Walking – the Talk-My First TEDx!


I was invited in 2016 to prepare a TEDx talk on Walking  in Carson City Nevada

Preparing for a TEDx talk is different from anything else you will ever do, as you speak for twenty minutes on a subject you are passionate about without notes to a live audience and seven roving cameras.

I personally feel that creating walkable environments is the right thing to do and is the best way to organize a healthy, sociable, interesting and sufficiently dense area for all to live in and thrive. While TEDx works best if you are talking directly about your personal experience, I wanted to talk about walkability, why it is important, and to highlight the stories of three extraordinary people who I have worked closely with in  undertaking amazing initiatives transforming walking in their neighbourhoods. And in Vancouver, those “neighbourhoods” have populations of about 45,000 people.

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We are in a time where there are planning “experts” that talk and tell us about how to live better in cities. I believe that the people living in those communities are the experts, and just as Jane Jacobs said, neighbourhoods lead the way.  I am so grateful to these citizens for everything they have taught me-and continue to coach me on. We truly live with community heroes in our midst.

I also wanted to express my thanks and gratitude to the Carson City TEDx committee for inviting me to speak in Carson City.  It was a tremendous experience.

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Sandy James, planner, part-time Price Tags editor and author, speaks to TEDxCarsonCity.

The transformative power of walking:  why walking is good for your bottom line.

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Why is the West Side of Cities the Best?

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In cities and towns why was the west side always seen as the best? Market Watch’s Steve Goldstein observes that researchers have found that it is  ” due to the impact of air pollutants at the time of the Industrial Revolution, as prevailing winds in the U.S. and Europe typically blow from west to east.”  Even today there is a price differential between the east and west sides of major cities even though the pollution that caused the difference has been minimized.

Called a “deprivation index”, pollution was the reason for up to 20 per cent of neighbourhood segregation based upon blue-collar workers and house prices. Even in pre-industrial times large cities like Paris and London had preferred west sides and east sides. The more polluted an area, the higher the percentage of low skilled workers living in the district.  By examining 5,000 industrial “chimneys” located in 70 British cities…

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That Semi~Private Public Space

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3151The Guardian has written about the rise of that  open public space that appears to be public but can be controlled by developers who actually built the space. That seems to be the case in Great Britain “where Pseudo-public spaces – large squares, parks and thoroughfares that appear to be public but are actually owned and controlled by developers and their private backers – are on the rise in London and many other British cities, as local authorities argue they cannot afford to create or maintain such spaces themselves.”

The situation is a bit different in the City of Vancouver where access to space or easements through large developments are negotiated as part of rezoning development, and are accepted by developers in exchange for items like higher density or height. These agreements are maintained for the public to have access on property that would normally be in the private realm…

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Tim Louis, Lawyer, City Councillor & Outspoken Advocate~Retiring from COPE?

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One of the kindest people I have worked with and without a doubt one of the smartest has just announced he is stepping down from the executive of COPE-the Coalition of Progressive Electors after three decades of public service. Lawyer Tim Louis served two terms on the Park Board and two terms on the City of Vancouver Council. He truly did read the Council package before each meeting and knew the names of each city hall staffer. Tim articled with and was mentored by  Councillor Harry Rankin who was also a lawyer with the same quick and dry wit, if not slightly more irascible.

I’d ask Tim if I could speak to him before a Council meeting and he’d respond that it would be fine as long as I “was not a card-carrying conservative”.  He chaired committee meetings, understood Robert’s Rules of Order, delegated with a strong sense of humour…

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Colourful Stairway to Health In NYC

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We all know them-those anonymous grey stairs that are just about everywhere. At the north side of Vancouver City Hall. On the west side of the Cambie Canada Line Station.  Kudos to this project in the Bronx of New York City as reported in NextCity that were placed on stairs specifically to make them more interesting and to address obesity. The two neighbourhoods where they were placed have the highest rate of obesity in the city, where 35 per cent of residents are classified as obese.

Funded by playground building organizer KaBoom, the stair murals were designed to encourage people to use the stairs, according to New York City’s health commissioner. The mural artists were chosen through an open request for proposals. The artists then partnered with DreamYard a Bronx youth arts organization to host workshops to create the designs, incorporating ethnic imagery and symbols.  This process built  trust and secured neighbourhood…

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Metro House Prices Go Up, Vancouver Taxes Too

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As reported in Business in Vancouver housing prices in Metro Vancouver are not doing a southern retreat anytime soon,  despite any policy interventions at the provincial or municipal level. The president of the Royal Lepage Realty Company describes it this way: “Attempting to use public policy to steer property prices in huge, rapidly growing cities like Toronto and Vancouver is like a tugboat trying to turn an ocean liner. Consistent, measured policy can have a positive impact. Just don’t try to turn the market on a dime or you risk losing the ship.”

Does supply and demand always triumph policy? Low inventory in Metro Vancouver means house sellers can ambitiously price houses, with prices expected to increase by five per cent in 2018.  In the long-term prices may be more stable because of new stricter federal rules  for people applying for mortgages due to be enacted…

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High Density Rental in the very West of Point Grey?

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In the thinking out of the box department newly minted City of Vancouver Councillor Hector Bremner introduced a motion at Council to rezone West Point Grey as a new zone for rental residences. Bremner was specifically looking at the zoning of the area north of 4th Avenue and west of Blanca which borders the University of British Columbia lands. Why? Because the zoning on that land means that lots must be 12,000 square feet. Minimum. To give you an idea of how massive that is, the normal city lot of 33 feet by 120 feet has 3,960 square feet. This West Point Grey area requires footprints three times the size of the standard city lot. Of course lots of influential people live there too that have no interest in new rental zoning. There are current for sale listings for residences in this area ranging from $14 million dollars to $28…

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Driverless Buses Trialled for Seniors in Japan

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As reported to the World Economic Forum  cities with large aging populations such as Singapore and Paris are trialling experimental self-driving buses.  Japan is undertaking a demonstration project in  rural Nishikata which is 115 kilometers north of Tokyo, which has limited bus and taxi services. Should the trial be successful Japan could launch these autonomous vehicles in the next 12 years, providing shuttle service for seniors.

One company which is making autonomous vehicle software noted why the autonomous transit was necessary . “Smaller towns in Japan are greying even faster than cities, and there are just not enough workers to operate buses and taxis”. 

The  driverless shuttles take seniors from a service area to a complex with multi health care services. Curiously the town of Nishikata has an age breakdown close to  the country of Japan, with one-third of residents aged 65 years or older. Seniors are increasing in population~overall…

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