Navigating the world can be challenging for able-bodied people, those in wheelchairs have it even harder. It doesn’t have to be this way. New buildings have to meet certain accessibility requirements which means that visiting places will only get easier for everyone. There are still places that don’t have good accessibility and for that there’s Wheelmap.
Wheelmap is a community sourced map that shows what places are accessible and even goes into fine details with pictures of the place including the accessibility of interior facilities.
Wheelchairs, elevators and ramps allow people with mobility impairments to get around independently to a great extent. But frequently the last meters decide whether the trip to the cinema, beer garden or supermarket was worth the effort. Just one step at the entrance can be an insurmountable obstacle.
And this is where Wheelmap comes into play: Users provide information for other users on how accessible a location is. Thereby, the map contributes to an active and diversified lifestyle for wheelchair users. People with wheeled walkers or buggies benefit from this tool as well.
Furthermore, the aim of Wheelmap is to make owners of wheelchair-inaccessible public places aware of the problem. They should be encouraged to reflect on and improve the accessibility of their premises.
People opposed to multiple transit solutions often argue that it’s not worth building bicycle lanes because nobody rides in the rain. They couldn’t be more wrong. A new study from Germany looked into the use of bikes during poor weather and found that places with good bicycling infrastructure had more cyclists during when it rains compared to cities without safe roads. Now we have scientific evidence that building bike lanes keep people on their bikes, so let’s build more of it!
Between cities and regions, not only cycling levels differ, but also the reactions of cyclists to adverse weather conditions. Using data from 122 automated bicycle counting stations in 30 German cities, and a composite index of adverse weather conditions that consists of air temperature, precipitation, wind speed, relative humidity, and cloud coverage, we calculate city-specific weather elasticities of the level of utilitarian cycling. The results show that these weather elasticities vary significantly between cities. Our next step is to analyze various determinants of weather elasticities, which reveals that the share of young inhabitants and the density of the cycle network have a positive impact on weather resilience. Based on the notion that resilience to adverse weather conditions reflects a revealed part of a city’s bicycle culture, the weather elasticities can be used to create a ranking ofbicycle cities. This ranking is positively correlated with a ranking based on the modal share of cycling, as well as with other rankings based on stated preference surveys or external conditions such as infrastructure or cycling safety.
Here in Toronto we’ve seen little to no changes in our urban space during the COVID-19 pandemic. Other cities have been closing streets and making more room for people while in Toronto we’ve closed a couple streets on the weekend and gave up sidewalk space to private enterprise. Neighbouring communities have done a lot more (and I’m jealous).
The biggest development in Toronto was to catch up on the scheduled installation of bike lanes. Without a doubt these bike lanes are popular and there was clearly bent up demand for safe, sustainable, transportation. Ryerson University in Toronto has shown that not only are the lanes popular they have been saving a lot of lives!
Fully separated cycling facilities (like cycle tracks) could reduce the number of injuries along Bloor-Danforth by 89%. This could mean 153 to 182 fewer serious injuries over the next decade, depending on ridership
Fully separated cycle tracks are significantly safer and prevent more injuries than other types of cycling infrastructure, like partially separated lanes and painted lanes
The availability of safer cycling infrastructure throughout the COVID-19 pandemic could have a “safety in numbers” effect, attracting higher cycling volumes and preventing even more injuries
Removing temporary cycling infrastructure could have a “bait and switch” effect, actually leading to more injuries; temporary infrastructure attracts new users to the route, but when this protection is removed, the number of injuries could increase from pre-implementation levels
This is a fun video exploring how we currently design streets for cars and how the Netherlands dealt with drivers. It’s sadly common that drivers steer their vehicles into buildings (maybe the buildings need to wear reflectors like cyclists?) throughout North America, despite the billions spent on roadways. Thankfully there are solutions to make streets safer for all users, as outlined in the video above.
You would think that cars regularly crashing into buildings would signal a problem to most people, but a lot of Americans and Canadians just accept it as normal. This is extremely rare in the Netherlands, and it’s due to safer street design that has come from a very different approach to road safety.
I live in Toronto where cars are king and everything else deserves to be banned from the road, heck we rip up bike lanes while other cities grow their bicycle networks (and we’re spending millions on a highway that gets fewer users than a bus route). Toronto has been shamefully slow in reusing streets for people during the COVID-19 pandemic. Cities around the world have closed streets to car traffic and made life better for people who need more physical space so the disease won’t spread as easily. In Toronto we’ve closed parks and told people to walk single file on sidewalks while car traffic is down by 70%. basically, shame on Toronto.
What are good cities doing about this? They’re banning cars and using streets as a public space instead of a strip of land dedicated to moving single occupant vehicles. Some cities are considering making these changes permanent as the quality of life benefit from banning automobiles is quick to see and fall in love with.
Like many others in New York City, I live in an apartment that’s about 250 square feet. It’s a lot harder for me to abide by the same orders as people in sprawling suburban McMansions. Our sole escape is the public spaces that typically fill beyond any ability to socially distance on warm days. When people are stuck at home, and so many other establishments are closed—our libraries, museums, gyms, pools, restaurants—the parks are already more crowded than usual. Even the Green-Wood Cemetery has threatened to close because of overcrowding by people in search of spaces to walk. The situation stands to create a viral tinderbox that will ignite New York in the heat of the summer. To propose that the solution is to limit the use of these already precious public spaces is the inverse of a solution.
Open the streets. Open at least half of them. If we do not have enough police to enforce temporary closure to traffic, then open them semipermanently with concrete barriers. Open other streets permanently. Dynamite the asphalt, sod the land, plant trees and flowers, and do not look back.