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Saskatoon

Cracking up

Cracking up

Trapped by the ice

The Prairie Lily

I wandered down to the Mendel Art Gallery and took some photos of The Prairie Lily as I played around with my 28mm lens.  I was kind of curious how it handled being in the frozen South Saskatchewan River and from what I can see, it has such a shallow draught that very little of it is in the water (according to the website, only about 4 feet).  The other thing that impressed me was that despite being kind of abandoned all winter long, no one seems to touch either one of the boats which is pretty cool.

OurYXE Neighbourhood Guides

OurYXE was never intended to just be a podcast and if you have been paying attention at all, you will notice we are adding new features to the site in 2014.  We have started with adding Saskatoon neighbourhood guides and have the intention of creating a guide of the best and worst of each neighbourhood in Saskatoon.  So far we have done one for downtown, Riversdale, Nutana, and Mayfair.  

Creating them takes a lot of time and even more time is needed to take the photographs needed to bring the project to life.  I have been able to cheat by using some public domain images of Wikimedia, most of the photos have been taken by myself or those submitting to the growing OurYXE Photo Pool on Flickr (if you haven’t yet, please join and add your photos).

That’s the best part of the project.  Exploring Saskatoon neighbourhoods that no one thinks of or cares about.  Last year I was researching a project for Stewart Properties in what is the most uninspiring neighbourhood in the city.  As Wendy and I walked the neighbourhood, explored the parks, found shops and businesses that I never realized were there, I realized that I would really enjoy living there.  I later followed the same process for my own neighbourhood and created a site for Mayfair.  When you stop, sit down and write it out, there is far more to our neighbourhoods than you realize.

That is the plan for these neighbourhood guides.  I want to explore all of Saskatoon, find out what is cool, and share it with others.  I am already excited about visiting and writing about several parks, hidden stores, and exploring some odd urban planning decisions just to see what is there.

Of course my fear is that I find a neighbourhood that has no redeeming qualities and absolutely nothing of interest worth exploring.  If that happens I’ll make Sean or Hilary write that neighbourhood guide.

The inspiration for the OurYXE Neighbourhood Guides is Norm Fisher’s amazing guides that he has created for his real estate site.  His work is the foundation for many Wikipedia entries and our course our own guides.  While our focus is different, his neighbourhood guides are a great resource for anyone wanting to know more about their neighbourhood.

Hi-Grade Furniture

Hi Grade Furniture

OurYXE Neighborhood Guides: Downtown Saskatoon

OurYXE would like to take you for a tour of Saskatoon and are launching local neighbourhood guides that are full of history, interesting sights, and even things to avoid.

The first neighbourhood guide is Downtown Saskatoon.

Downtown Saskatoon in 1950

You may know it by it’s formal name, the Central Business District or just simply as that place where they park on angles.  However you know it, we’d like to dig deeper and show you some of it’s nooks and crannies.  From there we will head west and explore Riversdale before heading to the old site of the Temperance Colony and visit Nutana.  The goal is to create a guide and photograph each of Saskatoon’s neighbourhoods by the time 2015 rolls around.  Wish us luck.

Column: City must go beyond status quo

My column in today’s The StarPhoenix

I would love to shut the door on 2013 and move on, but there are always loose threads as you move into a new year.

Some things just never get dealt with and can linger for years, such as replacing our maligned Traffic Bridge that’s been sitting idle since 2010, slowly falling apart. Actually, it has been falling apart for longer than that, but we ran out of cheap repair options in 2010 and had to close it. The bridge’s collapse was said to be imminent.

It didn’t collapse as predicted, and the decision was taken in 2012 to remove an eastern span, which would have been a far more useful tourist draw if Evel Knievel were still around. Eventually city council tried to pressure the provincial government into paying for both a replacement Traffic Bridge and the north commuter bridge.

The province looked at the cost of two bridges and its shrinking bank account, and declined. The result is that we enter 2014 in the same position as we were in back in 2010, dreaming of bridges that no one else cares about.

Even as a public we have stopped caring. The intense rage we had at being stuck in traffic for 10 minutes each day because both the Idylwyld Bridge and the Traffic Bridge were out of commission has passed. We quickly moved back to our default mode of not acknowledging failed projects, hoping they will just go away or resolve themselves.

Chances are that the Traffic Bridge issue will not resolve itself, and we will have to go it alone. The thought so far is that we replace the old bridge with a wider version of it. The status quo wins again.

If we were to look around, we would see that other options have been very successful elsewhere. We could build an iconic pedestrian bridge on the existing piers to connect downtown and River Landing to the east side of the Meewasin Trail system and, more importantly, to the Broadway Business District.

Pedestrian bridges aren’t unique. Minneapolis has them. Calgary has the Peace Bridge. Montreal has a great one connected to its flood-control gates. Even the town of Outlook has one.

The Peace Bridge was controversial when it was installed but has since become a landmark in Calgary. It draws people from all over, and joins together two of Calgary’s vibrant communities. You could realistically see the same thing happening here with the South Downtown and Broadway Avenue.

Critics of a pedestrian bridge point out that there are sidewalks on the bridges. However, if you have ever tried to walk or ride on our bridges, it is less than a pleasant experience. These walkways are rarely swept, they are full of gravel, and they place you right up against traffic. Other cities have bridge sidewalks as well, but people flock to their pedestrian bridges.

There is a reason for it.

People are drawn to a space that is scaled and built for them.

Research from other cities has shown there are business reasons for a pedestrian bridge. Pedestrians and cyclists spend more money when out and about, especially at stores that provide bike racks. Whether it is stopping into a shop or grabbing a coffee for the walk home, the money spent locally is good for all of us.

Creating a pedestrian bridge on the old Traffic Bridge piers also would give Saskatoon an amazing prairie plaza.

Anyone who has been down in River Landing or across the river when the fireworks festival takes place understands how exciting it is to have a place where thousands of us can gather. There are the fireworks, water taxis, concerts and the buzz of tens of thousands of people coming together. Linking those two areas would allow for more events, but more importantly, it would be an important link across the river for more than just motor vehicles.

Instead of settling for the status quo, Saskatoon must think outside the box. Hold a design competition for a pedestrian replacement for the Traffic Bridge and see what happens. Put a $15 million price tag on it. Local design group OPEN has already drawn up a pedestrian bridge idea that features separate access points for bikes and pedestrians, a public space, a community garden and a zip line.

I think we would be amazed at the ideas that would come forward.

We talk about wanting to be a world-class city. Worldclass cities are not that by population size alone. They are cities with great dreams for themselves, which are expressed by great public spaces. Building a great pedestrian bridge downtown would be a good way to start.

© Copyright (c) The StarPhoenix

Why cycling is so dangerous in the United States (and Saskatoon)

Americans are not only among the world’s least avid cyclists; they are also among the most likely to get killed. Here are a few interesting—if morbid—takeaways. Pedal safely!

  • Roughly “17% of all cycling fatalities were involved in a hit-and-run crash in which one (or several) of their crash opponents fled the scene (2005-2011, FARS) – presumably the motorist(s). This is nearly four times the rate of hit-and-run involvement for all recorded traffic fatalities over the same period in the United States (4%).”
  • “Investigating officers on the scene of fatal bicycle crashes in the United States found no contributory factor on the part of the motorist in 46% of cases.”
  • “An overwhelming majority of fatal bicycle crashes occur in dry or clear atmospheric conditions – 94% in the USA and 87% in Europe.”
  • “One quarter of (deceased) cyclists for which an alcohol test was performed returned blood alcohol values above 0.08 mg/ltr which constitutes a drink-driving offense in all 50 US states.”
  • “In the United States, most fatal bicycle-vehicle collisions involved a passenger car or light truck (Sports Utility Vehicle) though 10% of fatal bicycle collisions involved a large truck.”
  • “In the United States, 36% of all fatal bicycle crashes for the period 2005-2011 occurred in junctions with another 4% in driveways (commercial and private) most likely caused by entering or exiting motor vehicles.”
  • “In the United States, the share of fatal bicycle crashes occurring in low-speed zones was lower than in Europe – possibly because low-speed traffic calmed zones are relatively less common in the United States.”
  • “In the United States, 27% of deceased cyclists for which helmet use was recorded wore helmets in 2010 and 2011.”
  • “Red light running by cyclists … is an often-cited contributory factor in fatal and serious injury bicycle crashes (at least in the United States).”
  • “Motorists were charged with traffic violations in nearly one third of all fatal bicycle crashes and investigating officers identified a crash-contributing factor on the part of the motorist in over half of all fatal bicycle crashes.”
  • “Data from the United States indicate that cyclists were imputed with an improper action in 68% of fatal bicycle crashes (though, as noted earlier, this may be biased as the cyclist was not able to give their version of events).”

13 Most Popular Photos of 2013

Flickr tracks your most popular photos based on page views, favourites, and comments.  Here are my 13 most popular photos of 2013 that I have posted to Flickr.

Fish Creek Church

Fish Creek Church

The historic and abandoned Fish Creek Church.  We first photographed it a couple of years ago and returned this year on a trip up to Prince Albert.

Ukrainian Catholic Ascension Church

Ukrainian Catholic Ascension Church

A rural Ukrainian Catholic Church on Fish Creek Road north of Saskatoon.

Midtown Plaza

Midtown Plaza

Village Guitar & Amp

Village Guitar & Amp

If there was a sign that Riversdale’s revitalization was here to stay, it was a high end boutique guitar store moving onto 20th Street.

Nikon Df

Nikon Df

The 525

The 525

RCMP Dragonfly Quadcopter Drone

RCMP Dragonfly Quadcopter Drone

Safeway on 33rd Street

Safeway on 33rd Street in Saskatoon

Carl Zeiss Spotting Scope

Carl Zeiss Spotting Scope

The Saskatchewan Legislature

Saskatchewan Legislature

Behind the Scenes in Riversdale

Riversdale

Ground & Pound

Ground and Pound

La Colle Falls Hydroelectric Project

La Colle Falls Hydroelectric Dam

Inspired by Dave King’s 12 most popular photos of 2013

Prairie Wind

Prairie Wind

This landmark consists of 25 15m-tall steel poles, each on a rubber bearing pad. This allows the poles to sway in the wind, giving the impression of prairie grass. Sixteen LED floodlights illuminate the landmark from the base, and can be programmed to change colour.

Cameco Meewasin Skating Rink at PotashCorp Plaza

Cameco Skating Rink at Potash Corp Plaza

Wendy and I went for a walk down to the Cameco Meewasin Skating Rink at PotashCorp Plaza (that’s a lot of sponsorship for an outdoor skating rink) and took some photos Thursday night in the balmy -6 degree Celsius weather.  It was a great night to be out and about.  Sadly I had both my 50mm 1.7 lens and tripod with me but decided to shoot this handheld.  I was planning to go back tonight or tomorrow and take some sharper photos but with the weather the way it is, I’ll wait a bit.

Saskatoon Civic Conservatory

Saskatoon Civic Conservatory

Went to the Saskatoon Civic Conservatory yesterday and tried out an old Sears 135mm macro lens.  Mine seems to be an odd version of the lens as it has a macro zone but does not have the feared Ricoh pins, despite being labelled with PK.   From what I read, Sears sold several variants of the lens so it could either be an odd lens or modified at some point.  Either way it was fun and interesting to shoot with.

For those of you who live in Saskatoon and hate our cold, dry, and monotone winters, the Conservatory is a great (and free) place to find some warmth, color, and humidity.  For years I have found a cup of coffee or tea on one of their park benches every week made January and February blahs go by a lot quicker.

The NBC Invasion of Saskatoon

The Delta Bessborough

Anyone have an explanation why that giant peacock is on the front of the Delta Bessborough

The Night Oven Bakery

My friend Bryn Rawlyk is opening a bakery called the Night Oven Bakery at 629-b 1st Avenue North which I think will be an important part of the North Downtown revitalization.  It opens next month but I decided to link to the site now and also this great post showing the wood oven under construction.  I can’t wait until it is finished and open for business.

A call for photos

Flickr photo poolOurYXE is launching a photo pool for Saskatoon photographers.  The plan is to create a pool of photos of Saskatoon to be posted to the site (with a link back and credit).  If you are interested, join the pool on Flickr and upload your photos to the pool.

So if you have any great Saskatoon shots, let’s share them with the world.

Heading towards disaster

Heading towards disaster