All posts by Sandy James

Artist Sarah Ross Addresses “Hostile Architecture”

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December 15, 2022

Brutalism or Brutalist design came out in the mid 20th century as a blocky concrete style with lots and lots of concrete. Everything was overscale, and usually in cold looking geometric patterns. Buildings designed in this style did not have much to offer on the ground plane, which was normally just as desolate an area as the facade of these buildings.

A good Vancouver example is the medical/dental building at 805 Broadway designed by architect Vlad Plavsic. It has great views from the upper floors. And a whole lot of concrete on the interior and the exterior.

There is another name for the fostering of exterior environments in cities that are just not that welcoming to people, and try to minimize opportunities for people to sit, sleep, or stay around. That moniker is “hostile architecture” and we have all seen it-from rounded corners on buildings to discourage people urinating, to benches that are designed for one person to sit on.

Chicago based artist Sarah Ross created “archisuits” over 15 years ago to address the hostile design of public spaces and buildings, and her work is still elemental post pandemic.

As described by Grace Ebert in Colossal,  “Ross’s four leisurewear pieces bulge with supports that perfectly fit into the negative space of benches, fences, and building facades. The designs draw a contrast between the soft, bendable wearables and the cold, rigid architecture, which the artist describes as “an arm of the law, a form that uses the built environment to police and control raced, classed, and gendered bodies.”

Ms. Ross has designed four suits that work perfectly on environments where people are not supposed to recline, sit, or lean on. Her statement about hostile design is just as true today. You can find out more about Ms. Ross’s work on her website here.


Edinburgh: Saving Lives, Saving 60 Million Dollars with 30 km/h Speed Limits

While we are still struggling to urge the Provincial government to allow municipalities to declare areas of their towns as 30 km/h zones without the costly signage and legalities, the City of Edinburgh continues to show  why we need to implement slower driver road speeds.

The adoption of the lower driver road speeds was part of the City of Edinburgh’s commitment to Vision Zero, a strategy to stop all traffic fatalities and injuries while enhancing safe, healthy equitable mobility.

In this evaluation that has just been completed on the city’s 20 mph (30 km/h) citywide network, not only did average driver road speed drop, but researchers were able to clearly show that for every one mile per hour of decreased driver speed that accidents were reduced by five percent. Of course the other important outcome was that driver caused crashes at lower speeds result in less significant injuries to vulnerable road users.

Driver vehicle crashes were reduced by thirty percent in the first three years of the implementation of the 20 mile per hour speed limits, with a coinciding 31 percent drop in death and serious injury. The lower driver road speeds meant that more people bicycled more often.

Nitrogen Oxide emissions also decreased, a key national policy goal of the  British government. But the absolutely best part of this evaluation is the analysis that the lower driver speed limits have saved 38.6 million pounds in three years.

That’s the equivalent of nearly 60 million Canadian dollars.

Due to this effectiveness, Edinburgh’s Transport and Environment Councillor now wants to expand the area that is applied to the  20 mph driver road speed.These findings are in keeping with this study published last Fall in the Journal of Transport and Health that looked at the 20 mph speed reduction in Edinburgh and in Belfast, Ireland. Even though there were marked differences in how the 20 mph and Vision Zero approach were implemented , reductions in posted driver speed resulted in “significant reductions in collisions and casualties, particularly in Edinburgh which had higher average speed at baseline”.

The study also noted that the monetary cost of crashes and deaths would exceed the cost of any intervention to reduce speed, making the overall cost and benefits favourable.

The YouTube video below describes the implementation of the 20 mph speed limits in Belfast and in Edinburgh.


The Driver Right-Turn-on-Red & Why It Should Be Rethought

Do you know the history of how vehicle drivers were allowed to turn right at a red light?

And did  you know before fifty years ago while some places allowed drivers to turn right at a red light, nearly half of jurisdictions, including most of the eastern United States did not?

It was the 1973 Oil Crisis and the Energy Crisis of 1979 when fuel costs soared that vehicle drivers and governments looked at reducing energy use nationally. It was Alan Voorhees that did work on the “benefits” of the Right Turn on Red System (RTOR).  As unlikely as it sounds, allowing a driver to turn right on a red light at an intersection saved between 1 and 4.6 seconds of time. This was seen by the National Energy Department as a significant improvement for energy efficiency, and it was recommended that RTOR be implemented nationally.

Besides the time saving, there was a saving in fuel costs that impacted mainly larger vans and trucks. That is why today many courier companies have their trucks only making right turns to reduce idling, and to keep trucks from waiting in the middle of intersections to complete left turns.

Of course there was also the pesky bit of what happens when vehicles are allowed to turn right on red.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found over 40 years ago that permitting these right turns by drivers increased driver crashes with pedestrians by  60 percent and increased driver crashes with cyclists  by 100 percent. But saving those few seconds of stopping time for vehicle drivers has still been paramount, with even Quebec moving to allowing right turn on red (except in Montreal) in 2003.

Right turn on red Vancouver 1953

In 2015 Toronto Public Health produced a report showing that the right turn on red driving tactic had resulted in 1,300 pedestrian injuries and deaths from 2008 to 2012. That is 13 percent of all serious injuries and deaths due to vehicle driver crashes. Simply prohibiting the right turn on red would alleviate  those injuries and fatalities.

As Councillor Mike Layton recounted “the decision to allow RTOR “had nothing to do with road safety and everything to do with convenience and saving gas.”

You would think in a country that provides universal health care the concept of Vision Zero, allowing no deaths or serious injury on any roads would be of paramount importance. But the right turn on red permission for drivers has been relatively unchallenged, and the injury and death impact of giving drivers priority is underreported.

Take a look below at two articles from British Columbia published thirty years apart discussing allowing drivers the ability to turn right through red lights. The first article was published in the Vancouver Sun in 1953. The second article by Sydney Harris was published in the Victoria Times Colonist in 1981.

Here we are 40 years later, supposedly championing sidewalk users and cyclists in cities, and still giving vehicle drivers that few seconds of priority with red light turns. At what cost?

Right turn on red Vancouver 1953 14 Jul 1953, Tue The Vancouver Sun (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada)

Times Colonist Victoria May 5, 1981 05 May 1981, Tue Times Colonist (Victoria, British Columbia, Canada)

Better Breathing in Cities & The Miracle of Street Trees

It was over ten years ago that a study  called “Sustaining America’s Urban Trees and Forests worked out that one single immature street tree had the same cooling impact as five air conditioners in separate rooms operating twenty hours a day. Simply increasing street trees may bring down summer heat significantly in cities.

Increasing tree canopy in cities not only fights poor air quality and heat islands, trees can reduce the hourly ozone by 15 percent, sulfur dioxide by 14 percent and particulate matter by 13 percent.

Data shows that one healthy tree can remove 300 pounds of carbon dioxide from the air annually. Trees in the United States are estimated to remove 784,000 tons of carbon dioxide annually, a 3.8 billion dollar equivalent value.

Steve Mouzon’s post in  of two years ago shows that “evapotranspiration” from trees cool heat by 2 to 9 degrees. So how do you cost the value of a street tree?  Dan Burden estimates the lifetime benefits of a single street tree as $90,000, and a street that is full of street trees raises the value of the adjacent housing by $22,000 a unit.

There is also some quirky weirdness: there is less crime on streets that are lined with trees. But think of it: the more street trees, the more walkable and accessible and cared for, meaning there are more eyes on the street as well as more foot traffic.

Add in one more benefit for Metro Vancouver: every street tree absorbs one inch of stormwater, so installing and watering street trees pays off as part of stormwater infrastructure.

But perhaps the most important aspect of street trees is the health of children: A study just released that looked at 3,000 city kids in Porto Portugal found that children who moved to live close by green spaces had better lung capacity than children who lived further away. Even accounting for other factors such as the fact that babies do not spend a lot of time outdoors, moving to a greener area by the time you are ten significantly improves health outcomes. Do trees reduce stress, or is there an impact on children’s microbiome ,the name for the different bacteria that live on human forms?

Here’s a YouTube video from the City Beautiful channel where a Sacramento commentator illustrates why street trees change livability and community.


Portland Loo, Accessible Washroom Finally Installed in CRAB Park!

After over a year saying they were going to do this,  Vancouver Park Board is finally doing what the City of Vancouver should be doing. That is setting up accessible public toilets in “underserved areas” according to the Parks Washroom Strategy. Of course, in Vancouver underserved areas means just about anywhere that is not in a park.

CRAB  Park now has two stainless steel Portland Loos which are designed to be easy to clean and maintain, and are in keeping with the Park Board strategy to expand washroom facilities throughout the parks.

At Viewpoint Vancouver we have written again and again about the need for public washrooms in Vancouver along every transit route and also in every commercial area. Viewpoint Vancouver has also written about the Portland loo

and why it is so special:  as outlined in CityLab  the design process was unique in that Portland looked at other municipalities’ public toilets and realized that the privacy of them allowed for “nefarious” activities to occur in them.

“We really looked at Seattle as what not to do,” says Anna DiBenedetto, a staff assistant to city commissioner Randy Leonard, the spiritual godfather of the Portland Loo. “We think it was the design that was the fatal flaw. Trying to be comfortable and private makes people feel more empowered to do the illegal activities that people do in public toilets.”

Portland had a “loo squad” 15 years ago and the first Portland loo was installed in 2008 in the Old Town-Chinatown area. It is still there, still functioning. The secret to the success of the Portland loo design is as follows:

-no running water, just a spout on the exterior that pours cold water;-no mirror, as mirrors get vandalized;

-openings at the top and bottom of the Portland loo so that it is not completely private, ensuring that pedestrians and police know if someone is in there.

Add in a graffiti resistant finish and stainless steel walls and doors and the Portland loo is complete. The cost for the first washroom was $140,000 USD, but is now about $90,000. Maintenance is pegged at $1,000 per month per location.

From the first flush of the Portland loo the design has been wildly successful and has been installed in Victoria B.C and in Smithers B.C. In fact in 2012 the Portland loo in Victoria was deemed to be the best public washroom in Canada and the Victoria Mayor was “flushed with pride”

You can take a look at Christine Hagemoen’s excellent article in Scout Magazine where she outlines the history of public washrooms in Vancouver.  Ms. Hagemoen also documents what happened during the first part of the pandemic when “ most of us hunkered down in the safety of our Covid-bunkers and obsessed about toilet paper,  homeless residents of Vancouver were left scrambling to find an open toilet.”

Viewpoint Vancouver also wrote about the pandemic fact that on Granville Street Starbucks would sell you a huge cup of coffee, but not allow you to use the washroom. And don’t look to the adjoining book store to help you during the pandemic either.

The first year of the pandemic showed how poorly we deal with equity for homeless people: public washrooms and libraries were closed. These are two places (besides parks) where everyone is welcome no matter who they are.

  Paola Lorrigio in The Star bluntly pointed out that the dearth of  public washrooms, once a barrier to the homeless, poor, racialized and disabled is now a barrier to everyone. The pandemic also brought out the need for public washrooms to encourage people to get outside, bike, use sidewalks  and exercise, when those were the  few things open to everyone.

Lezlie Lowe who wrote “No Place To Go: How Public Toilets Fail Our Private Needs” observes that there’s no Canadian tradition for on-street, accessible, paid for by municipal government bathroom provision. City governments have relied on private businesses to take care of public washroom needs.

That needs to change.

It’s time for the City of Vancouver to step up.

Because everyone at some time needs to go.

Here’s a video from over ten years ago of the “first flush” of the Portland Loo when it was installed in Portland Oregon. That loo is still there.

One Pedestrian A Month & Vision Zero

Vision Zero refers to zero road deaths and no serious injuries on roads, with the philosophy that every life matters.  Applied in Sweden since 1997 the core belief is that “Life and health can never be exchanged for other benefits within the society”. This approach differs from the standard cost benefit approach, where a dollar value is based upon life, and that value is used to decide the cost of road networks and calculate the cost of risk.

We see examples of this all the time and are now inured to these avoidable fatalities as the opportunity cost of driving a vehicle.

There has been ten pedestrians killed so far in Vancouver, one pedestrian a month. One was a woman crossing at Beach Avenue and Broughton Street at 8:00 p.m. (it was still light) on July 27. She was killed by a white SUV. A cyclist also lost his life in Vancouver biking on Pacific at Hornby in July.

In August the family of Sarah Lutgens (who at 73 years of age and extremely active was firstly reported as “elderly” in the Vancouver Sun) were in court regarding their death of their mother in September 2020. Ms. Lutgens  was killed by a driver at Tenth and Sasamat. The driver had proceeded through a red light making a left turn, crashing into  Ms. Lutgens who was legally crossing in a crosswalk and then continued to drive over Ms. Lutgens’ body.

It is no surprise that we as a society forgive these fatalities as an unpleasant side effect of the freedom to roam the road in a vehicle. And no surprise that driving over Ms. Lutgens is seen as an offence under the Motor Vehicle Act and not a criminal offence, as there was no proof of criminal intent.

Ms. Lutgens with one of her five children, daughter Ruth

As Keith Fraser writes in the Vancouver Sun, “the court held that there was no evidence of a wanton and reckless disregard for the rules of the road prior to the intersection, and drugs and alcohol were not believed to be involved. Speed did not appear to be a significant factor.”

There are three things that contribute to road fatalities: driver speed, driver intoxication, and driver inattention. The driver was fined for “driving without due care and attention”, given an $1,800 fine, with a one year ban on driving and eighteen months of probation. In court the driver apparently was upset about the driving prohibition as it inhibited taking her children to private school.

The media is also not reporting that Ms. Lutgens was struck and run over by a Tesla SUV.  Because of thicker “A” pillars and driver height the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)  reports that SUVs are twice as likely to crash into pedestrians on left turns than smaller vehicles. The researchers actually  suggest that the design of these  bigger vehicles are culpable, as they  “may not afford drivers as clear a view of people crossing a road.” 

That is inexcusable.

Ms. Lutgens, a mother of five children is not alive to give her version of the story, but dash cam footage filmed her final moments. One of Ms. Lutgen’s daughters said in her victim impact statement that the driver:

 “took my mother from me, from my siblings, and from my children and husband. I could not eat. I could not sleep. I could not take care of myself or my children.”

There are cliffs in terms of the recognition of the collateral damage done to families by these crashes, and the loss of talent and treasure to society in these unnecessary deaths.

This year Parachute Canada has commenced the discussion in a national awareness campaign based on Vision Zero principles that calls on Canadians to #ShareSafeRoads.  

Parachute Canada is a national charity dedicated to injury prevention and they have produced a series of quick 30 second videos getting the “driver”, “pedestrian”, “cyclist” and even the “scooter” to sit down and talk to a therapist. We need to commence and continue this dialogue.

We’ve included the English and French version for you to view below.

Image: RuthLutgens,VancouverSun

Equity & Sidewalk Users: Are They Treated Equal?

Featured image for “Where is the Equity for Sidewalk Users in Metro Vancouver?”

It’s time to take a look at what is happening for walkers and rollers in Metro Vancouver and the news is not good. The City of Vancouver tries the salvo of comparing the number of pedestrian deaths to other major cities in the world which is not really relevant.

In the City of Vancouver there is no major freeway with off ramps through the city  and not many  places where people can legally travel over 50 kilometers an hour on streets, so any comparison to another major international city with such infrastructure is apples and oranges.  But it shows that instead of seriously looking at curb ramp infill and enhancing the walking and rolling environment the City chooses to change the subject.

Metro Vancouver municipalities need to see the enhancement of sidewalks and the walking and rolling environment as vitally important. Curb ramp infill at every corner needs to be done, and should not be delayed for budgetary reasons.

Vehicle driver speed is responsible for one third of all crashes, and implementing slower speeds allows for higher pedestrian survival rates. If 90 percent of pedestrians can survive a  vehicle driver crash at 30 km/h and if only 10 percent of pedestrians can survive a vehicle driver crash at 50 km/h, why not implement that survivable speed, as they have done in countless cities in Europe? Why is it in a province that champions universal health care is the ability to implement 30 km/h speeds in municipalities NOT the top priority of the provincial government?

A simple glance in the Coroners’ Service Statistics for 2021 show that despite the pandemic and the fact supposedly less people were driving, 56 pedestrians died in the Province.  In comparison in  pandemic 2020 there were 35 pedestrians killed.

During the pandemic municipalities encouraged walking and cycling, and in the case of Vancouver implemented Slow Streets as a measure to provide more room for walking and rolling. Given the estimates that 30 to 40 percent of people are still doing some work from home or changing their daily commute, the fact that the number of pedestrians being killed has dramatically risen shows that more needs to be done for pedestrian infrastructure.

In 2022 to date seven pedestrians have died. That is seven people who won’t get home to their families.

In 2021 ten pedestrians died, four while walking or rolling on Vancouver sidewalks.

Figures from March 2019 show that Canada has a rate of 5.8 road deaths per 100,000 people. We can look at the United States with their extensive road networks and a death rate of 12.4 per 100,000.

But that’s not where we should be comparing. Best practices are in Europe, which is bringing in vehicle speed regulators,  has championed slower speeds , implemented country wide speed cameras and just become serious at implementing Vision Zero, ensuring that no road deaths happen.

Our rate of death in Canada is double that of the United Kingdom at 2.9 and of Switzerland which is 2.2 .

And pedestrians in Canada are more likely to die than vehicle passengers or motorcyclists in a vehicle driver crash.

Statistics Canada shows that in 2020, 50 percent of all road deaths were drivers, 15 percent were passengers, 15.2 percent were pedestrians, 13.9 percent were motorcyclists and 2.7 percent were cyclists.

In British Columbia between 2012 and 2021 55 people a year have died by driver crashes while walking or rolling.

Most of those dead were men at 58 percent of fatalities, and 60 percent of all deaths are people over the age of 50 years. Fraser Health Unit (which includes Delta, Surrey and Burnaby) had 207 people die in this nine year period, while Vancouver Coastal Health had 127 people die. In terms of cities, Vancouver had the highest number of deaths at 87, with Surrey the second highest at 77 lives lost.

While it is now proven that walking and mobility are vital for sociability, engagement, and continued physical and mental health, the City of Vancouver has ignored this most important part of micromobility.

A new study also shows that even light walking after a meal improves health and blood sugar levels  and enhancing walkable infrastructure keeps citizens of all ages mobile. Sidewalk and walking infrastructure keeps citizens healthy.

In a city that is worried about providing adequate park space in the Broadway Plan and in a Metro Vancouver area that is now fretting about parks being at capacity it simply makes sense to expand the lessons learned on the city’s greenways network which championed walking.  

We need to  offer all age accessibility on every walking and rolling environment and sidewalk in Vancouver. That also means a rethink of Vancouver Council’s  “vehicles first” policy which allows for personal  Electric Vehicle cord charging conduits to be placed across sidewalks.

One more example where sidewalk users, undoubtedly the most sustainable mode of transportation are relegated to being second class citizens to electric vehicles. Where is the equity?

Accessible sidewalks, safe intersections, the use of raised crosswalks have all been done in Vancouver. The raised crosswalk brings walkers and rollers to the same level of vehicles, and means there is no grade change from the sidewalk. Other than a few examples, the city has ignored implementing this as a programmed element in street changes or major development.

The City of Vancouver’s own numbers show why the walking environment needs to be enhanced now: 45 percent of pedestrian fatalities are seniors, and 50 percent of all pedestrian fatalities and serious injuries happen at night. Half of all the vehicle driver crashes in the city that are fatal or life changing injuries involve pedestrians and cyclists. And most of those vehicle driver crashes occur in Vancouver’s low light and rainy winters, meaning that walking infrastructure and lighting should be enhanced  and posted vehicle driver speed decreased.

In a province where nearly 80 percent of all driver crashes with pedestrians occur at intersections it just makes sense to improve the walking and rolling infrastructure, slow vehicle driver traffic down, and save people from serious injury and avoidable death in municipalities.

Why is wellbeing and mobility of residents at this micromobility and  sustainable level not a priority?

Supreme Court Plows Through Issue: Is Municipality responsible for snow clearing on sidewalks?

Featured image for “Can You Sue The City Over Snow? Supreme Court and BC Court of Appeals Plow Through”

January 18, 2022

Can You Sue The City Over Snow? Supreme Court and BC Court of Appeals Plow Through the Issues

Written by:Sandy James Planner

Two recent court decisions inform how cities will be handling snow removal on sidewalks.

In a ruling that came down in October the Supreme Court of Canada ordered a new trial for Taryn Joy Marchi who hurt her leg climbing over a snowbank in Nelson B.C.

In court the City of Nelson argued that snow removal was immune from negligence claims because it was a “core policy decision”. The Supreme Court of Canada had to decide whether snow removal was a “core policy decision” (which makes the municipality not answerable to negligence or liability claims, or whether it was an  “operational decision”  taking while undertaking city policy, which is open to liability claims.

Ms. Marchi had traversed over snow from angled city parking on the street to a city sidewalk. There was no way to access the sidewalk except through a snowbank. Ms. Marchi successfully argued that providing an access in snow from the city parking lot to the sidewalk was not a “core policy  decision” but was an “operational decision” taken by the City of Nelson. You can read more about this case here.

This of course has ramifications for other Canadian municipalities. The Supreme Court found that  angled parking spaces would not have been cleared if it was not intended for residents to use them, and had a pathway in the snow been cleared in a path from the parking to the sidewalk Ms. Marchi would not have injured her leg. A new trial has been ordered.

Another trial again in British Columbia examined whether residents are liable for clearing the snow in front of their houses. As Jason Proctor notes in this CBC report, Canadians have been suing each other for decades about sidewalk snow removal in front of their houses and slips and falls.

In 2017 Darwin Der slipped and fell on black ice on the sidewalk in Burnaby. His case went to the B.C. Court of Appeal with a lawsuit against the couple who owned the adjacent house, arguing that the property owners owed a “general duty of care to remove snow and ice from their section of the sidewalk.”

The court of appeal judges disagreed, saying those residential property owners had shovelled the sidewalk the previous day and had salted it that day. They had done their civic duty and that “The snow and ice accumulating on public sidewalks and the potholes on the street in front of the house are the legal responsibility of the municipality, not the adjacent property owner.”

So at this point all eyes are back on those municipalities.

The new trial in Ms. Marchi’s case will establish whether it is policy or an operational decision when  Nelson plows the on street parking out, but forgets to provide a pathway through the snow  onto the sidewalk; and as it stands, if you do the basic shovelling on your sidewalk in front of your house, any ice or potholes contributing to falls are the city’s fault.

A Forest Walk Is good for you: Here’s the Data

Featured image for “Want to Boost Your Well-Being & Mental Health? Go For a Walk in the Woods Now”

Want to Boost Your Well-Being & Mental Health? Go For a Walk in the Woods Now

Want to feel better about yourself quickly? Get out into a forest for a walk.

It has been known for a while that getting out in nature boosts mental and physical health, but no one has quantified what that value was to health care systems. A study done by Forest Research in the United  Kingdom was the first to come up with some monetary figures.

Going for a walk in nature means “fewer doctor visits and prescription, reduced hospital and social service care, and reduced lost days of work”.  The Japanese refer to this as “forest bathing”.

And here’s something very interesting: the study showed that street trees in urban places “cut an additional 16 million pounds (24.4 in Canadian dollars)  from antidepressant costs”.

Damian Carrington in The Guardian notes that while the pandemic has increased mental illness, “green prescribing” getting people to go for a walk in nature helps. In the survey work done by Forest Research,  “90 percent of respondents said woodlands were important to them in reducing stress”.

You can take a look at the actual study with principal researcher Vadim Saraev here.

The information is clear: if people spend just thirty minutes a week in a forest grove, they feel better. And the data proves it: the annual mental health benefits of visiting woodlands and forest groves are estimated to be 185 million pounds or 317.5 million Canadian dollars.

That means this research makes the case for continued investment in forests and city treescapes for mental and physical well-being, not only for sustainability, shade and mitigating climate change.

The research also shows that you don’t particularly need to do anything in the forest, that walking and sitting is just as good. As Dr. William Bird has previously said, looking at a cellphone screen does not count, your field of vision and senses need to be taken up by the woodland.

There was also a study in Australia where visits to green spaces of at least thirty minutes lowered depression rates by seven percent.  You can take a look at this study from Brisbane in 2020 here, that concluded the need for green space during the pandemic was vital for well-being.

Another British study showed that a two hour visit in nature weekly significantly increased “wellbeing”.  This was the first study to ascertain how much time was needed to be in nature to get an effect, and predicted that in the future “two hours in nature could join five a day of fruit and vegetables and 150 minutes of exercise a week as official health advice.

Access to these wooded areas and forests needs to be more easier: in England only 63 percent of people visit the woods once a year. That number increases to 80 percent in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Of those people that visit the woods several times a month,  half of those people are in Scotland.

Some of that advice about walking in the wods for mental health already seems to be followed in Metro Vancouver.  Neal Carley, General Manager of Parks, Planning and the Environment for Metro Vancouver states that the regional parks have been  discovered and heavily used during the pandemic. With a normal visitor volume of 12 million visits annually,  Metro Vancouver parks had  16.5 million visits in 2020 and 17 million visits in 2021.

Here’s a quick virtual walk in the woods below. Please note this video does not substitute for your own walk and time in a local forest.

Top image:Town&Country

Does Your Public Space Pass the Seven Year Test?

Does your Public Space Pass the Seven Year Test?

It was Chris Foxon, a former groundskeeper for the Vancouver School Board that noted that publics change, and that in every seven years there was a new cohort of people that are using public spaces. Mr. Foxon saw the effective use of space as having a seven year life span before those space need to be re-evaluated or repurposed for changing people and interests.

The Tupper Neighbourhood Greenway has been one of the city’s most constant and neighbourhood loved spaces located to the north of Tupper Secondary School in the 400 block of East 23rd Avenue.

The street on this block had been originally closed in the 1970’s due to street racing, and had been left as a closed asphalt surface with two chains on either street end. One side was playing fields associated with the school; the other side was the physical campus of the school. That closed street stayed that way for over thirty years.

In 2003 a student at Tupper Secondary, Jomar Lanot went to play basketball with friends on the school grounds on a weekend. Leaving the grounds he was accosted by a gang not related to the school. He was murdered.

In the aftermath of this tragedy the neighbourhood wanted to do something to commemorate this tragedy, and  to bring the community together after such a horrendous event. Walking with community members and teachers, formalizing this closed street into a public space that could be used by residents and the school seemed like the right thing to do.

You can look at the report to Council on this neighbourhood greenway here.

The design for this closed street was developed in concert with school students, who actually led some of the public process. The city’s engineer on the project, Linda Chow, had been a graduate of Tupper Secondary. Over several months the design was collaborated upon, and featured two infiltration gardens at each end of the street, a small amphitheatre of boulders for class teaching and a commemorative boulder in the centre.

The benches that are surrounding the boulder were designed by the shop class at the school, and were fabricated there.

In the City of Vancouver you cannot commemorate people on city streets, so Jomar’s name could not be put on the rock. But what could be placed was a quote. The school student body was given a choice of several quotes that could be engraved on the rock, and they chose a quote which came from Jomar’s school notebooks:

Culture is the root of our lives and Love is the most powerful force”.

The engraving on the rock was done onsite so that the students could witness that  part of the process.
When this neighbourhood greenway was planted, the school and community came out to do the work, while the culinary program at the school provided the cuisine. The VanDusen Master Gardeners followed up doing garden replanting, weeding and maintenance and had an active committee that stewarded the garden. The Lanot family was involved in the planting and the maintenance of the space, and Jomar’s mother spoke at the opening of the greenway.

The students at Tupper Secondary won the Mayor’s Award for Youth Involvement for their participation in the project in 2008.

This is a space that is always used. There is a violincello player that comes in the early afternoons to practice. Children and adults use the space, and there is a bikeway path that goes through the space. The garden portions of the greenway are well maintained and cared for.

These photos show how the gardens look today, with some maintenance being done on the infiltration gardens. The concept and space are now approaching 14 years of being actively used and maintained, although the original story of who Jomar was and how he died has been lost to many newcomers in the area. But the intent of the space, to bring community together carries on.

It is one of the most successful ongoing community spaces in east Vancouver, and illustrates the power of legacy when it is the right idea at the right time: inclusive open space for both students and residents.