Stephen Rees's blog

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

Archive for June 6th, 2013

Small triumph for social media

with 2 comments

It’s press release Thursday. This one come from the BCAA with the headline “BCAA unveils 2013 Top 10 “Worst Roads” list: Kelowna’s Westside Road, Vancouver bike path and George Massey Tunnel take top spots”

Bike path makes ‘worst’ roads list

This year, a surprising twist occurred with Vancouver’s BC Parkway, a bike path, leading the pack throughout the survey and landing in second place.

“It was really interesting to see a bike path get nominated which shows that cycling safety is an on-going concern and cyclists really see bike paths as their roads,” says Cousin [Ken Cousin, BCAA’s associate vice president of Road Assist]. “The bike path making the top 10 ‘Worst Roads’ list speaks volumes about the need to ensure cyclists—and pedestrians, for that matter—have safe places to commute, which helps reduce the risk of traffic collisions for all road users.”

The reason it got on the list was that it was nominated by Patrick Johnstone on his NWimby blog and then promoted on twitter, where it was picked up by the cycling advocates The British Columbia Cycling Coalition and HUB: Your Cycling Connection. Since few people actually go to the BCAA site to vote for their roads, and they get spread all over the province, it is not too difficult for organized activists to influence the vote. My twitter stream is regularly populated by tweets trying to influence on line polls – especially those on main stream media. These are, of course, unscientific measures of opinion, and no one tries to measure how representative the sample is compared to the rest of the population. Equally no-one pretends that they are either.

Even so, I want to draw attention to number three – the Massey Tunnel – just in case my vote influenced things at all. I was annoyed by the way the map selection tool worked on the survey. Since what I wanted to draw attention to is not the congestion on Highway #99 – but rather than on Steveston Highway. At that time I lived there – and saw the daily back up of traffic, queueing to get into the tunnel which sometimes got as far back as Number 4 Road – and always well past Shell. I used to have to plan my trips to avoid that length of road in the mid afternoon. The problem is the intersection. Some work is going on as a result of the re-development of the Fantasy gardens site at the intersection of Steveston Highway with No 5 Road. But that stops at the boundary (CoR/MoT) – because the Ministry is responsible for the two lane overpass. And that is now a real barrier to local movement as the rest of Steveston Highway is 4 four lanes – and the SilverCity Riverport complex generates lots of trips. My views on the tunnel are here.

But it is one thing to get #2 place on an online poll, it is quite another to get something done about it. The BC Parkway was built at the time of the Expo line, but it was not part of that project. SRY still operated freight trains under the SkyTrain – and the budget then was for transit, not walking or cycling. The Parkway was partly funded by sponsors Molson and 7-Eleven in return for naming rights. They did not contribute to maintenance or improvements which quickly became evident. Some improvement did take place in Central Park, where the bike path used to use a winding path through the rhododendrons – the site of my first major cycling crash. Not that I think my broken wrist had anything much to do with the improvement.

BC Parkway at Patterson

What is left of the crash site

Translink at least now has some commitment to cycling and walking. Not enough but its a start. And Burnaby does seem to be able to get itself moving on these issues. The Central Valley Greenway, for instance was an initiative of Translink, with contributory funding from the feds (back when they cared about GHG reduction) and Burnaby. But in order to get something done, there will have to be co-operation again between municipalities and Translink ought to be able to organize that. The problem right now is that they are more focussed on major strategic issues – and the line up for more immediate fixes to the system as a whole is longer than they can deal with.

In the coming weeks, the Association will provide the complete survey results to municipalities and the provincial Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure to encourage improvements.

Well I hope they BCAA has the sense to work with BCCC and HUB on this one. And maybe someone with an eye for publicity can round up some more sponsors. With a longer term commitment this time please.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 6, 2013 at 10:22 am

Posted in cycling

Tagged with

Greenpeace ad takes aim at Harper’s tar sands greenwash

This post is courtesy of Peter Louwe of Greenpeace who was kind enough to send me a Press Release. I do not watch much tv these days, and when I do I pick non-commercial channels when I can. Which is a shame when you miss things like this. I hope they do go viral on social media and perhaps this will help.

The Harper government’s performance on the environment in general and the tar sands in particular is hard to satirize. Its a bit like Tom Lehrer said, when they gave Henry Kissinger the Nobel Peace Prize, it is now really hard to do satire.

Actually this is the first of three and Greenpeace wants to raise funds to put all of them on the air. You can help, of course. As usual, these things come with a plea for cash – or signatures on a petition.

Greenpeace lampoons government ads that “greenwash” tar sands

6 June 2013 – Greenpeace Canada launched a satirical television ad campaign today aimed at debunking the Harper government’s campaign to “greenwash” the tar sands.

The 30-second ad stars comedic actor Peter Keleghan, known for his work on “18 to Life” and “The Red Green Show,” as Environment Minister Peter Kent. In the ad, he complains that “being the kind of environment minister who makes big oil companies clean up their mess isn’t easy – but buying ads is!”

At issue are the federal government’s “Responsible Resource Development” ads, which depict the tar sands industry as environmentally friendly. First aired in 2012, Ottawa will spend $16 million in tax dollars this year to keep the ads running on television.

Greenpeace will promote the ad on social media before it airs the week of July 8th on CBC’s George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight. The organization is appealing to viewers to sign a petition aimed at Prime Minister Harper as well as contribute a donation to run the ad more widely.

“This project gave me the opportunity to help Greenpeace make an important statement on how the federal government is spending our money to promote the oil industry,” said Keleghan. “It richly deserves being lampooned.”

In addition to the television spot, Greenpeace made two longer skits featuring Sheila McCarthy and Richard Blackburn, who respectively play a sly assistant and exuberant Harper.

All three videos (available at were directed by Michael Kennedy, whose work includes the hit sitcom “Little Mosque on the Prairie.” Kennedy said he jumped at the chance to direct the videos: “Serious issues deserve serious attention, but sometimes humour works best when you’re trying to reach people.”

“There is no throne so high that it can’t be shaken by laughter from beneath,” echoed Greenpeace Climate and Energy Coordinator Keith Stewart. “Let’s laugh those government ads off the air!”

Keleghan, who has shown his comedic talents in episodes of Seinfeld and Cheers as well as in starring roles in The Newsroom and Billable Hours, previously appeared as Minister Kent in Greenpeace’s “Polluter Harmony” video two years ago.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 6, 2013 at 8:30 am