Stephen Rees's blog

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

Archive for October 2017

Resolute v GreenPeace: suit slapped down

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The following is simple cut and paste from a GreenPeace Press Release.

 

Greenpeace

Federal Court Dismisses Racketeering Case Against Greenpeace

SAN FRANCISCO, October 16, 2017 — Today, the United States District Court for the Northern District of California dismissed all claims in the controversial case that major logging company Resolute Forest Products [2] filed against Greenpeace Inc., Greenpeace Fund, and Greenpeace International, Stand.earth and individual defendants, including claims under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) act.

The court’s decision sends a clear message to corporations that attacks on core democratic values like freedom of speech and legitimate advocacy on issues of public interest will not be tolerated. District Judge Jon S. Tigar wrote in his order dismissing the case that “the defendants’ speech constituted the expression of opinion, or different viewpoints that [are] a vital part of our democracy.” Noting that “Greenpeace’s publications at issue rely on scientific research or fact”, the judge added that “[t]he academy, and not the courthouse, is the appropriate place to resolve scientific disagreements of this kind.”

Resolute will be allowed to amend its filing as a formality, but Greenpeace is confident that any such attempt will meet a similar fate.

Greenpeace USA General Counsel Tom Wetterer said in response to the decision:

“We are pleased the court unequivocally threw out this attempt to abuse our legal system and silence legitimate criticism on matters of public concern. This is very positive news for all of us, for the values that we share, and for Canada’s boreal forest. Resolute’s claim that organizations and activists committed to the conservation of the forests were part of a criminal enterprise is absurd and a sad symptom of a wider assault on constitutional rights and democracy. The logging company’s allegations were a clear attempt to silence the voices that advocate for the environment. Recently, Energy Transfer Partners — the oil company behind the Dakota Access Pipeline — decided to follow a strikingly similar path [3] under the legal wing of none other than Trump’s go-to law firm. The similarities are apparent and this underhanded playbook targeting free speech should be a cause of real concern. We’re grateful that the court has shown today it is a losing playbook, but that doesn’t mean corporate bullies like ETP won’t stop trying to use it.

“Energy Transfer’s case repackages many of the spurious allegations and legal claims made against Greenpeace by the Kasowitz firm on behalf of Resolute. The decision on the Resolute suit should be a clear indication that Energy Transfer’s case has no future. Both are classic SLAPPs, or strategic lawsuits against public participation. These cases don’t seek justice. They intend to silence free speech through expensive, time-consuming litigation. This pattern of harassment by corporate bullies led by Trump’s go-to attorneys must be stopped in its tracks.”

Greenpeace USA Senior Forest Campaigner Daniel Brindis added:

“The judge’s decision to dismiss the case affirms that Resolute’s divisive and bullying tactics are a waste of time and resources. It is time for Resolute to finally work with environmental organizations including Greenpeace to address their destructive forestry operations and forge a collaborative and sustainable path forward. Instead of spending more valuable resources to amend this lawsuit, Greenpeace hopes Resolute will finally be ready to work together to find solutions. Thousands in Canada and around the world have called for the protection of the forest, it’s time for Resolute to listen to them too. The world needs a healthy boreal forest and together we can develop long term sustainable solutions that respect the rights of Indigenous Peoples, protect local communities and ensure the survival of species at risk like the Woodland Caribou. ”

ENDS

 

[1] Click here to download a copy of the order.

[2] On May 31, 2016 Resolute Forest Products filed a CAD$300 million lawsuit under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) in the United States District Court for Southern Georgia, against Greenpeace International, Greenpeace, Inc., Greenpeace Fund, Inc., STAND.earth (formerly ForestEthics), and five individual staff members of these independent organizations. The case was transferred to Northern California on May 16, 2017 when Resolute failed to demonstrate that the case should be heard in Georgia.

This is Resolute’s second lawsuit against Greenpeace. In 2013, the company filed a CAD$7 million defamation case against Greenpeace Canada and two staff members in Ontario, which is still pending. Click here for more information about the existing legal cases between Resolute Forest Products and defendants, or copy this to your browser: http://www.greenpeace.org/resolutelawsuits/

[3] On August 22, 2017 Energy Transfer Partners filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit under under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). Click here for more information about the existing legal cases between Resolute Forest Products and defendants, or copy this to your browser: http://www.greenpeace.org/usa/global-warming/greenpeace-v-energy-transfer-partners-facts/

Written by Stephen Rees

October 16, 2017 at 1:25 pm

Posted in blogging, Environment, good news

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Canada Line Criticisms Endorsed

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I have been reading an article on the Daily Hive by Kenneth Chan this morning that pretty much repeats every one of the criticisms I have levelled over the years at the Canada Line.

POSTSCRIPT I should have noticed this publication date at the top of the article Aug 14, 2014 9:58 am

It was underbuilt, and the P3 cost more than conventional funding. Among the problems that has caused are trains and stations that are too small, too slow and too inconvenient. It has been far more successful than its initial critics claimed, and Chan does come up with some inventive ways of tackling these issues. I think he is very informative on the parochial nature of local politicians and their very limited vision, and how they managed to hobble the project from the start. Sadly too many of them are still warming seats on their respective councils and regional bodies alike.

There needs to be change. Hopefully we can make a start on some of these sooner rather than later as at least we have got a change in provincial government, and realistic probability of federal funding  – which was why the name of the line was chosen in the first place!

 

 

Written by Stephen Rees

October 12, 2017 at 10:45 am

Weekly Photo Challenge: Scale

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Downtown Vancouver aerial

“For this week’s challenge, make use of sizing, placement, and scale in your photos. Perhaps you live in a place with mountains, and want to highlight the size of the homes in relation to the dramatic landscape. ”

Downtown Vancouver has plenty of tall buildings – in fact quite a few taller ones now than when I took this picture in 2010 – but they are dwarfed by the Coast Mountains in the background. That’s Cypress Mountain in the middle of the skyline – this was in April but there was still snow on the ski runs.

Scale

Click on the image to be taken to the photo page on flickr. You can get a larger size if you like it – and you could, if you want to – click on the star to “fave” it.

POSTSCRIPT

Cypress Mountain is going to be open early this year

Written by Stephen Rees

October 11, 2017 at 9:37 am

Growing Smarter

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growing-smarter-webThis is the title of a new report. Actually the title is longer than that but I like to be snappy when I can. The publisher adds “Integrating Land Use and Transportation to Reduce GHGs” which you may be sure is right up my alley.

Two things before I go further. This report was published on September 27, and I have only just learned of it. I thought I had spent quite a bit of effort making sure that I kept on top of this topic since it is specifically addressing BC. It was not until today that I saw a tweet from Charlie Smith which linked to an article in the Georgia Straight by Carlito Pablo.

Secondly, the report was commissioned by The Real Estate Foundation of BC. Now my association with Real Estate in BC had lead me to create a mental link between realtors and the BC Liberals. During the campaign against the expansion of Highway #1 there were credible sources saying that the then Minister of Transport, Kevin Falcon, was holding fundraising breakfasts for the realtors in this region and the Fraser Valley and promising that highway expansion would enable them to continue to build and sell single family homes. As opposed to the denser forms of development that tended to support transit. The implication being that RS1 supports right wing voters.

The other important thing to note is that you do not have to rely on my opinion or that of Carlito Pablo. You can download the full report for yourself from the link above.

But I am going to copy here the list of recommendations

Recommendations include:

  1. Bolster regional government authority and integrate transportation planning with land use in ways that support climate action.
  2. Strengthen the Agricultural Land Commission’s authority to protect farmland and limit non-agricultural use of protected land.
  3. Strengthen coordination amongst key agencies, ministries, and orders of government and support collaboration through the Climate Action Secretariat and the Local-Provincial Green Communities Committee.
  4. Use market-based tools to more fairly share the costs of transportation infrastructure and expand transportation choice.
  5. Update tax and fee structures to support sustainable financing of civic infrastructure.
  6. Help establish a Low Carbon Innovation Centre in the Lower Mainland.
  7. Create long-term transportation financing agreements between local, provincial, and federal governments.
  8. Update community GHG reduction target requirements and provide provincial support to help meet these requirements.
  9. Establish GHG impact assessment standards for local and provincial transportation projects and planning agendas.
  10. Reinvest in BC’s Community Energy and Emissions Inventory (CEEI) system to provide defensible transportation sector data.

The report was commissioned by the Real Estate Foundation of BC as part of its research on sustainable built environments in British Columbia. The report was prepared by Boston Consulting, in consultation with the Smart Growth Task Force, with contributions from MODUS Planning, Design and Engage

This all looks very promising, and I am going to download it myself before I type anything else.

Written by Stephen Rees

October 5, 2017 at 2:46 pm

Weekly Photo Challenge: Pedestrian

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Millenium Bridge

One of my favourite subjects Pedestrian is actually the theme of a group I started on flickr called Places Without Cars. It seemed to me that Vancouver had really not done nearly enough to reduce the impact of traffic on its city centre, whereas many other places had closed major streets and squares to cars, but in the process opened them up to become people places. In England they are called Pedestrian Precincts.  I can remember the transformation of the centre of Harrow in the mid 1980’s where I then lived, from a major traffic artery to a place where it was not only actually pleasant to walk and shop, but there were reasons to linger. Once upon a time “No Loitering” signs were common: that is no longer the case. We have come to realise that the favourite activity of human beings is people watching. That human interaction by chance is another of our favourite things – and most commerce is in fact based on such encounters.

The picture above is of the Millennium Bridge in London, which connects the Tate Modern on the South Bank to St Paul’s in the City.

Instead of putting lots more of my pictures of similar structures I urge you to go look at that flickr group linked above and see what other places have done to make pedestrian activity attractive.

Written by Stephen Rees

October 4, 2017 at 10:49 am

The Bicycle Diaries: Episode 12

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Where I live there is only one flat route out of Arbutus Village park – north west along Valley Drive. In any other direction there is a hill. In fact to get up to the Arbutus Corridor I have to get off and push. So when I saw a crowd funder for an electric wheel, that provides assistance when cycling, I decided to take a chance. It has taken six months from making my payment through KickStarter for the first of two wheels to arrive. I got one for myself and am still waiting for the one for my partner.

In the intervening period the name of the project had to be changed from UrbanX to UrbaNext.

Via Kickstarter the team reported

We received notification from BMW Auto Group that our product name UrbanX was too close to their venture fund called URBAN-X which focuses on helping emerging and start-up companies in the fields of technology and design for urban environments. You can read more about the program here. Despite our best efforts in researching our product name, we were unaware of similarity to their program and program name. The program does seem very cool in its mission to work with small businesses and help fund new innovation in urban environments.

KickStarter provided regular project updates and this video about installation

So that all looks pretty straightforward I thought. Once my wheel arrived, I unpacked it and took it down to the basement. Taking off the existing front wheel is easy, but the new wheel was a real problem. Some time ago, after renting a very comfortable bike in San Francisco, I had my Trek 800 upgraded by fitting suspension forks and a sprung saddle post. The forks were simply too fat to admit the wheel properly – and the bracket for a disc brake got in the way of inserting the battery. I took the bike with the wheel to West Point Cycles in Kerrisdale, and they replaced the forks (no suspension) and installed the new wheel for me. I then spent a while hooking up the cables and installing the control and the phone carrier – as the functioning of the electric wheel is controlled through an app. No, that installation video does not mention that – but you do get an instruction manual with the wheel. That includes a QR code for the app which is called iMortor. If you go to YouTube you will see other videos about iMortor and another UrbanX user called Edgar Cornejo who has made a number of youtube videos about his experiences.

I first tried out the new wheel in our underground garage. That really did not get me enough space to get up to speed (5km/hr), and I also missed the point that you are supposed to hold the throttle open for ten seconds, while pedalling, to get the motor to kick in. My next trip was to take the bike up to the Greenway by the hill on King Edward Avenue. This gave me enough distance to get up to speed and to hold the throttle open for long enough – and I knew the motor had kicked in as I did not have to get off and push. The app allows for three speed settings, and all of my first trip was in speed 1. The ride up to Kerrisdale by the Greenway is actually not a problem for me, I just gear down and keep twiddling. This time I did not have to gear down. As long as I was pedalling the bike kept going – and that seemed to be true even when I let go the throttle. I tried other speeds too, but that is not so easy when trying to hit the very small button on the app while moving.

Of course, no-one needs help to ride downhill. What is missing from the UrbaNext is a regenerative brake setting, which could act as a retarder and recharge the battery. Not only that but as I was in speed 1 and the app and motor was stilled turned on even pedalling downhill on King Edward, hoping to keep up with traffic, all I could manage was 12 km/hr.

Today I decided to venture further afield, so I added a bottle of water and some Cliff bars to the pannier and headed south on the Greenway to Burrard, hoping to use the new bikeway across the bridge. The east side of the bridge was closed by barriers, and a sign instructing “use West walkway”. I rode wrong way in the bike lane – and noticed that there might have been room to ride in the vehicle lane if I had been daring enough. Then down Beach Avenue and round Stanley Park (via the Chilco Loop). By now I was getting used to riding with and without assistance. In fact there were times when, with the throttle closed, I wished it was not “helping”. Equally there were times when I was below the 5km/hr when help starts and I would have appreciated it much sooner!

I had a pleasant break near the Lumberman’s arch, with a view of the Lions’ Gate Bridge and some charming company. By the time I got to the Second Beach pool, the lights on the control box were showing red – or 30% of capacity. So I stopped using the motor by simply hitting the off button, hoping to conserve power. The bike was much heavier, thanks to the wheel and its battery, but there also seemed to be significant rolling resistance when there was no power available. Given the lack of regenerative braking I found that puzzling. By the time I got to Cornwall, I decided I had had enough, and waited for the #2 bus. Getting the bike on the bus wasn’t easy before the new wheel. Now it was beyond my ability unaided. Fortunately a very strong young chap who was passing offered assistance, and the bus driver got out too! I had taken the phone off the bike to use the transit app to find out how long I had to wait, so I just shoved the phone into my pocket when the bus arrived.

The #2 was short turning at 16th Avenue, so the driver was not pressed for time, and told me she would help me get the bike off. What with the ratchet on the bike rack’s bracket and the weight of the front wheel I was very glad of her help.

I set off home along the familiar nearly flat Valley Drive route, and just out of curiosity flicked on the throttle to see how much power was left. Amazingly the bike took off like a rocket. There was no phone controlling the app – I had taken it off the bike, and hit the iPhone’s power off button reflexively when putting it in my pocket. I even stopped pedalling altogether and the motor actually accelerated! I used no muscle power at all to get home, and in fact did a lap of honour round the garage all unaided by pedalling!

It has taken only an hour or so to recharge the battery. I should also point out that getting the battery out of the wheel is in itself no mean feat. It really helps to wait awhile for it to cool down first. Then you have to hold down the two top latches while pulling evenly on both sides.

As I was an initial funder through KickStarter I paid $800 – plus $200 shipping – for two wheels. That is considerably cheaper than other electric assist bikes – or wheel conversions. However you only get what you pay for – and while others are expensive they can also be installed for you. Their offered range is considerably greater than the UrbaNext. They do have a facebook page and currently offer the wheel at $319. If you click on the Shop Now link on that page it takes you to IndieGoGo – where the “60 second conversion” claim is repeated. Sorry, that 60 seconds is not actually possible. Even if your front forks do fit first time! Allow at least an hour to set it up properly.

POSTSCRIPT 1

I should have mentioned that I got the 350W version: there is also a 250W which is a bit cheaper.

POSTSCRIPT 2

The second wheel did not turn up until we were off on our cruise. When I got back I fitted it to my partner’s bike. I was alone at the time, and did not have her phone. So when it came to test the installation I used the wheel without setting up the app. In retrospect that was a mistake. There are a couple of steps in the set-up process, and one of them is what the makers refer to as a safety device. As mentioned above you have to be pedalling and above 5km/hr to get assistance – but since I had not set up the app, it worked straightaway. But only once. It seems I burned out the control – and now I am waiting for a replacement. It is also the company’s advice to use the app downloaded using the QR code from the manual. There are other iMortor controlled devices out there and the app gets adapted to suit each one. Download iMortor from somewhere else at your peril.

POSTSCRIPT 3

There is a good article on City Lab – which looks at the Copenhagen wheel specifically – and bike conversions in general. I really wish that I had had the opportunity to borrow a tester first!

POSTSCRIPT 4

The replacement control arrived at the end of January. I replaced the control on the bike, and checked that the battery was fully charged. When I pressed the red button on the new control box, nothing happened. No lights at all. Needless to say the bluetooth connection through the phone did not work either. I sent an email to Urbanext – delivery failed. I tried using their facebook page to contact them: its content has now been removed.

So while I have one working bike the second cannot be made to work. I will remove the wheel and the control and take them to the recycling centre. I will put back the old front wheel.

And we will eventually go shopping for new electric bikes.

By the way when I bought the wheel, it came with a one year warranty. That is printed in the user manual. The manual does not have any contact information in it. The installation video remains on YouTube, but there has never been any contact information provided there.

This report relates to a message you sent with the following header fields:

Message-id: <47DBBDE5-2017-4E5D-A597-558E7127B8B5@me.com>
Date: Thu, 08 Feb 2018 13:18:31 -0800
From: Stephen Rees <redacted>
To: UrbaNext Wheel <info@urbanxwheel.com>
Subject: Re: Problem

Your message is being returned; it has been enqueued and undeliverable for
3 days to the following recipients:

Recipient address: info@urbanxwheel.com
Reason: unable to deliver this message after 3 days

The QR code in the manual points to a Chinese web site that hosts the iMortor app essential to the wheel operation. There is no longer an English version of the app available there.

Written by Stephen Rees

October 3, 2017 at 4:58 pm

New BC Bus Pass for PWD

InclusionBC just tweeted a link to a BC Government Fact Sheet – which is a pdf document. I decided to cut and paste the text of that here. Comments have been closed.

The Annual BC Bus Pass Program and the new Transportation Supplement for People on Disability Assistance

Beginning January 1, 2018, people receiving disability assistance, with the Person’s with Disabilities (PWD) designation, will get an extra $52 each month for a new transportation supplement.

The supplement creates fairness and will help people connect with their community, giving them freedom to work, shop, and participate in social activities.

How to use the Transportation Supplement for an annual bus pass:

 If someone with a disability who is on assistance would like an annual bus pass they can contact the Ministry of Social Development at 1-866-866-0800 or visit the BC Bus Pass Program website.

 If someone already has an annual BC Bus Pass and they want to keep it, they can. They don’t have to contact the ministry. Beginning with the January 2018 payment they will no longer have $52 deducted from their support payment.

 The BC Bus Pass can still be used in both TransLink and BC Transit areas.

How to use the Transportation Supplement for other transportation needs:

 If someone does not want or need a bus pass they can use the supplement to pay for other transportation costs (for example, HandyDART or a taxi).

 They don’t have to contact the ministry the $52 Transportation Supplement will be automatically added to the January 2018 payment.

More information about the supplement:

 As people’s needs may change over time the new supplement will provide flexibility. People can apply for the BC Bus Pass at any time during the year. They can also cancel their bus pass at any time and use their supplement for other transportation needs.

Why government made this change:

 Transportation is important to everyone on disability assistance.

 Government consulted with stakeholders and asked for their advice on the best approach to improve the system of transportation supports.

For more information:

Go to: www.buspass.gov.bc.ca or call: 1-866-866-0800

Written by Stephen Rees

October 3, 2017 at 10:23 am

Posted in Transportation