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Bike Lanes in Saskatoon

Francois Biber joins David Kirton to talk about bike lanes on the Saskatoon Afternoon Show.

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Excellent summary of the issues by both of them.

Just previous to this segment, Kirton expressed his frustration with city councillors, the mayor, and city administration being pro-car.  Listen below.

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Why Public Transit is Under Funded

The reason that public transit (and bike lanes) are underfunded is that the rich don’t rely on them

Another report has come out in support of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), an innovative way to provide public transit at a low cost with dedicated bus lanes, stops, and schedules.

The study (PDF), from pro-transit group Embarq, found that BRT drastically reduced commute times, improved air quality, and cut road fatalities in congested cities like Bogota, Istanbul, Johannesburg, and Mexico City. And we already know that BRT is one of the most cost-effective public transit investments a municipality can make.

The catch? In most cities examined in the report, those benefits only extend to low- and middle-class residents. (In Johannesburg, the poorest residents did not use BRT).

“Since the dominant benefit is travel time savings,” the study’s authors wrote, “the majority of benefits tend to accrue to the strata most represented by BRT users — typically lower- and middle-income.”

While it’s great to have a system that improves transportation access for the majority of a city’s population, BRT’s mass appeal could — ironically — be a political concern that prevents its adoption, at least in the U.S. As Alex Pareene wrote in Salon, public transit often suffers because politicians and donors rarely rely on it. The results show in the states, whose existing BRT systems lag behind those in cities around the world.

Even in densely populated and traditionally liberal cities like New York and Minneapolis, politicians neglect transit. And “because they don’t know or interact with or receive checks from people who rely on it every day, there’s almost no hope for cheap, efficient mass transit options anywhere,” Pareene wrote.

Indeed, the Embarq report echoes the public transit wealth gap, and cites that most BRT systems are often paid for by tax revenue collected from those who may never ride it. Bogota’s famed TransMilenio was financed by increased gasoline taxes, and all the systems required both substantial investment and support from municipalities.

But the Embarq report also showed that BRTs benefited cities with environmental and productivity gains more than they strained financial resources. For example, the average commuter in Istanbul now gets to and from work about an hour faster thanks to the Metrobüs, and Mexico City’s BRT system reduced air pollution enough to save 6,000 sick days a year.

As cities continue to grow and congestion increases, the benefits of BRT may become impossible to ignore — even to the rich and powerful folks who are stuck in traffic.

You see the same thing here in Saskatoon.  After last night’s City Council meeting, you could almost say the same things about bike lanes.

Some Winnipeg politicians defend the status quo

Some Winnipeg city councillors don’t want to lead and want city Bus Rapid Transit line to go to city wide referendum

“I honestly don’t think it’s our best value for almost $600 million,” Browaty (North Kildonan) said, adding several of the city’s other transportation needs should warrant a higher priority and can be funded with all the funds allocated for the bus corridor, citing the westward extension of the Chief Peguis trail, widening of Kenaston Boulevard and the Waverley underpass.

“Everyone of them provides a better value for money than rapid transit phase two.”

Browaty joins St. James-Brooksland councillor Scott Fielding in opposition to the project.

The city is preparing a formal request for $140 million in federal funding for the project but Browaty said that request should be put on hold.

Browaty said he favours a non-binding plebiscite or referendum be included in the Oct. 22 civic election ballot, asking Winnipeggers if they support the completion of the rapid transit project, adding he’s prepared to move a motion at next week’s council meeting to put that into place.

Browaty’s concerns come a day after the civic administration released a detailed report on the $590-million bus rapid transit corridor, which needs to be endorsed by council at its June meeting before Ottawa will consider the application for financial assistance.

The latest report says the city will have to pay $20 million a year for 30 years beginning in 2020, for its share of the project.

Again, cars = value while public transit equals burden in many politicians minds.  Some one needs to tell him that bus rapid transit projects provide tremendous economic payoff, often generating $10 for every dollar spent.

Stop forcing people to wear bike helmets

Look at what Vox has to say about bike helmets

But in the world’s most popular biking cities, particularly in Europe, very few bikers wear helmets. And there are good reasons for that: biking, it turns out, isn’t an especially dangerous form of transportation in terms of head trauma. And the benefits of helmets may be overstated. While they do protect your head during accidents, there’s some evidence that helmets make it more likely you’ll get in an accident in the first place.

Most importantly, requiring helmets deters many normal people from biking in the first place — in Australia, bike commuting rates plummeted when mandatory helmet laws went into effect. And, when there are fewer bikes on the road overall, biking becomes more dangerous.

Of course, if people want to wear helmets they are more than welcome to.

But we should think of helmets as an optional accessory, rather than an absolute requirement — and proposed laws that would mandate all cyclists wear helmets are a bad idea.

New Urbanism’s big impact on medium cities

A quick look at what some huge decisions made by medium sized cities have done since they were made 20 years ago

In mid-sized or smaller cities, the effects of New Urbanism can be much more dramatic. In these places, a few good infill projects, livelier public spaces, and new streetscapes can feel like a whole new downtown. Birmingham, Michigan; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Providence, Rhode Island; and many others that adopted a new urban approach 15 or 20 years ago have transformed themselves to a significant degree. 

The impact on Saskatoon could be similar if Saskatoon City Council has the courage to stick with the City Centre Plan and execute the North Downtown Plan.

Global cities gather in Toronto for summit and to launch the World Council on City Data

This is cool and nerdy at the same time.

The University of Toronto’s Global City Indicators Facility (GCIF) is welcoming cities from around the world to the inaugural Global Cities Summit in Toronto, where the World Council on City Data (WCCD)will be launched on May 15th at 12:30 pm.

This new global entity will build an international platform for open, globally comparable and ISO standardized data for participating cities from around the world.

The creation of the WCCD is an evolution of the last seven years of successful work for the GCIF in developing globally standardized data for cities. The Council’s development has been spurred by the approval of the very first ISO Standard on city metrics, to be published as ISO 37120 on May 15, 2014 by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) Geneva.

The Council will coordinate all efforts on city data to ensure a consistent and comprehensive platform for standardized urban metrics. It will act as a global hub for creative learning partnerships across cities, international organizations, corporate partners, and academia to further innovation, envision alternative futures, and build better and more livable cities.

“ISO37120 is a milestone for cities. The Creation of the World Council on City Data is a pivotal next step in building a reliable foundation of globally standardized data that will assist cities in building core knowledge for city decision-making, and enable comparative insight and global benchmarking” said Professor Patricia McCarney, Director of the GCIF at the University of Toronto.  “In a world where city data is exploding and big data is escalating, we are now moving forward in building the WCCD as an open data platform on global city metrics.”

The Global Cities Summit is convening global leaders from the world’s cities, businesses, UN and other international agencies, universities, planning and design professionals, on May 15th and 16th in Toronto. The Summit is the inaugural meeting of the more than 255 GCIF member cities from 81 countries. The event will be an opportunity for cities and their partners to learn, share, and exchange experiences across a wide spectrum of big ideas and innovative solutions for cities under the theme: Getting on Track: Sustainable & Inclusive Prosperity for Cities.

The WCCD will be launched in Toronto at 12:30 pm on May 15th, 2014 at the Global Cities Summit at the Sheraton Centre Downtown Hotel. The Council has invited a select group of cities – including Shanghai, London, Toronto, Dubai, Haiphong, Amman, Makkah, Chicago, Johannesburg, Buenos Aires, Helsinki, Barcelona, Rotterdam, Makati, Minna and Bogota – to come to Toronto to help launch the WCCD and become Foundation Cities of the Council.

These cities, represented by senior delegations including the Mayor of Makkah, Saudi Arabia, are now arriving in Toronto to be part of this launch tomorrow.

Foundation Cities of the WCCD will help develop the vision and drive the new Council agenda forward together with other partners: private, public and academic. Foundation Cities will help define the mandate for the WCCD and develop the first five years of programming on city data, analytics, visualization, publications, city awards and recognitions. The headquarters of the WCCD will be located in Toronto and the Council will host a platform for cities and will build a knowledge network for cities globally. 

“Here in London, we really welcome joining the WCCD,” said Andrew Collinge, Assistant Director of Intelligence, Greater London Authority. “There has never been a time where it’s more important to understand how we as a global city compare with other cities so we can learn from them and actually use data to address challenges that are facing all of our cities.”

London Mayor Boris Johnson said London’s biggest challenge is the boom in the number of people living in London, with the city’s population projected to hit 10 million by 2030. Access to data from other cities will be critical to dealing with this growth.

“That’s a lot of people who will need jobs and homes and a quick and convenient way of getting from one to the other,” he said.

Other cities voiced their excitement at joining the WCCD.

The City of Barcelona is “very interested in this initiative, having been nominated European Capital of Innovation by the European Commission” says Manel Sanromà, CIO, Barcelona, “Barcelona believes deeply in the value of collaboration and standardization.” 

“It will be my pleasure to join you and participate in the launch of such an outstanding initiative,” says Mohammad Jaljouli, Advisor at the Executive Council, Dubai.  “At The Executive Council, we believe in the importance of this major milestone towards building city standards, and we look forward to adding value to the ongoing efforts in this regard.”

Along with the launch of the Council, the Summit will announce a new international standard on city indicators using the GCIF framework that has been developed through the International Organization for Standardization.

ISO 37120 Sustainable Development in Communities: Indicators for City Services and Quality of Life is the first ISO standard on city metrics. Foundation Cities will be the first to pilot this new ISO standard.

This new ISO Standard marks a critical turning point in the world of city data. ISO 37120 provides cities and stakeholders with an opportunity for a standardized approach to city metrics, and a global framework for third party verification of city data.

The WCCD is being established in this critical new space, where ISO 37120 creates the impetus for a reliable, transparent and open data platform.

Saskatoon was thinking of taking part but because of our Mayor’s strong grasp on the economy, we will do it our own way.  Another “tremendous opportunity” lost.

Saskatoon Board of Education

Saskatoon Board of Education

Walk Your City

Yo, Saskatoon!  We need to start doing this.

A Smarter Saskatoon

Saskatoon definitely lags behind other cities in technology.  Our traffic lights aren’t even synchronized (well unless you use the most and simplistic version of synchronization).  Can you imagine a Saskatoon that automatically adapts to water main breaks, road construction, or works to clear traffic jams.  It would be amazing.

Photographing Your City at Night

Here are some tips to get the most out of your night photography efforts

To take a photograph of a cityscape once the evening has come, find a spot that shows off all the buildings and office lights that are lit. Place the camera on a tripod, and turn the mode dial to AV (aperture priority) mode; we want f/8 and upwards for a greater depth of field. Use your camera’s self-timer or a cable release to take the photo with absolutely no blurring. The best time for this kind of shot is during the two “golden hours” which are the first hour after sunrise and the last hour before sunset.

20th Street

20th Street

Snow day on 20th Street

So yeah, we get snow here in Saskatoon some days.

A bit of this and that

None of these really need a full blog post but for those that care and for those that don’t…

A New Project

I am starting a book that I hope to have done by the end of the year.  I have a full Moleskine of things that I have left out of my The StarPhoenix columns, thoughts that I haven’t shared on The Saskatoon Afternoon Show with David Kirton (or talked about after we got off the air), or are just ideas that I have been working on and haven’t done anything with.  Basically I am just trying to figure out Saskatoon and along with it, the ethos of Saskatchewan that makes us do things the way we do.

For many years Steven Johnson has been one of my favourite authors.  Instead of writing books about what he knows, he writes about what he does not understand and in the process of learning about a subject, he brings you along for the ride.  I hope to do the same thing.  Look for it 2015.

Sports and Politics

I read a great bio of Michael Grange who said he wanted to write about foreign affairs but he was offered a sports job.  I love writing about local and social issues but if Grantland calls, I am leaving it all behind (I’m kidding but the Grantland podcasts look like so much fun).  To pass the time between now and when Bill Simmons discovers me, I am now talking sports with David Kirton and Justin Blackwell on Wednesdays at 5:15 on the CKOM Saskatoon Afternoon roundtable.  David joked about it a few weeks ago that we should just talk sports and since then we have had quite a few roundtables with sports.  The response has been cool but I was at McNally Robinson the other day and a stranger comes up to me and says out of the blue, “You know, I really hate what Pete Carroll did at USC too.”  I looked at him and he said, “I attended Oregon” and shook my hand.  I can now check, “Call out Pete Carroll for cheating” off my bucket list.  

A Year in Saskatoon

I have been writing an OurYXE Neighbourhood Guide each week.  Every Wednesday and Sunday, I sit down and research what is good, bad, and interesting about a neighbourhood.  It’s been an incredible amount of fun exploring some of Saskatoon’s most loved (and unloved) neighbourhoods.  I have been discovering a lot of history and out of the way places to check out in each of them.  Part of the project is making sure we have some good photography for each neighbourhood which means I have been out a lot with a couple of cameras and my new 50mm f/1.8 lens.  While the cold hasn’t been a lot of fun to shoot photos in, seeing parts of Saskatoon again for the first time has been excellent.

Along with the photos, I have been shooting a lot of video.  I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with it but I had been thinking of a montage of a year in the life of Saskatoon.  Something that showed the bitter cold of winter and the incredible warmth of fun we have in the summer.  Saskatoon isn’t all good and it definitely isn’t all bad.

I wasn’t really sure what I wanted it to look like.  Many of the videos I had seen had been time lapses and I have about 5000 time lapse photos taken, I was initially been thinking of doing something with time lapse. It’s fun and amazing but i miss the emotion of just video.

 If it is as half as interesting as this video by Andy Clancy, I’ll be very happy.

Saskatoon has some great places to film but I want more than that, I want to see if I can find the kind of street life and community vibrancy in Saskatoon.  If you have ideas for where me and my DSLR need to be, let me know.  As I chase some city scenes, hopefully I will find some stories for the book, Saskatoon Afternoon’s roundtable, and my columns.  Oh yeah, there will be some fun stuff for my blog as well.

Now if only it would warm up outside.

Chicago: City of Necessity

Here is a 1961 video of Chicago called “City of Necessity” that is worth watching.

I know most people don’t watch longer videos online, but despite the 22 minute length, this one is a must for the serious urbanist. Among other things, it fills in part of the historical gap that exists in a lot of people (often including myself) about how our cities actually evolved to where they are today. This film was produced by local religious institutions in order to showcase the benefits of city living, while calling for a more fair and inclusive urban sphere. It’s shot in Chicago but is really about cities generally. 

Hilarious review of the Nikon Df

Hilarious review of the Nikon Df in a real world situation. via

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.