Your contribution to 2019

25 simple resolutions you can make to improve your city in 2019

Around this time of year, you’re likely putting the finishing touches on the usual list of New Year’s resolutions you’ve decided to dust off again. Losing weight, less procrastinating, quitting smoking (or vaping)–you know, the standards. While you’re deciding, what if you also gave some serious consideration to one of the most important relationships in your life–the relationship you have with the city you live in?

We contribute every day to the life of cities with our choices (Vancouver). [Photo: courtesy of the author]

Our cities are humanity’s biggest and most important collective effort, the massive, marvelously complex result of all of our great choices, debatable decisions, and really bad mistakes. They’re also the key to saving us from climate change, they drive our national economies, they support (or hinder) our personal health, and much more.So what if we picked some New Year’s resolutions that could improve our individual and family lives, hopefully making us happier, healthier, and more successful, while also improving our cities and communities for everyone?

Here are 25 ways that your choices can translate into better cities. Share them, and your own, using #ResolutionsForMyCity!

Click here for Brent’s 25 great suggested resolutions for YOU.

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Car culture hypocrisy

Some Tweets that may ring true for you.

Those that follow Twitter may know @TonyArnold74 and follow some of his interesting tweets. Here is a thread of his on the hypocrisy of car cultures
Note: these are Tony’s tweets and not necessarily the views of WATAG – but there again, most of them may be!

  • A person driving to the gym is a legitimate road user, but a person cycling to work is not.
  • Cars killing 150 pedestrians each year is due to pedestrian distraction, but bicycles killing 1 pedestrian every 5 years is due to reckless cycling.
  • Slowing cars to 30 km/h will impact on productivity, but bicycles traveling at 30 km/h are speeding irresponsibly.
  • A roads budget of $20 billion is action, but a cycling budget of $0.05 billion is extravagance.
  • A car squeezing past a bicycle is inconvenienced, but a person cycling past a car at traffic lights is a selfish jerk.
  • The colour of your car is your choice (despite dark cars being less safe), but people who walk or cycle should wear bright clothing.
  • Driving a car without a helmet is perfectly safe, but a a person riding a bicycle without a helmet has a death-wish.
  • Millions of free car parking spaces is inadequate, but bicycle lanes are a waste of space.
  • An inactive and unhealthy person should get free medical treatment, but an active and healthy person is a freeloader who should pay bike registration.
  • Driving children to school in a massive, lethal and polluting car is responsible behaviour, but cycling to school with children is irresponsible.
  • Motor vehicles need to be parked on every street to meet transport needs, but share bicycles are street clutter.
  • $150 million in cost overruns and several years of delay for a freeway megaproject thru the middle of a city is reasonable. A couple million tacked onto a bike project to address long-standing pedestrian safety and stormwater issues is a bloated bike project that serves no one.
  • Driving alone in a 2m wide car is fine but cyclists riding two abreast is crazy and selfish.
  • Locating a new road that reduces times for motorists between important services is a Great Leap Forward but having a separate dedicated bike lane to those same destinations is a non-starter.
  • Cycling while listening to music in headphones is dangerous. Driving inside a closed, sound isolated metal & glass box with a large stereo system blasting is perfectly safe & reasonable.
  • If bikes go too fast, you get some dangerous infrastructure ASAP. If cars go too fast, move all other users elsewhere.
  • A proposed short section of bike lane requires months of community consultation, whereas adding a $250,000 left turn bay does not.

Look up Tony if you’d like to add your own words of wisdom. Please don’t contact us!

If you’d like to follow WATAG tweets, look us up @WATAG10. Tweets are also shown on the right hand column of WATAG web pages.

Posted in Active transport, Cycling, Motor cars, trucks, Safety, Walking | Leave a comment

Children have rights too

Urban planning is failing children and breaching their human rights – here’s what needs to be done

File 20181212 110261 16tth6p.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1

Children are not being considered when it comes to urban planning.   Shutterstock

Jenny Wood, Heriot-Watt University

Children are being left out of decisions about the environments created around them, when really, their needs should be at the heart of them.

In the UK, children are becoming less healthy – physically and mentally – and spend more time indoors than previous generations. Society is so caught up in discussing children’s health, education, safety and social media use, that little time is spent looking at the effect urban planning has on their lives.

Children growing up in towns and cities have less freedom to move around their neighbourhoods than their parents. Experts suggest that a ten-year-old child today has far less licence to roam than a ten-year-old two generations ago. The biggest problem here is the increase of traffic and dangerous roads, which makes many adults hesitant to allow children out.

Children can also be excluded from open space due to overzealous regulations such as “no ball games”, or the idea that that playing near their homes causes nuisance. There are even more problems for teenagers who are more likely to be treated with suspicion in a public space than adults. While social issues at heart, these problems are perpetuated by poor planning and urban design. This is leading to children living increasingly sheltered lives and experiencing the outdoors only in adult-led, organised activities.

Children today move around their neighbourhoods less freely than their parents did.    Shutterstock

Children’s rights and needs

The UK signed up to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) in 1991. It gives all people below the age of 18 additional rights to adults, recognising that children are generally more vulnerable to being manipulated, and also less likely to be given a say in how they live their lives. Among these rights are three articles especially relevant to their environment:

Article 12: the right to participate in all matters that affect them.

Article 15: the right to freedom of association, including to gather in public space and organise their own activities.

Article 31: the right to play, rest, leisure and access cultural life.

Current planning policy across the UK recognises a need for greater sustainability and inclusivity. But in practice, this mostly takes into account economic matters such as providing enough employment opportunities; transport, traffic and parking; and enough housing to meet growing demand.

In the midst of all these economic concerns, social needs – and especially those of the youngest, most vulnerable citizens – can be brushed aside. When it comes to planning, a plethora of evidence shows adult communities often feel unheard, while involving children at all is still viewed as an innovative thing to do. The proliferation of parks, playgrounds and skateparks is an indication that children’s rights are not well understood.

Children need more than skateparks and playgrounds if they are to be independent and confident.  Shutterstock

When children are asked about their favourite places to play, the playground is rarely their first choice. And most adults will often agree that they also favoured places other than the playground when they were children: parks, woods, riverbanks, fields and beaches were the places that captured imagination, not a few swings in an enclosed tarmacked space. Similarly, skateparks offer only limited recreation potential and tend to be favoured more by boys than by girls.

Playgrounds often lack a range of equipment to suit children of different ages and abilities and are not always well maintained. Children also have to be able to reach the playground safely on their own, otherwise they have to be accompanied. This can limit the time children have to play outdoors and contributes further demands on the time of already pressured parents and carers.

These exclusions and misunderstandings of what children really need contribute to environments that favour adults over children, and can leave children feeling disempowered, discouraged, inactive and dependent on the adults around them.

Fixing the problem

Far from a side issue, this leads to epidemics in childhood obesity, mental health issues and a lack of opportunity for poorer children. Environments need to become more child friendly, and everything has to start with planning policy.

First and foremost, the UNCRC can and should be integrated into UK law,
putting children first at all levels of policy and practice.

Planners need to understand that keeping children in mind helps meet other agendas, such as improving facilities for cycling and walking, biodiversity, and ensuring access to green space for all. Planners can create more child-friendly environments if they take into account that for children to go outside they need time, space, and attitudes that support their use of public space.

Planning with children in mind can help fulfill other goals such as biodeversity and green space for all.   Shutterstock

My research suggests five key steps policymakers can take to improve the facilitation of children’s rights in the environment:

  1. Encourage and endorse children’s rights training for planners at both degree and professional level.
  2. Produce guidelines and methods for engaging with children.
  3. Create a robust and routine feedback practise between planners and children.
  4. Encourage networking, collaboration, and skills exchange between planners and childhood professionals.
  5. Collate an accessible evidence base on children, and their relationship to, and use of, the built environment.

Improving children’s rights in the built environment requires paying attention to both the process and the outcomes of planning. The environments we live in have a major impact on our routines and lifestyles, but they can be changed over time and include local communities, taking account of their needs.

Society has a vital opportunity here to seriously step up to create spaces and places that work for everyone. When determining what this looks like, the rights of the child are a clear and accessible barometer for progress, respecting the most vulnerable citizens now and in future.

But this can’t happen in isolation – what children need has to be integrated into all the other community needs under consideration. Playparks and skateparks are all very well, but if society is going to foster confidence and independence in children, the way environments are created has to put them at the centre of planning in the first place.The Conversation

Jenny Wood, Research Associate, Institute for Social Policy, Housing and Equalities Research, Heriot-Watt University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Posted in Active transport, Children, Cycling, Health, Safety, Walking | Leave a comment

Prioritise cyclists and pedestrians

Roads should be “safe, attractive and designed” to help people use their cars less says UK’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).


Getty Images

UK’s health watchdog has said that Pedestrians, cyclists and public transport should be give priority over cars when roads are built or upgraded, to encourage more physical activity.

It has issued a set of draft guidelines for planners and local authorities.

The Department for Transport said it supported such policies.

NICE cited concerns over obesity levels as well as research suggesting physical activity can prevent and manage chronic conditions and diseases – including some cancers, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and depression.

It said: “Transport systems and the wider built environment can influence people’s ability to be active.”

Read the full BBC report here.


Posted in Active transport, Cycling, Disability, Health, Motor cars, trucks, Safety, Sustainable development, Walking | Leave a comment

They saw it coming…

The car was always the cause of all the problems in our cities.

As we start the new year, let’s take a look back at how everyone knew the automobile was a menace, yet somehow let it take over anyway.

The automobile has ruined our cities — choking our streets and making our communities less livable.
But Americans who care about cities saw it coming from the very first days of the Age of the Automobile. Residents wrote to their local newspapers, begging lawmakers to not capitulate to motorists or car makers as they sought to turn public streets into free parking lots. Reporters covered the rise of private ownership of cars as a scourge on our cities. Judges decried what too many people today think is normal: streets clogged by privately owned single-occupancy vehicles in the public right of way.
Click here for the full article.


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Bikes for the disabled


Kevin Rahman-Daultrey, who has dyspraxia, said adapting bikes was a great idea

A great story courtesy

People with disabilities will be able to hire specially adapted bikes around Cardiff via an app as a public cycle share scheme expands across the city.

By this summer, 1,000 Nextbikes are set to be docked around the capital, double the number already on the streets.

Kevin Rahman-Daultrey, who has dyspraxia, said he would not be able to cycle without an adapted trike.

But while the scheme is popular, Cardiff council has admitted city cycle routes must be improved.

Read the full article here.

Posted in Active transport, Cycling, Disability, Safety | Leave a comment

Active Whitehorse News

The latest Active Whitehorse News is now online for you to read and enjoy.

46255867-melbourne-aus-apr-11-2014-traffic-on-degraves-street-one-of-melbourne-s-finest-laneway-environmentsFind out why Walkable Steets are More Economically Productive. This is backed by research  by the Heart Foundation and Transport for London.

How to help Build Strong Communities and how Councils can learn from “citizen experts”.

Road rage, trucks & bikes, a Metre Matters, NEL update and more.

Read Active Whitehorse News now and sign up to get it automatically every two months.

Posted in Active transport, Cycling, Health, Motor cars, trucks, Public transport, Sustainable development, Walking | Leave a comment