Despite repeated efforts by Toronto’s mayor to make transportation in the city worse, things are improving. Local condo developers are finding ways to build condo towers that don’t require more parking than the building needs (an archaic law in the city wants room for two cars for every bedroom built). They are using the cash saved from not building room for cars to build infrastructure for bicycles – which the condo buyers are asking for.
Other cities around the world already do this and it’s thanks to the effort of the developers and councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam that Toronto benefits from this smart approach. With more people moving into the city bicycles make sense as a primary transportation source.
The developers — major players Canderel, DiamondCorp and Lanterra — agreed to contribute to Bixi in exchange for permission to create fewer parking spaces than city rules require.
The city sometimes releases developers from parking requirements without demanding anything in return. Wong-Tam said she decided that she would attempt this time to insist on the Bixi contribution. The developers, she said, put up “no resistance whatsoever,” since they will spend far less than they would have had to spend to build parking they can’t sell.
Lanterra chief executive Barry Fenton said he never thought of the agreement as a cost-saver: he believes his company would have persuaded Wong-Tam to relax the requirements even without the Bixi payment. Citing a “fantastic” bike journey he took in Stockholm, he said investing in urban cycling “just really, really, really makes a lot of sense.”
So the ineptitude of the current Toronto mayor got me thinking of how things could have been different with forethought of climate change. It’s worth noting that Rob Ford spent the flood idling in his SUV:
Just spoke to Mayor Rob Ford, power is still out at his house. He's in the SUV with his kids trying to stay cool #TOpoli#stormTO
The barrage is part of a comprehensive system of flood control to decrease flooding in the low-lying areas in the busy quarters of the city. During the heavy rains, a series of nine crest gates activate to release excess storm water into the sea when the tide is low. When high tide comes in, giant pumps drain excess storm water at at a rate of one Olympic-size swimming pool per minute.
Although large areas of green roofs have many benefits for cities, such as reducing air pollution and helping to combat the heat island effect, Rotterdam’s priority was for water retention, since the city has a shortage of areas where water can be stored following heavy rainfall. Water management has always been a major concern in the Netherlands, since approximately 60% of the country lies below sea level. The analysis of the potential of green roofs in Rotterdam that preceded the introduction of the subsidies focused heavily on their capacity for water storage in order to reduce peak water discharge following a rain storm and help prevent flooding.
Once established a green roof can significantly reduce both peak flow rates and total runoff volume of rainwater from the roof compared to a conventional roof. Green roofs store rainwater in the plants and substrate and release water back into the atmosphere through evapotranspiration.
The amount of water that is stored on a green roof, and then evapotranspired into the atmosphere, is dependent on the depth and type of growing medium, type of drainage layer, vegetation used and regional weather. The FLL Guidelines should be followed to ensure that actual runoff will be in accordance with calculated runoff.
A green roof can easily be designed to prevent runoff from all rainfall events of up to 5 mm and as part of a SuDS strategy, should reduce the volume of surface or underground attenuation required at the site boundary. In summer, green roofs can retain 70–80% of rainfall and in winter they retain 10–35% depending on their build-up (Green roofs benefits and cost implications, Livingroofs.org In association with ecologyconsultancy, March 2004). The difference is due to a combination of more winter rainfall and less evapotranspiration by the plants because growth is not as vigorous during the winter months.
I like this tweet from Toronto’s chief planner Jennifer Keesmat as a good conclusion to this post:
Suddenly spending $ to maintain all of that not-so-sexy infrastructure and to plan for climate change seems wildly appealing. #TOflood
Chicago politicians understand that people in their city commute sustainably via bicycles and that this is a great component to their transit planning. What’s more is that by building proper infrastructure for cyclists they can draw people to the city and show the world what the future looks like – again. Over at Roads Were Not Built For Cars they provide a very interesting historical perspective on the bicycle in Chicago and how it relates to cities today.
“Bicycling is an integral part of Chicago’s transportation system. Every day, thousands of people bike on our streets, whether it is to ride to work, to the store, or for recreation…My vision is to make Chicago the most bike-friendly city in the United States…Over the next few years, we will build more protected bike lanes than any other city in the country, redesign intersections to ensure they are safer for bicyclists, and improve hundreds of miles of residential streets for bicyclists, pedestrians, and the people that live on them.”
Roads are often overlooked when it comes to the impact of cars on the environment, but we can’t ignore the roads have on the environment when discussing the practicality of cars. Asphalt is used to make roads and the process of creating asphalt is very energy intensive. In Vancouver, they are looking into ways to lower the negative impact of car infrastructure by making greener roads.
First, it allows asphalt to be heated at 20 to 40 degrees less than is necessary when using the traditional “hot mix” method. This reduces the amount of fuel necessary for the process, which in turn reduces the resulting greenhouse-gas production by as much as 50 per cent. Second, although there are other paving materials that have similar characteristics, they’re normally made of petroleum products. GreenMantra’s product comes from recycled plastics.
The wax is slightly more expensive than petroleum-based materials, but GreenMantra and the City of Vancouver are looking to bring down the cost by sourcing cheaper plastic. The price could also drop of its own accord, as GreenMantra begins to produce the stuff in greater quantities.
People in urban centres walk more and are generally more active than those who live in the suburbs, which is great for urbanites but not so great for the health of suburban dwellers. Years of poor urban planning in the suburbs have had a negative effect on the health of those who live there, which is most visible in increased obesity rates. In the suburbs of Toronto, Peel region is leading in new urban planning that encourages people to live a healthier life.
Instead of telling people what they shouldn’t do they are encouraging people to live healthy through passive, barely noticeable ways.
The health-minded policies, many of them pushed through despite strong opposition, are starting to pay off, said Dr. Karen Lee, a Canadian who is the director of Built Environment and Active Design in the New York Department of Health and Hygiene.
She cited a 289 per cent increase in commuter cycling, a 37 percent drop in traffic fatalities, a 1.5 per cent decline in car traffic and a 5 per cent drop in car registration over the past decade. There’s even been a small reduction in the worrying statistics on childhood obesity.
Many of the ideas are environmentally friendly and accessible but not necessarily expensive, said Lee. Posting signs near elevators that read “Burn calories, not electricity” can boost stair usage by 50 per cent. Drinking safe tap water is better for the environment than expensive bottled water.
“Neighbourhoods that are well designed for pedestrians are usually well designed for people with disabilities,” she said.