Articles tagged with: Human Geography

  • Build it and they will ride: Bicycle geography lessons for Toronto

    REPOSTED FROM THE CONVERSATION 
    December 17, 2018 | By Phillip Mackintosh

    To paraphrase urbanist James Howard Kunstler, Toronto city council is sleepwalking into the future. While 21st century Toronto’s shift to multi-modal transportation (public transit, automobiles, feet, bicycles, motor cycles, scooters, and skateboards, among others) is already under way, council stubbornly resists its formal implementation.

    We see the catastrophic results of city council’s inaction — negligence — every week. On Nov. 1, 2018, there were 16 vehicle/pedestrian collisions. This echoed another terrible 24-hour period in October of 2016, when 18 people were struck by motor vehicles. And still another in 2015, with 15 collisions in one day.

    Fatalities have risen from an average of 47 per year (2005-12) to 64 per year (2013-16), a consequence of the increase in people on automobilized streets. So far in 2018, 38 cyclists and pedestrians have died on Toronto streets.

    Part of the problem is that too many city councillors have repeatedly voted against bicyclists, bike lanes and multi-modality in general. One infamous and intractable (and now turfed) councillor said, “I do not believe bicycles should be on roads at all.” How odd. This is not what city councillors thought a century ago.

    An early attempt to envision multimodality, by the Toronto Civic Guild (Civic Guild Bulletin, Vol. 1 (June 1912): 10). Toronto Civic Guild, Author provided

    The ‘bicycle-friendly’ council

    At the beginning of the 20th century, Toronto city council embraced bicycles and their riders. City councillors worked with city engineers, bicycle clubs and the Canadian Wheelman’s Association (CWA) to pave streets with asphalt, organize cinder bicycle paths, pave and maintain the so-called “devil strips” (narrow strips of roadway between the opposite running streetcar tracks) and fix the interminable pot holes in the city’s ubiquitous cedar block roads. Council did this to encourage bicycling in a city where “tides of cyclists” used the streets. City councillors, many of whom were cyclists themselves, passed bylaws regulating cycling in 1895. These councillors appreciated that “the thousands of bicyclists of (the) city will hail with pleasure any move on part of the Council” to make the streets accessible to them.

    Why and how does the present city council not see the urban social geographic and economic utility of the bicycle? Likely because it needs a lesson in transportation geography — and it can’t get one soon enough. So here’s a simple, introductory concept: Build it and they will come.

    Traffic generation

    In 1900, Scribner’s magazine published a typically dry civil engineering piece by William Barclay Parsons, the chief engineer of the New York Rapid Transit Commission. In the article, Parsons imparted this transportation planning gem:

    “Whenever a new line has been built in New York, although the first effect may have been — but not always — to draw traffic from a parallel and near-by road, such withdrawal has been but temporary; and in a short time the natural growth of the city, stimulated by the new means of transportation offered, has been sufficient to provide requisite traffic for the new line and increased traffic for the old ones.”

    In other words, each time Parsons built a new subway line, he generated traffic on all the lines.

    This observation was not exclusive to Parsons. In his well-thumbed “Street Pavements and Paving Materials: A Manual of City Pavements” — also published in 1900 — Canadian road engineer George Tillson made a similar contention. Writing about the practices and problems of road paving, he insisted that:

    “It must be remembered that when any one road is selected to be made into a thoroughfare, traffic will be immediately diverted to it and the wear of the pavement abnormally increased.”

    For Tillson, the principle was: Pave it and they will come.

    American road-builder Robert Moses learned these same lessons through his automobility experiments in mid-20th century New York. He intuited that what Parsons was really talking about was traffic generation: the idea that a public transit line or, in his case, a highway, is constructed to increase traffic volume.

    Every time Moses built a road or bridge, traffic invariably choked it, and he would have to build another. This was intentional and he admitted it. As he said:

    “We wouldn’t have any American economy without the automobile business. That’s literally true… this is a great industry that has to go on, and has to keep on turning out cars and trucks and buses, and there have to be places for them to run. There have to be modern roads, modern arteries. Somebody’s got to build them …”

    So Moses and his road-building acolytes did, creating the automobile economy in the process.

    The transportation geography principle that Toronto Council must learn is this: build public transit and you will increase the demand for public transit routes and increase ridership. A public transit culture and economy will follow.

    Choose instead to build roads, and the principle remains the same: you will increase the demand for roads, and increase drivers and driving culture, resulting in an automobile economy.

    It works for bicycles, too…

    A cyclist rides past as workers lay down streetcar tracks at the Toronto intersection of Broadview and Queen. June 12, 1918. Arthur Goss/flickr, CC BY

    As Toronto undertook the arduous and contentious process of paving its streets with asphalt in the 1890s, the bicycle population swelled. The CWA estimated…

    Continue reading on The Conversation.

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  • New book builds bridge between mobility and social justice

    Having choices about when, where and how to move — and when to stay put — is at the core of mobility justice, a new concept that is developing at the nexus of mobility studies and social justice scholarship.

    A recently published book, Mobilities, Mobility Justice and Social Justice, edited by Nancy Cook, Associate Professor of Sociology, and David Butz, Professor of Geography, explores “the ways social inequities are constituted in relation to mobility,” says Cook.

    The newly established field of mobility studies looks at the differential flows of people, ideas, food and animals, and the related infrastructures that facilitate such uneven mobilities, such as roads, trains, airplanes, fibre optic cables and the internet.

    “Mobility justice is a concept developing in the mobilities literature that examines how differences in mobility capabilities can contribute to social inequalities,” says Cook.

    Mobilities, Mobility Justice and Social Justice, edited by Nancy Cook, Associate Professor of Sociology, and David Butz, Professor of Geography, explores how social inequities are constituted in relation to mobility.

    The topics and regions represented in the book exemplify the “deeply transdisciplinary nature” of mobility studies, she says. “It has put us in contact with a whole different set of scholars from all over the world who we didn’t have access to before.”

    Contributing authors, who come from philosophy, gender studies, communications studies, architecture, transport planning, public administration, geography and sociology, were asked to think about and analyze particular mobility-related injustices using specific social justice concepts.

    “This was to strengthen the justice focus of mobility analyses, and to bring thinking about the mobility-based aspects of injustice to social justice theorising,” says Cook.

    The result is a diverse collection of empirical case studies that illustrate how “different scales, types and facets of mobility interact with particular kinds of social relations to (re)produce inequalities,” she says. Chapters explore issues such as LGBTQ communities’ access to public space, global air travel, ferry service, urban cycling, forced migration, food waste and even tick migration.

    “Most chapters in the book are interested in access or impediments to movement, the way certain sorts of movement are imagined ideologically, and how that shapes people’s access to social justice or shapes inequitable social relations,” says Butz.

    Butz and Cook saw first-hand the social justice implications of mobility infrastructure in their SSHRC-funded research project on the Shimshal Road in Pakistan. During the road’s construction, locals looked forward to a time when they would not have to carry everything on their backs through the mountains. However, the effects of switching from a pedestrian to a vehicular mobility regime have been complicated.

    “We actually see a deepening of particular kinds of inequalities by age and gender,” says Cook. Men and students are “differentially benefitting” from access to this new mobility platform in relation to women and older adults.

    According to Butz, mobility justice is more than simple efficiency of movement.

    “We see social class and social advantage manifested in the way people travel. The trip from St. Catharines to Toronto is different for the person on the bus, in a car or on the Go train,” he says. “These experiences work into people’s identities and understandings of themselves in relation to the world.”

    Mobility justice is as much about staying in one place as it is about access to movement. It’s about the ability to make choices in relation to mobility. “Many commuters would prefer to work near where they live and not feel compelled to move,” says Cook. Infrastructure enables people to live far away from their jobs but relegates them to cheaper suburbs and long commutes.

    Like social justice, mobility justice is most often noticed in its absence.

    “We get at justice by looking at injustice,” he says. But there are movements towards mobility justice, at least for some people. “An accessibility regime at a university is a positive example of achieving social justice for a group through a focus on enabling their mobility.”

    The two say their interest in mobility justice emerged from and is supported by their work with the Social Justice and Equity Studies program and the Social Justice Research Institute.

    “Mobility justice has taken our research in a really new direction which has been very exciting,” says Cook.

    STORY REPOSTED FROM THE BROCK NEWS

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  • Geography student studies why some people live on the road

    STORY FROM THE TORONTO STAR | DEC 6, 2018

    Graduate student in the driver's seat of a van she bought for research

    Brock University graduate student Stephanie Murray studied movible communities in a van she bought on Kijiji. Photo by Stephanie Murray.

    When Stephanie Murray, a Geography master’s student at Brock University, set out on a two-month long journey across North America to study nomads and vanlife culture, she didn’t expect to find herself learning to surf, contributing to a documentary film, or being surrounded by a pack of angry stray dogs. But she quickly learned that life on the road is full of unexpected twists and turns.

    An avid traveller, Murray stumbled onto vanlife culture. She was fascinated by the people she met, and quickly realized that although nomads living in vans had been around for years, no one had studied them yet.

    “I knew there was a gap in academia that I could fill,” Murray says. “But if I wanted to truly study this culture, I needed to be able to live and move like they did.”

    “Lola” in the field during her two-month research journey across North America. Photo by Stephanie Murray.

    Using funding from Brock and a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) grant, she purchased a used van on Kijiji. Naming it Lola, she converted the vehicle into 66 square feet of living space. Then, over the summer of 2017, she drove to the west coast of the United States to attend “van gatherings,” events where people who live and travel in their vans get together to socialize and support one another. It’s a diverse group, says Murray. “One of the couples I spoke to worked remotely in IT, another couple ran a blog, and one of the other vanlifers was making money from a book he’d written. They’re a pretty talented bunch.”

    She was out to discover their motivation for giving up conventional lives and instead choosing a highly mobile lifestyle. “Our society is oriented towards people who stay in one place, and van nomads help to call that way of thinking into question.”

    “I have encountered so much kindness on the road,” Murray added. “People have welcomed me into their homes and helped me with my van, with no expectation of anything in return. And while the vanlifers I interviewed took up this lifestyle for a variety of reasons, they were united by a desire to choose their own path, rather than the one that’s handed down to them.”

    Murray was thankful that she received the full backing of the University during her time on the road.

    “Brock supported me fully from day one. And that support meant that I was able to do this research in the way it needed to be done — in person, on the road. I lived and moved alongside the people I was studying, and never once did I have to make any compromises that would have hurt the quality of my research. The University made sure I had the resources to do it right.”

    Master's student in the field during trip across north america. Standing in the foggy mountains.

    Research doesn’t have to happen in the lab. Photo by Stephanie Murray.

    Murray’s faculty supervisor and the Graduate Program Director of Geography at Brock,  Dr. David Butz, believed her research was novel and important, given today’s mobile society. Becoming a van nomad herself was pivotal.

    “This research strategy — and life choice — gives her research an unusually strong experiential and autobiographical component, which is rare in ‘mobilities’ research, and which adds to the distinctiveness and potential significance of her research,” says Butz. “We also felt Stephanie’s unusual research project, while logistically complicated, was worth supporting. We were confident about her capabilities based on her history with the University. At Brock, we encourage applications from good students and we’re willing to put funding behind that — and provide them with mentoring to apply for external funding.  Brock can offer lots of personalized attention to students.”

    Research doesn’t have to happen in a lab. There are interesting and exciting things going on around us everywhere, and at Brock University, unique postgraduate research projects in the community are encouraged.

    For her part, Murray is grateful for the support she received from Brock. “This research changed the course of my life, and it showed me that it’s possible to turn your passion into a ground-breaking research project,” she said. “If you have a clear vision of what you want to discover, Brock can help you on that pursuit.”

    Interested in studying in the Master of Arts in Geography program at Brock? Apply by February 15 to start next September.


    Story reposted from The Toronto Star

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  • Phillip Mackintosh nominated for Heritage Toronto award

    BY JEANNIE MACKINTOSH

     

    Phil Mackintosh in a library

    Newspaper City: Toronto’s Street Surfaces and the Liberal Press, 1860-1935 by Associate Professor of Geography and Tourism Studies Phillip Mackintosh is nominated for the 2018 Historical Writing award from Heritage Toronto.

    Associate Professor Phillip Gordon Mackintosh’s Newspaper City: Toronto’s Street Surfaces and the Liberal Press, 1860-1935 is nominated for the 2018 Historical Writing award from Heritage Toronto.

    This nomination “recognizes the importance of the history of Toronto’s streets, especially at a time of rampant condo development,” says Mackintosh, of Brock’s Department of Geography and Tourism Studies.

    Mackintosh says he “would love suburban politicians to read it to get some historical context for the continuing problems of automobilism on Toronto streets.” The “Fatal City” chapter, which he says was “horrific to write,” looks at Toronto’s engagement with the car and its catastrophic consequences for the city’s children. “The legacy of municipal inaction regarding pedestrian and cyclist safety reflects in the deaths we’re seeing now,” he says.

    Newspaper City, in part, tells the story of how the editors of Toronto’s liberal newspapers campaigned to pave the streets in an effort to modernize the city. But property owners by and large resisted the city’s mania for asphalt, intuiting that speeded-up streets would harm their children.

    On another level, the book reveals the challenges inherent in using newspapers as primary sources in historical research. After all, newspapers at the turn of the last century, like those of today, had agendas of their own. In Newspaper City, Mackintosh cautions that researchers must be alert to historical newspapers’ inherent but inconspicuous flaws.

    The Heritage Toronto Awards celebrate extraordinary contributions to the conservation and promotion of Toronto’s heritage. The 2018 Historical Writing award, which recognizes English language works of non-fiction, will be presented on October 29.

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  • Phillip Mackintosh’s Newspaper City nominated for Heritage Toronto award

    2017 - Mackintosh research - Newspaper City cover Phillip Mackintosh’s Newspaper City: Toronto’s Street Surfaces and the Liberal Press, 1860-1935 has been nominated for a Heritage Toronto book award for Historical Writing.

    Newspaper City tells the story of how the Toronto Globe and Toronto Daily Star campaigned for surface infrastructure improvements as liberal editors saw this as the leading expression of modern urbanity. This book traces the opinions expressed in news articles over 75 years to understand the conflict between newspaper editors and property owners who resisted paying for infrastructure improvements.

    Winners will be announced at the 2018 Heritage Toronto Awards Ceremony on Monday, October 29, 2018.

     

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  • Brock family’s music tradition grows into Cicada festival

    A music tradition that began in a Brock family’s backyard more than 20 years ago will have its sounds resonate across picturesque Henley Island this fall.

    Cicada Music & Arts Festival started as an annual gathering of family and friends at the St. Catharines home of Thom Lepp and Karin Perry, Brock’s Program Co-ordinator, Training and Development for the Faculty of Graduate Studies.

    The event began as a platform for budding neighbourhood musicians to share their craft, including Lepp and Perry’s son Evan, who is now a Brock Geography student.

    When the festival outgrew the backyard, Lepp organized the event at various Niagara venues.

    Although he passed away from cancer in 2017, the festival he created to foster young singer-songwriters continues in his honour. Three former Brock students — Ben Goerzen, Erik Dickson and Kaitlin Sanders — have taken up the challenge this year of organizing an expanded version of Cicada on Saturday, Oct. 13.

    The festival’s lineup features established Canadian musicians — including Juno Award-winning indie rockers Dan Mangan and Said the Whale, and powerhouse Terra Lightfoot — but, in keeping with the festival’s roots, also showcases several rising stars.

    All profits from Cicada Music & Arts this year will benefit research and awareness for prostate cancer and mental health through the Movember Foundation Canada.

    As a child, Goerzen used to perform on Lepp and Perry’s backyard stage. He has now taken on the role of Cicada’s director, while Dickson (BA ’11) is the festival’s artistic director and Sanders, who studied Economics at the University, is managing vendors and media relations.

    Goerzen, who studied Human Geography at Brock and later coached the women’s volleyball team, said Cicada exemplifies the concept of “Gemeinschaft,” a sense of community that he learned about from Associate Professor Chris Fullerton.

    “It’s how we define ourselves in spaces,” he said. “I see Cicada as a perfect example, people coming together and creating a sense of place.”

    A lifelong musician and local entrepreneur, Goerzen is driven by a passion for music and community. He credits his experience coaching at Brock for instilling in him crucial leadership and management skills he now brings to Cicada.

    Similarly, Dickson’s extracurricular activities provided valuable experience. After completing his studies in Political Science, he continued to work at Brock, acquiring marketing and graphic design skills on the job before transitioning to music promotion.

    The friends hope that Cicada will become a fixture in Niagara’s music scene and are already talking about what the festival might look like over the next five years.

    “I see this as an opportunity to give back to a community that has given so much to me,” Dickson said. “Brock brought me here, and Brock keeps me here.”

    For information on the event, to volunteer or to purchase tickets, visit the Cicada Festival website.

    STORY REPOSTED FROM THE BROCK NEWS

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