Stephen Rees's blog

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

Archive for May 2018

Weekly Photo Challenge: Twisted

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Vancouver House is a condominium at the end of Granville Bridge that makes the most of a restricted site by a design that is twisted. This photo was taken a month ago, and the construction is now nearer completion.


By a curious coincidence Price Tags – another Vancouver based blog has a more recent picture this morning.  Which saves me having to go out a try for a better shot. I can’t say that this design fills me with affection, but it is unusual.

Somewhere in my photostream is a picture of a very twisted tree trunk, but Flickr’s search engine – as usual – seems incapable of finding it. Maybe that will be one of the benefits of the takeover by SmugMug.


WordPress has announced that the Daily Post and all its challenges will cease issuing new challenges on May 31. I am leaving Vancouver for a cruise tomorrow – and I doubt that I will have a connection to the internet for a couple of weeks. So this is the last post I will make with this heading. It was fun while it lasted. Thanks to those who followed me, as a result of these WPC posts. And thanks to all those who “liked” my posts.


Written by Stephen Rees

May 23, 2018 at 10:13 am

Weekly Photo Challenge: Liquid

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My first reaction this week’s photo challenge was to repost some of my beer pictures. It is one of the most frequent subjects on my Instagram and Flickr streams. There are also lots of river and sea pictures – but again more about the scenery than the water. Which  is when I thought of waterfalls!

Vetter Falls

Vetter Falls, BC

Bridal Veil Falls

Bridal Veil Falls, BC

Blackiston Falls

Blackiston Falls, Alberta


Cameron Falls, Alberta

Twin Falls

Twin Falls, North Vancouver, BC

Written by Stephen Rees

May 16, 2018 at 9:34 am

Not quite!

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Screen Shot 2018-05-12 at 11.33.47 AM offers the rating for your address. And in this case I am afraid I do not agree with the assessment “Flat as a pancake”. There are steep hills in nearly every direction with the exception of Valley Drive to the north west. Any length of ride in any other direction takes you out of the bowl we live in – and getting up to the Arbutus Greenway via Nanton Ave or W King Edward is a real climb. Similarly getting up to Kerrisdale is a slog (Yew or Arbutus) though the old rail right of way makes it a gentler climb. The Ravine is not supposed to be used by cyclists, but they do.

The Arbutus Mall is undergoing rebuilding so the number of errands you can do on foot are now limited – but should be a lot better in a couple of years.

Transit isn’t “many” either: just two bus routes #16 on Arbutus and #25 on King Ed. If you scroll down it also says “Car sharing is available from Zipcar.” which is also misleading. We use car2go and evo: Zipcar is at Broadway and MacDonald, Modo at West Blvd and 41st – not exactly walking distance!

And here is the streetview they say it “not available”

Screen Shot 2018-05-12 at 11.48.45 AM

Written by Stephen Rees

May 12, 2018 at 11:43 am

Posted in Transportation

The New York Subway Delays

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There is a brilliant article in the New York Times drawn to my attention by a tweet from Jeffery Tumlin. “With amazing graphics, the Times explains how rapid transit works – and why well intentioned but uncoordinated decisions can make it fail.”

There is only one concern that I wanted to raise – and the NYT no longer wants comments. It is about these paragraphs

As the M.T.A. adopted more safety rules, the share of overall delays attributed to planned track work increased from 20 percent in 2010 to 30 percent in 2014, despite a similar amount of work each year.

Protecting workers is an important part of the M.T.A.’s mission, but the tracks are still dangerous after these new rules. In the last five years, three more workers have died on the tracks, and near misses are not uncommon.

The London Underground, a system of similar size and age, has had no track worker fatalities since 1998.

Piccadilly Line Barons Court

It may be of similar size and age but there is a huge difference in its configuration and how it operates. In London the system shuts down overnight – or rather it used to – it now runs at night on some lines at weekends. Most of the system has two running tracks. There are a few places where there are four parallel tracks (Piccadilly/District in West London and the Metropolitan main line). Many of the lines are in deep level tubes – with only a single track in each tunnel.

New York’s subway is mostly in cut and cover shallow trenches with multiple tracks – at least in Manhattan. In the outer boroughs many lines are elevated. Many lines operate with both local (stops at all stations) and express services (limited stop) and they work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Maintenance can be undertaken by switching trains between express and local lines while work is underway. Maintenance in London can mostly be carried out overnight when there are no services running. (Which is also the practice in Vancouver.)

N Train at 36th Ave, Queens

Written by Stephen Rees

May 9, 2018 at 1:59 pm

Posted in Transportation

Weekly Photo Challenge: Place in the World

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This is my photo that I took from the Window of a Dash 8 as it returned from Terrace to my Place in the World, Vancouver. The plane was almost directly overhead of where we live – but this is one of the places we go to. False Creek, Granville Island, downtown. This where we go for walks, and great restaurants, theatres and the Orpheum – home of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. Exactly where we go “to feel inspired or cheered up”. We can get there on the bus, bikes (using the new Arbutus Greenway to avoid the traffic) or car2go and Evo. Two great car sharing services which means there are no worries about parking. We often walk one way and drive the other because of this flexibility. Of course we have Compass cards for transit and I get a concession fare – and sometimes people even give up their seat for me!

There are lots of pictures of Vancouver on my flickr photostream. And also quite a lot from New York. By the way, Erica V (who set the challenge this week) seems to be a bit mixed up. She talks about New York as though it is “an island”. Wrong. There are five boroughs in the City and what she is talking about is Manhattan. And I would bet, just lower Manhattan at that. There is a lot more to the City than that. Again, on my flickr stream there are pictures of Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island. I have yet to visit the Bronx – and I want to add Coney and Long Islands too. We have also enjoyed Roosevelt and Ellis Islands.

Written by Stephen Rees

May 9, 2018 at 10:30 am

Why am I blogging?

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Yesterday I posted a blog about a movie – and at the very end of that movie is a neat infographic of all the things we as individuals could do that would help save the oceans. Only one of those things is voting.

This morning in my inbox is a study of how, if we all became vegans, we could reduce our carbon foot print.

And straight away I recalled a tweet I had seen

Screen Shot 2018-05-08 at 10.14.21 AM

Actually that was just the start of the thread

Screen Shot 2018-05-08 at 10.14.38 AM

I did retweet the first one – which means I can now recover the rest of the thread. And while in general tweets “disappear” quickly, everything on the internet is stored forever, somewhere.

I do not know Louisa, of course. I was just retweeting what someone I do know (OK – it was Roland Talango) retweeted. It just struck a chord. And it is quite possible she is repeating something she heard or read in another medium. Doesn’t matter. We recognise the validity of what she is saying.

Yesterday’s blog post has been read 14 times and gathered 5 “likes” so not a huge reach. But someone is reading this – you. And you have reached this far so you have the attention span to get beyond 280 characters.

The comments threads on this blog never get anything like as long as the discussions on facebook. Despite most people disliking Facebook’s business model and recent behaviour, the drop off among people I know and care about has not been noticeable.

There are lots of things that happen around us that we notice. Some cause us to comment – and for more than will admit we do not have to actually have someone within ear shot all the time, but talking to an empty room soon seems pointless.

By the way, we go to a beach quite often. Beaches in Vancouver – based on my recent experience – do not seem to be getting much plastic, or there are enough people picking it up that I have not been able to find three pieces every time I visit. There is, of course, plenty of litter elsewhere and I still do not feel its my job to pick up after all those who have less concern about the environment than I do. I did post a tweet to car2go about that very issue. It did not get any response.

There are things that I see where I really want to say something, but I don’t. And, every so often, not saying something seems to cause a kind of build up – and eventually I blurt out somethings better unsaid just to relieve the pressure. I suspect blogging might be something similar.

I am really glad there is a young woman who washes out the stomachs of fledgling seabirds and feeds them squished squid. I am really pleased a group of guys are cleaning up a beach in Western Australia fouled by ghost nets. It is encouraging that there are other people out there who are doing their very best – even though it is not enough, and can never be enough, by itself. So by reading this, you are reassuring me that I am not shouting at the clouds.

And we really must do more to stop people like Jason Kenney getting elected anywhere.

Written by Stephen Rees

May 8, 2018 at 10:51 am

Film Review: “Blue”

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No, I am not reduced to promoting blue movies.

This was an offer I got in my email. I have been allowed a preview of a new movie that will be in theatres on June 8, World Oceans Day. It will be shown at 40 cinemas throughout Canada on that day at 7pm (except in Calgary, 8pm) and to see it you have to book on line in advance. The link is at the end of this post.

unnamed (18)

We saw it on the screen of my MacBook Pro, which isn’t bad, but the first thing I thought was that this will look so much more impressive on a big cinema screen rather than a 15″ retina.

In recent years I have been able to travel and visit a number of ocean sites where we have swum with turtles and stingrays. We have seen the abundance of life on the reefs off the coast of Mexico both in the Caribbean and the Baha California. I have eaten freshly caught tuna in American Samoa. And when I lived in Victoria, my landlord would drop a huge oyster on my grill while I was cooking supper. I am a great fan of sushi and of fish and chips.

And all the while I have been conscious of decline. I have heard about coral bleaching and great plastic gyre. Of the collapse of fish stocks – first cod in the Atlantic off Newfoundland and the decline of the salmon here. Everywhere we have been there have been people warning of the dire situation. And it just seems to be getting worse.

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This still comes from a sequence about the scourge of shark’s fin soup. Not something I have ever tried, and now never will.

It is true that the whales seem to be recovering, but that only seems to encourage the Japanese to expand their utterly bogus “scientific” whaling.

I hope that this film is successful. We certainly need to change direction and there are – at the end of the film – some suggestions.

The following section is copied from the information about the movie I was sent.

Half of all marine life has been lost in the last 40 years.
By 2050 there will be more plastic in the sea than fish.

The way the ocean operates is different to how we thought of it 100 years ago. We can no longer think of it as a place of limitless resources, a dumping ground, immune to change or decline.

BLUE takes us on a provocative journey into the ocean realm, witnessing a critical moment in time when the marine world is on a precipice. Featuring passionate advocates for ocean preservation, BLUE takes us into their world where the story of our changing ocean is unfolding. We meet those who are defending habitats, campaigning for smarter fishing, combating marine pollution and fighting for the protection of keystone species.

This feature documentary comes at a time when we are making critical decisions that will decide the legacy we leave for generations to come.

BLUE shows us there is a way forward and the time to act is now

KARINA HOLDEN – Director, Producer, Writer
SARAH BEARD – Producer
SUE CLOTHIER – Executive Producer
JODY MUSTON – Cinematographer/DoP

FILMING LOCATIONS – USA, Philippines, Indonesia, Australia



Festival International Du Film Documentaire Océanien 2018| Winner – Le Prix Okeanos

New York Wild Film Festival 2018 | Winner – Best Impact Film

Vancouver International Film Festival 2017 | Winner – Best Impact Film

Byron Bay Film Festival 2017 | Winner – Best Environmental Film

Australian Screen Sound Guild 2017 | Winner – Best Sound in a Documentary 2017

AACTA Awards 2017 | Winner – Best Cinematography in a Documentary

“The Ozzies” Ozflix Independent Film Awards 2018 | Winner – Best Cinematography

So now how to get tickets

BLUE is a World Oceans Day event that takes place throughout Canada ONE SHOWING ONLY — on Thursday, June 7 at 7:00 pm (exception – Calgary at 8:00 pm).

This is a cinema-on-demand screening from Demand Film, and
Demand Film Ticketing.

You can see the trailer and find the map of events in Canada at that link.

Written by Stephen Rees

May 7, 2018 at 9:09 pm

The Bicycle Diaries: Episode 13

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I know that this wheel is no longer being sold under the name UrbanX – or even UrbaNext – but that does not mean transactions are not continuing. The company which sold two to me has evaporated. Leaving me one wheel which simply does not work. And another that continues to frustrate me. However there are still plenty of pages available on the internet from websites which seem to have simply accepted the claims made by its makers untested. So my purpose in writing this is simply to re-issue warnings that I have made to an earlier diary entry which I keep updating but is maybe not being noticed as much as a new post.

Yesterday I took the bike out on the Greenway. It has been sitting in the locker for the winter, but the weather was so nice, and my partner was quite happy to ride her bike now that its electric wheel has been removed. I was quite surprised to find that the battery had held its charge all this time. I first did a short test along Valley, just to make sure everything was working properly. As expected the control started working once I reached 5 km/hr (based on the reading on the app) but kept on working even if the speed dropped below that provided that I did not come to a complete stop. I was even able to get the speed control on the app to work in motion and there is a real difference between the three “gears”. But it isn’t easy to hold the control down and change the bike’s gears. On the level that doesn’t matter. On a hill – such as the one up from Valley to Arbutus along King Edward Ave – it matters a lot. Once again I found myself getting off the bike and pushing. Even when the wheel is turned off it acts like a brake. The bike is much heavier with the wheel and its battery and that is all on front axle. That isn’t a good place to add weight. Pushing that bike up the hill was not fun!

If an electric assist bike is going to be useful, getting moving from rest on a hill must be the most important task. This wheel won’t do that.

On the return downhill ride on King Ed the app speed read 12 km/hr – even though I was keeping up with traffic which must have been much faster. The wheel under power does not hold back as it does when turned off. But it also doesn’t regenerate either if you did want a decellerator. It does happily bring me home on the flat Valley Drive – no pedalling, and I did not even press the throttle. But the wheel does get hot. It is impossible to pull the battery out from its housing when it is hot. So I left it in overnight. I still cannot budge it this morning. You have to hold down two tabs on the top of the battery while pulling back evenly. The battery case is smooth and there is nothing to get a grip on. You also need to have the wheel secured against something so you are not pulling the wheel over too. It is a lousy design ergonomically.

My conclusion is that while an electric assist bike is a worthwhile idea, the reality needs more than can be provided by purchasing over the internet from a Chinese company. It is cheap for a reason, and its very cheapness ought to be warning. Most ebikes and conversions come out to be more than the ~$500 I spent on each wheel. Buying from an established retailer a bike made (or adapted from) a reputable manufacturer is a lot better bet than KickStarter or IndieGoGo.

UPDATE  September 12, 2018

I removed the wheel from the bike today. The battery is still in place in the wheel: it is immovable and therefore impossible to charge. So it is utterly useless. I have put on a regular wheel and will get someone to reinstall the suspension forks I had to get taken off to use the electric wheel.

I am going to do some more research about ebikes available locally but I am not going to be in a hurry.


Written by Stephen Rees

May 7, 2018 at 12:27 pm

The KM Pipeline won’t lower gas prices

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The idea that somehow expanding the TransMountain pipeline will lower prices at gas pumps in Greater Vancouver is actually nuts. This info graphic from The Wilderness Committee explains why.

KM inforgraphic

Written by Stephen Rees

May 4, 2018 at 4:13 pm

Posted in energy, pipelines, Transportation

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Unlikely

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There are still some glaciers

I took this picture out of the window of a plane flying from Vancouver to Terrace last week. It was a beautiful day, and I spent most of the flight staring out of the window at the Coast Mountains. There are still some glaciers there. Not as many now, and they are probably somewhat smaller than they used to be, though apparently that is not the case everywhere. However, the reason that I am posting this picture here, now is that it is very unlikely that we will be able to take photos like this in the future.

This is not a matter of belief. Climate change is an established fact. What is worse, climate change denial means that we are putting off the necessary actions to meet that challenge. Most disappointing in that regard are the actions of the present governments in Canada and British Columbia. Justin Trudeau was elected to change the policies of the previous conservative government. He said that he would live up to commitments to reduce ghg emissions and signed the Paris accord. But at the same time he was determined to see the expansion of the Athabasca Tar Sands – and that includes building a new TransMountain pipeline to feed a much expanded export terminal in the Burrard Inlet. He claims that this is necessary to fund the development of newer, cleaner alternative energy sources. The Premier of British Columbia opposes that idea – but not because of its impact on climate but the probable impact of a spill – either on land (which would be the responsibility of Kinder Morgan) or at sea (which would be the responsibility of the federal government – which is to say all Canadians). He is also promoting a completely unnecessary hydroelectric project called Site C on the Peace River near Fort St John.  I say “unnecessary” because it is only needed if there is more development of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) for export. Fracking the gas for export releases methane, and makes LNG a worse case of greenhouse gas increase than coal.

In both cases, there are short term political gains because so many people have been taken in by the promise of economic growth and jobs from the tar sands and LNG expansion. But both rely on developing markets in Asia – and that is also unlikely. Because there they are developing wind and solar power far more rapidly than we are. China is determined to be the leader in electric car production. Most of the previous climate change agreements failed to deliver simply because western politicians refused to accept that China and India would do their part to reduce carbon emissions, due to their determination to increase their own economic status. In fact both are benefitting from the rapidly dropping cost of renewables. They also have access to much closer and more convenient fossil fuel resources. There is plenty of natural gas there, for instance, and Chinese oil refineries are not designed to cope with heavy oil feedstocks.  The latest news about a new BC LNG plant is that it will be designed and built in Japan. So much for all those new jobs we were supposed to be getting. Another unlikely prospect.

Written by Stephen Rees

May 2, 2018 at 11:52 am