Driver who hit pedestrian charged with attempted murder

On Saturday, when I sadly noted that killing a person with a car nets you a $1500 fine, I also was pleased that the RCMP seemed to take the recent hit and run in Port Alberni seriously enough to consider it attempted murder. Today we learn that the driver, one Daniel Marc Akerley of Port Alberni, was charged of attempted murder.

While it is nice to see charges of attempted murder in this case, it was a pretty hideous crime. It seems there was personal bad blood between the victim and Mr. Akerley and he chased the victim down, missed him once and then when he finally hit him, drove over him a second time. This is not your usual hit and run. It is pretty clear you need to have motive in order to get charged if you hurt or kill somebody with a car.

So if we are not going to charge these drivers, we should at least be building our streets to slow them down, so that when they do hit somebody and get away with it, there is less likelyhood that they will kill somebody. After all, the chance of a pedestrian getting killed drops from 45% to 5% when the speed of the car drops from 50 km/h to 30 km/h.

Kill person with car, get $1500 fine

There was another great example of how little our society values the lives of the non-car driving public. A woman with extensive speeding tickets and “moving violations” has been fined $1500 and given a 4-month suspension of her license for killing a motorcyclist while passing on a double yellow. The Times Colonist has the full story.

Also in today’s paper was a story about a man running over a pedestrian twice in Port Alberni is what looks like a road rage incident. At least in this case the RCMP officer said:

“The only difference between this one and a homicide is that the guy’s living,”

Hopefully the driver, who is apparently known, will be charged with attempted manslaughter or assault with a deadly weapon. I am not holding my breath, however.

Further afield, the DA in New York city has decided not to charge the driver of a van which, while running and unattended, jumped the curb and killed two children. The families of the two dead as well as pedestrian and safety advocates held a rally recently to demand action.

These kinds of stories are all too common. Often the driver is not blamed and the incident is called a “tragic accident” or “an act of god”. What will it take for society to consider cars to be the dangerous weapons they are? If the driver who killed that motorcyclist had pulled out a gun and shot the man, it would have been considered manslaughter. There would have been a huge outcry, just as has happened recently with all the apparently gang related shootings. Just because they used car doesn’t mean that we should treat it any differently.

New Safer Cycling Oak Bay website goes live

Lesley Ewing and I have been working on a new Safer Cycling Oak Bay website for the past few weeks to correspond with the launch of a new project we, amongst others, have been working on. Rather than being stuck at the old webspace, we have finally launched the new website at, a nice short and easy to remember url. Expect to see more on the SCOB website in the next few weeks.

Jaywalking and pedestrian space

There is a minor little stink going on in downtown Victoria over a recent crackdown on jaywalking. The Downtown Victoria Business Association is quite annoyed, feeling it will drive people out of downtown. Jack Knox quite correctly points out that ICBC, who funds this work, and the writing of tickets themselves makes lots of money for the municipalities. Jaywalking, as defined by Wikipedia is:

an informal term used to refer to illegal or reckless pedestrian crossing of a roadway

The core concept behind jaywalking as a crime is that there needs to be separate spaces for cars, pedestrians, bikes, etc. All well and good, until you realize that one of the areas they targeted for enforcement was Government Street. For reference, a picture of Gov’t St: Government Street

It didn’t always used to look like this. Until a reconstruction in the 20th century, Government St. was a four lane road like Douglas St.:

The Government Street of today is about as close to a pedestrianized street as you can get without actually closing it to cars. If they lowered the speed limit to 7km/h, it would easily classify as a woonerf, or living street. The whole point of these types of streets is that various travel modes, especially pedestrians, are supposed to mix.

But beyond Government Street, I disagree with ticking for jaywalking in general. The term was only invented by auto-owners, tired of people walking all over the streets and blocking their cars. So they decided that if only they could confine pedestrians to the sidewalks. It has worked well, as can be seen on Oak Bay Avenue: From a pedestrians perspective, most of the road is unusable, coloured red. Only the narrow strips of the sidewalks are clear green, with crosswalks in yellow: pedestrian Yet from the car’s perspective, the world is very very green: car

(Aerial photo from CRD’s Natural Areas Atlas, colour added by me)

It all boils down to what sort of city we want to live in. If we want one where cars keep pedestrians penned up on sidewalks, by all means, enforcing the rules around jaywalking is a great idea. But if we want a city that celebrates walking, we need to tame the car, not punish pedestrians for daring to try and take back space which should be theirs.

Bike parking on the Avenue

At tonight’s Committee of the Whole meeting, the council discussed the addition of covered bicycle parking to the avenue. Apparently instigated by the Mayor, this is long overdue recognition that bike parking on the Avenue is sub-par. Currently there are no covered spots anywhere on the Avenue and even the few racks that do exist are substandard, such as the ancient metal rack at the corner of Fairway Market closest to the Municipal Hall.

The plan presented at tonights meeting initially called for the removal of two parking spots on Wilmot on the eastern side closest to the Avenue. Councillor Herbert mentioned that there is a lack of handicapped parking on the Avenue and these two spots might make a good location for them and the bike parking could be moved to the north end of Wilmot right by Theatre Lane. Thankfully Tara Ney suggested that rather than moving them further away from the Avenue, the lawn of the Municipal Hall might make a better place, between the small information stand and the building itself.

As for what they will look like, there were two examples given, one from in front of the MEC building downtown:
mec bike shelter complete

This is quite a modern design. There is also this much older design seen around UVic:
uvic shelter 101

(Both photos credit John Luton of Capital Bike and Walk and more recently a Victoria City Councillor. He has an excellent set about Best Practices and another, Bike Parking 101.)

Estimated at around $20,000 for purchase and installation, the question of where the money will come from came up. A recent change to the Local Government Act allows municipal governments to take money out of their parking funds and put it into funding alternative forms of travel: walking, biking and transit. As such, Oak Bay is apparently going to be setting up an Alternative Transportation Infrastructure Fund, although no money has yet been moved around.

As the money will likely come out of the parking fund, Council decided that the Business Improvement Area who represent businesses on the Avenue, should be consulted on any spending of the parking fund on things other than parking. I am a little worried we’ll get some classic old-school 20th century thinking from them, but we will see.

Overall, I am hopeful that the bicycling community here in Oak Bay may not have to fight tooth and nail for every scrap of bicycle infrastructure. I was also heartened that during the nearly hour long discussion of the the traffic problem at the corner of Cadboro Bay and Bowker, several residents mentioned that bike lanes in the area is something they would like to see, even at the expense of parking. All in all, 2009 should be a good year for biking here in Oak Bay.

Labour intensive buses are a problem

So laid-off lumber workers don’t want to relocate to Victoria or commute to get paid less driving our buses? So says the Globe and Mail.

Imagine if we had a transit vehicle that would have a better rider to driver ratio? Oh wait, we do. It is called rail transit. I guess all those years of ignoring it are coming home to roost.

The upcoming demographic tsunami isn’t going to make it easier to find people. Figuring out how to move all those old people is something that keeps a lot of planners up at night, as this page on the Canadian Urban Institute website shows. Given all the talk of stimulus plans, now is a great time to start investing in capital-intensive rail transit over labour-intensive buses, before we have nobody to drive our buses.

Rebuilding Canada: a look at P3s

Can P3s (Public-Private Partnerships) save our infrastructure? This is the focus of TC’s series latest story on rebuilding Canada. The second looks at the negative side of P3’s, with cost overruns and some projects ultimately having to be nationalized.

British Columbia has a mixed record with P3’s, as pointed in the article about its critics. We have Partnerships BC (which is being emulated in California) and a requirement that all large infrastructure projects be “evaluated” for being a P3.

Here in Victoria we have the new Save-On Foods Memorial Arena being run by RG Properties Ltd., after the spectacular collapse of the previous attempt at replacing the Memorial Arena under then Mayor Bob Cross. We also have the upcoming sewage treatment plant, which is likely be a P3, although not if the Keep our Water Public campaign succeeds. A recent poll also found that the vast majority of people wanted to keep any sewage treatment public. For the record, as a municipal candidate, I completely supported keeping sewage treatment public and I still hold that position.

With the world financial markets busy melting down around us, one of the biggest challenges right now for P3’s is simply getting credit. As Livable Blog points out, a number of the projects either in the construction phase or on the table in Vancouver are threatened by this. NowPublic also has an excellent post on the matter. It is highly conceivable that one or more of the companies involved in these deals could fail. Read the end of this story about the potential failure Macquerie Bank, a large funder of P3s around the globe. Now where would that leave the governments?

Overall, I wouldn’t want to be a company involved in a P3 or a government that might be left holding the bag if it fails. I guess there are small blessings to having lost the election. As for whether or not the credit crisis will stop the P3 steamroller, I guess we can hope.

Cars kill 300 year old tree

500 block of Victoria St, centred on large tree
2007 air photo of the 500 block of Victoria St, centred on a large tree, likely the removed Garry Oak.

Another piece of Oak Bay’s urban forest was lost this week. A large Garry Oak in the 500 block of Victoria Avenue was removed because it was diseased and thus was a potential risk to falling over. Given it was around 300 years old, age does tend to catch up to even the best of us. But this tree did not really die of old age. It was felled by root rot. What caused the root rot? Well, the story in the Oak Bay News lays it all out:

A younger Garry oak might have been able to fend off the disease, but the Victoria Avenue tree’s age and damage done to it when the street was widened in the 1970s weakened the root system left the oak vulnerable to disease. (emphasis added)

Thats right. It was killed because the road needed to be wider. What can clearly be seen from the photo to the right above is that the road and sidewalk ran almost right against the trunk. As evidenced by this case, driving on a trees roots damages them via soil compaction. But how far out do they extend? A good rule of thumb is the that the roots extend at least as far as the branches or crown does, often further in urban areas. (The Southern Nevada Water Authority has a good graphic and explanation).

Parking lot at Camosun's Lansdowne Campus
Parking lot at Camosun's Lansdowne Campus. 2007 air photo from the CRD.

Of course, Oak Bay is not the only offender. Parking lots are great places to see just how bad it can get for these poor trees. Case in point; the parking lot at Camosun’s Lansdowne Campus as seen to the left. Formerly a Garry Oak meadow, the trees remain but the grass is now concrete.

The Garry Oak ecosystem is amongst the most endangered in the world and its centerpiece species, the Garry Oak, the only native oak west of Manitoba.

Coincidentally, a lady from the Garry Oak Ecosystem Recovery Team was at Oak Bay council on Monday night looking for some funding to help print their book, The Garry Oak Gardener’s Handbook (PDF link).Thankfully council was able to give them about $200 for 40 copies. She also had a few on hand, so I picked one up and having read through, I highly recommend it. I am looking forward to the newer, larger, edition coming out later this year.

Photo credits: CRD’s Natural Areas Atlas

TC’s special on Rebuilding Canada

The Times Colonist (and presumably the whole Canwest newspaper chain) has a special entitled “Rebuilding Canada”. That they are running such a piece now isn’t really a surprise, given the massive number of stories talking about an “infrastructure stimulus“. What really gets me is the focus on rebuilding and adding new roads. One of the choicer quotes comes from a story titled “The scramble to make our highways safe“:

Elsewhere, Edmonton has a $260-million interchange project to unclog a bottleneck on a ring road.

Twinned Port Mann bridge
Twinned Port Mann bridge. Notice the lie of the mostly empty lanes

You can’t build your way out of congestion. This is the hard lesson Boston is discovering, after their giant “Big Dig” project. Aside from all the well documented problems with quality of the construction, what they have found is that the faster traffic flow in the core has simply pushed bottlenecks outwards. The traditional answer to this would be to “fix” the new bottlenecks with more roads, which would just be perpetuating the cycle of endless construction, which is how we ended up here in the first place. We need to build less roads and reduce the number we already have, not be adding more.

But where is the talk about using transit to solve some of these bottlenecks? The problem is that planners and governments fail to look at mobility holistically. Essentially, we need to be planning how to move people more efficiently, not cars. Some organizations get it, such as Washington States Department of Transportation and their page on bottlenecks and chokepoints. Others, well, just don’t.

Seattle Street Edge Alternative
Seattle's Street Edge Alternative program. Photo credit CRD

Of course, roads are not the only piece of infrastructure that is crumbling. Recreational facilities and housing, garbage disposal, sewers and public transit are all covered as well. Sewers are an interesting one. Apparently the City of Victoria has some of the oldest sewer pipes in Canada, at almost 100 years old. All well and good, but where is the discussion of using bioswales (CRD on bioswales) and green roofs (Ecogeeks has a good photo-filled FAQ on green roofs) to reduce runoff into our sewers? As the CRD plans to charge municipalities based on flow, reducing runoff means less tax dollars wasted.

Overall, I am deeply disappointed with this whole series. It is typical tired journalism. Given the recent cuts in the Canwest newsrooms, I am not surprised they are failing to produce good, innovative stories. I guess that leaves it up to the poor bloggers to tell the story.

Silly pedestrian, sidewalks are for cars!

Today while walking back from Camosun, I saw no less than three trucks parked on the sidewalk. Frustrating.

This looks like a contractors truck, given the construction in the house right at this location.


This Cadillac Escalade is owned by somebody who lives here. I see this car here nearly everyday, usually parked on the curb to some degree on another.

Tomorrow is my first final of three. I hope to get back into the blogging spirit as we roll closer to Christmas.