Tag Archives: active transportation

Even little parks make a big difference

San Francisco even has a guide to making parklets.

Parklet in San Francisco

The city’s parklets guidebook [PDF], authored by Chasan and released in February, reads kind of revolutionary, at least so far as city infrastructure goes. With explicit goals of encouraging non-motorized transportation, eco-friendly design, and reshaping neighborhood interaction, these teeny parklets pack a big political punch.

“In terms of changing the dialog about what the public realm can be, I think it’s been really successful, both with the public and within the city bureaucracy itself,” says Chasan, who has headed up the program for two and a half years. “When you park your car on the street, you’re essentially privatizing a public space. So when you turn it into something for everyone, it becomes a very literal metaphor.”

Even when they take over that private parking spot, parklets still straddle an odd private-public line. Each one is sponsored and bankrolled by a local entity, most often a business, and can cost about $20,000-30,000 — a significant investment for what is truly a public space. Those parklets outside coffee shops and cafes may seem like an extension of the restaurant that ponied up that cash, but they’re really not. The city requires that parklets look and feel public and separate from the sponsoring business.

“Sometimes people get upset if they feel like the parklet feels private, like it doesn’t live up to the civic ideals of the program,” says Chasan. “Like ‘This is supposed to be for everybody and it doesn’t feel like it’s for everybody.’ They should get upset about that if that’s the case.”

One of my favourite places in Saskatoon was the deck at City Perk (I saw “was” because it is under construction) which was owned by City Perk but seemed like a town square in the heart of City Park.  Along the thinking, I am always surprised that more churches (who have parking and buildings that are under utilized) don’t do this in urban areas.  I have always thought that creating community amenities for the neighbourhood was a great idea whether you are a business or a non-profit.  Sadly too many of these spaces are created but behind a locked fence and the opportunity is lost.

NewImage

Do Bicycle Helmet Laws Really Make Riders Safer?

Actually bike lanes make a bigger difference

Typically in transportation — and most social arenas, for that matter — laws promoting safety precautions lead to an increase in public health. Legislation on speed limits, drunk driving, and seatbelt are a few of the most obvious examples. Even bans on the relatively new phenomenon of driver-texting seem to be doing the trick, according to early evidence.

With bike helmet laws, however, the connection isn’t quite so clear.

Take a recent study published earlier this month in BMJ [PDF]. The Canadian research team, led by Jessica Dennis of the University of Toronto, analyzed the rate of cycling-related hospital admissions for head injuries across the country between 1994 and 2008 — an enormous research sample of more than 66,000 people. The size and length of the study allowed Dennis and collaborators to track the injuries against the emergence of bike helmet laws in various provinces.

What they found initially seemed to suggest that this legislation improved public safety. In provinces with helmet laws, the rate of head injuries among young people decreased 54 percent and the rate among adults decreased 26 percent. At the same time, in provinces without the laws, the rate among youth riders dropped only 33 percent and among adults remained constant. (It bears mention that the study was the first to examine the effects of helmet laws on adults.)

But upon closer inspection, according to Dennis and company, this positive effect failed to stand. On the contrary, the researchers concluded that head injuries were decreasing across the country at a rate that wasn’t “appreciably altered” by the new helmet laws. Other rider health initiatives — namely, public safety campaigns and the introduction of better bike infrastructure — rendered the contribution of helmet laws “minimal”:

Also, here is how not to kill a cyclist