lecture, the video is now up on Simon Fraser University’s City Program Channel at this link.

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There are a lot of unsung heroes in Vancouver that care deeply about place and culture, and recognizing that some elements of the City are important enough to fight for. Melody Ma is one of the emerging voices in Vancouver who quite simply, calls it like it is. The City of Vancouver has just announced a public process review~but as Melody points out on social media, this process is being announced in English, despite the fact that there are significant other language groups in the city. When the public hearing for 105 Keefer was held, people who required English translation to speak to Council had that translation service counted as within their alloted speaking time. Melody and Nat Lowe spoke up about it, and made others aware of this.
Evan Duggan in the Vancouver Sun has written about Ms. Ma who leads the #SaveChinatownYVR group, an organization attempting to hold onto the 130 year history of the Chinatown neighbourhood, which is the largest and most intact Chinatown remaining in North America. (In San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake that Chinatown was rebuilt with Asian references by architects who were not Chinese and who had never been to China.)
Chinatown is not only one of the City’s oldest neighbourhoods, it housed the people who fundamentally built Canada by working on the railways. Price Tags Vancouver has written about  the neglect and “deboning” (as noted columnist Daphne Bramham calls it)  of this area which was the focal point for the 17,000 Chinese labourers who built the railway. This has also the place where their descendants said no to the development of a freeway cleaving Chinatown in the 1970’s. There’s been abject racism, and bias to this area’s conservation~but there is also a resiliency and cultural pride in Chinatown  that is captivating.
As Melody Ma observes“It’s a place … where I went to Chinese school every day, where I learned Chinese dancing every weekend. It’s where I found my identity.” Ma’s involvement with 105 Keefer Street has reawakened a younger generation in Chinatown about the importance of structure, use and function of buildings in this historically signficant areas. “This is a gateway site in Chinatown,” she said, standing next to the war memorial. “If you could imagine a 13- or nine-storey building overlooking this site, it is going to be pretty massive. It is on a site that is surrounded by these amazing cultural assets,” she said, referring to the Chinese Cultural Centre and Dr. Sun Yat-sen Gardens.
A new generation of people with attachments to Chinatown are now actively reviewing developments that could displace Chinese businesses and disrupt Chinatown’s history.  Chinatown is of international importance and is nationally significant as a historical neighbourhood that was the core for a group of workers that built Canada. While the City of Vancouver is now persuing World Heritage status through UNESCO, Melody Ma looks at the Mah Society building at 137 Pender Street as a key example of a renovation in keeping with Chinatown’s traditions: It embodies all of the aspects and characteristics of what I think a lot of the community is looking for,” she said. “On the bottom floor … you have Jade Dynasty restaurant, which is a culturally appropriate business. Locals enjoy it, tourists enjoy it, it’s packed on the weekends. On top, you have social housing. … It’s not just limited to Chinese seniors. It’s open to everybody.” As Ms. Ma also notes, “We need to think about cultural implications, and it is more than just a facade”.

 
 

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