Tuesday, June 28, 2011


I've just found a SUPER COOL site, that calculates the walkability factor for an address, and yes, works for Canada too.

The walkscore.com website will calculate a walkability score, and can even provide your commute times via various methods (car, bike, walking, transit). The commute aspect even provides the elevation changes along the route.

The calculation takes into account proximity to restaurants, banks, schools, mass transit, parks, businesses, etc. to produce a numeric score from 0 ("Car Dependent") to 100 ("Walker's Paradise").

The site asks "What makes a neighborhood walkable?", and describes it thusly:

  • A center: Walkable neighborhoods have a center, whether it's a main street or a public space.
  • People: Enough people for businesses to flourish and for public transit to run frequently.
  • Mixed income, mixed use: Affordable housing located near businesses.
  • Parks and public space: Plenty of public places to gather and play.
  • Pedestrian design: Buildings are close to the street, parking lots are relegated to the back.
  • Schools and workplaces: Close enough that most residents can walk from their homes.
  • Complete streets: Streets designed for bicyclists, pedestrians, and transit.

 A small piece of advice for the web-site designer's: if 100 = "Walker's Paradise", then the antonym of "Walker's Paradise" isn't "Car Dependent", it's "Walker's Hell". Put a few more cool labels that verbally encapsulate the result, in memorable language (eg, like "Walker's Paradise").

Anyway, it's a cool web-site, go take a look at it.


Saturday, May 7, 2011

Jane Jacobs - Jane's Walk

This year, 2011, is the 50th anniversary of “The Death and Life of Great American Cities”. This book introduced Jane Jacobs’ ground-breaking ideas about how cities function, evolve and fail.

Jane's most significant urban design ideas are encapsulated in the following four principles. In car-driven suburb-mad recency, they still seem heretical:
  1. Mixed primary uses that create traffic/vibrancy throughout the day 
  2. Short blocks to make neighborhoods more walkable 
  3. Mixed age and overhead buildings to enable a diversity of businesses 
  4. Population density
Jane was American-born (1916) but later lived as a Canadian resident (1968-2006[d]). She was neither trained as an architect nor urban planner, yet her ideas are still influencing urban space today. 
Jane's Walk, an annual event that began the year after her death, is gaining traction. More communities are signing up all the time to participate in this early May event. More and more individuals walk their community on that day to see how well (poorly) Jane's principles are in play in their neighbourhoods. 
As environmental demands continue to move us away from car-centric urban design, it will be interesting to see how quickly Jane's ideas are picked up in (sub) urban communities. As stated on the Jane's Walk web-site:
Walkability is a quantitative and qualitative measurement of how inviting or un-inviting an area is to pedestrians. Walking matters more and more to towns and cities as the connection between walking and socially vibrant neighbourhoods is becoming clearer. Built environments that promote and facilitate walking – to stores, work, school and amenities – are better places to live, have higher real estate values, promote healthier lifestyles and have higher levels of social cohesion.

I am still walking and/or taking the bus to and from work daily, and I have to rate the 5+ kilometre walkability factor in my community, Kelowna, as an "F". Although I walk along a major route (4 lanes), at times only one side of the road is walkable, or even maintained for pedestrians in the winter, particularly along a 1.5 kilometre section fronting a golf course.

Further, the urban planners allowed great sections along this roadway (Glenmore Road) to be effectively boarded off from the neighbourhood.. Long sections of the neighbourhood are cordoned off with monolithic fencing and zero access or street scale is provided for walkers. This also has the negative effect of producing very lengthy distances between bus stops.

I wish I could say that the planners and the development community have recognized their mistakes and have fixed things. However, many developments approved and marketed in Kelowna in the past ten years still suffer from exactly the same issues.

Learn more about Jane Jacobs:

Jane Jacobs Medal (Rockefeller Foundation)

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Saturday Morning Linkfest

Good morning people. How's the environmental movement living, breathing, moving, in your world, today?

Anyway, here's some stuff I've found interesting in the past while:

  • "I think leadership starts to crumble when it becomes inconsistent. People don’t know which way the wind’s blowing. What’s the C.E.O. going to decide today? They’d rather him or her consistently be a jerk in a certain area as opposed to being inconsistent. Then they know it’s coming." (on leadership via New York Times)
  • Still, we are rapidly approaching a point of no return, cautions climate modeler Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution for Science's Department of Global Ecology at Stanford University, who participated in the study. (via Scientific American)
  • OK, for all you conspiracy theorists out there who have long known that there's a 100 mpg car out there, it turns out you just  might be right (wink, wink).
  • Need some good news on the environment and people in general? Who doesn't? Here's our highlighted link of the weekend. "Faced with the mind-numbing bad news about the environment over recent months, a couple of us at the Guardian decided to try to cheer ourselves up by finding examples of the right kind of environmental change. We set out to find 50 green pioneers, people who are making a practical difference but whose work is not yet widely known."  (via The Guardian)
  • "In just 20 years, one in every three vehicles on British Columbia's roads could be electric, according to a primer released by the Pembina Institute today, coinciding with the start of a four-day electric vehicle conference in Vancouver."  (via Pembina Institute)
  • George Monbiot says "In 2012 the only global deal for limiting greenhouse gas emissions – the Kyoto protocol – expires. There is no realistic prospect that it will be replaced before it elapses: the existing treaty took five years to negotiate and a further eight years to come into force. In terms of real hopes for global action on climate change, we are now far behind where we were in 1997, or even 1992. It's not just that we have lost 18 precious years. Throughout the age of good intentions and grand announcements we spiralled backwards." (via his blog)
  • “If you spent your entire annual income in nine months, you would probably be extremely concerned,” said Global Footprint Network President Mathis Wackernagel. “The situation is no less dire when it comes to our ecological budget. Climate change, biodiversity loss, deforestation, water and food shortages are all clear signs: We can no longer finance our consumption on credit. Nature is foreclosing.” (via Global Footprint Network)
  • "As the world gets warmer, sea levels are rising. It has been happening at a snail's pace so far, but as it speeds up more and more low-lying coastal land will be lost. ...  Throwing trillions of dollars at the problem could probably save big cities such as New York, London and Shanghai, but the task of defending all low-lying coastal areas and islands seems hopeless. Or is it?"  (via New Scientist)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Soil - the basis of all land based life

Q. What's wrong with the soil?

A. Half of Iowa's original topsoil has been lost or moved by erosion caused by agriculture. And we've lost half of our black organic matter (carbon) to oxidation from crop production. We can't keep on with this deficit spending of the ecological capital that the prairies bequeathed us, as Wes Jackson has phrased it.


Interview here

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Baby thrown out with bathwater? - OR What's in the bathwater?

Alviso's Medicinal All-Salt may look like ordinary table salt, but it has a little extra pharmaceutical kick. Exactly which drugs are present is somewhat unknowable, even to those selling the product, since it depends on which ones happen to have been recently flushed down local toilets. That mysterious grab-bag aspect is all part of the fun -- unless of course, you happen to get a batch infused with industrial pesticides and flame retardants.


Man, this is pretty messed up, when we don't even have a system in place to deal with all the industrial materials, whether it's pharmaceuticals, or what have you, to avoid having them flushed down the toilet.

Story here

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Even simple things add up, collectively ...

Like, for example, the environmental consequences of using too much soap in the laudry, or dishwasher. From the creation of the resource, to the outflow of the soap-laden waste water, it all has an effect.

Washing machines and dishwashers are made to use far less water now than older models and, therefore, need less soap. And detergents have also become increasingly concentrated. So a little goes a long way. 

“Most people use 10 to 15 times the amount of soap they need, and they’re pouring money down the drain,” Mr. Schmidt said.

Story here

Monday, September 20, 2010

Second Week of Walking to and from Work - 12km / 8 miles round trip

This is the Agitated Ecoist's report of the second week of walking to and from work.