Six Year Old Takes On Delta City Hall for a Much Needed Crosswalk

Delta City Hall submission from A, 6 years old

A six year old girl was trying to cross Central Avenue in Ladner between the Lions Park and London Drugs. She was with three brothers and sisters and her grandmother. A vehicle driver  came from around the corner at great speed and almost hit the four children. This six year old girl decided to Do Something About It.

She drew a picture of what had happened to her family and wrote a letter to Delta City Council.

In her letter she wrote:

“Dear Town Council

I think  we need a cross walk by lions park to the stores.

Lots of people cross there and it is a very busy road

and it is hard to see around the corner. I am six years old.”

She then drew up her own petition form to collect names and addresses of other people that also thought getting a crosswalk across Central Avenue between the commercial area and the park was a good idea. In knocking on doors and approaching people she also found out that other people had stories about almost being crashed into at that location. The six year old collected thirty signatures and addresses which she carefully appended to her letter to Council.

Continue reading “Six Year Old Takes On Delta City Hall for a Much Needed Crosswalk”

London Involves Youth in Public Design Process

I wrote about 6 year old Arianne who saw the issue crossing Centre Avenue in Ladner with her brothers and sisters and Grandmother, wrote a letter to Council, drew a picture of the problem and collected on her own a supportive 30 signature petition. This story was followed up on in the news media by CBC’s Justin McElroy and  reporter/videographer at CTV news Emad Agahi.

We really don’t talk a lot about how disenfranchised the young, the disabled and the elderly are in the way that streets are configured, and we also don’t take into account that for these users being able to walk or wheel on the street or sidewalk is their major way of movement around the city.

Harriet Grant in The Guardian writes about a unique program in London England that utilizes youth thought and participation in design of streets and spaces.

Architect Dinah Bornat is the London Mayor’s Design Advocate and at the invitation of an east London local housing association and developers worked with youth on a new scheme for 1,000 residences in Aberfeldy Estates. Ms. Bornat’s first premise is that placing children first in the design process centres planning work around people and vehicle drivers.

Kids in this area are being driven to work because it is unsafe for them to cross the streets and walk to school. in involving children in the planning and design process, Ms. Bornat found that 89 percent of 16 to 18 year old kids said they had never been asked about any neighbourhood change or process.

Ms. Bornat states: “Young people can’t vote and they don’t pay taxes but don’t we want to know what they think? Too often we focus  on negative issues to do with young people and we don’t think about their happiness and joy.”

By asking where youth want to play and gather with their friends, she was able to identify what space was important in the public realm. With a background in urban geography in their studies, the youth also understood the issues about road users and road sharing and understood the importance of lower traffic neighhbrourhoods to stronger communities.

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Hudson’s Bay Company Paddles Away from Landlords, Employee Obligations

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City of Vancouver image.

Three years ago I wrote about the turf of the  iconic Hudson’s Bay store in downtown Vancouver at Granville and Georgia Streets being for sale, and in 2018 I wrote that the store’s property had been bought by an undisclosed Asian buyer for 675 million dollars.

The Hudson’s Bay Company  had previously leased their New York City store location to WeWork, a shared workspace business, setting the stage for a suggested change in the ownership (and purpose) for the Vancouver store. This arguably is on one of the most important heritage sites in the city, a block away from the Vancouver Art Gallery, and right beside the Canada Line.

What a shift a Covid pandemic year makes, where trends that would have taken longer to come to fruition have had a chance for accelerated growth, with less angst expressed by the public.  It was expected that  Hudson’s Bay  was to sign a 20-year lease with the new owner, and have WeWork, the shared office space operator,  leasing  the top floors of the Vancouver and other Hudson’s Bay stores.  That was pre-Covid.

Department store retail  and the demand for downtown shared work facilities has shrivelled during the pandemic. Sadly even though Hudson’s Bay Company has been in Vancouver since 1887, first operating out of a storefront on Pender Street, their way of leaving has not been so glamourous.

As reported by Rachelle  Younglai and Susan Krashinsky in the Globe and Mail HBC have not paying their bills, and they are being a bit obstreperous about it.

The Hudson’s Bay store in Coquitlam  Centre was shuttered on the weekend, because the company did not pay their rent.

Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC)  who also own Saks Fifth Avenue and  Saks Off Fifth department store chains, is “facing legal actions for unpaid rent in at least 20 locations in Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec, as well as in Florida, according to court documents.”

It appears that rent has not been covered by HBC for many Hudson’s Bay stores across Canada,  with Morguard REIT  alone out $2.79-million in unpaid rent for five locations in shopping centres in Ottawa, Toronto, Brampton, Ont., and Abbotsford, B.C. And there’s more outstanding debt on leased space too.

HBC had privatized pre pandemic, and there had been accusations of the chain not running “first-class” operations, especially at Yorkdale Mall in Toronto which is the flagship store and a top producing mall.

In the “best defence is a good offence” strategy, HBC has responded legally by saying the same thing about the landlords that own the various properties that the stores are positioned on.

Continue reading “Hudson’s Bay Company Paddles Away from Landlords, Employee Obligations”

How Will Transit Work in the Post~Covid World?

The gifted and talented CBC videographer Uytae Lee has produced  a compelling short video about the crisis facing public transit after the Covid-19 pandemic. With an urban design background and a degree from Dalhousie University’s Community Design program, Uytae Lee has the “About Here” YouTube channel that has a plethora of videos about urban issues and planning in Vancouver.

In his latest video that already has over 3,000 views,  Lee looks at the issues around transit in the post-covid world, where those private vehicles will look like viable options for safe travel and less chance of virus contagion. He compares this next phase of the pandemic to that experienced in China after the 2003 SARS pandemic, where public transit usage plummeted from 40 percent of the population to 24 percent, while private automobile use skyrocketed.

Lee gets full points for referencing the region’s 1991 Transport 2021 Long Term Transportation Plan which laid out the framework for regional transit. At that time only 9 percent of people took transit and 83 percent drove. Current figure show that 20 percent now use transit and vehicular use is down to 65 percent.

If the  transit system is not well used in the post pandemic years it will not be able to sustain the level of service for those that rely on it. More private vehicles on the road create more congestion, pollution and is less equitable for society.

Jeffrey Tumlin, head of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency is looking to Taiwan and Seoul for best practices in managing public transit in the post Covid period. Tumlin is referencing this article by Eric Jaffe that sees the health of public transit being as important as the reboot of the economy.

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As Tumlin states:” If San Francisco retreats in a fear-based way to private cars, the city dies with that, including the economy. Why? Because we can’t move more cars. That’s a fundamental geometrical limit. We can’t move more cars in the space we have.… For San Francisco to come back as San Francisco we have to find ways to feel safe and comfortable in shared spaces or the city doesn’t work.”

Continue reading “How Will Transit Work in the Post~Covid World?”

Protecting Vehicle Industry More Important than Saving Vulnerable Lives

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Photo by Katie E on Pexels.com

You would think that people dying on the road would attract a furore of voices for change. But somehow we just accept those deaths as the accepted  collateral for ease, timeliness and convenience, just a side effect of car use.

Earlier this year I wrote about the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that does NOT use female crash test dummies in their test vehicles despite the fact they’ve known for forty years that the bodies of males and females react differently in crashes.

In fact it was  Consumer Reports  that revealed that although most Americans killed in car crashes are male, data shows women  are at a greater risk of death or serious injury in a car crash. A female driver or front row passenger with a seatbelt is 17 percent more likely to die, and 73 percent more likely to have a serious injury.

Automotive research still stubbornly clings to the “50th percentile male” which is understood to be a 171 pound 5 foot 9 inch dummy  first developed in the 1970’s. And that crash test dummy has not substantially changed, despite the fact that the average American man weighs 26 pounds more.

Quite simply women are not factored in for crash survival tests, despite the fact they are 50 percent of the drivers.

In 2018 36,000 people in the USA died in car crashes, roughly the population of Penticton British Columbia. Twenty percent of those killed were vulnerable road users, pedestrians or cyclists, and those numbers are increasing  annually. Statistically deaths of vulnerable road users have increased by 43 percent since 2008.

Statistics  also show that SUVs are twice as likely to kill pedestrians because of the high front end  profile, but this information has not been well publicized. Indeed an American federal initiative to include pedestrian crash survival into the vehicle ranking system was halted by opposing automakers.

It’s no surprise that Aaron Gordon in Vice.com writes on a Government Accountability Office  (GAO) report  which  discovered that the increasing pedestrian and cyclist deaths were “due to the total inaction of government safety regulators, who have known about the dangers to pedestrians increasingly large vehicles on American roads present, but have done nothing about it.”

The findings in the report are troubling. There are international agreements to develop protocol to protect vulnerable road users from vehicular crashes, but it simply has not been followed up on, despite the fact that this could save hundreds of lives.

I have written before how trucks and SUVs now comprise 73 percent of the new vehicle purchases in the United States. That means that of every four vehicles on the road, three are more likely to kill pedestrians or cyclists.

From 2009 to 2016  pedestrian deaths have risen 46 percent and are directly linked to the increase of these large vehicles on the road.

It is the weight and size of the vehicle and bumper height that are crucial for pedestrian and cyclist survival of a crash. But surprise! The NHTSA’s bumper regulations are written to “limit vehicle body damage. It has nothing to do with protecting people hit by said bumper. Nor do any regulations exist for vehicle hoods to absorb energy efficiently (cushion the victim)  during a crash”.

What this all means is that the NHTSA is doing absolutely no studies or assessments on the survivability of people outside the vehicle during a crash. The only assessment that is done is the survivability of the people inside the vehicle.

And that is a huge ethical inequity that should not be tolerated.

Continue reading “Protecting Vehicle Industry More Important than Saving Vulnerable Lives”

The Post~Covid City With Duke of Data Andy Yan

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This time of quarantine shows you can never adequately predict the future or where it will take you.  Last week there were two excellent webinars hosted by Urban Logiq and Boston University’s School of Public Health  looking at planning and social issues related to Covid-19. What these informed discussions provided was a guide to the new normal, and some measured predictions on the  post Covid-19 city.

Director of the City Program at Simon Fraser University Andy Yan spoke in the Urban Logiq discussion. Andy sees the biggest change in the emergence of regular life is going to be spatial, with a “revitalization of localization” in a new interest in neighbourhoods.

“New urbanism” including the concept of  all shops and services within a 15 to 20 minute walk/bike  commute is not going to happen because it is the right thing to do, but because people have experienced the importance of those aspects in their neighbourhoods during the pandemic. This  brings up the importance of municipal land use allowing for neighbourhood  “corner store” retailing, for local grocery stores serving the immediate neighbourhood area.

Calling the current time the Covid “end of the beginning” Andy’s prediction is the Post-Covid city will influence spatial design and city use for “years and decades”.  The “key to recovery”  is increasing biomedical security. But think of it~who ever imagined biomedical safety  would be a driver in how we think of and use cities?

Here are some main trends~redefining the working neighbourhood; reimagining seniors care as aging in place; new neighbourhood based vocations; new management styles; and a renewed interest in working from home.

Andy Yan perceives “the internet of neighbourhoods” as being a key driver in post-covid times, changing the paradigm of place from city focus to this finer level. This “revitalization of localism” addresses the vulnerability and fragility of the city in crisis, by creating smaller scale areas of independence and self reliance.

.The care model for seniors needs to be seriously rethought and I have written before about  an Ipsos study that shows that 93 percent of homeowners over 65 intend to remain in their current homes. The Covid crisis in care homes, and the isolation experienced by seniors walled in during the pandemic is another factor making staying put more appealing.

And look for new work directions too. New skill sets will be in demand, including neighbourhood level nursing and health care, detail oriented  grocery store stockists and delivery, and the importance of the “caring’ economy, taking care of the most vulnerable, the very young and the very old.

The gentle but consistent management style demonstrated by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and the Province’s Medical Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry signal a change in management style  from dictatorial to one that inspires and influences. This style also emphasizes the importance of working in teams and in groups to  accomplish tasks.

We’ve also done a pretty good job of adapting to working from home too, and that will be part of the shift of the post-covid city. I previously have written about Mario Canseco’s survey showing that 73% of Canadians expect to continue to work from home. Sixty-three percent think that more companies will be nixing business travel and promoting more online teleconferencing.

Andy Yan did use one of his “Yanisms” in describing the new lifelong learning education needed in the post-covid city as “not creating a wood axe, but having the nimbleness and flexibility of a swiss army knife”.

Continue reading “The Post~Covid City With Duke of Data Andy Yan”

Defining that Two Meter Space in the Time of Physical Distancing

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As the curve is flattening for Covid-19 in British Columbia, the time for physical distancing in the north is starting. In the Yukon territory The Guardian reports that residents are asked to keep one caribou’s length from each other.

Just in case there is a resident in the Yukon unfamiliar with the length of the typical caribou the Yukon Health and Wellness Department has added the following image as well. One caribou’s length is roughly the same as two huskies end to end.

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And in case you are not familiar with huskies, they have added another image for physical distancing, that of eight loaves of sourdough bread. People living in the Yukon are often called ‘sourdoughs”. This is after the sourdough starter comprised of yeast and bacteria that was vitally important in the Klondike Goldrush of 1896 to make bread. As most food brought into the area froze, flour did not, and became an essential staple in making sourdough bread.

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While the Yukon territory has 11 confirmed Covid-19 cases, they are limiting travel from their borders with British Columbia and Alaska.

For those that are south of the Yukon, here’s a  physical distancing  graphic using Elon Musk with a set of maraccas.

Continue reading “Defining that Two Meter Space in the Time of Physical Distancing”

Speedsters Taking Advantage of Covid Open Roads

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ICBC (the Insurance Corporation of B.C. that provides mandatory vehicular insurance) has been posting extra social media reminders for drivers to slow down and not risk hospitalization while Covid protocols and cases have priority.

In British Columbia there has been an increase in speeders on the road since the Covid Crisis began. You would think with less traffic there would be fewer crashes, but as Kristen Robinson reports less traffic means “some speed demons are taking advantage of the open highways.”

On Vancouver Island, Saanich Police impounded 16 vehicles for speeding in four weeks compared to  two impounds in the same period last year. All were going over 40 kilometres an hour over the posted speed limit. In April Coquitlam RCMP towed twelve  vehicles for speeding  in a two week period, including one that was travelling 50 kilometres an hour faster than the posted speed limit. The Province’s public safety minister Mike Farnsworth stated “It’s really quite shocking”.

And it is not only in British Columbia where emptier roads have meant speedier traffic. This article in Bostonomics found that while traffic fell by 50 percent on roads in Massachusetts during the Covid Crisis, the rate of fatalities on state roads had doubled since April.  There have been 27 road deaths since April, with 28 road deaths in the April before. But traffic volume in 2020 has been half of that experienced in the previous year.

While Massachusetts transportation officials blame the increased fatalities on speeding and distracted driving, Highway Administrator Jonathan Gulliver observed:

It’s somewhat of a psychology here that when you have the open road and you’re not used to it, that you’re going to see what you can do and try to get to your destination as fast as possible. That’s something that we do not want people to do.”

The advice the Highway Administrator gave is also salient in British Columbia:

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How A Sliced Meat Twitter Account Provides Great Advice for Municipal Management

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This was supposed to be a media account to attract attention to the product, which is frozen sliced meats. But with nearly 165,000 followers, @Steak_Umm champions data, common sense, and communication in a way that is needed in these Covid info times about how to move forward with municipal management.   Josh Skolnick with Bloomberg Cities  centers on a twitter account by a frozen food purveyor, @Steak_Umm.

As Skolnick posits ” As crazy as it sounds, its worldview has strong echoes of one that we at Bloomberg Philanthropies promote through What Works Cities, an initiative that elevates the importance of data-informed decision-making in city halls across the United States.

Skolnick breaks down Steak_umm’s philosophy into three areas:

Lesson One: If you hear leaders talking about anecdotes instead of hard facts, that is because that is all  they have.

Stories are “often more engaging than data”. But it is data that makes the difference for leaders to address how to move resources and to mitigate disparities.

Lesson Two: “Experts are your friends, and they need defending

There’s lots of information that is not truthful and “misinformation grows best in a fearful, uncertain climate.” In British Columbia Dr. Bonnie Henry has communicated clearly and directly about the Covid pandemic and outlined the steps that need to be taken to lessen the virus’ spread. But it’s also important to ensure that the public is listened to, and the Mayor may not always be “the right messenger to reach people”. 

I liked the approach of building a “kitchen cabinet” of “trusted community leaders who can communicate advice in a way residents will hear it.”

Lesson Three: You can be data-driven and entertaining.

Human nature means that data needs to be  “couched in understandable humanity~and even entertainment”.  Knowing the data is one thing, but the delivery is everything. In Vancouver we have the Duke of Data Andy Yan who as Director of the City Program at Simon Fraser University knows his numbers, but always has a fantastical twist on the delivery.

Andy Yan makes statistics understandable and even fun. He’s known for “Yanisms” which is his creative way of putting data and words together. The Tyee’s Christopher Cheung has written an article entitled “The Tao of Andy Yan-The greatest quotes of an urban planner who wields numbers and words to explain Vancouver’s crazy development”.

Christopher Cheung explains Andy’s data/humour approach this way:  “His quotes are Socratic, Seussian and lightly seasoned with allusions to popular culture, which, Yan says, help translate his work to a greater audience, not just “an audience of data-heads.”

Continue reading “How A Sliced Meat Twitter Account Provides Great Advice for Municipal Management”

What is the Balance Between Access and Respect in Vancouver’s Mountain View Cemetery?

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Vancouver’s Mountain View Cemetery opened in 1886 and is administered by the City of Vancouver. It has a 110 acre site located west of Fraser Street between 31st and 43rd Avenues. The current manager is Glen Hodges who is well respected for his work and for his stewardship of the cemetery. There are over 92,000 grave sites and over 145,0000 interred remains.

One of the challenges over the last thirty years has been how to calibrate the balance of keeping the cemetery available to people who want visit family graves, and that of the public who may want to bike or stroll through the site.  Glen Hodges has worked to document the history of the cemetery and to respect the many cultures who come to visit graveside.

There are also 12,000 Canadian military graves in Mountain View. Right now that area has an astounding display of “Canadian Liberation” tulips that were planted to honour Canada’s contribution to Dutch freedom.

This is the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Netherlands which was led by Canadians during the Second World War.  Over 7,600 Canadian soldiers died in the Netherlands during the war.

The tulips are breathtaking and symbolic. But  local community organizer Sharole Tylor sent these photos of what the tulips looked like at the end of April.

Sharole writes: “I could not believe it- I saw a car drive through from 37th Avenue, the passenger got out and moved the barricade, moved it back once the car drove through and did the same for the barricade near 33rd. Like was that so much of a time savings that you couldn’t have used a regular street.”

In the photos  below, someone removed the barricade and then tried to back a vehicle  through the tulips centimeters away from one of the military headstones.

How do you balance public access for people visiting the  cemetery with drivers who want to shortcut or drive through? Should the cemetery be under camera surveillance?

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The YouTube video below describes the symbolism of the plantings of the Canadian Liberator tulip and shows where 500,000 of these tulips have been planted in British Columbia.

Images: Andy Yan & Sharole Tylor