Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Pricetags Issue 100 Celebration

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A small but distinguished crowd gathered at the UBC Robson Square campus this evening to celebrate the 100th edition of Gordon Price’s on line magazine Pricetags.

Gord Price collects more material

Photo by Jason Vanderhill

Larry Frank opened the proceedings with the somewhat surprising announcement that “There is a Gordon Price elementary school”

He also announced that Gordon has donated his collection of slides to the University. This donation has been valued at $27, 000 to SCARP and the whole collection has been digitised and can be found at It will be of considerable value to bloggers and future contributors to Price Tags.

Gordon then did a PowerPoint presentation on the history of Price tags. It was of course profusely illustrated and this account cannot be an adequate facsimile of it. PriceTags itself is created in PowerPoint so perhaps at some stage Gordon will produce a pdf of this presentation too. You should know too that you can access the entire archive thanks to the Sightline Institute including editon #100 which is a hyperlinked index.

He said that initially it was just about learning the technology. He had discovered digital photography, which meant he was taking many more pictures and was always interested in documenting Vancouver whenever he had the chance. When he visits other cities he will grab an architectural guidebook, a local paper (to discover a local controversy) and a map. He has found that the key is to make pictures of “people doing something on that great stage set we call cities”.

Initially it was just a Word document sent out as an email attachment with links to items of interest – one of the first being an on line edition of the San Francisco Chronicle called SF Gate, which had an interview with Gordon.

PT was a bit of self-promotion. The Chronicle column featured an interview with me, but mainly as a foil for Carol’s observations on the Vancouver Style and what it might mean for San Francisco. Since I was no longer at Vancouver CityI barely knew how to attach a Word document to email, much less do layout. Though the pages and font size doubled in subsequent issues, PT remained merely black type and blue links.

Since I was no longer at Vancouver City Hall, I thought it might be helpful to send out links to stories in which I was interviewed. Hence Price ‘tags.’

He has always enjoyed conducting tours of downtown and now the term “Vancouver Style” has come into vogue. The “South East corner” of San Francisco – which used to be industrial – is seeing this kind of development now that “they have got over their fear of height”.

The breakthrough came when he worked out how to put a digital picture in a Word document. His test of the success of the amount of content he sends out is that “People don’t ask to be taken off the list.” He has been documenting the change of the West End, and how Vancouver depoliticized development approval. He noted that Peter Pollen, the Mayor of Victoria had a picture of the West End of Vancouver in his office, and boasted “That will never happen here”, That decision is now regretted since Victoria does not have the resident population to support its downtown.

Issue 2 of Price Tags ensured its success. A link to the City of Vancouver’s panoramas of urban went viral. At times the City’s servers were in danger of becoming overloaded. Emails just keep getting forwarded. He did a lot with developer’s brochures. And just recently he was invited to the new Concord Pacific office but he noted the absence of the bike rack – which shows that they really don’t get it yet!

Among the issues he showed was one I was most impressed with on Minneapolis St Paul and their catch phrase he now uses a lot “more natural, more urban, more connected”. He also picked out the Port Mann Bridge. “It was never about the bridge. I voted for the SFPR and the Golden Ears”. It was that the “Gateway was the reverse of what we had been doing. And you have to make a choice. You cannot have both (an dense walkable city or a car oriented suburb). He was also very enthusiastic about taking pictures from planes. “Only God had that kind of view before.” And he also showed how to use the mapping and measuring capabilities of Google Earth. His comparison of Vancouver to West Los Angeles showed that they were both compact. The distance across the city, 15 miles, is the same in both cases and is an easy bike ride.

The entertainment was not just the fact that every time someone does a PowerPoint presentation the system crashes. (it did) Or someone swears at Windows Vista (Larry Frank could not do an on line demo of the picture gallery). We were treated to a live performance by the all female B:C:Clettes – who must be, I think, unique, and uniquely Vancouver. They are a dance cooperative who celebrate cycling. They have recently produced a music video helmet PSA which includes the line “I wear a helmet so you can drive like an idiot.” They are wonderful – and should be seen the next time they perform if you have not caught their act already. Larry Frank thinks they are “hilarious” which I thought a little ungallant. They are gorgeous, talented and disciplined. And they know how to move. On bikes.

Written by Stephen Rees

April 7, 2008 at 10:39 pm

Posted in Transportation

2 Responses

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  1. Noticed the following in your blog item on the evening’s event:

    “…live performance by the all female B:C:Clettes – who must be I think unique, and uniquely Vancouver.”

    While they are fun, I believe that they were modeled on the ‘Sprockettes’, a Portland based group of women who have been doing essentially the same sort of thing since 2004.

    And in all likelihood there are some other similar performance groups elsewhere in the USA.

    Not sure about Europe, but the British ‘Bike Ballet’ group was certainly impressive, and on a much larger scale than either of Clettes or the Sprocks.

    Of course all of the groups who do this deserve our applause. Promoting bike culture and awareness through lively ‘performance art’ has a lot to be said for it. And it is certainly entertaining.

    Ron Richings

    April 8, 2008 at 11:54 am

  2. […] Of course, fellow blogger Stephen Rees was there – and here’s his summary. […]

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