The Ford Pinto

Pinto, 48"x48", acrylic, on recovered plywood.

Pinto, 48″x48″, acrylic, on recovered plywood.

My memories of the Ford Pinto are from my Dad’s car pool pal “Curly” Kennedy who owned one. Curly was a giant of a man in many ways. As a boy, when I was sent out to tell him that my Dad would be right out, I would tease him about his car, which he always took with grace. I have a memory of his knees being at his chin sitting in the front of that Pinto. But the real joy of the job was to sit on the curb and talk with Curly before him and my Dad went to work when they were on the afternoon shift.

The 1970s were a hard time for the auto industry in North America. Cars where big, poorly manufactured and gas-guzzlers. The oil embargo in the Middle East and the strengthening market share of foreign imported cars, which were better on petrol with higher quality techniques in manufacturing, necessitated a massive rethink of car design in Detroit.

The Ford Pinto was a response to cheaper more fuel-efficient imports. The Pinto was Ford’s car to counter the enduring popularity of the Volkswagen Beetle, which is a testament to the enduring power of the bug which was designed in the early 1930s in Germany.

The Pinto was marketed as a “carefree” fuel-efficient car, like the pinto horse, a high utility animal with little demands. The car was piloted through the design phase by auto industry legend Lee Iacocca. Iacocca was also the driving force of the Ford Mustang and pushed for a minivan at Ford too, but had to realise the idea when he move to Chrysler with the Caravan. The Pinto was intended to be a car 2000 pounds and to sell for $2000. A car that was more affordable than a VW super beetle.

You can read more about the pinto here: Wikipedia on Ford Pinto 1971-1980

Of course, the most infamous part about the Pinto was the exploding gas tank. Ford became aware of the design defect, but decided against a recall of the car. A cost benefit analysis was done comparing the cost of recalling against the potential cost from the lost of life and property. Ford executives made the decision, that not recalling was a better business decisions despite the loss of life and suffering. One of the worst business decisions made by the auto sector it is used as a case study now on business ethics.

You can read more about it here, The Ford Pinto Case;

1970 Pontiac Station Wagon


There are a plethora of stories embedded in every car. Whether it’s the thinking behind the design or our personal tales of our relationship to the car, memories and histories are the substance of a fascinating narrative.

One of the more exciting cars that my family owned when I was growing up was the 1970 Pontiac station wagon. My  uncle Vernon had  a station wagon and it was a favourite activity to be allowed to rattle around in the back of that wagon on family visits. So when my Dad brought home a big green station wagon my sister, brother and me were thrilled. Our huge green wagon was no disappointment with an automated rear tailgate and even a rumble seat that allowed us to sit backwards and look out the rear window!

Station wagons back then were the equivalent of our mini vans: a domesticated utility vehicle. Like a contractor’s truck for carrying their tools, the station wagon is the workhorse of the suburbs and families, carrying kids and stuff. Not the most beautiful cars that were every built, but with a lot of cargo capacity to be sure.

The allure of the station wagon was based on its cargo capacity and mobility. This was a generation of cars that not just promised to get you somewhere, but also with the ability to bring a lot of stuff with you. Car camping and the family vacation were the dreams of this vehicle. The station wagon’s position in the suburb was a form of latent desire to escape to nature.

The expansion of freeways across North American induced a desire to go anywhere. The freeways paradoxically both transformed the landscape and gave us access to remote areas that for generations where inaccessible. The promise of the post war industrial culture was a well-paid job and leisure time and the station wagon was a symbol of this promise.

My Dad had 3 weeks off every summer, which was a real treat. We would go away camping often and it was a journey we looked forward to all year. We would carry a little sailboat on roof racks on the top, pull a small aluminum boat on a trailer, packed with camping equipment and fill the station wagon to its roof with our personal possessions. Essentially we carried a smaller more compact version of our home and take this on the road.

One of my fondest memories was when we were going on vacation and we packed up the station wagon the night before my Dad’s last day at work. My Mom would drive the car from Hamilton to Oakville and park it on the side of the highway beside the Ford plant. When my Dad was done his shift, he ran across the field and hopped the fence and we started our summer camping vacation. It was a beautiful thing.

Jim Deva Plaza and Davie Village public space improvements

photos of Jim and the plaza

Whenever I climb a ladder I think of Jim Deva and remind myself to be careful. Jim died in a tragic accident, falling off a ladder while pruning a tree at his home. His death was a shocking surprise to everyone.

Jim was a hero to many of us and the undisputed mayor of the West End and particularly the Davie Village. Jim was a trail blazer of human rights. There weren’t too many projects and issues in the West End that Jim was not participating in. I respected his opinion in all things and feel privileged to have known him and had the chance to participate in a few projects with him!

The city of Vancouver is proposing naming a public plaza after Jim on the south side of Bute St. at Davie St. The proposed plaza will be at the heart of the Davie Village and the LGBTQ community. The plaza is just half a block from Little Sisters Book store one of Jim’s legacy of his life.
CoV report the new plaza


I whole heartily support the naming of the plaza for Jim. I am also super keen on the idea of creating more public space in Vancouver for people.

This plaza has a “Living Legacy Statement” which states:

A safe space, inspired by Jim Deva’s lifelong passion for freedom of sexuality,

gender diversity, and the fight against censorship. Where LGBTQ people and

allies can meet, share ideas freely, dare to dream, and love unapologetically.

The plaza will have a speaker’s corner to commemorate Jim’s life long passion for the protection of freedom of speech. There will also be a drinking fountain and water bowl for dogs as Jim was a huge lover of dogs.

Two innovative features of the plaza that are interesting and could be models for Vancouver are the idea of an “outdoor museum” and a “plaza stewardship” group.

The proposed plaza in the West End will be an added asset creating more public space for residents and visitors. Think of all the new friendships and social connections that will be made in the Jim Deva Plaza!




What is going on in Kits?

kits_peoplepathCan anyone tell me what is going on here? It seems pretty vindictive, futile and a waste of staff time. Late in summer out of the blue the Vancouver Park Board put up barriers on a little path near the Kits pool that people have been riding and walking on for years. Rather than go to the corner of Balsam and Cornwall St. folks have been taking a little shortcut which is faster and safer to get to a paved path at the edge of the park. I wonder how much a little project like this cost? My bet is folks can be pretty stubborn about their favourite little paths.

Are painted lines enough for S.W. Marine Drive one of the marquee rides of Vancouver?

S.W. MarineDrUpgradesWR

The City of Vancouver (Cov) is proposing upgrades to the bike route on South West Marine Dr. Here is the staff report for the full details of the project. Here

One of the great cycle routes in the City of Vancouver is SW Marine Drive. S.W. Marine Dr. is designated a bike route by the city, connecting UBC and the Endowment lands to Granville St.. This iconic ride is one the best in Vancouver. But the bike path is fraught with unacceptable risk that need fixing.

Strava is an online site for logging and sharing rides and runs. The site uses data from smart phones and GPS devices and is very popular with road cyclist. Strava states that there where 140 million runs in rides in Vancouver between Jan. 2014 and May 2015! If you look at the “heat maps” that Strava generates you can see that SW Marine Dr. is a popular route the city.Heat Map

The bike path on SW Marine Dr. is non existent in some places and very narrow in other places. In addition to the variability of the width is the condition of the surface with many patches, bumps and holes that really require riders to pay careful attention to the road conditions. More importantly is the path’s proximity to the road and the lack of physical separation. There are many large trucks and buses that use this route. Also, there are high volumes of traffic on this road because it is an arterial road and is an important route in the context of Metro Van traffic management.

Particularly at intersections where there is no left hand turn bays, people driving cars regularly and recklessly drop to the right into the bike lane to get around left turning cars. This is one of the biggest dangers to folks riding bikes on this route. There is also a significant risk with the number of cars that park along this route and the potential to get doored.

The City of Vancouver states: “From 2009 through 2013 (5 year period),there were twenty-six (26) collisions that involved vehicle traffic and people cycling along Southwest Marine Drive approximately six collisions per year).The collisions attributed to factors such as vehicle dooring and parking in the bike lane, drivers passing too closely to people biking, and vehicles turning at intersections or in and out of driveways”

proposed road design for SW Marine Dr.WPClearly this route needs upgrades. In fact the bike route does not meet the CoV design guidelines and if not improved should be dropped as a designated bike path. However city staff are not recommending full separation and triple A upgrades that would be suitable for “all ages and abilities”. The reasons for the proposed upgrades to the route are because Metro Van is upgrading the road and it was view by engineering staff as a opportunity to improve riding conditions in the area in a more cost effective way.

CoV staff are not supportive of full separation because of the following reasons:

“Any widening beyond the proposed bikeway improvements would have significant impacts on costs, trees, and utility relocations as well as introduce substantial delays to project implementation”. (for more details see page 8 of the CoV report. Estimated cost for AAA path is $11 m! )

It is a bit disappointing at this time that a full upgrade is not possible, as this area would be great for families to ride around in, there are some beautiful rides down on the Fraser River. The proposed design upgrades will make incremental improvements to cycling conditions in the area. The city is planning on spending $3.1 million on this project. The proposed design is to construct a path that has consistent width of 1.8 m. $200 k is ear marked for high risk area such as intersections and corners where full concrete barriers will be deployed so cars can’t move right into the bike lane!



Expansion of bike lane network in Vancouver with the inclusion of skate boarders


Vancouver council is poised for another expansion of its bike lane network.

CoV Report

This is welcomed news for folks who are a bit tentative in their cycling through the city because they feel unsafe while riding. I know with my family that there has been a sea change in how much my wife and two daughters cycle with the separated bike lanes that have been built in the last couple of years. I can only imagine that they will be riding more with the new expansion of the bike lane network, which bodes well for a happy and healthy lifestyle for our family.

In addition to cycling feeling and being safer I think my family is riding more because riding to many locations is fastest and safest way to travel in Vancouver. Once you get your head around riding it’s a lot more fun than other modes.

My families trend of increased cycling is also borne out in the whole city where cycle trips are up 16%

A new feature for the expansion of the bike lane network is a recommendation for the inclusion of skateboarders in the lanes. Skateboarders will be welcomed to the bike lanes of Vancouver with some bylaw changes and new conditions of their use. I think there is still lots of room in the bike tracks for boarder so lets give it a try. With the construction of the bike network in Vancouver I have seen new users to the lanes like folks in wheel chairs and electric chairs. I think it’s cool and really speaks the triple A ambitions of separated bike lanes for all ages and abilities.

I am also encourage to see that the city of Vancouver are prepared to be nimble and create routes and enhance connections with new developments in communities. The reports states: “The City will also expand the network elsewhere as opportunities arise, for example through redevelopment, repaving, or other construction projects”

This is important because in the next five years there could be new rezoning developments that would require the building of new routes as new buildings are built. For example in the West End on Alberni and Georgia St. there are a number of re-zoning possibilities that are proposed or would come forward that would allow for funding for some good infrastructure for people walking and riding bikes. It would really be smart for the city to enhance the public realm before these buildings are completed and the DCLs and CACs could pay for the projects!

Desire lines


“Desire lines” is a term coined by the French Philosopher Gaston Bachelard, which refers to “ the psychological, physical need to get from one place to the next”.
While paths are carefully designed by landscape architects in public spaces, often the lived experiences of the folks that use these spaces take over and create their own paths.

The interesting thing about “desire lines” is how they speak to the intelligence of the real life experiences of people who use those spaces. Paths are documents of a complex human behaviour that is etched on the landscape. Trails and paths are the expression of a collective attempt to get to a destination in the fastest and safest manner. Before we had armies of civil engineers laying out roads and sidewalks there were paths.

Interestingly paths are protected in English common law by a “right of way easement” which protects the use of common and private land for transportation purposes. Wikipedia

From an urban design perspective paths and desire lines can be a very good guide to where folks want to move. But also these paths represent a stubborn will to use a space in a certain way and to change this pattern of use can be costly and futile.

I love this little path just past #englishbay on the #seawall #vancouver #desirelines #bikeyvr #biketracks

A video posted by brent granby (@brentgranby) on

What is architecture?

1550 AlberniWR1550 Alberni St. project at Urban design Panel, Westbank and Kengo Kuma

Wednesday, December 2, 2015, 3 pm, Vancouver City Hall, Town Hall Meeting Room.

With the recent open house for the Westbank project of Kengo Kuma’s building on 1550 Alberni and with the same project scheduled for a public review at Vancouver’s Urban design panel, I have been thinking about architecture. With this in mind I dipped into some my old university readings with Kenneth Frampton’s Modern Architecture: a critical history. Sadly there was no mention of Kuma, but also none on Frank Gehry, which made me realize that since 1985 there have been some significant changes in the field.

Another realization is that Kenneth Frampton is still alive and going strong. Frampton’s seminal introduction to modern architect was updated in 2007 with small entries on Kuma’s work. Even more impressive is he has another book scheduled to be released this year, A Genealogy of Modern Architecture. Frampton also has a whole book dedicated to the study of Kengo Kuma’s work.

I can’t wait to hear what the Urban design panel has to say about his work with respect to his project in Vancouver. Here are the document for the Vancouver project

If you are interest here is a little video clip of Frampton on what is architecture:

Is parking in the West End driving you crazy?


The City of Vancouver wants your help to make parking in the West End better. Fill out the following survey and help?

If you live in a densely populated community there is hardly anything more frustrating than parking. For the past 50 years as the rise of the personal ownership of cars has developed more and more public space as been dedicated to it. Whether you are trying to find parking or thinking about other uses for public space in cities, parking can be the bane of your existence. But why? Surely there are solutions to making the parking of cars in the city work better for everyone.

During the recent community planning process in the West End city staff heard that parking was a “serious issue” for residents. As a result of the community planning process the city has undertaking a study of parking in the West End with the goal of “to make it easier for people living in or visiting the West End permit zone to find parking—in the process reducing inconvenience, congestion, pollution, and safety risks—in ways that don’t encourage more driving, and that consider impacts to overall affordability.”

Living in the West End is a wonderful experience. It is a very walkable community. Many folks in West End don’t own cars, hardly use them or participate in car sharing. Still for the past 50 years vast amounts of parking spaces have been built in public buildings, commercial buildings and in private residents. In addition there is metered parking on the high streets, West End permit areas and free visitor parking. So why is parking such a hassle?


Parking Facts in the West End


  • There are over 6,000 active West End parking permits at any given time and only 2,700 on-street spaces.
  • On-street permits cost about $6 per month, compared to $25 to $100 or more per month for off-street parking.
  • If every car parked in off-street spaces, the parking would only be three-quarters full.
  • Many buildings have lots of unused parking spaces, often next to buildings with little or no on-site parking.
  • There are fewer than two on-street visitor parking spaces for every 100 households in the West End.

While living in the West End is great, imagine if you had a community garden plot, wider sidewalks with seating and more safety while riding and walking. These great benefits are why getting parking right in the West End is so important. If we price parking “right:” there could be more space to do other things than parking cars and the real kicker to this deal is it would mean less time to find a parking spot for you and your guest visiting the West End.

One only has to think of the Mole Hill community garden to realize all the wonderful spaces that can be made in Vancouver for residents if we think of parking in a different way.

Molehill Laneway

Crazy facts about parking in the West End


  • During busy periods, it takes residents about 5 minutes to find parking on the street, including over a kilometre of extra driving.
  • For visitors, the problem is worse, taking about 10 minutes to find parking, including almost 3 kilometres of extra driving. 
  • Parking affects everyone in the community. Even if you don’t drive, you probably have visitors and service providers who do. And people driving in circles looking for parking increases traffic, pollution, and safety risks.

 For more info on parking in the West End visit



Tearing down a highway to enjoy more urban benefits

1creekside parkThe removal of the viaducts in Vancouver is an exciting opportunity that will surpass the significance of not building a highway through the city. While Toronto seems stuck with its elevated “freeway” cutting off the city from the lake, Vancouver has a tremendous opportunity to right a bit of terrible urban planning and highway engineering that tore apart communities. If the Viaducts are removed there is a chance to do a lot of city building including more park space, affordable housing and better transportation infrastructure. And what is not to like about taking down a bit of concrete to build a park?

The time to do this project is urgently needed now as the cost of seismically upgrading the structures or demolishing them will continued to increase and there is still a lot of detailed planning to be done.

The removal the viaducts will be funded in a variety of ways including development revenues such as Development Cost Levies (DCL) and Community Amenity Contributions (CAC), partnerships, the capital plan and by other levels of government.

A part from the cost of the project there are many exciting benefits that the project will provide to Vancouver.

 Some of the potential merits of taking down the viaducts are:

-more park space

-a more efficient replacement road network that has the ability to accommodate growth

– a replacement street network would provide new opportunities for future streetcar service

-more affordable housing

-more childcare

-better infrastructure for people walking and riding bikes.

-potential for positive health out comes for residents of Vancouver

-new transit routes

-more connectivity between neighbourhoods

-more opportunity for cool urban design like a dedicated pedestrian and cycling bridge

-a new programmable gathering space for major public events

-an opportunity to reconcile the cultural history of the area.

-a mini “high line” park

Vancouver traffic engineers will fully replace the capacity of the viaducts with a new road network, which means we will be taking different routes and modes than we do now, but with whole lot more benefits than what we are enjoying now.

Here is the full staff report:

Photos of the viaducts and the area: