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In Los Angeles, people come out to play when streets are closed to cars [VIDEO]

Sarah Goodyear, Grist

CicLAvia, Let’s Go! from Streetfilms on Vimeo.

… Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was speaking last Sunday, Oct. 10, at CicLAvia, an event that closed 7.5 miles of the city’s streets to motor vehicle traffic and opened them to people — on foot, bikes, skateboards, scooters, and skates.

This is the first time Los Angeles has tried this type of recreational street closure. It’s modeled on the highly successful Ciclovía that’s began in Bogotá, Colombia, in the late 1970s and is now a weekly event.
(13 October 2010)
Video is from Street Films. It’s under a Creative Commons license. -BA

There’s safety in numbers for cyclists

Elly Blue, Grist
In U.S. cities, there are a lot more people out bicycling than just a few years ago. You might reasonably think that the bicycle crash rate would skyrocket as more people, from wobbly new riders to the outright safety-averse, take to the streets on two wheels.

It’s a fine, common-sense assumption — that happens to be wrong.

Research has been steadily showing, actually, that the more people are out there riding bicycles, the safer bicycling becomes. As ridership goes up, crash rates stay flat. It’s happening in Portland (see page 11 of this report [PDF]). It’s happening in New York City.

… when there are a lot of bicyclists on the road, according to this theory, drivers take notice. They become more attentive, slow down, pass more cautiously, double-check their blind spots, expect the unexpected. They sense that the road has become a more complicated place, and adjust their behavior accordingly. As a result, the road becomes safer, presumably for everyone.
(11 October 2010)

Seven Rules for Sustainable Communities – British Columbia edition

Patrick M. Condon, Today,
[Editor’s note: This finishes our series built around Patrick Condon’s new book Seven Rules for Sustainable Communities: Design Strategies for the Post Carbon World. Today a Tyee exclusive: Condon applies his principles to crafting a sustainable future for BC’s Lower Mainland.]

… Right now the Lower Mainland of British Columbia leads any other region in both Canada and the United States in reversing the rush to global climate collapse. This is because more people in our region prefer to live in walkable, diverse, jobs rich, dense neighbourhoods, than ever before. And as the distance between people, jobs, recreation, and education shrinks so too does our individual production of greenhouse gases.

The region is now internationally famous for defying what had been thought of as ironclad immutable laws of North American urban development: that people always prefer lower density — well they don’t; that as density increases crime increases — well it doesn’t; that if you add more housing units you can count on more traffic — well the opposite is true; that people will always drive the car if they have a choice — well no, not always.

Citizens and officials in our region thus have a unique opportunity: we can to continue to lead North America to a sustainable future. And since Asia, China in particular, is constantly copying North American models for urban development, our positive influence can extend across the globe as well.

What is special about our leadership is that we have accomplished all of this, not primarily through investing in new energy systems or transportation infrastructure, but by the opposite. It came about not through what we did but by what we did not do.

We did not overbuild a freeway system (our region has fewer freeway miles per capita than any other major North American metropolitan region), we did not allow building on our agricultural lands, …


Lesson 1. Do more with less. Because we did more with less we now use about half as much carbon per person than the average Calgarian. We can continue to extract many more efficiencies out of the machinery of our region’s infrastructure and the land uses this infrastructure serves.

Lesson 2. Become more complete. Many of our past and hopefully our future efficiencies accrue from making “nearness” the rule. Our lives become more convenient as what we need comes closer to us. Our demands for travel are already decreasing as our cities diversify. Our region was the only region in Canada where average commute times to work decreased between 1990 and 2000, largely as a result of new downtown living bringing homes close to jobs. As things come closer our addiction to carbon becomes much easier to kick.

Lesson 3. Make living light on the planet an attractive lifestyle choice. In Vancouver, higher density living was not sold as affordable housing, or as a way to save the planet, but as a way to make your life more complete. People in our region are now flooding to districts that would have been dismissed as “too crowded” only a generation ago.


Rule 1. Restore the Streetcar City. Our regional transportation investments are still driven by 1960s era thinking. These investments have prioritized the long trip over the short trip, with too much money allocated for damaging freeway expansions and for impossibly expensive Skytrain expansions, and not enough to support complete community growth. In order to meet our 2050 targets for carbon reduction we must shift from a region where 80 per cent of all trips are by car to one where 80 per cent of all trips are by carbon zero electrified transit, walking and biking. This is only conceivable if our communities become much more complete.

While this seems daunting, this is already the situation in Copenhagen, a city not unlike ours in extent and in climate. The secret, as Copenhagen makes clear, is to bring what we want closer to us rather than connect it with impossibly expensive and ultimately unsustainable infrastructure.

Rule 2. Design around the five minute walk. Walking is the crucial part of this Streetcar City strategy. Electrified transit that serves complete communities is best understood as a means to extend what is essentially a walk trip. With walking (and its ally biking) at the core of our day to day activity, our energy demands for movement shrink to zero while our health dramatically improves. Putting our immediate needs and frequent transit within a five minute walk is the crucial requirement for this to work.

Patrick Condon is a professor at the University of British Columbia and holds the James Taylor Chair in Landscape and Liveable Environments.
(13 October 2010)
See the website for Condon’s book, “Seven Rules for Sustainable Communities: Design Strategies for the Post Carbon World ” The website has the Table of Contents and a sample chapter. -BA