In the harbour
1. No charges in cyclist’s death
A police release issued yesterday:
Halifax Regional Police has concluded the investigation into a fatal motor vehicle collision that occurred last week in Halifax.
On October 7 at approximately 8:40 a.m. officers responded to a vehicle/cyclist collision at the intersection of Herring Cove Road and Purcells Cove Road. A female cyclist who was travelling on Herring Cove Road collided with a propane truck making a lawful right-hand turn from Herring Cove Road onto Purcells Cove Road. The cyclist, 49-year-old Loresa Makonin of Halifax, died as a result of her injuries.
The investigation by the Collision Investigation Unit determined that no charges will be laid against the driver of the truck, as he did not violate the Motor Vehicle Act.
2. Free advertising
The news biz is struggling as it tries to find a new business model, but for some reason Metro seems to think it’s a good idea to give free advertising to Bubba Ray’s.
3. Wild Kingdom
“Researchers from Dalhousie University in Halifax are hoping technology will help them learn more about some underwater giants living off the East Coast,” reports Paul Palmeter of the CBC:
[Fred Whoriskey, executive producer of Dalhousie’s Ocean Tracking Network] and Chris Harvey-Clark, Dalhousie University’s Director of Animal Care, say implanting the tag in the fish means they will be able to get data on its activities for the rest of this calendar year.
“We know almost nothing about it. I mean anything that a Grade 3 class would ask you: how old do they get? Where do they go? Where do they reproduce? How many are there? We don’t know anything about this animal,” said Harvey-Clark.
“This satellite tag that we put on the animal on Sunday is basically going to tell us: where it goes, how deep it goes, the water temperature — for the next 3 months.”
1. Commemorating the Explosion
I’m not sure why — maybe the federal election is sapping everyone’s energy — but the local commentariat has been exceedingly quiet of late. So I thought I’d fill this space with my own opinion, and the Halifax Explosion commemoration efforts give me the excuse.
I’ve been very worried that commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Explosion will go off the rails. I fear that we’ll get a thousand different stories about some guy tapping on a telegraph, and nothing much else. And in fact, so far we’ve gotten talk of an Explosion emblem, an Explosion song, and an Explosion legacy fund— a vehicle for doling out money to community groups, presumably so they can tell stories about some guy tapping on a telegraph. That’s not to denigrate the heroism of Vincent Coleman, just the Explosion is about so much more.
So I’m heartened to see the city thinking about how Fort Needham Park fits into the Explosion commemoration. The park, explains a staff report, “is the most notable site associated with the Halifax Explosion. It is located within the epicentre of the devastated area. The Halifax Relief Commission donated the park as a continuing memorial to the Halifax Explosion.”
The park, however:
suffers from a loss of focus of its original purpose. In addition, the park has not achieved its full potential in satisfying the broader objectives of a regional park to better present its cultural and heritage offerings. Fort Needham is a hilltop park with inherent challenges of lack of visibility from the street and steep grades that impede access. Over the years the park has evolved in an ad-hoc fashion resulting in poorly sited facilities that disrupts the circulation and views into and out of the park.
The staff report goes on to make a series of sensible recommendations about improving access to the park: making the entrances a little less steep, creating a more welcoming interface with Novalea Drive, and giving some coherency to the recreational facilities in the park, that is, to “develop a central hub of activity for community recreation related amenities such as the playgrounds, community gardens, and seating areas off the neighbourhood entrance on Needham Street.” All good.
The problem arises at the Bell Tower, which was constructed in the 1980s. The Bell Tower is one of the very few examples of brutalism that actually works architecturally. It needs more attention and maintenance — half the bells were left broken for something like 20 years, until they were repaired a few years ago, and every year the wreaths set up on December 6 are left to go ragged and brown until the next spring — but the basic idea of the tower as a focal point for commemorating the Explosion makes sense. The plan calls for sprucing up the general area around it. But then there’s this:
The Halifax Memorial Bell Tower, built in 1984, was deliberately located on an axis with a view down Richmond Street to the point of the explosion in the harbour. With recent construction in the Halifax shipyard, this sightline has been obstructed. The master plan proposes to reveal a new relationship of the park to the explosion site in the harbour with a curved path that follows the radius from the point of the explosion blast. This curved esplanade becomes the main access spine along the western edge of the hill, a memorial walk where views of the city are captured, and important stories are conveyed. Concentric rings which represent the shockwaves that would have radiated from the centre of the blast will be represented in the shaping of the ground.
After the Bell Tower, the most important feature of the park was the break in the trees that provided the sightline from the tower to the site of the Explosion. That break in the trees was accentuated with a pathway and steps leading down to Barrington Street. I’m not one for sentimentality, but walking up the hill along the pathway provided a sort of psychic realization of the Explosion, each laboured step somehow drawing attention to the enormity of the tragedy, and getting to the top and reading the plaques in the shadow of the tower while looking back down to the site of the Explosion brought a solemnity that is far too often missing from such public commemorations. It was a great experience, a great park. I used to bring visitors to town to the site, precisely for the experience.
And now it’s gone.
The thousands killed and maimed in the Halifax Explosion were collateral damage, civilian victims of the war raging in Europe. All wars are to some degree inane, but World War 1 was the most pointless, absurd and — let’s call it properly — idiotic war in all human history. There was nothing heroic about it. Nothing good. The thousands killed in Halifax were felled by nationalism run amok, militarism unfettered by responsibility, men stupidly pounding their chests.
And now the beautiful commemoration of the pointless deaths in Halifax has been destroyed by a national and local obsession with building more weapons of war. “Building those warships will make us rich!” cried provincial and municipal politicians, and just to make sure we understood, they embarked on an enormous PR campaign to drive the message home. Regular people put “Ships Start Here” signs on the lawns, in the windows of their businesses, demonstrating their allegiance to the cause. Somehow the downside of militarism, the slaughter, the deaths, the exploded cities and the fall out that comes with it all — the shellshocked, the suicidal, the broken families and the social discord that never, ever ends after war — was ignored. Nobody even noticed that in the rush to prepare for and profit from the next war, the commemoration to those felled in a previous war was destroyed.
That’s how war goes: You can’t start a new one until you obliterate the lessons of the last one.
I don’t fault park planners for trying to make the best of a bad situation. But let’s be clear: the focal point of the proposed “curved esplanade” is not the Explosion, but rather the industrial machine gearing up for the next war.
It starts here.
2. Cranky letter of the day
It seems to me that riding a bicycle on the road with your back to traffic in the Halifax-Dartmouth area has proven to be a recipe for disaster. How many more need to die before we look at a safer alternative?
With the exception of downtown Halifax and maybe Spring Garden Road, I notice that our sidewalks are vastly underutilized. I drive from Timberlea to Halifax on the St. Margarets Bay Road and see maybe two or three people on the sidewalk.
I recently drove from the MacKay bridge to the Dartmouth General Hospital via Windmill Road and Pleasant Street and the sidewalks were virtually empty. Wouldn’t it make more sense for bikes to share those sidewalks with pedestrians?
Bikes can yield to the occasional pedestrian just as vehicles have to do now for bikes on the street. On the rare occasion where bike and pedestrian bumped each other, the result would be far less traumatic than vehicle vs. bike. No one would lose his life.
In places like Spring Garden Road where riding on the sidewalk is impractical, the sidewalk could be painted with a “No bikes” sign.
Alowing bikes and pedestrians to share the sidewalk would save lives.
Leo Higgins, Timberlea
Editor’s note: It is…oh, never mind.
Special Events Advisory Committee (9am, City Hall) — the We Day scam continues. Send hate mail to: Why Do You Hate Children????? PO Box 463, Halifax, NS, B3J 2P8.
Halifax & West Community Council (6pm, City Hall) — the council will be looking at issues related to Point Pleasant Park.
Community Facility Master Plan Information Session (6:30pm, Bedford-Hammonds Plains Community Centre) — more info here.
Public Accounts (9am, Province House) — the discussion today is about the Auditor General’s report on Aquaculture Monitoring. Kim MacNeil, Deputy Minister of the Departments of Fisheries and Aquaculture, and Frances Martin, Deputy Minister of the Department of Environment, will be questioned.
Animating Mi’kmaw humanities in Atlantic universities (9:30am, LSC, Room C238) — more info at the event listing.
Command F (10am, Slonim Conference Room, room 430, Goldberg Computer Science Building) — Dan Russell will speak on “Design for searching and finding.” (I think it’s Control F on a PC, but it’s been a while.)
Seasonal forecasting (11am, MA310) — Nova Scotia Crystal, which has gone through bankruptcy and has received lots of government subsidies, is used as an example of the success of “production planning Decision Support System.” OK.
Sino–Canadian relations (12:30pm, Lord Dalhousie Room) — Hao Qian, from Shanghai International Studies University, will speak.
Brains (4pm, Theatre A, Sir Charles Tupper Medical Building Link) — Angelo Iulianella will speak on “The making of a brain: molecular and cellular mechanisms of neural development.”
Not Criminally Responsible (6pm, Halifax Central Library) — John Kastner’s film about:
violence, mental illness, and the rights of victims tells the story of a troubled young man who stabbed a complete stranger 6 times in a crowded shopping mall while gripped by psychosis. Twelve years later, his victim, who miraculously survived, is terrified to learn that he’s out, living in the community under supervision. He’s applying for an absolute discharge, and if he succeeds, he’ll no longer be required to take the anti-psychotic drugs that control his mental illness. With unprecedented access to the patient, the victim, and the mental institution, the film looks at both sides of the debate and puts a human face on the complex ethical issues raised.
Lawrence Scanlan (7pm, Killam Library, Archives and Special Collections Reading Room, 5th Floor) — Scanlan is author of A Year of Living Generously:
A Year of Living Generously, follows Lawrence as he volunteers with 12 different charities, among them well-known institutions Habitat for Humanity, the St. Vincent de Paul Society and Canadian Crossroads. Drawing from first-hand experiences, he tests the ideas and theories on global aid and charity and makes a compelling case for greater commitment and real connection, in the form of on-the-ground volunteer work, from us all.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (8pm, Dalhousie Art Gallery) — the classic 1956 film by director Don Siegel. Not to make a big deal out of it, but this is a true story.
In the harbour
ZIM Savannah, container ship, New York to Pier 42, then sails to sea
ZIM Tarragona, container ship, Valencia, Spain to Pier 41, then to sea
BW Panther, chemical tanker, Port Arthur, Texas to Imperial Oil
BBC Maple Lea sails to sea
Alpine Duke sails to sea
The cruise ships Serenade of the Seas (up to 2,490 passengers) and Saga Sapphire (up to 1,158 passengers) are in port today. The Pearl Mist stayed overnight and is leaving this morning.
I woke up at 4am this morning to write… assuming I can stay awake, I’ll be on The Sheldon MacLeod Show, News 95.7 FM, at 4pm.
This seems to be an unfortunate argument. In some ways similar to the Trudeau v Mulcair fiasco.
Are we not missing the true problem? The effects of cars, as with Stephen Harper prime ministership, is the real problem.
Every road with a boulevard down the middle, could have 3 ft taken off each side in order to widen the road and provide a safe bike lane… that will not fix the problem for all streets but it would fix some. Perhaps a few streets heading into the core could be made into a bicycle only freeways, with only local motor vehicle traffic allowed at any time?
Vandals have ripped off most of the brass plaques at the site – presumably for scrap value.
Same all over as deference and greed decrease and increase. Most plaques left in public in quiet places must now consider being replaced by resin based material with no resale value.
Sad but necessary.
I have a somewhat frustrating anecdote regarding biking on the sidewalk.
A couple years ago I was biking through the intersection at Robie and Cunard going towards Windsor. There are always cars parked on the side of the road on Cunard, so bikers have to merge with the car traffic for a bit. Even though I was ahead of the cars when entering the intersection and had right of way, all the cars passed me and blocked me from going around the parked cars. It’s a busy intersection and I was stuck, so I hopped up onto the sidewalk to make sure that I wasn’t just a stationary biker in the road waiting to be blindsided by a vehicle.
Immediately an officer in a police van screamed at me over their loudspeaker to “GET OFF THE SIDEWALK.” So I did, where I sat stationary behind some parked cars waiting while no one let me merge into traffic.
A week later I was biking north on Robie at night, hoping to hell an 18 wheeler or something didn’t crush me, but afraid to bike on the completely empty sidewalk for fear of police repercussions. Two bike cops went past me, biking on the sidewalk, and dinged their bells at me as if to say “hi” to a fellow biker. I wanted to scream at them to “GET OFF THE SIDEWALK” but controlled myself and didn’t.
Part of me wishes I had screamed at them though.
re Bubba’s: fair comment but as an eyewitness for two previous games in the series I can tell you that Bubba’s was jam-packed, every seat taken, both times and people who showed up only when the game was starting were indeed unable to get a seat. it will for sure be all the more true today. so let me repeat Metro’s PSA here and say—maybe people should try somewhere else!
I really agree wholeheartedly with the ‘cranky letter’ today. Good on Leo for bringing it up. I’m been thinking that way for a long time, just haven’t put it to words until now. Why can’t walkers and bike riders share the sidewalks. It’s not that either are flooding the sidewalks – and if the rule was that bikes yielded to walkers, it should work well. I cringe as I watch the bike riders take their lives in their hands every day on Agricola St., while the sidewalks languish! Where is common sense, I wonder!!!!!!!!???? Why haven’t bike riders proposed using the sidewalks. Remember the old expression ‘the sidewalks rolled up at midnight’. Well, seems like except for Spring Garden Road and a couple of other downtown sidewalks, most of the Halifax sidewalks appear to be rolled up, because you can shoot a cannon down most of them, without hitting more than 2-3 people at a time – any time of day! Might as well fill them up with bikes and people, thus creating safer driving. Having a pedestrian hit by a bike would probably result in far fewer injuries than being hit by a car!
Sorry, but that simply shows a complete lack of understanding of how it should work. I commute to work occasionally by bike from Hammonds Plains to Brunswick St. With the exception of a few climbs, my average speed is between 30-40 km/h. A recipe for disaster should a pedestrian on the sidewalk move in the wrong direction.
Bikes do not belong on sidewalks. For one thing, road crossings at crosswalks would require a full stop by bicycles in order to ensure that they could be completed safely. You think cars hit too many pedestrians now? Wait until an unseen bike comes blasting out of the sidewalk and into the roadway.
Just because you and our misguided letter-writer haven’t seen pedestrians doesn’t mean they aren’t there. A quick glance out my window just now showed eight people between the clock tower and Duke St. A recipe for disaster should cyclists be in the same space. They aren’t travelling at anywhere near the same speed.
No, bikes need protected, curbed bike lanes on all major routes through the city. The current bike lanes are littered with cars, glass and rocks. They’re completely useless and even less safe than riding on the road. The cost to implement this program would be insignificant compared to the benefit to all road users including cars, and would showcase Halifax as a leader in Canada for active transportation infrastructure.
Know what else would create safer driving? Safer drivers. I guess asking the people behind the wheel of a 2-ton machine to pull their heads out is too much.
Would the cyclist killed by the propane truck have lived if they had been riding on the sidewalk? They would have ridden into the path of the truck making the turn, with the same outcome, except they would have been blamed for riding a bike on a sidewalk. Ever drive down a street and have a cyclist dart out in front of you? That’s why cyclists aren’t supposed to ride on sidewalks.
Of course we won’t find fault with a driver who fails to share the road and be at all aware of the other vehicles, no matter what they are, in front of and around them. Motorists got places to be dammit! And their entitlement takes lives.
I rented an RV in the spring, and it had cameras on the mirrors. The display was where the rearview mirror would usually be. Activating the signal turned on the camera, and we could see if there was anyone creeping up beside us before we made a turn. This would be an inexpensive solution, and easy to mandate for delivery or service vehicles operating in the city.
As someone who biked year round in Halifax for 20 years (I never had a car until into my 30s), I also think bicycle safety courses have a place. I learned early on that drivers were typically oblivious to bikes, and I rode accordingly. This includes not passing on the inside (split a lane if traffic is stopped), and taking a lane at intersections rather than remaining on the curb. I rarely see bikers adhering to these rules of thumb that kept me alive.
It will be a long time, if ever, before we see dedicated bike lanes across Halifax. I’m not saying give up on this goal, but time and effort would be better spent on other tactics first, as bike lanes slowly become an accepted part of our roadways.