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Is it Time To Ban SUVs in Cities?

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SUVs and trucks make up 60 percent of all vehicle purchases and have been responsible for a 46 percent increase in pedestrian deaths.

Never doubt the power and strength of the motor vehicle lobby. A SUV  (sport utility vehicle) is a vehicle built on a truck platform with a “high profile” on the street. Statistics show that SUVs with the high front end grille are twice as likely to kill pedestrians because of the high engine profile, but this information has not been well publicized. In the United States a federal initiative to include pedestrian crash survival into the vehicle ranking system was halted by opposing automakers.

It was the City of London England that banned a certain type of truck when the city realized that it was responsible for 50 per cent of all cycling mortalities and over 20 per cent of all pedestrian deaths. Of course there was pushback, but the Mayor of London just said no.

Laura Laker  in  the Guardian  now asks the question~is it time to ban SUVs from our cities? SUVs are heavily marketed and are highly profitable for car companies, but they are also deadly. Drivers have an 11 percent increase in the chance of fatality in them, as their size and bulk is connected with more reckless driving. They are also killing machines in the conventional sense. In September a SUV driver in Berlin lost control of his vehicle and killed four people on a sidewalk, a grandmother and grandson and two twenty year old men.

That was the tipping point for citizens in Berlin who called for size limitations on vehicles allowed in city centres, asking for a national policy permitting local authorities to restrict vehicles based upon size.

As Laker writes; SUVs are a paradox: while many people buy them to feel safer, they are statistically less safe than regular cars, both for those inside and those outside the vehicle. A person is 11% more likely to die in a crash inside an SUV than a regular saloon. Studies show they lull drivers into a false sense of security, encouraging them to take greater risks. Their height makes them twice as likely to roll in crashes and twice as likely to kill pedestrians by inflicting greater upper body and head injuries, as opposed to lower limb injuries people have a greater chance of surviving. Originally modelled from trucks, they are often exempt from the kinds of safety standards applied to passenger vehicles, including bonnet (hood) height. In Europe legislation is being brought in to end such “outdated and unjustified” exemptions.

In Europe,  SUVs are nearly 40% of all vehicle sales. If you are struck by a SUV you are twice as likely to be killed by its high motor profile. “British academics who analysed police collision data have identified pedestrians as 70% more likely to be killed if they were hit by someone driving a 2.4-litre engine vehicle than a 1.6-litre model.”

Europe does not collect statistics on vehicular fatalities by type, and researchers indicate that the lack of specific collision data and finger pointing means the car industry is creating bigger, heavier vehicles that are rolling family rooms. But large engine vehicles because of their size and profile are deadly.

SUVs are also ‘Climate killers’. There has been little progress on reducing  road transport carbon emissions in Europe, comprising 27% of all emissions. While the automobile industry blames regulators for turning away from diesel (lower in carbon but more toxic)  regulators blame the lack of progress on SUVs “driven by carmakers’ aggressive marketing”.

And here are the numbers~the size and larger engines in SUVs mean they have CO2 emissions that are 14% higher, with every market shift towards SUV’s increasing
CO2 emissions by 0.15g CO2/km on average. A 2018 Committee on Climate Change report noted that “the popularity of SUVs is cancelling out emissions savings from improvements in technology”.

We simply cannot drive our way out of climate change and increasing CO2 emissions, but we can take a stand. There is no place for SUVs in cities from an environmental standpoint. Being driven these are killing machines, and have no place in walkable, cyclable cities. It’s time to tell automakers that SUVs don’t belong here.

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Speed Cameras, Highways and Vulnerable Road Users

It’s hard to believe in this time of technology that we still require police officers to be vulnerable road users outside of their vehicles to flag over motorists for speed  transgressions on Canadian highways. Not only are they subject to being crashed into by the vehicle they are flagging down, they also may be hit by other  inattentive motorists.

I have written about how Switzerland has become the safest country in Europe on the roads by  regulating speed limits. In five years from 2001 to 2006 Swiss speed camera enforcement resulted in a fatality decrease of 15 percent per year, bringing road deaths from 71 annually down to 31. No need to have police flagging you down on the autoroute, a $330  ticket for driving 16 kilometres an hour over the speed limit  is in the mail.

The maximum travel speed is 120 km/h and it is rigidly enforced, making Swiss motorways the safest according to the European Transport Safety Council. Managing speed makes the roads easier to drive on, with consistent motorist behaviour and plenty of reaction time due to highway speed conformity.

poll conducted by Mario Canseco  last year shows that 70 percent of  people in British Columbia are now supportive of the use of a camera system similar to the Swiss to enforce road speed limits in this province. While the Province has located 140 red light camera at intersections with high collision statistics, speed on highways does not have similar technology.

On the last Thanksgiving weekend police forces across British Columbia announced a drive safely campaign, notifying that they would be out on highways  looking for anything that took away from safe highway driving. Anyone driving on highways from Abbotsford to Vancouver quickly saw the difference, with motorists staying to posted speed limits on highways.

But last month one  Delta Police Force member was nearly struck by a vehicle driver that was weaving in and out of traffic along a busy section of highway as the officer was outside of his vehicle attending to another stopped car.  That officer was nearly clipped and this was caught on a dash camera.

As reported by CTV News 

“The footage shows the driver speeding excessively and weaving through traffic while an unmarked police car has another driver pulled over. The police car had its red and blue flashing lights activated at the time, which means the driver should have slowed down and moved over.”

Sadly, the vehicle owner was only fined $368 for an action that could have led to a fatality. It’s one more reason why speed enforcement by automated cameras is simply the right thing to do, making roads safer and saving lives, health care costs and trauma. This approach also values the health and safety of  police officers to do work that does not expose them as vulnerable road users. It’s the 21st century, and time for technology to assist in changing driver behaviour for safer, speed regulated highways.

You can view the event as recorded here:

Why Slower Streets are Good For Everyone

Rod King has a different perspective about  building separated bike lanes and his point is well taken. The head of a British organization advocating for reduced road speed,  King asks why we build great quality separated infrastructure for cycling when the real problem is the speeds that drivers travel at. The higher the vehicular speed, the more problematic any cycling and walking interaction is. He notes that the “The cost of infrastructure is largely the cost of driving at speed and are not costs of cycling and walking.”

In Great Britain “utility cycling” refers to daily biking to work, shops and school. It’s well documented that there are enormous benefits to cycling which includes increasing physical and mental health as well as reducing congestion and increasing air quality. The British Social Attitudes Study found that only five percent of people cycle at least weekly, leading to the question of what is the most impactful way to increase “utility” cycling.

King’s answer? Slow the streets.

The “20 is Plenty” website writes that “Traffic speed and volumes (are) inversely related to walking and cycling levels” and cites the The World Health Organisation’s studies that  20mph (30 km/h)  is the maximum safe speed to reduce catastrophic  conflicts between cars and cyclists. “Safety fears are what people say most puts them off cycling. Cycling casualty rates fall 20-40% with wide area 20mph limits.”

In Britain signing side streets at 20 mph (30 km/h) resulted in a 300 percent increase in cycling to school in Edinburgh. Setting vehicular speed limits of 30 km/h on direct routes can maximize cycling gains.

For traffic engineers the key to fitting in separated cycle infrastructure is finding available land alongside highways or enough carriageway for lanes of a least 1.5m wide (2m is recommended). Yet, what if there isn’t space for a joined up safe separated cycle network? The choice becomes introduce 20mph limits or reduce parking or driving lanes (ie reduce motor vehicle road space). Separated lanes for cyclists and 20mph limits both have their place.”

King argues that  slower streets encourage increased cycling ridership and have little requirements except for signage which he estimates to cost about  1.50 pounds or $2.50 Canadian dollars a person.The more deluxe approach of using  public health expertise for driver education, providing signage and gaining police enforcement of speed limits can cost 2 pounds per capita ($3.30 Canadian) but can provide maximum engagement.

Streetfilms produced this YouTube video below that describes the philosophy of the 20 is Plenty movement and interviews Rod King. There is also a review of neighbourhoods that have reduced speeds for cycling and walking, encouraging physical activity and making the local community socially more cohesive.

Autonomous Vehicles Don’t “See” Pedestrians

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It was only a few years ago when autonomous vehicles were the shiny pennies pledging to undertake all the  pesky logistics of driving. But as reported in The Verge.com things are not quite as advanced as touted.These vehicles are testing out as unconscious killers of vulnerable road users, who are being slaughtered at an increasing rate on roads in North America.

The most important aspect for any vehicle on the road is the ability to recognize and avoid vulnerable road users, those pedestrians, cyclists and other wheelers that are using the street without the protection of a vehicular steel shell.

It appears that while car companies fill their vehicles with toys (I have already written about the huge dashboard reader screens) the technology is still not reliable to keep everyone safe on the road. That’s the nice way of saying that autonomous vehicles are murderous for other road users despite the fact that they have been portrayed as being logically smarter and safer than human drivers.

This report by the American Automobile Association (AAA) looked at the automatic braking systems of autonomous vehicles from different makers when confronted with a pedestrian (thankfully they used mannequins).  Four different 2019 model vehicles were used~a Chevy Malibu, Honda Accord, Tesla Model 3, and Toyota Camry.

Unbelievably  the vehicles hit the dummy pedestrians a horrifying sixty percent of the time-“and this was in daylight hours at speeds of 20 mph/30 km/h”. When child sized dummy pedestrians were used on the roadway, they were hit eighty percent of the time, 89 percent  of the time if between cars.These findings also occurred at higher speeds and at night.

Pedestrian fatalities were even worse if the victim had their back towards vehicles. The Truth About Cars writes “The researchers tested several other scenarios, including encountering a pedestrian after a right-hand turn and two adults standing alongside the road with their backs to traffic. The latter scenario resulted in a collision 80 percent of the time, while the former yielded a 100 percent collision rate.”

Thankfully in their conclusions  of the study AAA states that the high-tech detection systems are inadequate, with none of the various vehicles tested being able to detect an adult walking on the roadway at night. Only one vehicle was able to detect that an object was even in front of the car, but it still did not brake.

As Allison Arieff writes in the New York Times –while over 80 billion dollars has been spent in the last five years on “smart” or connected cars and AVs supposedly to make them safer, “investing in the car of the future is investing in the wrong problem. We need to be thinking about how we can create a world with fewer cars.”

In 2018 6,227 pedestrians (that’s the population of Yarmouth, Nova Scotia)  were killed in the United States.That’ is an increase of 4 percent from 2017. Canada is also in the club, being one of only seven industrialized nations in the world where pedestrian deaths are increasing.

The OECD’s International Transport Forum looked at distracted driving and the lack of law enforcement (or penalty) for the dramatic increase. I’ve previously written about SUV’s (vehicles built upon a truck platform) being responsible for a 46 percent increase in pedestrian fatalities, and those types of vehicles as well as trucks representing 60 percent of all new car purchases.

We can’t outsmart or drive our way out of this issue, and indeed as Arieff suggests we are looking at the wrong end of the problem. Creating deserted streetways for autonomous vehicles to travel, putting RFID (radio frequency identification ) readers on pedestrians or cyclists is answering the wrong question. For livable places and for sustainability we need to encourage active transportation and good efficient connected public transit, negating the need for the automobile industry to recreate themselves for this century. They are doing a pretty bad job so far.

You can take a look at the test crash dummies flying on the autonomous vehicle research course track in this short YouTube video below.

Three Pedestrians Died In Thirty Hours in Metro Vancouver~Here’s What We Can Do

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Last week three people within 30 hours in Metro Vancouver lost their lives doing a very simple act-walking on the street. A senior was mowed down by a truck in the early afternoon. And a 40 year old woman and a  man in his thirties lost their lives at 5:00 a.m. and 5:50 p.m., both times on dark streets. The man had tried to cross the street near the Ladner McDonald’s,had tripped on the median and was then struck by a vehicle. He was the father of three children ranging from 13 years to 18 months. His eldest children had lost their mother ten years ago.

There is already a go fund me page for the young family of that  Dad, Robbie Oliver, who was self-employed as a roofer. He was well loved and respected in Ladner, and the community has already held a candlelight vigil for him at the site of the accident.

We somehow have to stop thinking that  these needless deaths are necessary collateral to the use of vehicles. This CBC article with author Neil Aranson  talks about making cars smarter . The large denlike vehicles so popular today increase the likelihood of a pedestrian fatality by 50 percent. Neil who wrote ” No Accident: Eliminating Injury and Death on Canadian Roads” also suggests that while the European Union and Japan require pedestrian survivable design in their manufacturing rules, North America does not.  Outrage and insistence is needed to get vehicular manufacturers to do better.

But there is more to safe streets than vehicular design. Speed, visibility, road design, and driver behaviour  are also important factors.  The B.C. Coroners Service in their 2019 report identified that “from 2008 to 2016, more than one-third of traffic fatalities involved drugs or alcohol. ”

Of the 314 traffic fatalities in B.C. in 2018, 18 percent were pedestrians. Across the province 43 pedestrians died in 2017; that number increased to 58 people in 2018. ICBC, the insurance corporation estimates that in Metro Vancouver 2,100 vehicular crashes involve a pedestrian annually. A study done by Transport Canada in 2011 showed that 63 percent of fatalities at urban intersections were pedestrians aged 65 or older.

November, December and January are the danger months for pedestrians in Metro Vancouver. There is darkness, rain, and road glare and many intersections are not well lit. The City of Vancouver has hinted at installing more Leading Pedestrian Intervals (LPIs) which allow a pedestrian a “lead green time” when crossing. NACTO (the National Association of City and Transportation Officials) cite LPIs as reducing pedestrian crashes by 60 percent. There are several thousand LPIs installed in New York City, and the cost per intersection is minimal at $1,200 U.S. dollars.

Reducing speed at intersections allows for drivers to have more reaction time. And in Europe as part of Vision Zero (Zero deaths on the road) Finland requires pedestrians to wear some type of small reflective toggle.

Finland actually developed the pedestrian reflector in the 1960’s and as part of an overall strategy to reduce pedestrian deaths has been relatively successful.  Finland’s rate of pedestrian deaths to all road deaths is 11%. Canada’s rate of pedestrian deaths to all road deaths is 18%.

Each school child must have three reflectors on their clothing or backpack. This allows for an increased visibility from 150 meters to 600 meters. Adults are also required to wear this reflectivity, and there is a 50 percent compliance rate in the cities, and 75 percent compliance in the rural areas. In Vancouver Sabina Harpe and Lynn Shepherd explored the use of reflectivity in their Walk and Be Seen project at the Westside Seniors Hub.

It is one more dark, rainy night tool for pedestrian safety while the wild west of vehicular driver dominance-which has little legal punitive repercussions for deaths-still thrives.

Hearing that the “driver remained at the scene” is not enough to address road violence. It is a multi-pronged approach of insisting on better vehicular design, slower speeds in poor visibility , well lit intersections, and finding some acceptance for wearing small reflective products.

Will three pedestrian deaths in thirty hours be the road violence wake up call in Metro Vancouver?

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Photo by Snapwire on Pexels.com

This is Why Kids Don’t Walk/Bike to School

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Imagine walking up a street when a commuting SUV is honking loudly as a little girl going to school by bike crosses the unsidewalked road. She has been told by her mom to cross the street before the hill so that she could line up with the only sidewalk that is on the connecting  arterial road.  The honking SUV driver comes up, rolls down the window, and says that the little cyclist had crossed the road in front of her as if that was a bad thing. And you get the narrative~if there had not been a witness no one could have said what had truly happened, that a driver using the street as a commuting street  went around a corner at speed and could not see the child crossing from the height of her SUV. You tell the driver to slow her vehicle down as she continued her tirade about children walking and biking to school.

This is why children don’t bike, and why moms are hesitant to allow their children to go to school by foot or by cycle. We have designed streets, we evaluate streets, and we fix streets so that the most vulnerable of our society are the most disadvantaged by them.

Miriam Moore of New Zealand’s Women in Urbanism nails it when she says ” Road and street networks are so often analysed and assessed regarding their automobile connectivity, that we forget about their function in supporting the street life that surrounds them… Unfortunately, those who suffer from these networks maintaining their predominance, are society’s most vulnerable.”

In the City of Auckland New Zealand  and in most other places more women walk than men.  In Auckland a person dies every week and 14 are injured on the streets.  But somehow these deaths and injuries are perceived as the cost of doing vehicular business, and “a mobility-based backlash only occurs when someone needs dental work after a Lime scooter incident. ” Children are taught how to adapt for vehicles using the street by waiting extra time in cities at intersections for “cars running red lights”, and crossing times for children are “far too short for little or fragile legs“.

Women in Urbanism  in New Zealand have banded together to insist on slower speeds for safer streets in Auckland. They have a survey and are proposing the following:

Lowering of traffic speeds in the city centre to 30km/h across the city centre.
A network of “car free” streets in the city centre.
A lower speed limit of 20km/h around schools
A speed limit of 30km/h in our town centres.

This is a smart approach~no one knows the challenges of using streets more than the most vulnerable~ moms with strollers, people relying on mobility aids, children and seniors. By comprehensively demanding change to these four items Women in Urbanism have highlighted the issue and offered a way to remediate it.
“The inequity in the way Auckland builds its streets is blaringly obvious to those who choose not to drive. Car dependence is a choice, however for some reason, in 2018, Auckland’s road network still chooses to accept it as the default position. Our city’s intensification and social well-being demands that this stance is changed… Women in Urbanism would like to fix their current approach and make sure that staying alive is a priority.”

“As our urbanista hero Jane Jacob’s once said, “cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because and when they are created by everybody”.

Kudos to this group and their initiative to save lives and injuries by making Auckland more walkable and livable. You can take a look at their survey here.

Want to Boost Retail Sales? Add in Walking and Cycling Facilities

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Of course it makes intuitive sense that active transportation users and bus commuters would frequent retail businesses more often than those constrained by  vehicles. But it is always better to have the hard facts on this data, and researchers in the City of London England have done just that.

Transport for London (TfL)  in Great Britain has released a new study  with some staggering statistics about what happens when street improvements are made to facilitate walking and cycling. Time spent on retail streets increased by 216% between shopping, patronizing local cafes and sitting on street benches. Retail space vacancies declined by 17%.  London’s Business Improvement Districts are 90% in favour of more street improvements to facilitate pedestrians, and 85% in favour of better facilities for cyclists.

But the best news, and this is also in line with research conducted in Toronto and in New York City “people walking, cycling and using public transport spend the most in their local shops, spending 40% more each month than car drivers”.

The study for TfL was conducted by a researcher at University College London’s Bartlett School of Planning. Footfall and retail sales in unimproved areas were compared to shopping areas that had implemented improvements such as wider sidewalks, increased outdoor seating, public parks and pedestrian crossings.  Findings showed that retail rents  increased by 7% in improved areas, and office space rents increased by 4%, suggesting that the street improvements translated into much more desirable spaces. You can download the entire report, which also has some great business case references for retail areas  here.

Local business improvement districts in London are also understanding the benefits of increased pedestrian and cycling clientele, with 90% seeing the advantages of pedestrian improvements and 85% wanting more cycling facilities in their area.

Will Norman, London’s Walking and Cycling Commissioner, said: ‘With businesses across London really struggling to survive, we have to do everything we can to support them.‘The evidence is clear – adapting our streets to enable more people to walk and cycle makes them cleaner, healthier and more welcoming, which encourages more people to shop locally.‘The benefits of designing streets around pedestrians and cyclists and reducing car use can be enjoyed by everyone and will help ensure the future of our high streets.’

And of course, more pedestrians and more cyclists on separated facilities, improved street design and slower speeds make roads safer and encourage travel to retail businesses by active transport, and make retailers more money.  This BBC video below talks about Vision Zero and how to make the streets of London safer for everyone.

Why SUVs are Pedestrian Killing Machines

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You can forget about reducing vehicular emissions, a major source of climate change, if we can’t change our habits. As the International Energy Agency has stated while there are 350 plus of different electric models of vehicles planned in the next five years, only 7 percent of all automobiles will be electric by 2030.  Around the world sales of internal combustion engine vehicles (ICE) have fallen 2 percent, the first reduction in ten years. Surprisingly China and India have had substantial declines in the purchase of ICE vehicles, by 14 percent and 10 percent respectively.

The real challenge~and you see it in marketing everywhere~is the ICE motor vehicle manufacturers peddling of their darling, the SUV (Sport Utility Vehicle)  built on a truck frame that gets around car regulations due to its truck platform. These SUVs are killing machines, and along with trucks represent 60 percent of all vehicle purchases and directly responsible for a 46 percent increase of pedestrian deaths. As well, drivers of SUVs are 11 percent more likely to die in an accident.

Automakers advertise the SUV’s as safe rolling dens for drivers, and there are now globally 200 million SUVs, up from 35 million ten years ago. Sales of SUVs have also doubled in a decade.

The numbers are staggering~half of all vehicles sold in the United States are SUVs, and in gas conscious Europe, one-third of all purchases are for SUVs.

And they have an appeal. “In China, SUVs are considered symbols of wealth and status. In India, sales are currently lower, but consumer preferences are changing as more and more people can afford SUVs. Similarly, in Africa, the rapid pace of urbanisation and economic development means that demand for premium and luxury vehicles is relatively strong.”

Given that 25 percent of global oil goes to vehicular consumption, and the related CO2 emissions, “The global fleet of SUVs has seen its emissions growing by nearly 0.55 Gt CO2 during the last decade to roughly 0.7 Gt CO2. As a consequence, SUVs were the second-largest contributor to the increase in global CO2 emissions since 2010 after the power sector, but ahead of heavy industry (including iron & steel, cement, aluminium), as well as trucks and aviation.”

SUV’s slurp up 25 percent more energy than a mid-sized vehicle, and even with more efficient smaller vehicles being purchased SUVs are “responsible” for the 3.3 million barrels a day growth in global oil in the last eight years. As the IEA states

“If consumers’ appetite for SUVs continues to grow at a similar pace seen in the last decade, SUVs would add nearly 2 million barrels a day in global oil demand by 2040, offsetting the savings from nearly 150 million electric cars.”

And that is crucial. SUVs because of their bulk and weight are challenging to convert to electricity, and automakers are cranking these out, to the detriment of more efficient vehicular options.  The ICE age is not over. The  role of the SUV in increasing oil demand and contributing to CO2 emissions must be  taken seriously. Driving an ICE operated SUV should  be understood to be  a crime to the environment and to clean air futures.

What will it take to educate automakers and prospective SUV customers that the ICE age needs to be over?

You can take a look at the YouTube video below that sells a Chevy Blazer SUV as a “piece of candy” and a  “sexy mom” car.

Our Christmas Wish~Public Washrooms Near All Transit Stations

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We have been wondering why Metro Vancouver’s TransLink does not have a system of continuous public internet along the system, and why there are no washrooms, because it is a human need and everyone needs access to washrooms. We have been exploring  those issues for some time.

TransLink has now announced that free access to internet service is coming, and will be offered on SkyTrain, the SeaBus and on transit.

As the Vancouver Sun noted there had been cut and paste internet service offered at SeaBus terminals and on the SeaBus, but service was not extended beyond these locations. Working with Shaw the idea is to provide uniform service across the transit network, with the proviso that such coverage will take six years to be completely implemented. And yes, you will be able to access the internet even if you are not a Shaw customer. Trials will start next year, and the complete internet coverage of the public transportation system is said to the first in Canada.

And to make matters even more comfortable and convenient, the TransLink Board of Directors has approved the development of a strategy to provide washrooms on the system “over the longer term”. As reported in the Daily Hive  “The preferred method is to provide washroom facilities in partnership with third-party parties to maximize customer experience and maximize safety and security while also minimizing costs and risks.”

It’s no surprise that  TransLink found  that 72% of those surveyed said washrooms would make the transit experience better, with 20% actually admitting that they limited their trips around the need to use washroom facilities. And fully 25 percent said they’d use transit service more and longer if washroom access was provided.

An implementation strategy for washrooms will provide the missing link of washroom comfort and convenience. Coupled with universal internet coverage, TransLink is now becoming a system that is truly  accessible and attractive for all users. It’s a pretty perfect Christmas wish fulfilment.

We just can’t wait.

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The Walkable Block & the Legacy of Vancouver’s Davis Family

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It seems only fitting in the month with “British Columbia Day” in this province that we celebrate the remarkable Davis family and Pat Davis who passed away last week.  This family made their street a walkable wonder.

Over a period of five decades the Davis Family stewarded a group of Edwardian and Victorian  houses on Mount Pleasant’s  100 block of West Tenth Avenue just east of city hall, restoring them. At the time in the late 70’s and early 80’s renovating old houses and fitting them with rental units was not the thing to do. The Davis family fought pressure to turn their houses into a cash crop of three-story walk-ups  on their street, and proudly display a plaque indicating that their restoration work was done with no governmental assistance of any kind.

But more than maintaining a group of heritage houses that described the rhythm and feel of an earlier Vancouver,  the Davis family extended their interest and stewardship to the street. In the summer a painted bicycle leans on a tree near the sidewalk with the bicycle basket full of flowers~in season there is a wheelbarrow to delight passersby full of  blooming plants. An adirondack chair perches near the sidewalk. And every morning, one of the Davis family was out sweeping the sidewalk and ensuring that no garbage was on the boulevards or the street.

As author and artist Michael Kluckner notes the Davis Family’s stewardship profoundly altered the way city planning was managed in Mount Pleasant. As one of the oldest areas of the city with existing Victorian houses, zoning was developed to maintain the exterior form and add rental units within the form. The first laneway houses in the city, called “carriage houses” were designed for laneway access and to increase density on the lots. And when it came time for a transportation management plan, residents threw out the City engineer’s recommendations and designed their own. That plan is still being used today.

John Davis Senior passed away in the 1980’s but his wife Pat and his sons John and Geoff maintained the houses and managed the rentals. Michael Kluckner in an earlier Price Tags post described the Davis Family as being strongly in the tradition of social and community common sense.

They championed street lighting for Tenth Avenue, with the street’s residents  choosing (and partially paying for) a heritage type of lighting standard. The City’s engineer at the time thought that the residents of Tenth Avenue would never pick a light standard that they would have to pay for . The City’s engineer was wrong.

Pat Davis also single handedly changed the way that street trees were trimmed by B.C. Hydro. When I was working in the planning department I received a call from B.C. Hydro indicating that trimming work on the Tenth Avenue large street trees had to be halted due an intervention from Mrs. Pat Davis. Pat was horrified that hydro crews were cutting back street trees down to their joins (called “crotch dropping”) to ensure that hydro wiring was not compromised. A spritely senior, Pat Davis had taken the car keys away from  B.C. Hydro personnel  and refused to give them back until the hydro crew agreed to leave.

A subsequent report to Council led to B.C. Hydro agreeing to raise the electrical wires passing through the street trees, so that the trees could maintain their natural form. That is now city policy.

You can read more about the Davis family and the Tenth Avenue houses in this article by CBC’s Rafferty Baker. You can also read Pat Davis’ obituary here.  The Davis family demonstrates the “varied talent” of good community that Jane Jacobs passionately describes.  Pat Davis and her stewardship will be greatly missed.