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Trees, roads and bikes: urban design thoughts for Surrey

February 17, 2012

Paoli PA 072107 006
(Photo courtesy jpmueller99/flickr creative commons)

Had a bit of a meander through @urbandata‘s twitter stream today and found some interesting bits and pieces that I thought had some relevance to the fair city of Surrey. …

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Here’s a story from earlier in the month from the Cleveland Plain Dealer, which focuses on some patterns which are emerging in how young people get around. Ostensibly, the notion, which was first reported by the Victoria Transport Policy Insitute, is that young people highly value the type of neighbourhood generated by an increased reliance on commuter rail.

Further, the piece points out that this purported shift away from the heavy car usage of their parents’ generation is leading to a major decline in transportation tax revenues. In Ohio, 99 per cent of those revenues are ploughed back into road construction, at least according to the piece.

The decline in driving is also blamed on high fuel costs. As a result, it is suggested, increased investment in roads is foolish over the long term – people don’t want to use these extra roads and there isn’t nearly enough money to pay for either construction or on-going maintenance.

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Also interesting is this collection of numbers from the US Forest Service. There are facts and figures ranging from the positive influence trees have on property values to the positive atmosphere they bring to streets and other public spaces, but a couple things really stand out.

First of all, the USFS suggests that an ‘urban forest’ of 10,000 trees retains as much 38 million litres of water in the soil, per year. It’s a principle many of us are familiar with – especially in a province with a long history of clear cuts – but to see such stark numbers is powerful. (As a reference point, Stanley Park has an estimated 150,000 trees.)

Also intriguing is the concept of the ‘complete street.’ Trees are a strong signifier for the existence of such a street, which promotes   walking and cycling as alternative modes of transportation.

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Last, I enjoyed this fun idea from Holland: a kid-powered cycle-bus! For US$15,000, 11 kids can combine their energies and ride collectively to school. (Also interesting, almost half of Holland’s daily travel is made by bike.)

-Johnston

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