Sunday, 30 August 2015

The Radio Edition - August 30, 2015


Join me tonight at 7 pm on 1010.5 UMFM for West End Dumplings - The Radio Edition, the show about Manitoba history.

Joining me in studio is Penni Mitchell. She's the long-time managing editor of herizons, the national magazine of women’s news and feminist views, published right here in in Winnipeg. Their summer edition is a special history issue profiling 50 women who changed Canada. We'll talk about some of these women.

Mitchell also has a new book, About Canada: Women's Rights that profiles many women who changed Canada through their efforts to end discrimination and to promote social justice from the 1600s to the turn of the last century.

Later, I will tell you about some events that will be commemorated in the week ahead in Manitoba history and let you know about some upcoming tours !

Music by Rita MacNeil, Tanya Tagak and Buffy Sainte-Marie.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

The Roundabout / Traffic Circle Conundrum

"Traffic circles" have gone and raised the ire of Winnipeggers again.

I've seen and used roundabouts in Europe, where they are an integral part of many traffic  systems and actually work. The reason they don't do so well here is that most drivers do not know how to use them properly and the city and province have not done much to help the situation. The result is that they remain foreign and confusing and people will actually take time to go protest when new ones are being built.

It's too bad because, according to the US Federal Highway Administration, a country where many cities have been converting intersections to roundabouts for decades, they are a much safer alternative to other types of intersections. Their data shows that:
  • By converting from a two-way stop control mechanism to a roundabout, a location can experience an 82 percent reduction in severe (injury/fatal) crashes and a 44 percent reduction in overall crashes.
  • By converting from a signalized intersection to a roundabout, a location can experience a 78 percent reduction in severe (injury/fatal) crashes and a 48 percent reduction in overall crashes.
So why are some up in arms in Winnipeg when the topic of roundabouts arise?

First off, Manitoba's Highway Traffic Act, and those of most other provinces, call them "roundabouts", so using the term "traffic circles" is a misnomer and people searching for the rules governing their use will never find them. Why the city has decided to use a different term that what they are officially called, which leads the media to do the same, is beyond me.

A huge part of what makes a roundabout work, and how cities around the world manage to make (gasp!) multi-lane roundabouts work, is that drivers must SIGNAL OUT of them. If not, some or all of the four approaching lanes of traffic must come to a stop when a car is inside the roundabout because you have no clue what it is going to do. It also makes it dangerous for cyclists sharing the roundabout if cars are going to suddenly pull out.

If you don't believe me about signaling out, check out the Manitoba Drivers Handbook, p. 52:  "Continue until you reach the street you wish to exit, signaling your intentions to exit before you reach the street you wish to exit on to." MPI, on the Road Safety section of its website, sums it up this way: "When you are ready to exit the roundabout, you must signal your intentions and yield the right of way to pedestrians and cyclists."

By not signaling out, a roundabout becomes nothing more than an an expensive, poncy looking, rolling 4-way stop. Why bother even changing it over, then?

Source: A. Sobkow,  eBrandon.ca

Since this has been a bugbear of mine since roundabouts were introduced on Waterfront Drive, I always keep an eye out for who signals out and, more importantly, who does not. I have been in the circles with transit buses, police cars and fire engines, all official vehicles that should be obeying the rules of the road. I have NEVER seen one of them signal out. EVER.

I remember when Brandon introduced a couple of large roundabouts to its west end a decade or more ago. Manitoba Public Insurance (MPI), I believe it was, had a series of temporary signs the side of the road as you approached with handy tips: "Remember: yield to the car on the left"; "Remember: you must signal out". It was a simple way to get people used to the rules.

I don't blame city planners for adding roundabouts. On paper, and in most jurisdictions, they actually work to keep traffic flowing, (and who wants to stop at a red light or 4-way stop when there is no oncoming traffic?)  If crosswalk features are properly designed into them, assuming you live in a city where drivers actually stop at crosswalks, (which could a whole other blog post), they are safe and easy to use for pedestrians and cyclists as well.

Traffic circle with ped crossings. (Source)

So what can be done to get roundabouts back on track?
  • Call them what the traffic act calls them: roundabouts, so people who are curious about the rules can actually search and find them.
  • MPI needs to do a better job on their online education products. The roundabout section of the Manitoba Driver's Handbook is dismal and, as far as I can tell, you have to download the whole booklet to read that one section. The roundabout section I could find on MPI's website is just some text with a reminder that people should watch the 60 Second Driver bit on CTV, no hyperlink is provided.
If you want to see a kick-ass version of what an online educational resource should look like, check out the Saskatchewan Driver's Handbook page on roundabouts and the roundabout section of the Washington State Department of Transportation's website.
  • At roundabouts in the city, the city and MPI or the city should introduce temporary signage to introduce drivers to the rules, similar to what was done in Brandon. 
  • Civil servants using city vehicles, including police, fire and transit, need to set good examples for others on the road and follow the rules. This includes following the rules in roundabouts.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

The Radio Edition: August 23, 2015


On tonight's show I'll look back at the Man-Pop rock festival of 1970, wish a happy birthday to Monty Hall and tell you about my recent tour of the former Merchant's Hotel.

I'll talk to Cash Akoza, who just finished a beautiful mural in the West End and members of the Manitoba Transit Heritage Association, who had a large selection of their fleet on display at Grant Park Shopping Centre a couple of weeks back.

Music by The Ides of March, Dianne Heatherington and The Mongrels.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Inside the former Merchant's Hotel


The infamous Merchant's Hotel has been closed for three years now and construction will begin soon to convert it into Merchant's Corner, a mixed-use development with education as its cornerstone.You can find out more about the project at its website.

Recently, I had the opportunity to tour the building, constructed in 1913-14, to document its interior. For the most part, old hotels are some of the most difficult buildings to get a sense of history from. Generations of fire codes and liquor control board regulations meant exterior windows disappeared, dropped ceilings were installed and open hallways and staircases enclosed.

Lucky for me, at this stage of its redevelopment a number of engineers and architects have had a go at peeling apart sections of the interior to see what lays beneath.

A testament to architect Max Blankstein's excellent work, the bones are still in very good shape. The foundation is sound and the timbers of the roof look almost new. They're even confident that they can open up some of the upper storey windows that have been bricked in and remove the awful 1950s tile cladding from the original brick exterior of the main floor.

The building wasn't as depressing as I thought was going to feel, at least not the living areas. Rooms were tiny, typical of an SRO hotel, but each had at least three huge windows that let in lots of light. Each floor had common bathrooms and laundry facilities, though the "primo" rooms facing Selkirk Avenue were larger and had their own private bathroom.

A couple of interesting things I saw included a sign on what was once the exterior of the west wall. it was covered up when the 1950s diner extension was added. The huge flagpole on the roof is made of a single piece of wood, and the ramp from the sidewalk beer entrance into the basement is still in place!

Thanks to the North End Renewal Corporation for the top to bottom tour of the building. I'm sure the original owners, Robert and Sarah Steiman, would be pleased to know that the Merchants will be around to serve the community for another century!

For more present-day photos of the building, check out my Flickr album.

To read about the history of the Steiman Block / Merchants Hotel, see my Winnipeg Downtown Places blog enry.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

The introduction of parking meters to Winnipeg

The "first nickel" ceremony, Oct. 6. 1949 (Winnipeg Tribune)

My column in today's Free Press recounts the introduction of parking meters to Winnipeg in October 1949 !

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

A New Mural for the West End !

Above: April 2015 (Google Street View). Below: August 10, 2015

Just around the corner from my office at Ellice and Arlington, a new mural started going up over the weekend on the south wall of Telesky Taxidermy. The artist is Brian Gasenzer, who paints under the name Cash Akoza. He recently received media attention after painting a tribute to Cecil the Lion on his Wolseley garage.

Gasenzer started out as a graffiti artist and still loves using aerosol, this mural being a combination of aerosol and acrylic. He chose an Aboriginal style because he feels that that we need to see much more of it in the city and for its beautiful style and blocking of colours.

Animals are a favourite subject of his because "...we all have a connection with different animals and animal spirits ... they are part of our consciousness."

For this mural, the artist is working from a drawing, a must in order to get approval from a BIZ or, in this case, Take Pride Winnipeg. Most of the time, though, he will approach a large surface without a preconceived notion of what the finished product will look like.

Gasenzer is currently finalizing plans with a couple of organizations for other murals. Keep an eye out on a blank wall near you or check out his Instagram page for other examples of his work. 

Sunday, 9 August 2015

The Radio Edition - August 9, 2015 - Podcast !

Tune into West End Dumplings - the Radio Edition at 7:00 pm on 101.5 UMFM or check back later for the show's podcast !

Tonight, I am joined by Christina of the Virden Pioneer Home Museum. We'll take about the ca. 1888 home and other historical sites in Virden.

Also, Dr. Gordon Goldsborough of the Manitoba Historical Society will be by. We will preview the Summer 2015 edition of the journal Manitoba History and get an update of his work geocaching thousands of historic sites around the province.

Music by Alana Levandoski and Lenny Breau.