Tag Archives: Vancouver

Back in the Loop & Back to the Loop–The Nanaimo Bus Loop, That Is


I’ve got a couple of free hours this morning, and am using the free time to tie up loose ends from my last blog post, posted over two months ago–and to account for my long absence. I haven’t not posted something in this blog this long before, not even when my mother was in hospital for a few months last winter, initially gravely ill, and family matters took precedence over everything else. This time, it was working on the federal election, mainly, that prevented me from writing: I worked as a paid political surveyor for the three months leading up to the election. Contractual constraints prevented me from publicly discussing the work I was then doing–although I did sneak in one related, non-partisan, Tweet:

This really happened. I was tired (this tweet was sent at the improbable time of 6:11 AM because my workday began at the improbable time of 7 AM, and the hours were long) and heading home directly from work when the incident occurred, and the odd perception lasted for only a moment; but it made me think that, with sufficient repetition, it would be quite easy to alter the conceptual categories we usually use for sorting people–for better or for worse.

Besides my employment contract preventing me from writing about the work I was then doing, the long hours prevented me from writing virtually anything at all. Then, too, family matters following from my mother’s medical scare continued to take up considerable time. It’s probably a good thing that all this family friction has come out into the open when my mother is still very much alive –although here, too, although for very different reasons, I’m not at liberty to publicly discuss the details.

Now, back to the incident at the Nanaimo Bus Loop …. As I recounted back in August, I was levelled as I was exiting a small, portable, convenience store located at the Loop by an athletic young woman who was running to catch her bus, whose view of me was entirely blocked by her angle of approach in relation to the design and placement of the store. Although I initially thought I could have a broken or cracked pelvic bone, x-rays proved otherwise, and, although for a couple of weeks, my mobility was limited by severe pain from the soft tissue injuries I had incurred, I made a full recovery within a month.

Although my injury proved not to be very serious, I contacted TransLink, initially via email, at this stage with no thought of financial compensation, to help TransLink avert further incidents of this nature–or worse, related, incidents. For example, if I’d been elderly and physically frail, and was hit as hard as I was hit, I would surely have had at least a broken bone or two. A very young child could easily have been killed. Perhaps because they feared I had a hidden pecuniary agenda (I can’t think of any other reason for their behaviour), TransLink then refused to accept any culpability–even though it is stated in the guidelines for private vendors at TransLink locations, on the TransLink website, that TransLink is responsible for approving the design of, and supervising the installation of, stores and kiosks at TransLink locations.

I did take this to the next level, speaking in person for over an hour with a claims adjustor working on behalf of TransLink. (TransLink uses an external company for this kind of thing.) At this stage, I did ask for some financial compensation (just a couple of thousand dollars) mainly because I thought TransLink deserved some sort of punishment for the way I had been treated when I earlier tried to make my case via email–and because I had indeed lost a few days of work, and pay, because of the incident. Again, this time via a formal letter that I received a couple of weeks after meeting with the claims adjustor, my case was dismissed. Moreover, when I was last at the Nanaimo Bus Loop, just last week, I observed that no changes had been made in the design and/or placement of the portable convenience store at that location. The design and placement of the store in combination with pedestrian traffic patterns at the Nanaimo Bus Loop continue to present a serious hazard to transit users.

If money were my major concern, I’ve been told I could take this case to small claims court, and very likely receive some compensation. Although the money couldn’t hurt, I’m more concerned about TransLink taking responsibility where it is due, and about TransLink being diligent in trying to ensure that transit users can navigate its system without incurring bodily harm. I’m skipping small claims court; however, there are no contractual constraints in my relationship with TransLink, or any other good reasons, that prevent me from further commenting on social media about this incident.

Blindsided by TransLink at the Nanaimo Bus Loop

About two weeks ago, when I was exiting the mobile store at the Nanaimo bus loop, here in Vancouver, I was bowled over by a young woman running to catch a bus that was parked behind the store–where the bus in the above photo is situated. Initially, I assumed it was just this young woman who was responsible for the accident, running too fast in such an environment and not paying adequate attention to her surroundings. I took it for granted that the design and placement of the store in relation to pedestrian traffic were basically safe. Normally, we can take such things for granted. But when I returned to this location a few days later (on crutches), and really looked at the design and placement of the store in relation to pedestrian traffic, I could see the potential perils.

If the young woman had approached the store from the angle from which I took the above photo, and was unfamiliar with this odd little store, she would have been unable to discern that store customers exit (and enter) from behind the hinged door that directly faced her and not from the side of the store where, from this angle, there seems to be a passageway, suggested by the protruding curve. She may even have been unable to discern that this was a store, with any exiting (or entering) involved. The woman insisted when she stopped to help me get up that she had been unable to see me until the moment when she crashed into me, and now I’m inclined to believe this was the case–and that she wasn’t simply being a jerk.

From a somewhat different angle, such as the angle from which I took the next photo, there is less ambiguity–but still, the design and placement of the store in relation to pedestrian traffic leave much to be desired.

Although I initially thought I would be left with only a bad bruise on my hip from my fall, it turns out I was actually hurt quite badly. It wasn’t until I had hobbled to my bus and had sat down that I experienced those telltale signs that something was seriously amiss–nausea and light-headedness. (Usually it does take a minute or two to register these things.) I actually passed out for a few seconds, during which time the bus started to leave the station. (Even if I had thought at the time of getting names and phone numbers of the woman who had hit me and other witnesses, there really was no opportunity, short of jumping off the bus at the next stop and getting back on a bad leg.) The pain in my pelvic area was excruciating for the next couple of days, and I seriously thought I had broken a bone, although nothing showed up on the X-rays I had taken last week. The doctor who examined me then thought it was probably all soft tissue damage, although she did suggest I come back for more X-rays if the pain persisted–which I’m now thinking of doing.

It could have been much, much, worse. I could have fallen on my head, as opposed to my hip. Or, if a very elderly person had been exiting the store at the moment I was exiting it, and had fallen hard like I did, they almost certainly would have experienced serious fractures. Or, if a parent carrying a baby, or pushing a stroller, had been hit as I was hit, the consequences could have been truly tragic.

What really makes me mad about this is that TransLink, our public transportation authority, has refused to take any responsibility for what transpired. When I called TransLink to complain, I was told that TransLink has no responsibility for the design and placement of mobile businesses, like this little mobile store, to which they lease space. But since TransLink should be cognizant of pedestrian traffic patterns in facilities like the Nanaimo bus loop, and since they should be aware of the tendencies of able-bodied transit users to sometimes dash to make their buses and trains (in my better days, I’ve done some dashing myself)–to a greater extent than any vendor with limited transit knowledge to which they lease space–it seems that, for the safety of TransLink users, TransLink should be required to inspect the design and placement of these mobile structures and to exert veto power when necessary. Also, they should be required to take responsibility when something for which they are ultimately responsible goes awry.

I’m tempted to sue, but without names and numbers for the woman who knocked me over and other witnesses, I’m unlikely to have any luck. (When I went back to speak to speak with her, the woman who was then working in the store did clearly remember the incident, and me.)

Has anyone else had a similar experience on any TransLink property–or maybe on a transit property in another jurisdiction?

Too Polite for Words: Missing Joan Rivers in Vancouver

IMG_2724

I’ve elsewhere recounted in detail a very strange experience I had a couple of years ago when I was using my then-new iPad at my local branch of the Vancouver Public Library, with free WiFi, to catch an episode I’d missed of the TV show, Smash.  The short version is that I didn’t fully push the jack of my headset into its allotted slot so, although I thought I was listening to the hour-long show through the earbuds of my headset, I wasn’t.  The audio portion of the show–including the raucous musical numbers–was blaring through the section of the library in which I was sitting, loud enough so that I could hear it clearly even with what were effectively earplugs in my ears.  But none of the twenty or so people who, during that hour, were clearly positioned to hear the din and to discern its source said anything to me–not even the young, apparently tech-savvy, guy sitting across the library table from me using his portable computer, and not even the young woman, a part-time library employee, shelving books in that section of the library.  (The actual librarians were stationed around the corner, unable to see me and probably too far away to have heard much, if anything.) Both confirmed to me, when I was packing up to leave and discovered the jack was now completely detached from the iPad, that they had heard everything loud and clear.

Out of consideration for me, as much as out of consideration for themselves and for other patrons of the library, someone should have said something to me.  It was an embarrassing situation for me, not only because I was caught in a public place partaking of one of my private indulgences (although, as far private indulgences go, this was pretty tame) but also because I had been doing something really stupid, that goes against the basic principles of public library decorum.  I wouldn’t have minded at all if someone had tapped me on the shoulder and pointed out the problem, or even if someone had told me, bluntly, to shut the hell up.  Although most Vancouverites probably would regard the latter approach as extremely rude, and utterly unacceptable, I think of it more as outspokenness for the greater good. As I see it, it does far more damage to not tell someone something they need to be told than to provide them with the needed information, even in a somewhat harsh, to the point, manner. Thinking of the library incident in particular, a harsh, to the point, approach may actually have been best–followed, of course, by a good laugh by everyone concerned.

Although there are many things I like about my hometown of Vancouver, the excessive politeness of many of its citizens, that sometimes goes well beyond reasonableness, isn’t one of them. I’m not sure if what I have in mind should even be called ‘politeness’, since real politeness seems to require empathizing with others, and it’s empathy that seems to be lacking in these situations. Maybe what really bothers me is that most Vancouverites excel in the trappings of politeness, but a willingness to actually engage with others, or at least with those with whom one is not familiar, seems to be lacking. It’s a very strange, sometimes very disturbing, combination.  Since that library incident, and thinking about what had transpired, I’ve had many other strange experiences that seem to be related.

It’s quite likely that many, if not most, male Vancouverites never have experienced anything quite like my following example–at least on the receiving end of the situation–and, therefore, will find it hard to believe; but I think probably most female Vancouverites, especially those of a certain age (maybe 50 or older), have had many such experiences, although they may not interpret these experiences quite the way I do.  The example boils down to what may at first appear to be merely a widespread ineptitude among Vancouverites, particularly male Vancouverites, in opening doors for others.  You see, if you are a woman, and especially if you are a woman of a certain age, which I apparently have become in recent years, many ‘polite’ Vancouverites open doors for you as you are about to pass through—even if you are perfectly capable of opening those doors for yourself.  It’s a nice gesture–when it is done well.  But so often in this city, I’ve had the experience of someone opening a door for me ostensibly to make my passage easier yet actually blocking my passage, with their body or even with the door itself. It’s usually men who do this, although sometimes it’s also women, usually women younger than myself. It’s so very strange.

I don’t remember any such experiences from when I lived, for extended periods, in both Toronto and Montreal–although I was younger then, and fewer people were opening doors for me.  But even in my more recent travels outside of Vancouver, I’ve never experienced this phenomenon.  It seems to be just a Vancouver thing, to be experienced mainly, if not exclusively, by Vancouver females of a certain age–and, of course, by women of a certain age visiting our fair city, although, during a short stay they are likely to have such experiences only a couple of times at most, and to dismiss these experiences as bizarre anomalies. Take it from someone who lives here year-round, it’s not just an odd anomaly. Poor spacial perception, you say? I think not.  Or maybe just distractedness in a busy, bustling, city? There are other cities bigger and more bustling where this does not occur.  The high cost of housing in Vancouver resulting in Vancouverites not being able to afford proper eye care? That may be part of the problem, although only part of it.

The main problem seems to be a combination of Vancouverites in general excelling in the outward manifestations of politeness, including usually observing the nicety of opening a door for a woman of a certain age, yet not really connecting with the other person to be able to grasp the subtleties, such as that their ‘polite’ gesture of opening the door for someone else is actually blocking their way.

What is one to say in such a situation?  When this happens to me, I’m never really impolite. Although I may be fuming inside, I usually just tell the person in a resigned tone that they’re blocking my way, and ask them to move their body, or to adjust the position of the door, so I can get through.  That could be the Vancouverite in me. What such a situation, and others like them, may actually require is the harsh, to the point, approach, sometimes including even a rude word or two, so that people here will realize that their “kind gestures” sometimes aren’t actually polite at all, but consist merely of the trappings of politeness.

A post about this issue in my blog also may help to some extent; but, frankly, I think a few choice words, repeated at regular intervals over an extended period when such incidents occur would be far more effective.  In other words, we need more outspoken dames here–like the late Joan Rivers, who surely would have had something interesting to say in such ridiculous situations.

 

HMM . . . : The Humanities Without the ‘U’, Within our Public Libraries

20140624-125609-46569718.jpg

I’d be very curious to see a breakdown of the educational backgrounds of public-library users who currently borrow humanities-related material from our public libraries, and who attend public-library sponsored, humanities-related, events, like author readings and book-club meetings. I suspect it’s mostly people who have at least some post-secondary education in humanities-related areas who engage with the humanities through our public libraries–although I could be wrong. Proving this point would seem to be next to impossible since, as I learned when I enquired at my local branch of the Vancouver Public Library about obtaining a record of books that I, myself, had read during a period of some heavy reading (and before I kept a reading diary), for legal reasons, public libraries, at least in British Columbia, don’t even keep records of which books are read by individuals: apparently, it’s considered an invasion of privacy (although libraries always know the titles of the books that you return late).

Although I don’t have the statistics to back me up, my theory is that a humanities education at the post-secondary level whets people’s appetites for more–and that one of the ways (not the only way) adults with an interest in the humanities satisfy that interest is through use of public libraries. Conversely, my theory goes, those who didn’t study humanities-related subjects at the post-secondary level, even if they did participate in post-secondary education, are less likely to engage with the humanities later in life–including through using the humanities-related resources of public libraries. I would suggest that the educational experience is at least as important in keeping people engaged with the humanities later in life as is an early interest in this area that contributed to them studying the humanities in the first place. (At least back in the good old days, when university humanities degrees alone were still a great asset in obtaining employment, it seems many people enrolled in humanities programs more because they wanted the degree than because they were particularly interested–at least initially–in the subject matter. Also, math may not have been their forte, so the humanities it was.)

Also, getting back now to what I discussed my previous blog post, although there are now some serious problems with university and college humanities programs (including cost; career prospects for those who can afford to obtain only one degree; and, last but not least, philosophical and political turmoil), there also are some good things about a humanities education, for the individuals who received such an education and, dare I say, even for our society as a whole. For example, in Canada, that was culturally dwarfed by Britain and the United States for such a long time, a blossoming of Canadian culture, including Canadian literature and home-grown performing arts, occurred around the same time as the major expansion of Canadian universities, including our university humanities departments, in the 1960s and ’70s. These university humanities departments championed Canadian culture, and made it part of the basic curriculum for their students.

The ongoing decline in enrollment in university and college humanities departments may, therefore, have some serious negative longterm consequences–including not only in Canada, although this relatively young and relatively sparsely populated country of ours may need to be more concerned than most–unless other public institutions, such as our public libraries, can help to pick up the slack.

If you’re ready to engage with the humanities, a good public library–like our wonderful Vancouver Public Library–has everything you are likely to need. Obviously, there are all the books, including both hard copies and digital books, available on loan, all for free (assuming you return your books on time). Most public libraries today also provide free access to computers, as well as free Wi-Fi, enabling anyone with just basic computer literacy to do simple research about subjects of interest–including, perhaps, finding out more about the authors of books one has read and what else they may have written. But there is so much more than that, of which I doubt even most regular users of public libraries today are aware. I wasn’t fully aware myself of what our Vancouver Public Library has to offer in this area until I started to look into it in preparation for writing this piece.

For those of you who are interested, especially those of you in the Vancouver area, I would suggest having a good look at the Vancouver Public Library’s website.  All things considered, one could become just as knowledgeable in the humanities though self-directed ‘study’ at a public library like the VPL, perhaps with some assistance provided by its librarians, and perhaps also with some assistance from members of on-line chat groups, as one could through doing a BA in the humanities at a university. Also, as I noted in my previous post, the CNN correspondent, Fareed Zakaria, had mentioned in a college commencement speech he recently gave that improving his writing and oral communication skills were among the things he most valued from his own humanities education–quite apart from the content of the courses he took.  There are opportunities for these things, as well, at least at the Vancouver Public Library.

Our public libraries traditionally haven’t served as cheerleaders for the humanities, as such–although library literacy programs, encouraging and assisting people to read period, can provide a basis for helping them to explore, and appreciate, the humanities. But, now, and heading into the future, perhaps our public libraries need to increasingly take on that role. One possible programming addition (where it doesn’t already exist), is outreach programs to elementary and secondary schools, explaining to students all of the resources, especially humanities-related resources, available in their public libraries, and how they may access them. Also, larger budgets for advertising, in various media, may now be in order. For these kinds of programs and marketing enhancements to exist, however, adequate funding is required–and, now, more than ever, our libraries seem to require that funding.

Incidentally, the above picture is of the interior ‘Promenade’ of the Central branch of the Vancouver Public Library. This remarkable, award-winning, building was designed by the Israeli-Canadian architect, Moshe Safdie, who also designed the innovative housing complex, Habitat, for Expo 67 in Montreal.

Last Friday, the Promenade was being used for multicultural festivities for our upcoming Canada Day–including Scottish dancing.  (My surname, ‘Third’, is Scottish.)  Happy Canada Day everyone!

20140629-133854-49134703.jpg

Bluebells Blossoming in 5 Pics: What CAN’T be Done With Twitter’s New Picture Posting Feature

I earlier tried posting the following 4 pictures of bluebells squeezing up along the side of our house using the new Twitter picture posting feature that allows Twitter users to post up to 4 pictures in one Tweet.  Unfortunately, I ran into a problem with, basically speaking, aspect ratio.

Before my experiment, I’d seen some good examples of 4 rectangular pictures displayed in a 2 x 2 grid in my Twitter feed and thought my four matching pictures, taken at intervals over the past two months, would suit that format.  (I took the pictures thinking they could be the basis of some animation. Originally, I wasn’t planning to publicly display just these pictures.) The basic problem was I didn’t realize all rectangular pictures that preview in Twitter feed, whether single pictures or part of multi-picture groups, are displayed in a 2 to 1 aspect ratio.  Only when you click on the pictures do you see pictures that don’t actually have a 2 to 1 aspect ratio in full.  (Squares seem to be an exception. I’ve seen some 4-picture groups in preview mode consisting of square pictures.)  In preview mode, not only were the tops and bottoms of my pictures lopped off, but also they were lopped off unequally.  Pictures on Twitter, whether single pictures or part of multi-picture groups, are shifted upward when they are fit into the new frame(s).

I could have dealt with the distortion of the pictures in preview mode if, when the 4 pictures were opened up, they all appeared together.  But this doesn’t happen with the new feature.  The pictures appear only individually–so my intended effect of plants maturing over time was essentially lost.

I’m posting those pictures again here–and have added one final closeup picture at the end.  This still isn’t exactly what I wanted.  (I’m still trying to figure out side-by-side pictures in WordPress, to achieve my 2 x 2 grid. It’s not as easy as one would think. But many things aren’t . . . )  However, it is, I think, an improvement over the Twitter version–even without the closeup, that turned out well, if I do say so myself.

As I’ve learned from my experiment, if you want complete pictures to appear in the preview mode in Twitter feed, whether you are posting a single picture or multiple pictures, use a 2 to 1 aspect ratio for the original pictures (or maybe stick with squares). However, the distortion that occurs when pictures that don’t have that aspect ratio are fit into those rectangles in preview mode can sometimes work to good effect, to achieve surprise when you click on the pictures and open them up, or intrigue that compels people to click–if you know what you’re doing.

 

20140329-105940.jpg

January 19

20140329-110028.jpg

February 2

20140329-110114.jpg

March 4

March 29

March 29

20140330-111953.jpg

The Real Vancouver Bicycle Wars?: Urban Bicycles v. Two-Wheeled Toys for Big Boys

20140228-134118.jpg

How about mandatory bicycle registration–including mandatory liability insurance–just for the more powerful, faster, bikes that are becoming increasingly prevalent, and increasingly problematic, in Vancouver? 

A targeted bicycle registration program aimed at only faster, racing-style, bikes could serve as an indirect incentive for purchasing slower urban bicycles, that are much safer in the city. This also could minimize, if not entirely eliminate, the problem that occurred when Toronto tried bicycle registration a few years ago of children being found guilty of breaking the law when they forgot to, or were unable to, pay registration fees: kids generally ride less powerful bikes, so at least most of them wouldn’t have to register their bikes.

The administrative costs for such a program would be offset by safer streets and probably, ultimately, many more people, from many more demographic groups than is now the case, cycling in our city.

Just an idea.

(I created this picture using the ArtStudio app on my iPad, starting with just two photos of bikes from on-line catalogues. I think it turned out pretty well, if I do say so myself.)

Update: Pedestrians First for Vancouver, Including Point Grey Road

20140213-154331.jpg

Since publishing a post here last week about the repurposing of Vancouver’s Point Grey Road to create bike lanes, in which I suggested pedestrians should be Vancouver’s number one priority, I’ve learned that pedestrians already are officially the number one priority at Vancouver City Hall.

You’d never know it, though–unless you were corrected by a Vancouver City Councillor, as was I after publishing that post.

Subsequent to being informed of my error, I came across an interesting blog post published a couple of years ago that addresses the skewed priorities of Vancouver’s Mayor Robertson and his Vision party: “Pedestrians are an afterthought for Vancouver politicos.” Its author is Daniel Fontaine, the former Chief of Staff to Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan, our current Mayor’s immediate predecessor.  (In that post, Fontaine provides links to official policy information, including the excerpt I’ve pasted above.)