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

Archive for September 18th, 2008

The Contrarian approach to traffic

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Simon Jenkins in the Guardian weighs in on a silly controversy in the British Press over this picture. She isn’t wearing a helmet

Elle bike and child

Elle bike and child

But her son is and is also sitting on the handlebars. Jenkins is quite right to point out that they are a lot safer that way. Drivers give a wider berth to riders without helmets.

“The world’s most celebrated cycling country, the Netherlands, has just 1% helmet use and has the safest cycling record anywhere. It has one third the cycling death rate of Western Australia, which has the most draconian law. The Dutch Cycling Council declares that helmets “increase cycling speeds and encourage riskier cycling behaviour …They also reduce the care motorists give to cyclists”.”

And he also gets into the Hans Monderman stuff – covered here extensively, as well as the success of the various “naked streets” like Kensington High Street.

I know I have spent some time on this before, but I make no apology for bringing it up again. The conventional wisdom holds sway in defiance of the evidence. Enormous amounts of effort have gone into making cars safer – mostly for their occupants – and into separating out cars from other road users. And our urban spaces have suffered a degradation as a result. But far worse is the decline in the care we take for each other. Cocooned in our padded shells, we speed around and the only interaction with have with other road users is to hurl abuse and make rude gestures.

Given that the rate of casualties is not getting any better you would think that more practioners would show some ineterst in understanbding why matters have deteriorated this far, and start thinking about what can be done to change it. But sadly we do not seem to be capable of making this kind of change. There’s too much traffic so we must build more roads. Gas is getting too expensive so the government should step in and punish the oil companies. The deregulated financial markets are falling apart so the rest of us have to pay to protect these profiligate clowns from their idiocies and greed – another bigger bail out is already in the works as AIG is only the first of many needing cash  – now. There are some days when there really does not seem any more point arguing about why saving civilisation may actually be more important than ensuring we all can get cheaper gas. Rationality and careful analysis having no place in a world run by sound bites.

Written by Stephen Rees

September 18, 2008 at 8:58 pm

Posted in politics, Road safety

The Burns Bog Conservation Society’s positon on the South Fraser Perimeter Road

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This is a letter Eliza Olson wrote in response to an article in the Delta Optimist. It showcases some of the Society’s concerns and points out the misunderstanding related to any Society involvement with working with Gateway.

Since the letter is long and detailed I am doubtful if much or any of it will actually appear in that paper and I feel it is well worth reading in full

The Burns Bog Conservation Society fully supports the position of the Delta farmers regarding the South Fraser Perimeter Road. We cannot afford to lose one acre of agricultural or bogland, especially when there are alternatives. These include light rail, public transportation, short-shipping and improvements on current roads among other options.
Unfortunately, I was not able to attend but we wish to make it clear that the Society was not part of the decision-making process relating to the South Fraser Perimeter Road. The destruction of bogland either inside the Conservation area or outside of it is unacceptable to the Society for a number of reasons. These include the following.
The Society does not have the requisite engineering or commercial resources to fully assess the relative merits of any South Fraser Perimeter Road routing proposal. However, the Society’s position on the project is that any routing proposal should take into account the world heritage nature of the Bog and all proposals should first and foremost meet a “do no harm” criteria insofar as the Bog is concerned.
Ten percent (3 billion tonnes) of greenhouse gases comes from the destruction of peatlands world-wide even though only 3% of the earth’s surface is covered with peatlands. This represent half of the world’s wetlands. The United Nations Report, Dec. 7, 2008 points out that the most cost-efficient way to reduce greenhouse gasses is to immediately stop the destruction of peatlands.
A more recent report issued  July 20th of this year by 700 scientists from 29 countries at a wetland conference in Brazil points out that 771 billion tons of greenhouse gases “one-fifth of all the carbon on Earth and about the same amount of carbon as is now in the atmosphere is stored in wetlands.” (Paulo Teixeira, coordinator of the Pantanal Regional Environment Program, Brazil). All wetlands represent 6% of the earth’s surface worldwide (bogs or peatlands, swamps, marshes, river deltas, mangroves.tundra and river flood plains) and they store 20% of the earth’s carbon.
Wetlands produce 25% of the worlds’ food and filter 10% of the world’s freshwater.  About 60% of the world’s wetlands have been destroyed in the last century due to drainage.
Part of the problem according to Teixeira, is that wetlands have an image problem, people are willing to save “a rainforest but not the swamp.”
The Society has worked very hard to change this image by creating educational material for teachers and their students and re-opening the Delta Nature Reserve to the public by building boardwalks for easy access.  It was set aside for an outdoor classroom in the 1970s thanks to the work of a very dedicated group of people. The community of Delta, the Province and Canada responded by supporting the protection of half of the historical area of Burns Bog in 2004.
The destruction of the lagg will negatively impact on the Sandhill cranes as well as at least three other endangered species found in Burns Bog. These include the Green heron, the Southern Red-backed vole, the Pacific Water Shrew and the Townsends vole.
The Society finds it interesting that some of the area slated for the South Fraser Perimeter Road is the same area that a Delta resident was convicted of destroying and sent to jail for a few years ago.
International concern has been raised by peatland scientists.  Dr. Catherine O’Connell, Chief Excecutive Officer of the Irish Peatland Conservation Council sent a letter to Hon. John Baird, June 16, 2008,expressing concerns that the construction of the South Fraser Perimeter Road may place Canada, the Province of British Columbia and Delta in contravention of several international protocols. These include the Convention on Biological Diversity and the UN Convention on Climate Change.
The International Mires Conservation Group has placed Burns Bog on its list of “Areas of Concern” due to the potential destruction of Burns Bog by the South Fraser Perimeter Road. “The International Mires Conservation Group (IMCG, www.imcg.net) is a worldwide organisation of mire (peatland) specialists who have a particular interest in the conservation of peatland habitats.” (Hans Joosten, Secretary-General, Greifswald, February 7, 2007, in a letter to the EU Commissioner of Environment, Mr. Stavros Dimas. This letter was written in opposition to the proposed road through the Rospuda bog, Poland. Poland has since cancelled its plans to build the road.)
The Society has a concern that the proposed road routing almost certainly transects the Bog lagg zone and may negatively impact the lagg zone and the Bog itself via:
-potential below grade disruption of the water hydrology and thus the lifeblood of the Bog,
-potential traffic generated fugitive dust and water spray penetrating the Bog proper and potential wildlife disruption, especially that of the extremely small population of Sandhill cranes that use the Bog for nesting, rearing young and staging with other cranes of the Lower Mainland.
One Lower Mainland naturalist who has studied cranes in the Bog, believes that the destruction of “Sherwood Forest” will lead to the extinction of our cranes because it will disrupt their traditional habitat and lead to them refusing to nest again in Burns Bog.
The Burns Bog Conservation Society believes that in addition the Gateway Project has a further burden of proof that the proposed routing will be consistent with the stringent conditions for Burns Bog’s conservation as codified in the Conservation Covenant agreed to by four levels of government at the time of the acquisition of the Conservation Area ( this is about half the area of the original size of the Bog) at the expenditure of $73 million of taxpayer’s monies.
As Delta and Metro Vancouver (GVRD) are signatories to the Conservation Covenant, the Society has requested verbally and in writing that the Corporation of Delta and Metro Vancouver invoke Section 5 (Dispute Resolution) of the Conservation Covenant relating to the South Fraser Perimeter Road.
According to a letter written by a staff member of the Corporation of Delta, Delta is refusing to invoke Section 5 of the Conservation Covenant. The Society has yet to hear from Metro Vancouver.
Needless to say, the Society is disappointed with the Corporation of Delta’s inaction.
I hope this clarifies the Society’s position regarding the South Fraser Perimeter Road. The Society’s complete Position Statement can be found on its website www.burnsbog.org along with other information regarding the South Fraser Perimeter Road.
These are only a few of the concerns that the Society has regarding the South Fraser Perimeter. In conclusion, the Society reconfirms its support for the position of the Delta farmers against the South Fraser Perimeter Road albeit may be for differing reasons.

Eliza Olson, B.Ed.
President

Burns Bog Conservation Society
4-7953 120 Street, Delta, BC V4C 6P6
Tel: 604.572.0373 Fax: 604.572.0374
TF 1.888.850.6264
www.burnsbog.org

Written by Stephen Rees

September 18, 2008 at 9:57 am

Posted in Environment, Gateway

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