Graz | Tono Mejuto


Graz | Tono Mejuto


Great image of snowy Graz, Austria by Tono Mejuto, via This city called Earth.


Jarrett Walker at Human Transit links to an interesting interview with Roland Castro on thinking of and designing for Paris as a region.  Walker’s had a few good posts lately on Paris, and this interview raises some good points too.  I’d recommend to him a recent book, Paris Métropole, in which Phillippe Panerai contemplates the forms and scales of Paris, also in the context of the Grand Pari.

In Vancouver, a few posts of interests came up this past week:

Peter Ladner remarks how frequently the number $1.5 billion comes up as the yearly costs of congestion.  Surrey council came to its senses about putting a road through Bear Creek Park – though given how difficult, uncertain, and fractious transit projects are in this region, one can hardly blame them if they stick to the cars-first model; Port Moody (and to a lesser extent Coquitlam) have done the densification thing, but are still patiently awaiting the Nevergreen line…

CityCaucus has a bit of scorn for the current Vancouver administration’s about-face on the $20m Live Site public entertainment zones for the Olympics, which they voted against in the past.  The charitable interpretation is that they came around once they realized how good an idea this was, but alas, no charity from CityCaucus, only pointing out how Vision is taking credit for yet another NPA initiative… perhaps three year terms aren’t long enough for anyone to initiate an idea and still be around to take credit for it?

The Buzzer reports that people are joining Ride Share in order to escape poor transit conditions.  It would be interesting to know the ‘previous mode’ for Ride Share members and to examine the likely VKT reduction, which might be lower than expected if these folks are coming from transit rather than from single occupant vehicles.

Finally, Kudos and Kvetches has a great list of Olympic metaphors, prompted by VANOC chief John Furlong’s use of a football metaphor to describe the city’s preparations.

And (somewhat) beyond Vancouver:

Google Street View finally debuts in Canada, and what’s everyone talking about?  Alleys!  Fagstein has a great series of maps showing the extent of coverage for a few different cities, while both Urbanphoto and CityCaucus look at laneways.

Both Michael Geller and Tom Vanderbilt link to a great piece on a subway station in Stockholm where the stairs have been musically re-worked.  It’s a great video and it’s nice to see Volkswagen investing in public transit.  A lot more fun could easily be integrated into transit, from swings or hammocks at bus stops, to more outlandish schemes – slides to transfer between levels at Berri, Lionel-Groulx, or Commercial/Broadway?

Quiet Babylon has a good speculative piece on smart buildings and buildings that could outsmart – check it out for the accompanying photo if for no other reason, while BLDGBLOG/Edible Geography have a thoughtful interview with Thomas Mullen, author of The Last Town on Earth, which sounds like a pretty interesting book.

That’s it for the last few days, more notes on upcoming reading soon…

Benoît Gratton at Montréalités urbaines links to a map provided by the Montréal Gazette showing the location of traffic incidents involving cyclists.  Like most such maps, it’s really a proxy for population density, as it’s merely a collection of points, rather than a rate.  It would be fascinating if the Direction de la santé publique – who are very involved in discussions on the impacts of transport policy on public health – would publish this data as a rate of cyclists injured per total cyclists on a given street segment or intersection.  As it stands, this map gives the impression that riding in the inner boroughs (Rosemont, Plateau, Outremont, Ville-Marie, Sud-Ouest, etc…) is super dangerous – after all, this is where all of the injured cyclists are; yet isn’t it likely that the higher number of injuries is simply due to there being more cyclists to be injured?  While the map is an eloquent argument in favour of improving road conditions for cyclists, to truly identify the ‘best’ and ‘worst’ places, it would be useful to see those locations where many cyclists ride but few are injured and, on the flip side, where few cyclists ride, but many are injured.

Also on cycling, and on rates, are two more pieces; Tom Vanderbilt on the risks of estimating risk of injury for drunk pedestrians (context is of key importance), and Spacing’s take on the perpetual myth that all cyclists are homeless, unemployed, and don’t own cars and therefore don’t contribute to infrastructure funding through property taxes (as owners or tenants),  income tax, and don’t ever pay any gas taxes, either.  Spacing raises the interesting question that we often don’t know very much (other than anecdote and appearance) about who cyclists are, and does a quick analysis of census data on the occupations/incomes for people who reported cycling to work.

Transit City has an interesting take on the concept of ‘highways’ for cyclists.  I remember having a conversation with a friend who frequently used the bike path along the CP tracks separating Rosemont from the Plateau/Mile End, who referred to it as a highway.  My reaction was to think that surely we need to get past the automotive metaphors, but on further reflection, my friend was pretty convincing in arguing that because of its limited-access, relatively high speeds, and degree of removal from the rest of the orthogonal grid, it really does offer a highway-like experience.

Meanwhile, Richard Layman offers a series of links to news stories on cycling in Philadelphia, where the car-cyclist negotiation over road space is pretty familiar.  Layman notes that Philadelphia’s Temple University appears to be doing a pretty good job when it comes to encouraging and supporting cycling as a means for getting to campus.

Coolopolis has an interesting post on Richard Bergeron, summing up with the following observation: “The weakness of the Montreal Projectionarian Party [ed: Projet Montréal] is that they are anti-car and to be anti-car is to be anti movement and cities require people to move around.”  Anecdotal evidence of the impact of parking price increases, the difficulty of running multiple errands involving hockey equipment, and the unreasonable doubling of parking ticket prices (up to $82!!!) lead to the conclusion that cars=movement and that any policy not catering to drivers will be harmful to the city.

While auto access to commercial streets is certainly an important part of the picture, it’s definitely not the whole thing.  Studies done by Convercité on Montréal’s commercial streets reveal that in many cases, the vast majority of patrons arrive on foot, rather than by car.  On Sherbrooke in NDG, only 12% of respondents arrived by car.  While ensuring easy and affordable automobile access for short shopping trips is important, it shouldn’t be over-estimated, nor should it preclude consideration of the alternatives, from the conversion of a handful of parking spots to restaurant terrasses or bike parking to Projet Montréal’s trams.  It strikes me that Bergeron is less against cars than he is in favour of other forms of mobility, which have been largely ignored in the last sixty years in favour of a car-centric conception of street spaces that has done a significant amount of harm.

Benoit Gratton’s Montréalites du jour links to a great article by François Cardinal in La Presse.  An earlier article in La Presse featured some ‘non-evidence-based’ commentary from a couple of physicians, who did their best to characterize urban cycling as increasingly unsafe and generally psychotic.  Cardinal notes that the stats don’t back up the fear, and pens a pretty good piece on urban cycling in the process.

Richard Layman links to a jaw-dropping NYT piece on how Westchester kids get to school.  Layman keeps it reasonable and makes the very good point that large schools need integrated travel planning on a school-board (if not a state) level.  The quote par excellence from the article: “Laura Lampel, for one, is aware that the principal doesn’t want her to drive her daughter to school. But the bus is not an option, she says, because it arrives at 7:25 — only eight minutes before first period. Her daughter needs more time than that to get to her locker, so Ms. Lampel strives to drop her off by 7:10 at the latest.”  Wow.  Really?

Joop de Boer at the Pop-Up City has compiled the ‘planning’ videos for the four 2016 Olympics candidates.  Very interesting, and congratulations to Rio.  After watching their ‘pitch’ videos, compiled at Brand Avenue, I have to say that Rio blew the others out of the water.  I didn’t do any kind of review of their technical bid books or anything, and perhaps Rio has some big challenges with respect to equity and infrastructure, but their pitch video blew the others out of the water.  Watch Rio’s – listen to the music and their emphasis on the sounds of the city – and then tolerate the wooden formula of the others.  Interestingly, a private beach appears to have become de rigueur for Olympic Villages these days.  I suppose ours in Vancouver kind of does that, too…

If I was in Montreal on Sunday (sigh), I would go to this event, posted by Neath at Walking Turcot Yards.

Kaid Benfield at the NRDC does a good job summarizing some analysis done by Bike Pittsburgh of the latest American Community Survey data on mode of transport to work.  Pittsburgh does well on these lists – along with Chicago, it’s pretty much the only other Midwestern city where use of alternatives to the car appear legitimate and popular.  Canadian cities stack up pretty well if compared to these lists, but have trouble touching New York, Boston, and Washington in terms of commuting without cars.

In Vancouver, CityCaucus seizes on the opening of a new wind turbine at Grouse Mountain to take another swipe at the community garden built by the Vision administration at Vancouver city hall.  It’s a bit of a stretch, though I suppose that they’re both largely symbolic gestures.  CityCaucus finds it ironic that the sustainability intervention most likely to garner attention during the Olympics (in addition to the wind turbine, Grouse will also host NBC’s Today show) is a private initiative, while the publicly funded ‘Gregor’s garden’ will be in muddy hibernation.  A true state of affairs, but really – isn’t the real irony building a wind turbine and then leaving the lights on all night, every night?  Even when the night skiing ended in the spring?

And finally, the Urbanophile does a bang-up job (as usual) highlighting the absurd ways in which planning throws up obstacles to making better urban places:  “Virtually every piece of planning regulation I see acts to discourage urbanization and especially to reduce densities below market demand.”  The Urbanophile is great reading and really well balanced between urban and suburban perspectives – Aaron is definitely not an ideologue or wedded to any one solution, so to read such a screed from that source is enlightening.  The City of Toronto’s planning department is even called out for refusing approval to a condo project with no parking.  Speaking of parking, Sightline has a great piece calling on the right-wing/conservative think tanks of the Pacific Northwest to stick to their guns when it comes to parking regulations.

Hopefully I can keep my act together consistently enough to make this sort of round-up a weekly affair, enjoy the links!

Great piece on Triple Canopy about urban design in the Lindsay administration in NYC in the late 1960s. He Is Fresh and Everyone Else Is Tired, Part 2 – Triple Canopy

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I’ve stumbled across two things online related to living more locally, in terms of diet and holiday shopping.

Alex Trevi at Pruned posted a great animated public service announcement (via Super Colossal) from the Japanese government that looks at the health, landscape, and economic consequences of changes in the Japanese diet.  It’s an elegant and stylized look at the ways in which food affects all parts of life and brings up some issues that are often talked about here in Vancouver, but are of course also pertinent in other places that I care about.

The second, shopping related item, is via Richard Layman, a historical revitalization consultant in the DC area.  He posted a letter to staff at an architectural firm (Dreiling Terrone) that does well to point out some of the differences between main street and the mall.  The letter puts forward the great proposition that part of living in the city is accepting that the street environment simply works differently than does the mall, which is both good (surprises and twists) and bad (selection can be choppy, etc…) and that of course we should emphasize the positive.