My kid loves statistics and 15 minute cities

My kid’s transport goals for the year

We have started this simple diary where my 7 yo tracks each of her trips and categorizes them as car or not car. I find the analog simplicity of this approach to be appealing and I’ll be helping her keep this updated. I am also resisting temptation to add more data to this survey for myself (her project, not mine!) My movement goals are the same as hers, walk and bike as much as practicable leaving driving only for the “it’s too far or I don’t have even 10 minutes to spare or I have to carry something that won’t fit on my cargo bike, or it’s not safe to bike with a kid”.

Our life for the most part now fits the 15 minute city model, the concept that “Everyone living in a city should have access to essential urban services within a 15 minute walk or bike.”. Other than my once a week commute to work, almost everything we do is in that 15 minute walk/bike window and while our all age and abilities bike network is still work in progress, the trend is clear (thanks Dave Thompson Victoria City Councilor for the graphic from the CRD transportation survey)

Hey, comment on Victoria’s Cycling Master Plan!

Hey, comment on Victoria’s Cycling Master Plan!


The City of Victoria is coming out with a master plan for biking . They would really like to know what you think about biking in the city and what improvements you like to see in their master plan. Here’s where you can contribute. Look at the poster above for places where the City’s holding consultations and workshops.

If you’re looking for some ideas, the Greater Victoria cycling coalition recently released their thoughts on the city’s master plan (pdf) (disclaimer I am on the board of the Greater Victoria cycling coalition, though my contribution to the report was mostly proof-reading) . Some highlights for you in case you need some ideas to contribute to the city:

  1. Improvements to neighbourhood arteries such as Haultain, Vancouver, and more
  2. Protected or buffered bike lanes on heavier traffic roads such as Pandora (The city is currently planning a one-way track on Pandora).
  3. Clearer road markings on intersections, and the use of “bike boxes” at traffic lights so people on cycles can safely and visibly get ahead of traffic

There’s more. Read the report, it’s not very long.

Here is some of my personal feedback (beyond everything in the report) based mostly on the parts of the city I cycle in,. and the parts where I feel changes would make a big difference.

  1. Protected (buffered) lanes, or cycle “tracks” downtown and beyond: Lanes where cyclists are not buffeted by cars and buses have the potential to increase cycling among those hesitant to ride in traffic. The city is planning to build a buffered lane on Pandora from Cook all the way to Wharf. This is a good start, and needs to be doubled, either with a two way lane on Pandora (which the city is very hesitant to do), or a corresponding cycle track on a street going east. Also, View street is already not a convenient throughway for cars, wonder if a buffered bike lane would fit there.  
  2. Vancouver street: Vancouver is a nice and peaceful street to ride on, wide, only one lane of car traffic each way, residential and mostly flat. Vancouver is already a widely used bike way for people going North-South, especially from Fairfield and Cook street village and North Park. But, there are some difficult stretches. Firstly, Caledonia, where cyclists need to pass a busy street with speeding cars. While cars are not allowed through north on Vancouver street past Caledonia, my near misses and my friends’ similar stories tells me that many car drivers don’t listen. Let’s fix this, either with more enforcement, or actual physical barriers to slow vehicles down/stop them. Also, there are a number of stop signs on Vancouver that result in a choppy cycling experience. Changing these stop signs to allow through traffic on Vancouver would improve the cycling experience. There is marginal car traffic on those east-west roads anyway, so I think this would be an easy fix. While we are at it, changing car speed limits to 30 kph would calm Vancouver down even more. Vancouver’s connection past Bay is also currently a bit klunky and needs improving.
  3. Haultain. This is my favourite street to cycle on in Victoria, and one I use regularly. Haultain, while not on Victoria’s current official cycling network, is well set up for biking, with physical barriers preventing through traffic both at Shelbourne and Richmond, leading to a fantastic cycling experience from Cook street all the way into Oak Bay. From my perspective, Haultain mostly works, but connecting it west past Cook and making an easier path for cyclists coming off the Bay bridge would be useful. The turn onto Cook from Haultain also needs some attention, it’s difficult in peak hour traffic. Also, while bikes are supposed to trigger the Shelbourne light, this seems to not work for me much of the time, which means I wait a while for this light to turn, especially unproductive when there’s little traffic on Shelbourne after peak hours. I wish this light could be turned in to a simple stop/yield, with an optional bicycle/pedestrian triggered light to be used in times of “heavy” traffic on Shelbourne.
  4. portland_bike_boxRight turn lanes and cyclists. Many of our streets without bike lanes, Johnson is a prime example have this feature where the right-most lane becomes a turn-only lane. This may be convenient for cars, but it means cyclists have to keep merging left into traffic, stressful even for experienced riders in traffic and disruptive for motor vehicle traffic as well. It’s here that painting bike boxes could be very useful. But they won’t help when traffic is moving. Cook and Johnson now have a marking where the right-most lane is right-turn only except for buses and cycles. So, when traffic is moving, cyclists could just pedal through, but when it is stopped, they could use the painted bike box. The city should do this at every intersection.

Many more thoughts, but please contribute. The city especially needs to hear from the people I think constitute the heart of cycling in the city, those who cycle, but would not identify themselves as cyclists per se (human is the preferred identity!). You know who you are, speak up (It’s an election year, BTW).

Made in China buses: Is the fearmongering necessary?

Made in China buses: Is the fearmongering necessary?

If you live in greater Victoria, you must be aware that BC Transit and CAW Local 333 are negotiating a new contract. Like a number of contracts negotiated in this time of fake austerity,  the negotiation is contentious because there are actual mandates from the government that salaries cannot increase unless “savings” are found elsewhere. I am not privy to how these negotiations are going, so no second guessing here on strategy or tactics. I hope things get settled, because I travel more than a thousand kilometres by bus every month and driving to work is not what I want to do, neither is crossing a picket line.

All that being said,  this new tack is disturbing.

Williams said B.C. Transit “wants the unrestricted right to bring in Chinese-built” community shuttle buses with lower safety standards, which could be piloted by part-time drivers “at a significantly lower wage rate than conventional bus drivers.”“B.C. Transit literally had to go to China and get these buses designed and built there to get around higher safety requirements,” Williams said in the release.

via Victoria bus drivers set for overtime work ban starting Monday, union says

Yes, China bashing is a quick way to gain sympathy. and happening quite a bit this month because the Chinese and Canadian governments are negotiating a secret trade agreement (Leadnow campaign link) that gives corporations of both countries all kinds of rights and privileges that we could only dream of getting for ourselves.

Is there any evidence that Chinese made buses are unsafe, especially when they need to conform to Canadian safety standards? Is there any evidence that these standards are being gamed? These are different questions from “are these buses suitable”? “Are the lifecycle costs for these buses being understated”? I wish CAW Local 333 would take the time to frame this issue more accurately, because this issue is not about China, it is about us.

Lost in all this China bashing and a cynical attempt to appeal to our “other” phobia is the obvious conclusion that it’s not the “made in China” aspect of manufacturing that makes a product less durable or of poorer quality, it is the insistence of markets to lower standards on the products to cut short-term costs or to increase profits. China, like many other countries, probably more than Canada, manufactures large quantities of high quality products routinely. It’s not China’s fault that your crappy London Drugs coffee grinder can’t actually grind coffee and breaks when your cat sneezes near it. It’s the fault of the companies that sell you stuff, and our own inability to balance short-term price vs. long term cost. It is also the oppressiveness of the Chinese government combined with consumers need for cheap, and market profit needs that exacts a high price on the Chinese makers of the high quality IPhone.

So, ask hard questions about the suitability of the buses, and question the market mechanisms that brought us here. Unions are a very necessary buffer against market excess and corporate control. But do we have to use “made in China” as a cudgel again? As my friend says,

Made in China has become a short form for criticisms of the market, which are credible. But the problem is that it slips in the othering too


Murray Langdon and the Role of Government
| |

Murray Langdon and the Role of Government

Murray Langdon of Victoria area radio and news outfit CFAX talks about municipal golf courses and tries to connect the Municipality of Saanich’s role in running a golf course with a much larger question around government, and “money”.

I’ve already been inundated with a ream of people who have stated that rec centres, garbage pick-up, landscaping, etc, has always been done by the municipality. That may be true. What I’m asking is should cities and towns be doing that. For example, we know that rec centres lose money each and every year…

via Murray Langdons Comment

The role of government, whatever level it might be, is to maximise the welfare of the people it serves, not some of its people, but most of them. So, looking at government “costs” alone in deciding the role of government is dangerously incomplete. What you actually have to do is to total up the costs for government and the people being served by the government, and judge whether there is an overall benefit to a municipality providing a service. Trying to be pragmatic about it, here are some of the things I look at:

  1. Is the good/service provided discretionary? Meaning, would I be able to live a reasonably satisfactory life without the service?
  2. If the good/service is non-discretionary ( I need it for a satisfactory life), then does it show characteristics of moral hazard (if some people don’t participate, it affects everyone), and would the provision of the service benefit from risk pooling (it works better if we’re all in it together) and mitigate issues of adverse selection (people who need services most are least able to afford them)?
  3. Is the good/service market amenable? (despite what free market fundamentalists may have you believe, Adam Smith did not think that every good/service could fit into a free market paradigm). If market worthy, is there any additional benefit to having a “public option”?
  4. What parts of a good/service are a natural monopoly, and what parts are amenable to market based competition (highways vs. cars)?
  5. When looking at costs and benefits, it’s not enough just look at direct costs like construction, salaries, etc, but also at more intangible measures like decision fatigue,(after a certain threshold, every decision you take degrades the next one) social capital (community relations, cooperation and confidence), creative capital (the ability to attract people to your community), environmental capital and so much more.

Immediately, dumping golf, recreation, and water and sewage services into the same pot makes no sense.

Let’s look at golf, it’s discretionary, and given the proliferation of golf courses in the area, a reasonably competitive good/service (disclaimer: I don’t golf). If Saanich stopped providing golf services, some people would end up paying more, but this would not affect a vast majority of people in the area. So, I wouldn’t shed a tear if Saanich’s golf course was privatised (I would be happier if it became a park, but that’s a different argument!).

Let’s look at recreation centres – Murray Langdon says this:

For example, we know that rec centres lose money each and every year. But we have examples of private recreation facilities, (in Langford for example) that are not only affordable but actually make money. For some reason, people assume that if it’s not run by a municipality, it will be expensive. Well, I have news for you. It is expensive and it may be because it’s run by a municipality.

I am confused, what Langford recreation centre is he talking about? (I don’t live in Langford, or hardly ever visit) The Westshore Parks and Rec Society runs the recreation centres, and it appears to be a joint effort by Westshore communities.

West Shore Park & Recreation is governed by the West Shore Parks & Recreation Society’s Board of Directors  Each municipalities contribution, through tax requisition, assists in the operation of the parks and recreation facilities.

Putting Langford aside, clearly, the public health benefits of increased physical activity make exercise a non-discretionary item (some may disagree!) Community based (whether run by the municipality or not) recreation centres have many benefits that are not measured just by their profit-loss statements. They are often the only option for family-centric, community centric (as opposed to individual centric) recreation. I can’t go to a private gym with my partner (real) and kids (hypothetical), and have all of us participate in  activities at the same time. My partner and I would have to schedule different workouts, then enrol the progeny in a separate swimming or soccer class, find/take turns in baby sitting, etc. So, not having community based recreation increases costs to society + government, while possibly (and not always) reducing government “costs”. The social capital of having community recreation centres, the public health benefits of encouraging exercise, I could go on, the intangible benefits are high. The YMCA, which I am a member of, is a non-profit community run recreation centre, and this model works as well.

Water and Sewer – These are non-discretionary, monopoly driven services not really market based. Construction, some maintenance, value added services, may be amenable to competition, but not the management, oversight and long-term stewardship. While the BC provincial government and various Federal governments have been trying to privatise various commons resources, third-party evidence points to no cost savings.

Here’s a test: Talk about BC Liquor!

The job of a public policy analyst is to consider the costs/benefits of the society as a whole. One does not read government balance sheets the same way one would read a corporation’s balance sheet.

Photo from GibsonGolfer Flickr photostream used under a Creative Commons License.

Help Cleanup Invasive Plants in Victoria This Saturday

View Larger Map

Are you interested in helping the Lekwungen and WSANEC Nation remove invasive plants? Here’s a press release about the event.

You and your family are welcome to join us for an orientation to removing invasive plants in Chekonein family territories, facilitated by Cheryl Bryce, this Saturday January 22nd. We’re meeting at 1pm at Camas Point (Cattle Point — at the higher side, on Scenic Drive where there’s a few parking spots by the entrance, just in from Beach Drive).

Please bring a water bottle and wear sturdy shoes and weather-appropriate clothing.

If you have some extra tools handy (like clippers, gloves, shovels), please bring them with some sort of label so you get the correct ones back. Many thanks!

Bus tickets available; the 2A bus goes fairly close:

For the past 150 years Lekwungen and WSANEC families have been responding to the impacts of colonization in their homelands. This project creates more spaces for local and visiting peoples to collaborate on long-term decolonizing of the land. Through the community tool shed project, local Indigenous families are providing guidance on priorities and the where, when, and how for visitors to join in this work collectively and respectfully.

The Community Tool Shed & Mapping Project is associated with the Xaxe Tenew Sacred Land Society. Currently we are fundraising so that we can buy tools for invasive species removal and reinstating native plants, including GPS equipment for mapping invasive plants in local “parks” to help plan removal and track effectiveness of different methods over time.

To get involved, or to donate tools or funds to the tool shed, please contact Cheryl <> or Joanne <>.


Invasive plants are a big problem in BC, and one that requires labours of love to remove, no carpet bombing with herbicides, no industrial solution here, just lots of hands needed!