With the single exception of my 94-year-old mother, I don’t know a single person over the age of 65 who doesn’t have a smartphone, computer, or tablet, and usually all three.
I’m well past sixty, and have worked my way through punch cards, a C-64, many versions of Windows, Apple and Linux. I know at least a few people over seventy who have a programming background or who have spent a lot of time doing graphic design and computer music composition on various machines.
That’s why I’m always amazed to read comments like these:
“Amazon Echo has been particularly popular with the older generations, as it allows them to interact with technology and the Internet in a natural, personal way, rather than via a computer.”
Surveillance and the police state excepted, the Chinese subway systems are in most ways superior to the Skytrain. This was demonstrated when I returned home and found a Chengdu mother and child at the YVR Skytrain station struggling to figure out how to get to Surrey and how much it would cost. Once I helped her get her tickets she rode with me to the Waterfront station, out one set of turnstiles, up an elevator and around a newspaper kiosk, into another set of turnstiles, then was pointed to the Expo line. After a fifteen hour flight that was far more complex than any traveller should have to deal with.
The Chinese government is still building and maintaining an impressive network of multi-lane freeways, highways, and flyovers — with regular toll plazas — to move large volumes of automobiles relatively efficiently, but the Chinese government has also tried to move the country (or at least the major cities) away from internal combustion engines.
As well as making lots of safe space for transit users, bikes, electric motorbikes, and pedestrians, the Chinese have done one other thing to improve the traffic mix in Chengdu and Beijing: they’ve made it really hard to own a car. Much like the licences and charges in London and Singapore, rules in China pretty much limit car use in the city to the very wealthy.
Admittedly, lots of things are easier in a one-party police state, but by the same token, that doesn’t necessarily make them bad ideas.
On many arterials in Chengdu, you’ll find a full traffic lane on each side of the road dedicated to bicycles and electric motorbikes. These lanes are protected by low barriers – good looking metal railings, not concrete Jersey barriers – that keep slower vehicles safe from automobile traffic.
Outside of the bike lanes are sidewalks that are wider still, encouraging pedestrian traffic, although they’re also used by bikes and e-motorbikes. Despite these interlopers (I don’t actually know what the local rules are) the sidewalks feel spacious and safe. Tactile paving is widely used as well.
The Liberal government’s newspaper bailout will undoubtedly help big media players like Postmedia or The Toronto Star, but it will likely have little to offer the hundreds of smaller local newspapers in Canada. As many of these community newspapers shrink in size or get closed down entirely, a lot of Canadians are finding that the only remaining place to find out what’s happening in their hometown is Facebook.
Published: Asparagus (PDF) Summer/Fall 2019
July 8, 2019
On a Saturday in early March — when sunny weather drew hundreds of people to the mountains in suburban North Vancouver — I made a contribution to the trails I hike every week. I joined seven volunteers from the North Shore Mountain Bike Association (NSMBA) to spend a day rebuilding a forest trail on Mount Seymour. We shouldered shovels, pickaxes, and plastic buckets as we hiked to the snowline partway up Bridle Path, a popular local trail.
Our leader, Penny Deck, wore sturdy work pants and steel-toed boots. Once we’d unloaded our tools, she knelt down and knocked aside hard-packed snow to uncover a cedar ladder bridge. The bridge once kept riders out of rain and stream water flowing around the trail, but years of erosion had left it nearly buried under black mud. Now, hikers and riders splashed through muck in wet weather.
By the day’s end, the bridge was gone. We replaced it with an elevated trail, stone retaining walls, and drainage ditches to carry water away from the path. The day’s work represented a small section of the 226 kilometres of trails in North Vancouver, most of which are maintained by hikers, runners, and mountain bikers who volunteer with NSMBA. Their handiwork has produced some of the world’s highest-ranked mountain bike trails, all while emphasizing social responsibility and environmental sustainability.
The District of North Vancouver is going ahead with improvements to East 29th Street between Lonsdale and Lynn Valley Road. As well as making the road safer and quicker for automobile drivers, including improvements to pedestrian infrastructure, the plan will eliminate almost all automobile parking below Tempe Crescent in favour of new continuous bike lanes.
During its May 27th meeting, the council approved an additional $972,000 for a total budget of $1.45 million. The city will contribute approximately $330,000 to paving costs. Phase 1 work will happen this summer to coincide with repaving between Lonsdale and William Avenue.
Arash Memarzadeh feels that the council just doesn’t understand the reality of Deep Cove. “To me it sucks to live here. We don’t feel like we have any ownership in the place where my parents raised three boys.”
A year after the District of North Vancouver brought in new rules to control the volume of visitor traffic into Deep Cove, some businesses feel as if little has changed. New parking restrictions and a ban on commercial tour busses were supposed to rein in the crowds that visit Deep Cove and Quarry Rock on sunny summer weekends but there is doubt how effective the changes were.
The District of North Vancouver has added 17 new Nissan Leaf electric vehicles to its fleet.
According to fleetcarma.com the Leaf is one of the top two electric cars in Canada during 2018, a year that has seen EV purchases leap by more than 150 per cent.
Reducing carbon emissions was important to the District, but this purchase is about more than just jumping on the green bandwagon.
District Energy Manager Monica Samuda worked with fleet managers on the business case for moving to electric cars. They looked at five brands of vehicles and when the numbers were crunched, reduced maintenance costs and the reduction in green house gas emissions …
Councillor Jim Hanson has proposed that District owned rental housing should be earmarked for use by non-profit agencies who are able provide housing to clients.
During the April 1st Council meeting he presented a report on “Prioritizing District-owned residential-rental housing for non-profit organizations” which asks staff to develop a new policy. Council specified that there is no intention of evicting existing tenants.
Hansen explained that, “The District does for various reasons own residential properties, in many cases on a temporary basis. To the extent that the District owns residential properties, and to the extent that those are rented for whatever period of time during which the District is considering the long term use and purpose of those properties, it make sense that they be used for a social purpose.”
In an email Janine Ryder, the District’s Manager, Real Estate and Properties, said the District currently owns 14 single amily homes, four of which are already rented to non-profit agencies, and ten of which are rented for residential use. This week a 1,404 sq ft ranch house on Belle Isle Place in Lions Gate is being advertised to qualified renters for $2400 a month. Ryder added that “The District purchases residential properties for other purposes not specifically for rental. The rental properties turn over infrequently.”
Hanson described the Marineview Housing Society as the type of group that could benefit from this policy. Marineview is a non-profit society incorporated in 1975 and is dedicated to providing safe, affordable housing for people on the North Shore living with psychiatric illness. Marineview currently operates four facilities, three in the City which are owned, and one of which is rented in the District. These include Chesterfield House, a 24-unit apartment building located near the civic center in the City of North Vancouver.
Marineview Executive Director Madeline Boscoe says that the motion is “a step in the right direction” but that much more housing stock is needed, not just for “teachers and nurses”, but also for those who can’t afford market rents. Boscoe was unfamiliar with Hanson’s motion, but explained that in order for a house to be used for their purposes it needs to be specially licensed, and would require a number of specific changes including fire sprinklers, upgrades to electrical systems, and other renovations specific to a residential care facility.
The North Shore Winter Club’s dream of a new facility on Dollarton highway was questioned by District of North Vancouver council at the March 4th meeting.
The club plans to build a new $200 million facility If they can do a land-swap deal with Darwin Developments at the site of the former International School at 2420 Dollarton highway.
Darwin will swap that for the ownership of the current NSWC property on Kieth Road with a proposal to build new residential towers. That land parcel is next to Darwin’s proposed Innovation District.
The NSWC’s current facility is in need of an estimated $50 million in repairs and renovations, an amount that NSWC President Jay Frizell says is far beyond the club’s capacity to borrow.
Falling membership numbers have left them in a tight financial situation, he says, and the club’s membership believe the Darwin plan is the best way to ensure the club’s future.
The NSWC began looking for a new location after members voted 94% in favour of relocating.
If built the club complex will include two full size ice rinks, and a smaller training rink, fourteen tennis courts, racquet courts, a twenty-five meter pool, a gymnasium, and a restaurant. The new facility would expand their building from 225,000 to 300,000 square feet.
The club has 2200 members, two-thirds of whom live in the District, and more than half of whom live east of Highway 1. A further 20,000 non-members each year visit the club to take part in classes and activities. The Winter Club’s hope is a that new facility will draw in new members and cost less to operate.
Mayor Mike Little asked what had changed since the 1980s when the Winter Club received council approval to subdivide their property to deal with another cash crunch.
“My concern is some of the history here. About 1982 there was a period of time there where the club itself was not solvent. The club was in a very difficult spot financially and it came to the District for help. But specifically at the time the District said ‘this can’t happen again’.”
In an email, Little said his concern from the 80’s was still relevant. He said the club’s survival required unlocking value from the property from the then council.
“Even though they were told at the time that they needed to raise their dues to cover the proper maintenance and replacement of their facility, successive NSWC Boards refused to set aside enough money and here we are again where the survival of the club is based on further up zoning the property.”
Councillor Megan Curren suggested that there had been a lack of transparency and wondered about the lack of community benefits.
“One of the concerns I first had when I learned about this project was the impact to the community and the fact that the community’s not hearing the whole story,” she said
Councillor Lisa Muri also shared Mayor Little’s concerns.
“What happened years ago when the District did agree to allow a rezoning in order to fund the club. What’s changed? It still seems to be that that’s the same solution. It’s like selling bits of your back yard to pay off your credit card.””
Despite the negative response from council, Frizell says that the next step is to prepare a package for the District outlining the project — the NSWC’s needs, and what it would take to renovate their existing home. At that point the NSWC hopes to get direction from Council about whether it’s worth proceeding, or what elements like traffic studies will be needed next.
Frizell says if the club don’t get approval then the plan is to try to start renovating.
“We’ve been delaying a lot of upgrades because we’ve been waiting to hear from the District.”
When asked if he thinks the current Council will support the Darwin project Frizell says “ I will be very surprised if they approve anything. Our hope is to get some direction one way or the other. If there are going to be traffic studies, and area studies and various hoops that we have to go through before anything can be considered we’d like to get that started so that we’re ready three years from now when there may be a new Council.”
Captain Doug Beckett, a twenty-nine year veteran of the District of North Vancouver Fire and Rescue, was one of fifteen people honoured by the District for their help during the Lions Manor and Mountain Village Garden Apartment fires in the summer of 2018. At a ceremony in December Mayor Mike Little described how Beckett “who was off duty, but lives in (Deep Cove) responded to the fire from his home. Despite having no personal protective equipment he entered the burning structure and bravely assisted the elderly residents who were unable to escape safely on their own.”