the renewed city.

vancouver is lagging behind when it comes to cycling.
May 14, 2009, 6:29 pm
Filed under: commentary

Recently, I was interviewed by The Tyee, BC’s leading online news publication, regarding cycling culture and infrastructure in Metro Vancouver. I’ve pasted the article below.


Cyclist demand could help improve infrastructure

“More people cycling creates a demand for systems to accommodate cycling,” said Tim McDaniels, a professor at UBC’s School of Community and Regional Planning.

Hundreds of riders have taken advantage of Bike to Work Week’s free food and bike maintenance offered by organizers, said program director Erin O’Melinn.

“Our numbers are at least equal to last year, if not better.”

In addition to benefits such as reduced fossil fuels and decreased noise, McDaniels said increased cycling could go a long way to reduce traffic congestion.

“It is quite possible for cycling to play a much larger role than it does in commuting.”

Events such as Bike to Work Week are important because they raise awareness about transit alternatives, said Andrew Devlin, a graduate student at the UBC Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability.

The daily commute is the most consistent cause of greenhouse gas emissions in Vancouver, he said.

“Substituting our cars with a bike for this trip then has big potential for helping reduce our daily travel emissions.”

Vancouver currently trails behind a number of similar-sized cities in terms of the number of people cycling to work.

Only two per cent of Metro Vancouver residents ride bicycles for their commute compared to 35 per cent in Copenhagen, Denmark, Devlin said, attributing at least some of this difference to government investment.

“Copenhagen injects millions of dollars annually into building a good network of cycling infrastructure to make it easier for people to use their bikes to get around,” he said.

“Vancouver has enough problems trying to get one cycling lane on the Burrard Bridge.”

Morgan J. Modjeski reports for The Tyee.


ubc alumni dialogue
May 7, 2009, 9:51 am
Filed under: presentation

Last night, I had the chance to speak at a ubc alumni event entitled “Is there a light at the end of the tunnel: solutions to Surrey’s transportation quagmire.” The event was a panel discussion where myself, along with Mr. Clark Lim, a former transportation planer with TransLink and current PhD student at UBC, fielded questions and comments about both surrey’s and the larger fraser valley’s transportation woes. We had a great turn out of around 60 people who were very engaged and excited to talk about the subject (always a great thing to see).

At the onset I was able to give a brief overview of some of the local transportation research coming out of UBC. I touched on the idea that many of our transportation problems are the product of our daily travel behaviour which, in turn, is directly influenced by the way we plan and built our town and cities.I highlighted some key findings of recent research coming out of UBC that has explored the link between land use and travel patterns, physical activity and travel-related emissions. Of note:

  • Adults living in the top 25% most walkable areas in Metro Vancouver were between 2 and 3 times more likely to walk or take transit for any home-based trip compared to those in the least walkable neighbourhoods;
  • Adults living in the top 25% most walkable neighbourhoods drive approximately 58% less than those in more auto-oriented areas;
  • Residents living in the top 25% most walkable areas in Metro Vancouver and Greater Victoria were half as likely to be overweight than those in the least walkable neighbourhoods;
  • Persons who felt they had many shops within easy walking distance were more than twice as likely to meet recommended physical activity requirements compared with those who did not.

The first two points are from a study entitled “Active Transportation Benefits of Walkable Approaches to Community Design in Metro Vancouver” which was completed by myself and Dr. Lawrence Frank with funding from the BC Recreation and Parks Association. The last two findings are found in “Promoting Physical Activity through Healthy Community Design,” a study funded by the Vancouver Foundation and prepared by Dr. Frank, Megan Winters, Brian Patterson and Cora Craig.

This work and others like it are helping to shape a local evidence base that supports the notion that encouraging less driving and increasing alternative forms of travel starts with planning and building places that make walking attractive, convenient and appropriate. 

You can download a copy of my presentation here. The event was also recorded as a podcast that can be downloaded at the iTunes Canada store

where is vancouver headed?
May 2, 2009, 3:33 pm
Filed under: ideas

every year, vancouver is drenched in praise from around the world for it’s leadership in sustainability, urban design and quality of life. certainly, a key element helping contribute to many of these achievements is the city’s equally well-recognized built environment. the downtown core is one of the most walkable and livable neighbourhoods in all of north america. a lack of freeways and heavy investment in traffic calming has helped discourage car use and foster a culture of active transportation and public transit. the introduction and spread of citizen planning committees in the 1970s gave residents an outlet to be engaged in the growth and development of their own neighbourhoods and molded strong community pride and ownership.

vancouver’s reputation, and the means that have helped to shape it, did not happen by accident. they are the products of visionaries who were not afraid to challenge more dominant but by no means appropriate paradigms of the time. two big ones that come to mind are the urban renewal policies of the 1960s and the stifling, top-down, and unbureacratic planning approaches of the 1970s. surely, if vancouver followed the lead of cities like atlanta or buffalo, i would not be sitting here writing this today.

this acknowledgment, however, yields a very important observation. the foundations of vancouver’s success today is in large part due to the actions of the past. and so, it is logical to ask, then, where is vancouver and the greater vancouver region headed today? or, better yet, are we doing enough to maintain the understructure laid by those before us? does creativity and ingenuity continue to play a key role in the maturation of our city or the growth of the city’s outlying areas? or has the city or region as a whole fallen victim to a sort of apathetic mentality that in turn fosters a similar attitude in its people and development patterns?

these are important questions that need to be tackled if vancouver and it’s surrounding areas are to remain sustainable and livable well into the future. i’d like to explore this idea over the course of this year. while i don’t have a ‘game plan’ on how to tackle it just yet i am leaning towards breaking the question down into smaller, more workable parts like themes. of course, i would love to hear any feedback you might have on the topic of vancouver’s future as well.

stay tuned.