Architecture
June 7, 2018

Vancouver’s Cultural Dilemma: Heritage and Reconciliation


It was interesting timing; the May 14th announcement by Ian Campbell, Hereditary Chief of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation), that he would seek the Vision Vancouver mayoral candidate nomination, and the following announcement.

Via GlobeNewsWire:

On May 15, 2018, City of Vancouver Council unanimously approved the Policy Statement for the Heather Street Lands. The Policy Statement sets direction for how the land will be used, providing 2,000 homes in the growing Cambie Corridor, including 400 units of affordable housing.

Here’s where the cultural dilemma enters the picture.

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There has been a very valuable discussion on Twitter from Ms. Sinenomine about the use of the term “Walkability”.
She is well worth a follow, and presents a stalwart and stark view of how the language we use focuses away from the root of accessibility and universal acceptance. She states the obvious: we need to do better at ensuring that the most vulnerable have the same access and social equity to sidewalk pavements and public spaces, and we must start doing that now.

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The Director of Engineering at the City of Vancouver, Jerry Dobrovolny was in Mexico City assessing the earthquake damage which severely impacted some of the poorest neighbourhoods. He sent this photo of an augmented speed bump.
The two photos below show the impact of an earthquake fissure three feet deep that runs through a park, and also separates a parking garage from the ramp into the back lane. Photos by Jerry Dobrovolny.

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Even the magazine The Economist is weighing in on the importance of Vancouver’s Chinatown as a historic and very special cultural place deeply rooted in the birth and development of this country.  One of the positive things that has happened with the impetus to build condominiums in Chinatown is the rise of  a new generation of articulate, smart and savvy young professionals that grew up in or coming to Chinatown,  understanding the essence of this place in a very rooted way.
Urbanist Melody Ma is one of those young professionals interviewed by the Economist, and talked about the Chinatown neighbourhood not really changing until after the 2010 Winter Olympics. At that time “the downtown area was forested with new condominiums” and prices have risen by close to 60 per cent in the last three years. While Chinatown was avoided by developers in the past, development applications such as the nine storey luxury apartments proposed for 105 Keefer threaten to undermine Chinatown’s cultural identity.

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It is very hard to believe that we still need to be reminded about the importance of food security and ensuring that our agricultural land, which in Metro Vancouver is the finest arable land in Canada, is protected for future generations.
Price Tags Vancouver has been tracking the unbelievable story of the City of Richmond Mayor and Council allowing mansions of over 10,783 square feet in size to be built on agricultural land that is over one half-acre in size. These “farms” are being bought at an agricultural land price as they are in the Agricultural Land Reserve, then redeveloped with large mansions and then quickly turn into multi-million dollar gated estates, exempt from the foreign buyer’s tax (they are on agricultural land) with a large land lift as these countrified estates demand top dollar for offshore buyers. These lands will never return to agricultural use and are now economically out of the reach of farming buyers.

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If you have been in San Francisco  California in the last few weeks  you have probably seen them-electric scooters are everywhere. And as discussed by a reporter for the New York Times section California Today  in San Francisco “Shared electric scooters are available to reserve and rent by app for as little as $1 a ride. They are billed as a way to “help make transportation better and more environmentally friendly” by one start-up, Bird, which has netted $100 million in venture capital funding.”

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If you picked up Friday’s Vancouver Sun, you were treated to a front page advertisement from Hyundai in bold letters proclaiming that the 2018 Sonata was “Safe and Sexy”.
So what exactly does that mean? In the very tiny print, this vehicle is a “top safety pick” IF equipped with autonomous emergency braking AND LED headlights. It has been suggested that up to 80 per cent of low beam headlights might not provide adequate stopping distances at speeds above 40 miles per hour according to the American Automobile Association.  Pedestrian deaths were up nearly 10 per cent in the United States in 2015, but that was largely due to distracted drivers, not dim headlights. As many pedestrians in low light situations will attest, the light bounce of the new LED headlights make visibility extremely difficult when using crosswalks on streets.
 

The  pedestrian beware message is echoed by Mercedes in this 2017  commercial spot below that shows a group of muscle cars ponying up at a pedestrian crosswalk and forcing an unfortunate pedestrian to run fast or risk getting mowed down. It is all part of a campaign to sell vehicles as dominant users of the street and also reminds active transportation users that vehicles still have the last word in any interaction. And it is also a reminder that as autonomous vehicles roll out that it is not just the safety of the vehicle’s occupant that must be paramount, but the safety of the most vulnerable street user that must count too.
 

 
 

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Kirsten Dirksen is a television producer who has become an on-line video blogger.  Her company Faircompanies.com has a media site that looks at the aspect of less complicated, simpler living styles. As a vlogger she came to Vancouver to interview Adrian Crook who lives in the Yaletown area of downtown with five children in a two bedroom condo. Adrian likes living downtown for the health and psychological aspects of walking everywhere and notes that while “Vancouverism” includes a taller housing form in the downtown peninsula, that has not been embraced in the largely single family areas away from the downtown.
Price Tags Vancouver has chronicled  Adrian Crook’s quest to have his children using transit to school and Price Tags has also examined a program in Calgary with Bus Buddies where children are allowed to take transit to school. Adrian does have a blog about living in the downtown with his five children, and he is also running for City Council.
The  twenty minute video on YouTube features Adrian’s kids and shows the simple adaptations that have been made in the condo to maximize usable space. There’s a home office that turns into a murphy bed at night, a bunk bed that can morph into a table and desk, and a triple stacked bunk bed.  Parents everywhere will see in the video that  children’s socks still disappear -even in smaller footprint spaces.

 

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In the kind of story that reminds how much motordom dominates over pedestrian safety and comfort , The Toronto Star reports that flex-post signs near a public school  designed to slow traffic were removed . Why? Because they slowed traffic. Imagine. One week after they were installed, they were removed on the basis of one complaint. As the Toronto Star reports  “the complainant, who said he submitted an email to the mayor’s office and included dash cam footage of traffic significantly slowed down in the 40km/h school zone. The dash cam speedometer registered his truck going about 30 km/h leading up to the flex-post sign, with the speed reducing by about half as he approached it.”
The complainant’s speed was reduced to 5 kilometres per hour while he slowed to manoeuvre around the flexi sign. And that is too slow for motordom, kids’ public school area or not. Even the manager of Traffic Safety and Data Collection responded that “Our initial assessment indicated that the road had sufficient clearance around the sign, but when cars parked adjacent to the sign, we observed traffic slowing significantly or moving around the sign into oncoming traffic.” 
Of course this can also be seen as slowing traffic down enough that they can manoeuvre slowly around each other with lots of reaction time. But that is not Toronto’s take, and the signs were removed  “in the interest of public safety.”  In British Columbia  30 kilometres an hour is the speed in posted school zones. Toronto has not acquiesced to this slower, safer speed for their schools. As one local observed “The problem that I think we have in Toronto is we prioritize the convenience of people driving cars over the safety of anybody who’s not driving a car.”
The City of Toronto is having a tough time implementing  their 80 million dollar version of Vision Zero, which is supposed to  mean that all lives are valuable and no lives are lost due to road violence. The City has controversially suggested merely reducing their death rate from road violence by a percentage instead of completely eliminating deaths as their goal.  Around this Davisville school area  they are proposing installing  zebra markings and school stencils as if that is something novel. It is a soft approach that does not protect vulnerable road users or slow cars down, leaving the impact of collisions still solidly on the pedestrian. The words of the general manager of Transportation Services speaks volumes about the ambiguity of being a pedestrian in Toronto: “It’s a very complex ecosystem, the area around a school, but, from our perspective, student safety is the highest priority. After the pilot is done and we’ve assessed it, my guess is we’ll come forward with it as part of our Vision Zero toolkit.”
There’s nothing complex about slowing traffic and insisting that children and adults have the right to walk safely and comfortably to schools, shops and services. Meanwhile road violence and motordom continues in Toronto~11 pedestrians have been killed in 2018 with an expected 60 pedestrians losing their lives in Toronto by the end of the year.

 
 

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In March the Province of British Columbia enacted new rules for drivers of eighty years of age or more. Those drivers must have a doctor’s note submitted every two years stating they are “medically competent” and must  undertake an on-road test or road assessment if required.  This is similar to the Province of Ontario which instituted a licence renewal every two years for drivers over eighty requiring a vision test, a driving rules class, a driving history review, potentially retaking a driver’s test and detailing medical history.
Price Tags Vancouver has previously written about the fact that seniors are being targeted as prime users of autonomous vehicles, with AVs touted as a way to keep seniors mobile. Data collected from Statistics Canada in 2009 suggest that close to 28 per cent of drivers over 65 years and older are driving vehicles with some form of dementia. Statistics Canada data from 2012 shows that over the age of 70 years seniors have a higher accident rate per kilometre than any other group except for young male motorists. Seniors are also more likely to die in a vehicular crash.
A poll conducted by State Farm in March 2017 found that “55 per cent of respondents would keep driving past 80 years of age. About 29 per cent would give up their license between ages 80-84, 16 per cent would stop driving before 90 years of age, while 10 per cent would keep driving after 90.” 
The challenge is finding a balance between seniors’ mobility and road safety  in British Columbia, and ensuring that seniors can continue to be independent.  As an aging population there needs to be an increasing emphasis on the use of public transit, taxis and accessible services such as HandyDART and ride shares.
The magazine Driving.ca puts it bluntly: “If you’re 80 and over and facing this retesting every two years, how can you prepare? … do a walkaround on your car and honestly address any dings, scrapes and dents you don’t recall getting. Consider this quote from the American Automobile Association in the U.S.: ”Seniors are outliving their ability to drive safely by an average of 7 to 10 years.”
 

 

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