York Urbanist

Archive for the ‘Urban Design’ Category

Shut Down the Scarboro Curling Facility!

October 10th, 2017
Curling, Sports, Transportation issues

The shuttering of Scarboro Golf and Country Club is about ego.  Scarboro Curling logo

The announcement echoes from Thornhill, St. Georges, Board of Trade (Woodbridge), Humber Highlands, and Weston. All relented to the arrogance of a community, who themselves are under siege.  Thornhill and St. Georges brought in the accountants, who factored in the benefits of curling keeping the club open in the winter.  They remain…for now.  Board of Trade also brought in the accountants, who, by virtue of discussions only with golfers, determined that the curling facility was a drag on the club.  Interestingly, the club found need to sell within a few short years.  Humber Highlands, well, I am too young to understand what happened there, but I suppose it might have to do with non-curling accountants and golfers.  And the rumours abound about Weston.

But Scarboro is different, I suppose.  The accountants are unlikely to have dictated the demise of curling at SG&C.  Metrolinx is the fall guy!  That fat transportation group needs the land for their new transportation facilities. The interesting part though, is that the new facility did not have to go where the curling facility is today! SG&C chose to allow the curling function to leave the premises.  Yes, they got their compensation, but curiously, could a part of the compensation have gone to a rebuild?

Return to the other golf and curling clubs.  They are unable or reticent to treat the curling functions of their clubs as a business entity. Golfers pay a princely sum to afford the maintenance of 150 acres of land plus programming in their extravagant edifices. When curlers are introduced into the mix, more persons can afford this less expensive facility investment.   This is where the conflict arises.  The golf club members (who do not curl) endear their exclusivity, created by the privilege of their fees. In the 1960′s, when curling became an exceptional add-on to a Country Club, the golfers never contemplated curling plebes.  The exclusivity for the golf member is diminished by participants in the curling facility paying much lower rates.  Now, as curling facilities age, the ego of the golf members holds court.

But golf is a battered sport. Their facilities are depleting. In a way, they may have reacted by protecting their own turf. But for a former curler, Mackenzie Hughes, and a young Canadian phenom, Brooke Mackenzie Henderson, there might be few hooks onto which the golf community to put its hat.

The curling fraternity should not lament the loss of six sheets of ice.  The curling community should look inwardly to determine if they have a business case  And, there is a case to be made for year-round facilities and in the economic benefits that curling derives.  See http://yorkurbanist.com/2017/02/10/collingwood-cc-a-curling-success/ and http://yorkurbanist.com/2015/01/29/2015-ontario-scotties-as-economic-generator/  New facilities could be part of new residential, commercial or recreation developments, if only the entrepreneurs could also be curlers.

Urban Forest Values

June 10th, 2015
Healthy Communities, Landscape Architecture

This is the most comprehensive evaluation of urban forest I have found to date. Herein following is an excerpt from Trees in Canadian Cities: Indispensable Life Form for Urban Sustainability See also: http://yorkurbanist.com/2015/04/24/trees-for-healing/   The graphic is from another source. Information abounds about the intrinsic and extrinsic values of Trees

Benefits of Trees A Suite of Urban-Forest Values (copied from http://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/7/6/7379/html  )

Trees enhance the aesthetic beauty of the city. The idea that trees are pretty may be self-evident to any urban dweller as visions of green usually inspire calm and pleasant feelings. Indeed, city trees provide a wide set of visual pleasures, from the different colours of the leaves to the size and texture of tree trunks [47]. Trees also have sounds, such as when leaves rustle in the wind or a carpeted floor of fallen leaves is walked upon.

Trees give people joy through the senses. Trees provide shade. Shade is at the root of so many of the social, economic, and environmental benefits provided by trees in the city. It is a vital service in promoting people’s health, as shade trees block harmful ultraviolet radiation [48]. Shade trees, especially ones that are strategically situated where people congregate outdoors like in parks and on sidewalks, can help to mitigate the risk of skin cancer. Children are especially vulnerable to skin cancer, and thus trees in playgrounds and school yards have the potential of significantly reducing their exposure and risk of skin cancer. Through shade, trees sustain human health.

Trees help conserve fuel by reducing emissions from parked vehicles. Outdoor parking lots can be considered miniature urban heat islands with extensive impervious surfaces and low albedo. Vehicles parked in sunlight heat up and emit hydrocarbons into the air from the fuel in their tanks. Well-placed trees can reduce the amount of fuel that evaporates into the atmosphere from vehicles [49]. Thus, trees conserve fuel while concurrently helping to sustain the urban atmosphere. Trees cool the city environment. Due to their built infrastructure, cities frequently experience higher temperatures than the surrounding countryside—this is the urban heat-island effect [50]. Trees reduce ambient air temperatures by altering wind speeds, shading surfaces, and blocking solar radiation [51,52]. Trees also transpire water vapour into the air and, thus, cool it [53,54]. Consequently, the more trees there are in the city, the greater the cooling effect will be. This is especially relevant given expected climatic change and the associated warmer temperatures.

Trees clean the air. Air pollution is an issue for most cities, and urban trees help improve air quality. Gaseous pollutants like ground-level ozone, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and carbon monoxide are removed from the atmosphere by trees by absorbing them through their leaves [55]. Particulate matter is also removed from the air and stored temporarily on the plant surfaces until it washes off in the rain [56]. Overall air quality is better with more trees in the city.

Trees foster health and healing. Trees help purify the air and reduce rates of asthma and other respiratory illnesses in urban populations [57,58]. When we fall ill, or are convalescing from illness, trees can play a pivotal role in healing. Landmark research by Ulrich [59] showed that surgery patients recovered faster and better when the view through their hospital bedroom window was dominated by trees rather than another building. Research in Japan has shown clear health benefits from exposure to forest landscapes [60].

Trees enhance community safety. Security and safety are serious concerns in a city. Among the psychological causes of insecurity and feelings of danger, we find mental fatigue and elevated levels of stress. Although earlier research suggested that dense and naturally vegetated areas were perceived as insecure and threatening (e.g., [61]), these perceptions have been changing through the years with our understanding of how mental fatigue and stress are mitigated by green space and its most dominant feature–trees. More recent research shows that residents living in greener surroundings report lower levels of fear, fewer incivilities, and less aggressive and violent behaviour [62].

Trees increase property values. Trees in the city are a major component of a neighbourhood’s aesthetic appeal and benefit homeowners by adding monetary value to properties. For Portland, Oregon, Donovan and Butry [63] found that a large tree on a residential property can add some $9000 to the sale price of a house. Land owners are also helping others by having trees on their residential properties, because adjacent homes and even entire neighbourhoods benefit from the increased property value. This is an important message to communicate to homeowners, since there is frequently more available space to plant trees on private residential properties than next to publicly owned streets.

Trees reduce energy costs. In some places, roughly 5%–10% of urban electricity demand is spent on cooling/heating buildings. Trees around buildings and houses can act as heat insulators and heat absorbers, shielding buildings from a high-temperature environment through shade, or keeping buildings from losing their heat in winter by increasing the humidity of the surrounding area and slowing down wind [64]. Simulations in Canadian cities have shown that an increase in a neighbourhood’s tree cover by about three trees per house reduces the heating energy of that house by up to 10% and the cooling energy by up to 40% [65]. The annual savings in heating and cooling costs can reach the hundreds of dollars every year depending on house size.

Trees prolong the life of infrastructure. Trees help reduce the amount of maintenance and repair required for city streets, thus reducing costs against the city budget. The asphalt used to pave streets is made up of aggregate held together by asphalt cement. The asphalt cement is a petroleum product, which breaks down and evaporates in the sunlight, causing streets to crack and eventually crumble into potholes, which need to be repaired, or the whole street repaved, at great cost. McPherson and Muchnik [66] found that just a 20% shading of streets in Modesto, California, could save 60% of resurfacing costs over a 30-year period. This service provided by trees is a huge incentive for engineers and indeed all municipal managers to increase tree canopy over asphalt surfaces.

Trees capture and store carbon. Atmospheric carbon dioxide is one of the main drivers of climate change [67]. Its concentration in the air is rising largely because of the burning of fossil fuels like coal, oil, and gas [67]. Anything we can do to slow down emissions of carbon dioxide and increase the rate of its removal from the air will be good for the future of cities [68]. Trees capture carbon dioxide from the air and store the carbon in their trunks, roots, and branches. As long as a tree is healthy and growing, it stores increasing amounts of carbon. The more trees we have in the city, and the larger and longer they grow, the more carbon dioxide will be taken out of the atmosphere [69].

Trees slow down stormwater flow and consequently improve water quality. Urban land is covered mainly by roads, sidewalks, rooftops, and parking lots. Most of these surfaces are impervious and prevent rainwater from being absorbed directly into the ground. Consequently, stormwater and wastewater systems, as well as natural water bodies, are strained during heavy rains as runoff flows into them off impervious surfaces. Excessive runoff can lead to flooding, sewage spillover, and aquatic pollution. This is especially the case in cities like Halifax, where the older parts of the city have combined storm and sanitary sewers. City trees intercept some amounts of rainfall and retain it in their foliage for a period of time [70]. Trees, thus, provide a critical economic service in stormwater management. Trees provide employment opportunities. As they grow up into overhead wires, shed their leaves, grow new branches in undesirable directions, drop dead branches, or die, trees are cared for by municipal workers as well as private landscape contractors and other specialized tree caretakers. Salaries make up large proportions of the budget of tree-care organizations. The more trees there are in a city, the greater the amount of economic activity associated with their maintenance [71].

Trees represent smart societal investments because they demand expenditures on caring for vital urban green infrastructure. Trees support business activity. The services provided by trees provide tangible financial benefits to business owners. Research has shown that consumers perceive business districts with trees as better places to shop [72]. Moreover, consumers say they are willing to pay higher prices, travel further and longer, and shop longer and more frequently in areas with green streetscapes [73]. This not only benefits business owners, but also provides incentive for them to become more actively involved in the stewardship of urban trees.

Trees enhance recreational opportunities. City residents frequently visit treed areas for recreation. Recreation in these areas can be passive or active, ranging from gentle activities such as cultural events, walking, picnics, or tree climbing, to active sports such as running or biking [74,75]. The many types of urban forest formats, ranging from treed streets to dense and naturalized forest remnants, serve diverse recreational uses [76]. Trees enhance tourism. Among the few studies linking urban forests and tourism, Majumdar et al. [77] concluded that for Savannah, Georgia, the better the urban forest, the more attractive the city is for tourists. This seems a reasonable conclusion considering that most city residents would like more trees and better urban-forest management in their own cities [27]. All other things being equal, it seems fair to say that tourists would prefer to visit a well-wooded city as opposed to one with few trees.

Trees provide diverse foods. Trees have been a source of food for people throughout the ages. Urban settings are highly suitable for growing the full range of fruit and nut trees [78]. Additionally, there may be opportunities to pick edible berries and mushrooms that grow on the forest floor of treed parks and other naturalized areas. Thus, trees can contribute, even if in a small way, to food security in the city.

Trees conserve biodiversity. Biodiversity, in the simplest terms, refers to the full diversity of life on earth and includes the diversity of gene pools, species, communities and ecosystems. Trees themselves represent important elements of biodiversity, but they also serve as host and habitat for a wide range of other organisms. The ability of trees to contribute to urban biodiversity increases as one moves from single isolated trees to lines of trees along streets and lanes, and further to stands of trees in parks and other areas [79]. Urban forests can contribute immensely to biodiversity conservation through inclusion of the full range of native tree species in their full spectrum of ages and community associations [80]. Trees promote learning opportunities. Trees provide habitat for many kinds of wild organisms, including fungi, insects, lichens, birds, mammals, and other vascular plants. An excellent focus to start learning about terrestrial nature in the city is the trees. Indeed, there is no better place to learn about nature than to be in it [81]. Getting away from the city and out into natural forests can be costly and may even be impossible for some people. The alternative is to study nature in the city. Trees in the city can provide excellent opportunities to learn about the kinds of species and natural ecosystems there are in the countryside and the wilderness. Research has also shown that urban trees can enhance the learning capacity of learners [82].

Trees impart a sense of place. Feeling a sense of belonging in the city is important to its citizens. The vegetation of a locale can contribute strongly to this sense of place. The presence of trees transforms barren areas into pleasant, welcoming spaces that infuse the city environment with a positive sense of self [83]. It has been shown that well-kept treed neighbourhoods serve to strengthen the ties among residents, generating a sense of place and stewardship among neighbours [84]. This in turn generates important civic values such as a greater sense of safety and adjustment, more use of neighbourhood common spaces, and fewer incivilities [85].

Trees contribute to a sense of well-being. The main argument is that the more that people can experience nature, the better they feel, emotionally, mentally, and physically [11,86,87]. The lack of nature in cities means that many people cannot benefit from it as directly as they might. In many cities around the world, trees dominate the natural ecosystems. If we are to bring nature to the people in an urban environment, that means more trees, not just in total but also more trees in naturalized conditions (see [88]). A healthy urban forest contributes to a healthy and happy people. To sum up, we conclude that trees boast an extensive and diverse array of values to cities. We suggest that they are the greatest contributors to urban sustainability of all forms of plants. In absolute terms, the contributions of trees to urban sustainability are substantial. The more trees there are in the city, the better the city can serve as a good place to live.

Calculating Vaughan’s Cure for Congestion

June 9th, 2015
Healthy Communities, Pedestrianization, Recreation, Trails

Vaughan’s crisis is congestion.  The solution may be simpler than you think, but hard to believe.

You hear it from the car drivers, politicians, ratepayers associations and businesses. Driving through Maple is calamitous 7:30 to 9am and 3:30 to 6:30pm. Travelers have been given a vent around Maple with Teston’s access from Hwy 400, Keele and McNaughton.  But how does that help businesses on Major Mackenzie?  Eight lanes of Rutherford east of Hwy 400 create confusion for the uninitiated. Where do I get off?  How do I get to the curb lane? Keele and Jane Streets are dense with traffic day-long while Dufferin Street awaits infill of housing before it will also be intolerable. But herein lies an opportunity.

Hwy 7 rail overpassCouncillor Carella is holding the sword to lead the charge to make the rail crossing of Hwy 7 near Islington Avenue wider for cars beneath. But this is not the rail company’s mistake. It is the error of near sighted planning of suburban street patterns that are not permeable to the traffic that oversize lots generate. There are alternatives to easy fixes as the Councillor is touting.

IMG_00003295Drivers use the hypotenuse that is Islington Avenue through Kleinburg to avoid jamming on Hwy 27′s two traffic signals.  With earlier planning of streets and smart signals at the intersections in advance of subdivisions, density of street traffic could have been paused a few years. But that solution has passed.

The long term cure is allowing planning for lands developed over 40 years ago to redevelop to higher density and mixed use, prior to allowing single family lots to be developed on the edges.  Mississauga suffered the last decade of Hazel’s reign because of just that – too many single family housing units strewn to the edges of Mississauga’s developable land.  And without opportunity for employment nearby, cars jammed the streets leading to the already congested 400-series highways.  But there is a short-term fix at minimal cost that can be funded by subdivision planning in process.  Learn from Mississauga’s traffic and financial debacles. Typically, employment lands frame the highways.  Residential lands extend away from employment lands. Inefficiently, traffic crosses the employment lands from residential communities. But as congestion dictates unrecoverable time on the road, people change their housing desires.  They want to be closer to work.  They avoid congestion by the move or by their time of use. The latter has implications on their employment agreements with their employers. So, moving closer makes more sense.  Yet, how does one get from that closer housing to place of work? Streets are for cars in Vaughan. Sidewalks are too narrow for comfort, if they exist at all.

Now for the simple solution. car size bicycle parking Address the alternative short-trip facilities: transit; cycling; and pedestrian routes. Do this before opportunities disappear as happened in Toronto. Broad boulevards required by dictatorial engineers of the past remain on regional roads and the major street grid of Vaughan. Having cycled east to west along Rutherford Road, there is ample space to accommodate cyclists and pedestrians.  Street Diet is a term used to reduce 2 lane widths by 0.6m each to create a 1.2m wide cycle lane. Emergency vehicles are not affected, as the pavement width does not change..only the line painting! Calculation: 1000 vehicles per hour through an intersection – If 1% of drivers change to cycling or walking, we lose 10 vehicles (through every intersection they pass). Translated, that could be one signal transition less for your trip to work….. Each signal.  How many signals do you pass on your way to work? A typical 1/2 hour trip to work could be reduced by 5 minutes. This buys you one half a work week of time each year. All this for the cost of paint on existing roads.

cyclists and peds compared to carsParts of Islington Avenue south of Major Mackenzie have a 2.5m wide asphalt multi-use trail.  This is an excellent example of providing access for students to Emily Carr High School…. except that it ends before it gets to the school! This trail is cheaper than installing the City’s 1.5m wide concrete sidewalk but accommodates both cycling and walking! More of these safe and comfortable trails would encourage children to ride – in other words, mom/dad are not diverting to the school, too.  Calculation: Estimate that each trip is 4km extra for mom/dad.  Each school has 1500 students.  If 20% get rides to school, then there are 300 trips of 4km or 1200km per day. Reduce that by encouragement through better cycling routes to reduce trips to school by 25% and 300km are saved. At 60 cents per kilometre, then direct cost savings are $180 per day. In one school year, $36,000 of direct costs are saved. That would buy 300m of trails in one year. In the four years of high school, 1.2km of trails are afforded. In the 30 year life cycle of one high school building, over 8km of trails could be built for no real cost.  Fifteen high schools in Vaughan translate into 120km of cycling trails FOR FREE.

Not to mention the reduced carbon footprint.   You are trafficwhat's the point of cycle lanes

Cycle the 400 Series Highways

May 30th, 2015
Healthy Communities, Recreation, Trails

Why Cycle Lanes on 400 series highways?

  • Effective Use of land: Wasted space on the edges of highways requires MORE maintenance than the paved surfaces that could be trails. The highways have removed oxygen producing trees and shrubs, replacing them with grass, which is often mown. The asphalt of a cycle lane is not damaged like that of motorized vehicle lanes, so maintenance is minimal.
  • The direction cyclists want to go: Just as we in motorized vehicles want a stopless direct route to destinations, so to do cyclists.
  • Understanding Commuter cyclists: 400-series highways are built for commuters, although their primary purpose is to give access for delivery of goods from hinterlands to cities. Cyclists are also commuters.
  • Exiting Toronto fast: 400 series highways provide the most direct exit from the city and have available land on their edges.
  • Reduced grades: Although avid cyclists like the challenge of changes in grades, commuter cyclists are appreciative of the requirements of MTO to maintain grades at less than 5% inclines.
  • Positive reaction from cycling community: When this was raised in a workshop and on line, avid cyclists had to think for a moment. Yes, they said, this provides the opportunity to turn my recreation to a method of getting to work.
  • Puts planning in the provincial jurisdiction: Currently, the provision of cycling facilities is the purview of municipalities. As such, public consultation is limited to municipal boundaries, yet cyclists can travel 500km in one day, well beyond the jurisdiction of one city.
  • Raises awareness of Active Transportation: Volumes of drivers of motorized vehicles will see an alternative form of transportation as they sit in traffic. Meanwhile, cyclists continue unimpeded by other forms of transportation.

Where has this been done?

The public will be surprised that there already exist examples of highway related cycling facilities. The idea of cycling routes parallel to motorized routes may seem like a foreign concept. However the following list will surprise you. Let us start with more progressive jurisdictions off-shore

  • Australia roadside cycling routeAustralia is well known for its support of athletics and health. This lane is associated with an 80km/hr speedway. Apparently, avid cyclists can feel comfortable in this association.






  • Amsterdam roundaboutAmsterdam, Netherlands: The reaction from the uninitiated is, ‘well that’s because cycling is ingrained in their culture’. I respond that it is because cycling facilities have been incorporated into their transportation systems. Chicken and Egg? This example shows distinct and separated bike lanes on the outside, yet they continue to have crossings that allow motorists the right of way. A curious example has been circulating the social media that shows an elevated cycle facility at traffic circles. https://bicycledutch.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/turbo-roundabout.jpg

what's the point of cycle lanes



  • QEW Niagara service roadQEW Niagara was part of the Great Waterfront Trail Adventure for years. Although an unpleasant straight ride for this recreation ride, it is straight and allows for commuter cyclists to travel the same route as motorists.



  • Toronto Waterfront TrailToronto, Is there a more travelled route than the Gardiner/Lakeshore? Toronto created the Waterfront Trail to provide for primarily commuter cyclists who find their way to work much faster than the routes that regularly make the 680 traffic at the ones report. 5m wide this route is so well used that rules have needed to be created for its use, summer and winter.


  • Rosehill cycle separation productRosehill products in the UK can be used to establish the safety that transportation engineers use to scare away cycling facilities from the public realms.


See also:




June 4 – Walk and Ride – Vaughan’s Active Transportation

May 27th, 2015
Healthy Communities, Pedestrianization, Recreation, Trails

Become involved in COMMUNITY! A vortex of enthusiasm brought three groups together for a single event.

BUG logoVaughan Bicycle Users Group, BUG for short, expresses a common face of the community of bicycle riders. It is made up of recreation, racing and utilitarian cyclists. The goal is to advocate for those who want and need to travel further than walking can achieve. But Vaughan is lagging in the development of cycling facilities. The celebratory cycle lanes on Napa Valley and Peter Rupert are a compromise, but at least they have painted the lines.

BUG’s crowning 2014 achievement is being celebrated on June 4! Ride one of the first cycle lanes yet devised in Woodbridge!

Green Ribbon TreeTrees For Kleinburg may be self-evident by its name. But it is more than just trees. It is an environmental, event planning and business friendly group. A pilot project directed by this group is nearing completion in May 2015. This pilot project was a test of the mettle of volunteers and City staffers.  It took convincing a steadfast engineering department that a walking facility, such as their proposed sidewalk on Islington Avenue, could use trees to make the route a more comfortable. The City of Vaughan’s Vision speaks to that very need.

This crowning achievement is being celebrated on June 4! A stop on the Jane’s Walk will allow you to help plant a commemorative tree.

greenbelt_Logo_4C_OL[1]Greenbelt Foundation learned of Trees For Kleinburg from the City of Vaughan staff. Kleinburg is the perfect venue for a Jane’s Walk, where a village steeped in history can come to life through a guided walk. The Greenbelt Foundation promotes hiking in the villages and valleys that are contained and edge Ontario’s Greenbelt. The Greenbelt is up for review by the province and public meetings are being held this year to redefine or reconfirm its boundaries and mandate.

This banner year is being promoted on June 4 as a collaboration with BUG and Trees For Kleinburg.

Ride and Walk June 4 2015Get your walking or riding gear together and meet at 6:30pm at Sonoma Heights Park to start a journey whose destination is McMichael Gallery, but its ultimate goal is to raise awareness of the need for Active Transportation facilities in Vaughan. See what Vaughan has committed to by clicking the link to these new cycle facilities. Like the pilot project for Trees For Kleinburg, unofficial cycle lanes took two years to enact. If not for the actions of Councillor Alan Shefman getting a pedestrian and cycling task force, active transportation would not be an agenda item for Vaughan Council.

Go further, Vaughan! Involve Communities and encourage them with action, not two years of waiting for compromise solutions!



Editor’s Note: Choosing June 4 may have been folly, as it conflicts with the Mayor’s Gala. But will be an alternative event with no cost, but much benefit.

Kleinburg’s Peak Traffic

April 24th, 2015
Healthy Communities, Pedestrianization, Transportation issues, Uncategorized, Urban Design, Urban Places to Delight

Out for a walk in the morning.  We entered the serenity of the Humber Valley, like a typical jaunt for fitness.  Despite rapid pace our vistas included a wild turkey scrambling for cover and a coven of turkey vultures high in the spruce.  Little did we expect the parallels to Peak Traffic of urban Kleinburg that we encountered.

IMG_00003295 IMG_00003296

We emerged into the once quiet centre of Kleinburg.  It is only about a block in length.  This was an immense contrast to the idyllic Humber Valley trail.  Cars backed up on Islington Avenue. And as they did, non-vigilant vehicles scurried like that wild turkey, leaving a short-lived gap as it found an escape route off the main road.  Around the bend on Nashville Road, cars lurked at the intersection, waiting to pounce, like the vultures we saw, into the line that had formed on Islington.

Why this story?  Kleinburg Area Ratepayers Association have regularly on their agendas an incessant discussion of traffic. How can it be cured.  For the most part, the group has interim solutions – left turn restrictions upstream, parking solutions and studies offered by York Region.  With every new development, the talk turns to the traffic it will generate.

But Kleinburg has already reached Peak Traffic.  And, heretically I say, that is good.  Sure there is capacity at 10:30am and 1pm and 11pm, but no more commuter and school-generated traffic can be accommodated.  Although a traffic consultant will try to understand the commuter traffic, Kleinburg’s unique situation is exacerbated by helicopter parents. I love Brent Toderian’s repeated graphic that says: “There is too much for Billy to walk to school. So we drive him.” He goes on to explain that this is Induced Traffic.  When one strips away Induced Traffic, peak traffic in Kleinburg changes, but does not reduce.  If our doting mothers suddenly changed into parents concerned with healthy (walking/cycling children) living, traffic would be reduced at 8:30am and 3pm. At least for the short term. We can analyze it easily.  On a given PD day, the traffic is “lighter”. and the line-ups of cars shown in the picture above are lessened.  But lets say for instance, if every day was a PD day.  The phenomenon that would occur will revert to the cloister of cars once again.  The voids will be filled by those that used to take alternatives.

Unlike my article about resolving Vaughan’s traffic problems in http://yorkurbanist.com/2015/04/18/vaughan-traffic-congestion-a-perception/ , Kleinburg could not create a complete street in its core.  But what it could do is to create an Integrated street.  An integrated street is one in which the modes of transportation, vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists, mix without signage explaining the concept.  The concept is that cyclists and pedestrians have the right-of-way. By doing that, vehicles are forced into slowing.  IMG_00000022 INTEGRATED-STREET-CORNERYes, there will be a speed sign at the entries to the village, but because the street and sidewalk fabric are all integrated, there is no restriction to any mode, nor parking.  HERESY, you say.  But it has worked in Europe and specialty villages of the USA.

Create a slower street and the Peak Traffic will be reduced, leaving only those vehicles whose drivers intend to use Kleinburg as a destination. Emergency vehicles are accommodated. Deliveries can occur. Cycling and walking is encouraged. Business will thrive.  It just takes a leap of faith.

Trees for Healing

April 24th, 2015
Healthy Communities, Horticulture

The following is an excerpt from Trevor Hancock’s article recently. Trevor is a former Kleinburg, Ontario resident and well-traveled on the speaking circuit.   Islington Crossing watercolour

In 1984, Roger Ulrich at Texas A&M University reported that post-surgical patients who had a view of nature recovered more quickly and needed fewer painkillers than patients with a view of a brick wall. Subsequent research has found that simply seeing pictures of nature can be helpful, while a “healing garden” can reduce stress, improve mood and increase satisfaction among patients, families and staff. One particularly interesting set of results comes from Frances Ming Kuo at the Landscape and Human Health Laboratory at the University of Illinois. She compared people living in identical social-housing estates where, by chance, some had quite “green” environments (lots of vegetation) and others did not.

She found:

• The greater the amount of greenery in common spaces, the higher the levels of mutual caring and support among neighbours;

• The more vegetation, the lower the crime rate;

• Higher levels of residential greenery are associated with lower levels of aggression against domestic partners;

• The more natural the view from home, the better girls scored on tests of concentration and self-discipline;

• The more greenery, the higher levels of optimism and sense of effectiveness;

• The greener the setting in which children with attention-deficit disorder spend time, the more their symptoms are relieved.

These are remarkable results. But what is also important is that this is social housing, so these are people who are already disadvantaged. To further disadvantage them by providing less green environments seems to add insult to injury. Yet we have solid evidence that access to and contact with nature is related to income. People with higher incomes live closer to parks, and their parks are in better condition, than those living in low-income communities. And of course they are more likely to be able to afford to travel to and spend time in wilderness.

Given the health benefits of contact with nature, the policy challenge we face is not how to get people to nature, important though that might be, but how to get nature to people. We will never get all the people in our cities out to the wilderness on a regular basis (and if we did, the wilderness would suffer). So how do we bring nature into homes and streets, schools and neighbourhoods?

These are important issues for governments to consider. We need more pocket parks, street trees, school and community gardens and other green assets in our communities. Even more important, we need to preferentially increase access to and contact with nature for low-income urban populations, whose needs for such access and contact are greater. Dr. Trevor Hancock is a professor and senior scholar at the University of Victoria’s school of public health and social policy. [email protected]

This is posted to reflect the reasons for Trees For Kleinburg - See http://yorkurbanist.com/2015/03/19/green-ribbon-campaign-kleinburg-on/

Cycle Route Innovations

April 22nd, 2015
Healthy Communities, Recreation, Transportation issues, Urban Design

Following on the suggestion in my post March 3, 2015, and because we were questioned at Vaughan BUG as to why we would deign to suggest a cycle route alongside a 400 series highway, here then is vindication. solar bike path on highwayA solar array has been added to the cycle lane in Korea.  The array provides shelter to the cyclists and, constructed in the middle of the highway, provides exposure to the need for active transportation.  Not only that! The life of the pavement will be extended and there is an income producing property in the form of energy recovery.

If not overhead, then there are innovative solar pavements. Bikes will not wear pavements like heavier vehicles. If we are nervous about innovating, then why not a trial section to power the lights required for the highway? When the resources are discovered, then the power generated could be directed to runoff water from the asphalt being treated in a solar-powered facility. Remember the elevated wetlands on the Don Valley Parkway?20131128-Elevated-Wetlands[1]

Now why can’t Ontario and Canada be innovators?!? Give your transportation engineers some challenges for the GTA West Corridor. Have them collaborate with scientists to salvage something from the clear cutting of the Greenbelt.  If we can pay $1 billion for six lanes of pollution and noise producing facilities, surely we can pay $5 million for a complementary cycle facility.  And just maybe, we could innovate at the same time. Cycle lift for hills

See other cycling oped’s:



Cycling and Pedestrian Task Force – Yes! In Vaughan

April 19th, 2015
Healthy Communities, Pedestrianization, Transportation issues, Urban Design

If you can’t get to work by bicycle, and in the absence of convenient transit options, you’re going to have to drive. That is Vaughan today.

It is the mindset of the past that has put Vaughan in 200th place among 201 Canadian municipalities for cycling to work (MoneySense, August 2014) and walking-friendly communities.Sidewalk zones But this week, Vaughan took a step towards changing the trend of pedestrian/cycling forgetfulness!

On April 14, 2015, Council approved at Committee of the Whole that a Cycling & Pedestrian Task Force would be established. Through the presentation efforts of Diana Lee, representing Vaughan Bicycle Users Group (BUG), the message was clear. She explained: “Vaughan BUG was created to support the growing number of residents who wanted to build on a stronger cycling community in Vaughan and are passionate about cycling whether for commuting, recreation or as part of their active lifestyle.” BUG proposed that they will engage the residents, businesses and stakeholder groups in Vaughan. The Task Force would be able to give the City staff and Council feedback on programs regarding pedestrians and cyclists. Most recently, BUG has organized cycling events, including a night ride during Earth Hour.

Faux cycle lanes on Peter Rupert and Napa Valley roads were considered a revelation. Although argued as an impediment to on-street parking, the city has finally acknowledged that there is a demand for safe active transportation. With those lines, parallel to and 1.2m from the curb, these lanes will help BUG promote cycling to the public.IMG_00003247

Vaughan is behind neighbours Brampton and Markham in establishing a full Advisory Committee. This Task Force, if successful, may lead to a subcommittee of Council which can review better how the City encourages active transportation in new developments. The suburban planning of the past disregards provision of short cut walks from home to retailers and safe cycling routes have been all but non-existent.peter rupert bike lane A 50-metre truncated bike lane on Keele Street north of McNaughton is testimony to the short-sighted and limited planning for cyclists.

Gains in pedestrian and cycling accessibility will allow the villages of Vaughan to become more connected. Let the Task Force begin!

To see more click “Pedestrianization” and “Transportation Issues” at the right side of this page. Or click http://yorkurbanist.com/category/urban-design/transportation-issues/

Vaughan Traffic Congestion – A Perception

April 18th, 2015
Healthy Communities, Pedestrianization, Transportation issues

Vaughan doesn’t need more traffic lanes! Congestion refers to drivers’ discomfort with anticipated trips. When a 10 minute trip is lasts 15 minutes, traffic’s perception is ‘congestion’. . Vaughan’s congestion can be handled with existing lanes. Following is a breakdown of Traffic Congestion into Trip Length, Frequency and Urgency.

Trip length is longer than it needs to be. There are two factors – suburbanization; and advent of helicopter parents. Each single family dwellings needs to be served by a street. The City adopted street standards of widths and intersections that took up large land space and further separated housing from destinations. The distances between units makes transit too costly to create. To get to destinations, workplace or retail stores or institutions, the only transportation alternative is a car. Our municipal transportation planning focus therefore became a fixation on what the car needs, not what people need.

Thus the second factor, the helicopter parent. Fear has engulfed our psyche around the safety of streets. Easy access to media has made security seem worse than it once was. So, instead of allowing children to walk, ride or take the bus, parents drive their children to school. Accordingly, one experiences significant traffic reduction on school holidays and PD days.

Trip frequency has increased with wealth. Vaughan is one of Canada’s wealthiest municipalities. Making a separate trip to the store instead of combining it with a trip to work is legitimized because the decision is unaffected by the cost of the trip. Disposable income also allows people to indulge in extras such as day spas, fitness clubs and personal services.

Urgency of trips is under-evaluated. Combined with the aforementioned wealth argument, we have no hesitation in driving to the distant grocery store for that one product to complete a meal. Also, the direct costs to drive might be $5, which adds 25%to the cost for a $20 purchase. Driving also cuts into our time management equations. Whereas, prior to suburbanization, we could walk to the corner hardware store, now we are obligated to attend Big Box retailers and their ‘free’ parking conveniences. A fifteen minute distant car trip creates a 1½ hour event. We have no volunteer time because it is taken up in time on the roads.

So, how do we relieve congestion?

vAUGHAN bikelanes_web[1]

Relieving Traffic Congestion

Previously, Traffic Congestion was broken into Trip Length, Frequency and Urgency. The following suggests how the existing infrastructure of Vaughan can be used to reduce perceived ‘Congestion’.


Emphasize to people/drivers the time and dollar cost of their trips in the car. Can we change their behavioural patterns through education? The answer is: likely not. We can afford the car and spread out housing and we are not changing.   But educate the children that they can enjoy a walk or ride to school and help the environment and our next generation could impart change.

Are there ways to make our existing infrastructure more efficient?

Sidewalk zonesThe intelligent street

Through computer technology and physical road planning there are ways to speed the trips taken. With sensors, communication between vehicle and road infrastructure, we could spend less time at traffic signals and increase safety by keeping our vehicles within the limits of the infrastructure. Building roundabouts instead of signalized intersections increases traffic flow by as much as 50%. Smart streets can also respond to transit and emergency vehicles, allowing them to flow more freely through traffic. Intelligent streets will not affect the numbers of trips, indeed it will increase the number of trips because it becomes easier to go from origin to destination.

So how else can we improve infrastructure?

If you need a sign - street designed wrongComplete Streets

The concept of including pedestrians and cyclists with transit and motorized vehicles has grown in the past ten years. It may be adopted by Vaughan on Centre Street in Thornhill. Cyclists have long campaigned for safer and defined corridors. A complete street provides that. Generous sidewalks provide for pedestrian safety and comfort. And transit only lanes/tracks give priority to multi-user vehicles. Although Highway 7 in Richmond Hill/Markham attempts a complete street, the pedestrian is left with a long crossing. Hence, few pedestrians are found. Similarly the cycling lane is a green patch of asphalt. It is unseparated from motorized traffic. Consequently, cyclists are few.

Had the City incorporated a separated cycle lane and generous pedestrian space on Major Mackenzie between Keele Street and Jane Street in Maple, there would be more cyclists and pedestrians venturing between homes and retail. There would be fewer motorists using the route for short trips that cause frequent turns and hence slower traffic.

We do not need to increase and grow streets. We need to think smarter, both planners and citizens of Vaughan.