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How to terrify a city by riding a bike

Editor’s note: just to be clear: this email is a satire and no one should actually follow the ideas suggested below…

[Remember this post on being terrified to ride a bike in the city? Well, here is a follow up response from guest post-er Craig Hollow]:

As a life-long member of the loose affiliation of bearded men in short pants often seen whizzing by at near-terminal velocities, a group that some might poetically refer to as the anarcho-cyclistas, I find myself uniquely qualified to share some of the wisdom gleaned from years spent rolling around Seattle on two wheels, and to provide you, dear reader and dearest rider, with valuable and true knowledge about the finer points of riding a bicycle in the paved paradise we call the city.

This information, gathered by the hard work of my very own thighs, will prepare you to wield the bicycle not as a mere tool for commuting to and from your soul-sucking job, but as a weapon against tyranny in the glorious fight for freedom of the streets. Brave rider, know that the bicycle, when properly used, may terrify the average citizen, accustomed as he is to quietly suffering his tragic automobile-induced Stockholm-syndrome, afraid to rise up and challenge the oppressive rules of the road that encumber and prevent us all from liberty.

A brief history of the Freedom Machine, commonly known as the bicycle

Since the invention of the ‘dandy horse’ in 1817 by the brilliant Baron Karl von Drais, the bicycle has struck fear into the hearts of those who prefer decency to democracy, order to exhilaration, and safety to speed.

Before this machine-for-freedom appeared, the average citizen rarely traveled farther than 25 miles from home. Thanks to hard work and lobbying of the brave membership of the League of American Wheelman in the 1880s, cyclists everyone of them, paved roads were constructed across America to increase the speed and pleasure of cycling, the same roads now plagued by the scourge of contemporary existence and enemy of freedom, the automobile.

Even Susan B. Anthony recognized the liberating power of the bicycle when she noted that “the bicycle has done more for the emancipation of women than anything else in the world.” Responsible for the invention of the paved road, women’s liberation, and our freedom to travel, the glorious bicycle has never been a greater threat to status quo than it is between the legs of a bona fide anarcho-cyclista today.

Gravity, the only law we must obey

It hardly needs to be mentioned that the lowest rung of the great hierarchy of the cycling universe is occupied by the neon-clad, safety-conscious apologists for automobile culture mucking up the streets everywhere with the clattering of their shifting gears and clicking freewheels.

These lowlife ‘commuters’ represent everything wrong with society today. Always busy signaling turns or calling out their slogan, “passing on your left!”, these idolaters have grossly diminished cycling with their absurdist notion that ‘Streets are for All.’ HA! Fools! Streets are for freedom machines!

As anyone who has ever straddled a set of cro-moly steel tubes attached to pneumatic tires can confirm, the pablum these ‘commuters’ spew about following the ‘rules of the road’ and ‘sharing the road’ is an affront to the sole true, universal law to which real cyclists adhere: Gravity.

So, fellow riders, cast off your handbrakes and commit yourself to the glory of physics! Let gravity and gravity alone tell you when and where to stop your bicycle, not the low laws of your fellow man!

The fluid nature of language and the forward momentum of the bicycle

Addicts of the nanny state, brainless believers in the car-paradigm, and other enemies of freedom are commonly afflicted by the fantasy that words have constant, unwavering definitions, that “NO” never means “YES” and “STOP” never means “GO.” It is the heartfelt duty of every anarcho-cyclista to battle against this slavish addiction to certainty, and there is no territory in this war to liberate language more important than the four-way stop.

Cowed by the threat of being ticketed by that enemy of everyone traveling on two wheels, the police officer, most people arrive at a four-way stop believing that the so-called ‘STOP’ sign means that all vehicles must come to a complete rest. We know that the one true law, gravity, often dictates otherwise.

Cyclistas, do your part to prove the relative meaning of words for your fellow citizens by letting gravity dictate your velocity as you fly through so-called ‘stop’ signs. Keep in mind that this technique is much more effective if you glare menacingly at nearby drivers as you ‘slalom’ around their immobilized cars.

Millinery for cyclistas: a brief note concerning the proper usage of the bicycle helmet

While State-supported oppressors attempt to foist helmets upon our freedom-loving heads in the name of safety, the cyclista intuitively senses that the helmet’s real utility is limited to potting plants or as an accoutrement appropriate only for human battering rams in Jackass movies. To prove this patently obvious fact, our friend, Science, has subjected that horrid creature, the automobile driver, to a series of tests designed to discover precisely how their dim, animal consciousness responds when approaching a cyclist from behind.

Not surprisingly to the hirsute among hardcore cyclistas, Science discovered that hair is the key to real safety. When coming up behind helmeted but hairless cyclists, the tested drivers were tempted to run them down, leaving mere inches between themselves and our feckless heroes on bikes.

However, when the cyclists rode with their hair liberated from the evil confines of helmets, the drivers were cowed into leaving a wide berth as they passed by the frightening sight of hair riding freely in the street. It is good practice for all helmetless cyclistas to periodically shake their beards at drivers. One sight of the bold waving of this facial flag of freedom is often sufficient to cause a driver to abandon their automobile forever and commit themselves thenceforth to cycling only.

One-way is bad, therefore All-ways must be good

On the streets, as in life, limits are, simply put, evil. Sadly, the cowering dogs who write laws from the safety of their government offices, far removed from the life of the cyclista, consistently fall prey to the misconception that a few simple rules can accommodate the hurly-burly complexity of real life. Perhaps the most glaring example of this foolhardy conceit is the one-way street.

What is patently obvious to the cyclista never occurs to the legislator, that without warning a sudden need may arise to turn in an unanticipated direction. Perhaps a fellow cyclista is seen across the road or a band poster with illegible script is spotted on a telephone pole and requires immediate attention or a beard convention spontaneously breaks out in the middle of an intersection, whatever the cause the need is clear: a cyclista may need to turn randomly at anytime, to stop or go at any moment. The one-way street is clearly an affront to freedom, as demonstrated daily by the hordes of cyclistas who risk their lives by bravely riding contrariwise on streets throughout the city.

Our bipedal comrade, the pedestrian

Perhaps, while seeking shelter from a particularly incensed driver or merely diverting yourself from the quotidian labors of wheeling your way through traffic, you have found yourself leaving the street for the narrow strip of pavement set aside for the noble denizen of the city, our friend the pedestrian.

This marvelous creature loves the cyclista like a whelp loves his master, with a healthy mixture of fear and awe. It is vitally important for the cyclista to continue to encourage and inspire the lowly walker, constrained as he is to a meaningless and trite existence on the sidewalk, by entering into his little world from time to time. This gay and joyous rite transforms the dull life of the pedestrian, often eliciting leaps and shouts.

Never hesitate to take an opportunity to give our little friends a taste of real freedom by riding on the sidewalk at the greatest velocity you can manage, trying whenever possible to surprise pedestrians by weaving between them without warning from behind.

Your sacred duty, your only joy

Friends, fellow anarcho-cyclistas, now that your knowledge of the proper and right role of the bicycle and its operation in the city has been increased, I encourage you to go forth into the streets and share your new-found skills with drivers and pedestrians wherever there is pavement. May your beard wave freely as your bold techniques of bicycle liberation inspire the world by your example. The time has come to show us exactly what kind of a person you really are.

Monday News Roundup

Nov 01, 2010

Belgium’s Médiacité Shopping Mall Complete (inhabitat)
The Médiacité in Liège shopping mall opened last October of 2009 in Belgium, and new photos of the naturally daylit mall and entertainment center have just been released. It is the first BREEAM certified project in Belgium.

Roosevelt Island Parking Sensors Will Point the Way to Smart Parking (Planetizen)
The new “smart” parking spaces on Roosevelt Island will be outfitted with Streetline’s patented parking system which includes ultra-low power sensors that communicate with one another to deliver valuable real-time information, such as how long a car is parked and when a car enters and leaves a parking space. The initial system also lays the foundation for smart parking meters allowing for easier payments and better pricing.”

Who will be the next TTC chair? (The Star)
The Star’s list of potential contender’s for the position.

Condominium market in Canada heating up (The Vancouver Sun)
Condominiums have become a hot sector of the Canadian real estate market, particularly as an option for first-time homebuyers spooked by the escalating prices for single-family homes, says a report.

Huge Living Wall with 10,000 Plants Completed in Canada (inhabitat)
While it’s not the largest living wall in North America, this vertical garden is certainly one of the most beautiful and diverse vertical gardens out there. With 10,000 individual plants representing more than 120 unique species, this living wall installation on the Semiahmoo Public Library and Royal Canadian Mounted Police Facility in Surrey is almost 3,000 square feet.

Israel’s Only Subway is a Mountain Climber (Planetizen)
The Carmelit system opened in 1959 and has 6 stations along its 1.8-kilometer track that climbs Mount Carmel in Haifa, a coastal city in northern Israel. According to DesignBoom, “the system transports around 2,000 people along the track each day and is among the most unusual subway stations in the world.”

The UniverCity project: An experiment in suburban urbanism (Grist)
UniverCity is an experiment in suburban urbanism in Burnaby, British Columbia, a suburb of Vancouver. Builders there are about one-third finished with this planned neighborhood next to Simon Fraser University that’s borrowing some of the best traits of Vancouver’s planning successes and fitting them to a challenging location — a 1,200-foot hill.

Delhi Looks at Major BRT Expansion (Planetizen)
Officials in Delhi are proposing a major expansion of the city’s new bus rapid transit system, suggesting an additional 345 kilometers. The plans include 18 new BRT corridors.

Environmental Problems Plague Dubai (Planetizen)
After decades of rapid urbanization, the emirate is now contending with a wide range of challenges to its environment and infrastructure.

Backyard cottages, coach houses, laneway houses: They’re a trend (State of Vancouver)
Where to go with laneway housing, how do they influence prices and accessibility?

Friday Feature: Trey

Oct 29, 2010

Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Trey and I create spaces that, hopefully, have a positive effect on people.

What made you decide to go into your field?

As a young lad I wanted to fly A-10’s for the US Air Force. Then my eyesight went south about the time I was taking a class in Architecture, and now here I am.

What did your family think of your chosen field?

They were very supportive of my decision. I think they wanted me out of the house too.

Who is the teacher who had the most influence on you and why?

Ezra Rice, my shop / drafting / Intro to Architecture teacher at Patch American High School. He was hard on us but fair, and he had a great outlook on life. He loved to tell us life lessons he learned from his great Gran Pappy, and how we will be better off for taking his class. He didn’t take any crap in the shop, “because it could get you killed!” or in the classroom, “because you will fail and end up living on the street with the bums!”

He also taught me the difference between a scale and a ruler.

What was the biggest hurdle you faced along your educational path? (academic, financial, motivational, family or peer pressure, outside distraction, etc.)

Well there was a little hiccup my second year where I did a little too much partying and my GPA slipped. That was a pretty big hurdle to overcome, but it did give me the opportunity to take some courses outside of the Architecture program that I otherwise would not have been able to. Other than that, financial obligations have probably been the biggest hurdle to overcome.

What inspires you?

Experiencing a well designed space, certain design magazines, a lecture by a favorite designer, and the biggest of them all, Mother Nature.

What schooling is required for success in your career?

A Bachelor of Architecture from Kansas State University.(Or a minimum of a 5 year degree from some “other” accredited institution.)

What kind of people are the most successful in your field? Are there any specific attributes?

I do not think there is one kind of person that is “most successful”. Pretty much any one can be successful as long as you work hard and stay focused.

What is the best advice you were ever given?

Aside from the life preservation advice, (don’t stick your tongue to that frozen metal!) and the ever popular “measure twice, cut once.” I would have to say it was when a bunch of my studio mates and I were trying to decide between doing an Internship at a firm or study in Italy for our 4th year Spring semester. Our professor said to us, “Go to Italy! You will get to experience work for the rest of your life.”
I still can’t figure out why we were having such a hard time deciding between the two.

Is your field growing? (ie. is there room for new entries and is there career growth?)

If the new billings index is correct, then yes, the field is starting to grow again.

What advice would you give someone considering a career like yours?

Be prepared to work hard. But also make sure you fit in time for your self. We don’t want you to burn out. Also, if you are still in school, Go to Italy! You will get to experience work for the rest of your life.

Friday Feature: Ivan

Oct 22, 2010

Who are you and what do you do?

Ivan – Intern Architect

What made you decide to go into your field?

I love to design.

What did your family think of your chosen field?

They were happy I chose something that makes me happy.

Who is the teacher who had the most influence on you and why?

He taught me to question everything.

What was the biggest hurdle you faced along your educational path? (academic, financial, motivational, family or peer pressure, outside distraction, etc.)

Learning how to write, again.

What inspires you?


What schooling is required for success in your career?


What kind of people are the most successful in your field? Are there any specific attributes?

That depends on how you define success. Money? Fame? Making clients happy? Making the world a better place? There are many examples of each, but they all share the same kind of drive.

Is your field growing? (ie. is there room for new entries and is there career growth?)

I don’t know. I guess Schools of Architecture are probably just as busy as when I graduated.

What advice would you give someone considering a career like yours?

Architecture is a vast field. Someone considering making architecture a career should understand what it takes to achieve what they are looking for, then find the most suitable path.

Let the Suburbs Grow Up

by Richard Borbridge, Urban Planner for VIA Architecture

That’s the call to action closing the TED lecture by Ellen Dunham-Jones. It encapsulates well the way we continue to coddle and misunderstand what the suburbs are and what they can or should become.

What are the suburbs? We’re vaguely aware of how the suburbs emerged from an era of burgeoning consumerism and opportunity after the second World War, sponsored by a infrastructure investment and a booming post-war economy. They promised to deliver the American Dream of 2.4 children, a private lawn for them to play on and a homestead, bucolic and isolated from the noise and pollution of the city-proper. The principle of building homes on the outskirts of cities to achieve a greener and more serene way of life is hardly new – just look at the turn-of-last-century Garden City Movement or even the villas of ancient Rome.

Today it is fair to ask “where are the suburbs?” It’s remarkable how many different ideas people have of what “the ‘burbs” represent… In the case of a tightly connected metropolitan region such as ours the lines are especially blurred and “suburb” encompasses at least three meanings. To some, they are any of the cities outside Vancouver’s Central Business District. To others, suburbs include any primarily residential area outside higher-density commercial zones. Examples include neighbourhoods like Point Grey or Richmond’s Seafair neighbourhood – but the “inner rings” of Kitsilano or the City of North Vancouver, residential areas that contain their own vibrant business districts, tend to confuse this definition.

Finally, the third school of thought limits the definition of suburbs to the exclusive, often isolated residential enclaves of winding streets and cul-de-sacs like Thornhill in Maple Ridge or Coquitlam’s Westwood Plateau. This last concept illuminates the suburbs’ primary challenges – the separation and inefficiency that Dunham-Jones speaks of in her work.

So for the sake of clarity our working definition of the suburbs features:

  • low density
  • exclusively single family home neighbourhoods
  • expanding the boundary of existing urban edges
  • fundamentally dependant on the car for transportation

Now though, it’s time the suburbs learned to go out and pay their own way in the world. Just as the children of the suburbs eventually need to move out of their parents’ basement, it’s time for the suburbs to quit freeloading. After decades of direct and indirect subsidization the costs of maintaining the suburban way of life are becoming harder to defend in these times of financial austerity. In paying taxes on the 500 feet of roadway in front of your house, would you rather share the maintenance between 10 or 100 households? A facile argument, but one that illustrates the principle that per capita, denser is cheaper.

Demographically the suburbs are growing up, whether the built form reflects it or not. As she indicated in her TED lecture, two-thirds of American suburban homes do not have children and more of Generation-Y are choosing an urban lifestyle with fewer children. Perhaps most importantly, the suburbs are where the Boomers and Gen-X are starting to settle down for retirement, having achieved so much and bought into the American dream before the half acre lot became a lightning rod for environmental issues alongside its chariot, the SUV.

What this dream has also increasingly led to is the model of “drive ’til you qualify” home ownership and housing sizes and features that would have prohibitive costs closer to the core. This means you pay less… and you get less in terms of an urban class of amenities. But the suburbs were invented and continue to propagate for good reason. People genuinely like living there. People also genuinely like living in 500 square-foot condos.

This raises a central question about of the suburbs: Do we have a real understanding of who lives there and most importantly why? The numbers Dunham-Jones presents show how the family-oriented impression we have of the suburbs is rapidly changing. With the pace of development and burgeoning environmental awareness it is clear that we need to build with the future in mind and keep questioning our assumptions about what constitutes good development, rather than relying on our perceptions of the present. Does this mean we should all be living in 500 square-foot condos in downtown Vancouver? No, and what Dunham-Jones brings to the discussion shows that adaptation and transformation – not migration – is the answer.

Suburbs are functionally unchanged since the prototypical communities of the era of Levittown, NY, North America’s first purpose-built suburb. The suburban model of development and its economics are now readily understood and effectively self-reinforcing.

Levittown, NY (image credit)
What do we get out of this lifestyle? Well, 2.4 children, a private lawn for them to play on and a homestead, bucolic and isolated from the noise and pollution of the city-proper. But we also get pollution, obesity, diabetes, and –the stress of traffic, vehicle maintenance costs, and less time to spend with our 2.4 children.

What all the ‘-urbanisms’ share is an attempt to make the place you are more worth being in. How and why vary by the flavour. Primarily, new “demi-urban” models drive toward the self-sufficiency of communities, illustrated by an emphasis on walkability and local amenities in urban design and development – creating places and communities where people are not required to drive 20 minutes, or worse: 2 minutes to get groceries, get to work and be entertained. Mixing land uses endeavours to take away at least a few of those car trips every day.

This leads to an argument for breaking down the urban/suburban dichotomy into a multitude of vital local centres. Metro Vancouver has championed this strategy for years, with a focus on Surrey’s Central City and Burnaby’s Metrotown, for instance, as alternative regional hubs that have their own gravity, so that it’s not all about Vancouver.

In her various precedents and examples, Dunham-Jones cites various cities have used to reclaim suburban spaces that have outlived their usefulness or have been subsumed by the pressures of rising land values. These spaces are redeveloped to serve higher-density purposes and new audiences. Shopping malls as arts centres, seniors’ complexes, big boxes as libraries or parking lots as reclaimed wetlands. She shows us the potential of transitioning suburban development patterns into a new hybrid and potentially fully “urban” form, though perhaps different than today’s image of urbanity.

The intention is to address the emerging demographic realities rather than simply expect the status quo to serve us indefinitely. Highest and best use is the trajectory for most parcels of land in our market-oriented mentality, which theoretically strives for efficiency in a world of scarcity. However, the inertia and subsidies behind the current housing model in combination with an insufficiently broad view of the housing market makes innovation risky and rare.

Despite being on the edge, surburbs represent the space between – the physical and social separation and the inefficiencies of ex-urban development. Technology has made the long view much longer and transformed our lives for the better, while it also demonstrating how our idyllic desires run counter to our collective long-term interest.

We would be wise to use the examples Dunham-Jones presents for improving connectivity, including effective ways to get around other than cars, and improved mass transit options to support large numbers of people who still need to travel between the urban hubs. In the end, Dunham-Jones asks us to reconsider our individualism and isolated thinking in favour of communities that serve the demographic and environmental challenges of the future.

Ellen Dunham-Jones is the author of Retrofitting Suburbia and a widely distributed TED lecture on the topic. She will be presenting next week at SFU’s VIA Urban Design lecture on October 26 (reserve your seats now).

ArtSpace St. Louis at Crestview

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Oct 15, 2010

No think piece and no Friday Feature this week? I know.. it’s disappointing…

We’ve been implementing new Business Development programs and are involved in some big project deadlines, but we’ll be back in full force next week!

Enjoy a great weekend, with some great weather (at least in Seattle…)

Monday News Roundup

Oct 11, 2010

BC Waste-collecting cyclists put a new spin on recycling (The Globe and Mail)
A street peddler of a different kind, Darren Douglas rides a $4,000, custom-built tricycle through the city’s downtown, picking up odour-emitting organic waste from businesses that is later converted into compost.

Celebrity sighting: Riding the bus with ‘Mad Men’ actor Vincent Karthesier (NYTimes)
A man is measured by his automobile in this city. But Vincent Kartheiser, the actor who plays the slick ad salesman Pete Campbell on “Mad Men,” is among the 10 percent of Angelenos who rely on public transportation. So on a Thursday night he and a reporter got around using his preferred, and for now, only, method of transportation: mass transit.


The Rise of the Bus Riding Celebrity (GOOD)
Why don’t more eco-minded celebrities in Los Angeles take public transit?

Skytrain service expanded to accommodate cyclists (Vancouver Sun)
TransLink will keep three extra trains running at the end of rush hour to serve cyclists.

Why cheaper streets are smarter streets (The Tyee)
Rule 7 for sustainable communities: invest in lighter, greener, cheaper, smarter infrastructure.

Vancouver plans for more bike lanes (Vancouver Sun)
With the Hornby, Dunsmuir and Burrard Bridge separated bike lanes under its belt, Vancouver is now developing a master plan for how to increase the share of bicycles on city streets over the next decade.

Bikes not welcome in Seattle (The Stranger)
Neighborhoods across Seattle have balked at having their streets changed to accommodate bike and pedestrian traffic, claiming that businesses will suffer and traffic congestion will spike. Now, Seattle’s Manufacturing Industrial Council (MIC) has joined the fray with a new angle on this argument: Some roads just can’t coexist with bike lanes and wider sidewalks, period.

World’s largest transit system is in … (Grist)
Well.. we’re not going to give it away here. Go read it!

By Naomi Buell, Marketing Assistant
-Continued from Wednesday-

HYADians at a picnic

HYAD was formed by a group of parents who had come to the realization that they would not be around forever and that there needed to be something in place for their children’s futures. The realization of their immortality created the motivation necessary to take on such a large undertaking. This passion was further fueled by knowing that their children would need stability and routines as change can be a huge disruption and even detrimental to their wellbeing. The idea of being switched from home to home was not something these parents were willing to stomach for their children so they thought they would try to find another solution. They needed something that would give their children the freedom of having their own place, the reassurance of being surrounded by their friends, the connection to their existing North Vancouver community and the safety and care needed for these young adults with disabilities. The parents had met each other through social events and gatherings for their children, and through these events their children had formed bonds with each other. After a few informal talks they formed a group and went to the City of North Vancouver to find out what their next steps should be.

They were told that the best way would be to form a non-profit group and then approach the city again with a goal and concept which is exactly what they did. The next step was to find a building that could accommodate their children. They had originally envisioned finding a developer and seeing if they could have the lower level of a larger building but could not find anything with a floor that would be large enough to accommodate everyone. They then learned of a property that was previously a school site in North Vancouver on 21st and Chesterfield. After considerable effort with rezoning and discussions with the School Board, it was clear that this would be the perfect site. An initial developer was interested in the site for market residential on one portion and the School Board was to redevelop a portion of the site for their Artist’s for Kids gallery and an administration building with a small portion was offered to HYAD as the community benefit. Things seemed to be on track but with the fall in the real estate market the developer had to back out of the proposal. Fortunately a year later another developer, Polygon, stepped in and after some creative redesign the site finally was rezoned and received an Official Community Plan (OCP) amendment.

VIA Architecture’s design for the HYAD building

Currently things are ready to go but there have been delays with the funding from BC Housing. HYAD is currently “shovel ready” with the plans and design but they have not been able to access the money that was promised to them. The design includes 14 units for the HYADians, 2 manager suites and a communal kitchen and lounge. There will also be support for these young adults in the way of caretakers. Each young adult is allotted a certain amount of time per week so HYAD has asked that the group be evaluated as just that, a group. This will enable them to receive more hours as a whole and have someone on site more frequently.

Their model only costs about $220,000 a year which compared to $1.8 Million for group homes is a substantial savings for everyone, including the city. They came to realize that in order to make HYAD seem appealing there had to be a substantial cost savings, something they have clearly found a way to do.

In addition to all the work the parents have put in to organizing this, they have also invested a substantial amount of their own money. Because the group is still relatively small it can be hard for them to fundraise and as they cannot be a charity themselves they will have to form another society in the hopes of creating the funding needed. The only thing needed to move forward right now is funding from BC Housing so we are all rooting for them that this will happen soon.

HYAD car wash

Hearing more about HYAD was inspiring to say the least and I hope that everyone spreads the word about this great project. There was much gratitude to HYAD, the City of North Vancouver and the School Board for setting such a great example of how partnerships can be formed for the betterment of the community at large. It is partnerships like these that can help other groups achieve their dreams.

By Naomi Buell, Marketing Assistant

Last Thursday we had our first VIAVOX which is a reoccurring event we created to bring people together and discuss topics they are passionate about. The name stems from the Latin word for voice so it seemed appropriate. Our first topic was partnerships and affordable housing and we had a great turnout which included people from Housing for Young Adults with Disabilities (HYAD), the Vancouver school board, Pacific Arbour, the City of North Vancouver, our own VIA staff and many other great people.The VIAVOX’s main presenter was HYAD so it was no surprise that Clay Knowlton, the president of HYAD and his wife Susan were the first to arrive. This allowed me the time to chat with them a little. Not only is what they’re doing inspiring but they are both extremely nice people and Clay has quite the sense of humor, just try to find out if he prefers to wear a nametag on his lapel or on the back of his jacket. Vera Frinton of HYAD arrived shortly thereafter followed by Cavan Stephens, HYAD’s vice president and I was able to show them the poster which we had created for the event.

The poster highlighted one of the fundraisers they had held, their website, a news article on their new location, the sketches of the new building and pictures of the various HYADians, as they are called. Because HYAD was created by the parents of young adults with disabilities, it was nice for Susan, Clay and Vera to see the poster which had pictures of their children, who as they pointed out are really young adults. In the pictures were Clay and Susan’s daughter standing in front of the future location of HYAD and Vera’s daughter as a torch bearer for the Special Olympics. People began to flow in shortly thereafter and some great networking ensued.

Armed wish sushi, assorted cheeses and tasty beverages, some great conversations took place. Some people were just catching up while others congratulated HYAD on their great work. Cavan and David Sachs, a VIA employee working on the HYAD project, discussed updates Cavan had about BC Housing. Cavan trained as a mechanical engineer but now works as a builder and does consulting work. David also shared with me Cavan’s background in construction which took him from the UK to Saudi Arabia and eventually to Vancouver where he and his wife have been raising their son, a future HYAD resident.

Lorenzo, also a VIA employee, had an interesting conversation with Ian Ambercrombie of the North Vancouver School board. They discussed, among other things, urban planning and our reliance on personal transportation, namely cars. This conversation evolved into a talk about the price of oil and what will happen when it becomes so scarce that it is unavailable. Will certain cities that have been built around streets and highways – cities that rely on vehicles, find it difficult to adjust to mass transit? Will they even think to adapt or will they look for alternate fuel sources?
After waiting for some of the last invited guests to arrive, a brief informal presentation was made by Charlene Kovacs, the director of Community Architecture at VIA and of course by HYAD. Charlene started by saying that VIA believes in connective communities, in ways to bring people together and that our VIAvox’s are one of the ways we can accomplish that. She discussed her involvement with HYAD for the last 5 years and HYAD’s hardwork over the last 25 years. She then passed it over to HYAD at which point Cavan discussed how HYAD started.

– More to be posted Friday –


Monday News Roundup

Oct 04, 2010

UBC researcher expresses streetcar desires (Vancouver Courier)
Silas Archambault, who studied the Olympic streetcar line for his master’s thesis in community and regional planning at UBC, said streetcars not only shape how neighbourhoods develop, but they also appeal to riders who might not catch a bus.

Building on Strengths (Planetizen)
In Lowell, Massachusetts, planner Jeff Speck painted a picture for locals of a transformed city that capitalizes on the strengths of the city to move forward with a greater vision.

Metro Rail: The Solution for India? (The City Fix)
According to Parisar, an environmental organization that works on sustainable development with a focus on urban transport, India is expected to spend 40 billion dollars in metro rail over the next 10 years.

A competition to transform 9,600 aging buildings (GOOD)
Metropolis magazine’s Next Generation competition is an annual showcase of bright ideas from emerging designers focused on a major sustainability challenge.

Fascinating slideshow of various landscapes (particularly sprawl) shot from a helicopter (Infrastructurist)
The New York Times Opinionator blog has a fascinating slideshow of the work of Christoph Gielen, a German-born photographer who has been shooting various landscapes — particularly, sprawl — from a helicopter for the past five years.

A free sparkling water fountain in Paris (GOOD)
The average person in France consumes about 40 gallons of bottled water each year. That means they’re buying and throwing away a lot of plastic. But what’s the alternative when they demand sparking water?

Cambridge parking tickets get yogic redesign (GOOD)
This fall, the city printed 40,000 tickets that feature “citation salutations“—illustrations of calming yoga poses for the driver and the parking enforcement officer to do together.

Two block diet turns Vancouver neighbours into urban villagers (Vancouver Sun)
Neighbours Kate Sutherland and Julia Hilton have hatched a mini-revolution that has transformed two blocks of east Vancouver into a true urban village.

Struggles for Olympic Village low-income housing (Vancouver Sun)
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson said the city will proceed, if necessary, to find operators for social housing units at the Olympic village without the logistical assistance of the province.

Why is Portland so much cooler than Seattle? (PubliCola)
That is, of course, not an original observation, and if you’re among the throngs who are similarly puzzled, there’s an event this Friday evening that you ought not to miss. Alex Steffen’s sustainability non-profit Worldchanging is hosting a fundraiser, starring the mayors of Portland and Seattle, details here.

Saving shrinking cities (Huffington Post)
Now comes the ‘theory’ that the salvation of distressed cities is to once again ‘shrink,’ as if shrinking had been tried before and succeeded somewhere but who knows where.

Can anyone point to one city, just one, where any of these ‘renewal’ schemes have worked to regenerate, rather than further erode, a city? Just one. No theory please; just real on the ground success.

Map of commuting made worse by sprawl (GOOD)
Americans spend many hours in traffic each year, slowly crawling between work and home. And while most commutes are unpleasant, some are far more congested. Why? A new study by CEOs for Cities has found that what creates traffic jams isn’t more cars and fewer highways. It’s sprawl. This is a look at the 10 metropolitan areas whose citizens spend the most and least extra time in traffic due to sprawl.