"What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead."
~ Nelson Mandela, 1918-2013
Seen around town: One of the new daily bike counters on False Creek outside the revamped Science World. I was the 1000th cyclist to pass by the counter on Friday.
Seen around town: a bird’s eye view of the Stanley Park seawall this past weekend. The seawall is grade separated with lanes for folks on bikes and foot.
In the last five years, China has built 20,000 miles of expressways, finishing the construction of 12 national highways a whopping 13 years ahead of schedule and at a pace four times faster than the United States built its interstate highway system. Over the last decade, Shanghai alone has built some 1,500 miles of road, the equivalent of three Manhattans. China’s urban population is projected to grow by 350 million people by 2020, effectively adding today’s entire U.S. population to its cities in less than a decade. China has already passed the United States as the world’s largest car market, and by 2025, the country will need to pave up to an estimated 5 billion square meters of road just to keep moving.
China’s love affair with the car has blossomed into a torrid romance. In April, nearly a million people poured into the Beijing International Automotive Exhibition to coo over the latest Audis, BMWs, and Toyotas. But China is in danger of making the same mistakes the United States made on its way to superpower status — mistakes that have left Americans reliant on foreign oil from unstable parts of the world, staggering under the cost of unhealthy patterns of living, and struggling to overcome the urban legacy of decades of inner-city decay.
The choices China makes in the years ahead will have an immense impact not only on the long-term viability, livability, and energy efficiency of its cities, but also on the health of the entire planet. Unfortunately, much of what China is building is based on outdated Western planning ideas that put its cars at the center of urban life, rather than its people. And the bill will be paid in the form of larger waistlines, reduced quality of life, and choking pollution and congestion.
Around Town: 'The St. George Sharing Library'
I was biking along the 10th Ave bikeway the other day and noticed this neat lil library hanging on the fence in front of a house. So I stopped and snapped a picture of it. The ironic thing was when I went online later in the day I turned up an article looking at community based pop up libraries here in Vancouver! It even had a section covering this one. Here’s an excerpt:
"The two-tiered structure on East 10th Avenue, near St. George Street, was assembled by George Rahi and his roommates. Previously an old shelf found discarded in an alley, it is now stacked with dozens of books, free for the taking – a little library made by, and for, the community. Recent offerings include textbooks, novels and children’s books; a notice board is covered in hand-written thank-you notes. (“I have found quite a few little gems at your library hot-spot, and for this, I am grateful,” reads one.)"
(Source: Globe & Mail)
I’ve got more photos here if you’re interested.
Around Town: Granville Street, just south of West Georgia (Downtown)
earlier this week
Getting around: 'A cycling renaissance is taking place in America'
From The Economist:
MORE and more Americans are taking to the road on two wheels. Between 1977 and 2009 the total number of annual bike trips more than tripled, while the bike’s share of all trips rose from 0.6% to 1%. Commuting cyclists have also increased in number, with twice as many biking to work in 2009 as in 2000.
The growth comes thanks to cycle-friendly policymaking and increases in government spending. In Portland, which brought in a comprehensive programme, cycling levels have increased sixfold since the early 1990s. In Chicago the motivation is to improve the quality of life, and thus encourage both businesses and families to move there.
In a forthcoming book, “City Cycling”, John Pucher and Ralph Buehler argue that the bike boom needs to be expanded to a broader cross-section of people. Almost all the growth in cycling in America has come from men aged 25-64. Rates of cycling have actually fallen slightly among women and sharply among children, most probably because of nervousness about safety. But in fact cycling is getting safer all the time. According to a paper by Messrs Pucher and Buehler with Mark Seinen, fatalities per 10m bike trips fell by 65% between 1977 and 2009, from 5.1 to 1.8. In their book, the authors claim that the health benefits of cycling far exceed the safety risks.
As 48% of trips in American cities are shorter than three miles, there is big potential for further growth.
Check out the rest of the article here.
(Photo credit: City Cycling)
Tools for change: 'How to save the planet — in 10 not-so-easy steps'
I recently stumbled upon this article from Postmedia’s award-winning national science writer, Margaret Munro. It was written in advance of June’s Rio+20 summit, which was widely viewed to have achieved limited results. That said, the article offers a good summary of some of the big systemic changes that we’re likely going to have to pull off on the long road to building a sustainable and resilient future. In other words, it’s going to take a whole lot more than riding a bike, recycling, and using cloth shopping bags.
The article has a bit of a Canadian focus, but the steps are universal:
1. Start a revolution
2. Energy game change
3. Put a price on carbon
4. Overhaul corporate motives and mindsets
5. Green Canada’s blackened record
6. Transform cities
7. Connect the dots before you buy
8. Eat less meat
9. Embrace education (and contraception)
10. Get politically active
You can read the rest of the article and an explanation of each of the steps here, but I’ll post the first one here as an example:
“For most of the last century, economic growth was fuelled by what seemed to be a certain truth: the abundance of natural resources. We mined our way to growth. We burned our way to prosperity. We believed in consumption without consequences,” UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, last year. He went on to describe it as a “recipe for national disaster. It is a global suicide pact.”
“We need a revolution,” he said. “Revolutionary thinking. Revolutionary action. A free-market revolution for global sustainability”.