The shocking truth - aging electrical infrastructure risks your safety

Post by Mike Klassen in


Video: A Vancouver homeless man is electrocuted leaning on a city lamp standard

CKNW News ran a feature story this morning that should give us all pause. Our streets are full of risks posed by aging electrical infrastructure. However, the response from the City of Vancouver doesn't exactly instill confidence.

While Vancouver has made several social causes such as setting up homeless shelters and building separated bike lanes into top priorities, there are some questions on whether more mundane work is taking a back seat. CKNW reporter Brett Mineer did a feature report which ran on this morning's Morning News program where he explored the streets of downtown Vancouver with a US-based contractor which specializes in finding "stray power" – where damaged or improper wiring has electrified surrounding surfaces such as sidewalks and lamp standards.

We gather that NW's story came about as a result of a sequence of events. Last month the station reported that Vancouverite Paul Giannoulis was walking his dog Sierra when they both received shocks from a sidewalk on the eastside. A local dog advocate whose own pet was killed by this "stray" electrical current decided to take matters into her own hands, and contacted Tom Catanese of Power Survey Company of New Jersey.

Yesterday, Catanese and Mineer roamed the streets of Vancouver in his vehicle specially equipped with an electrical charge sensor – kind of like Google's Street View mapping cars. Another comparison would be "sniffers" used by utility companies to locate possible gas leaks. Just blocks from Catanese's accommodation they began to get readings. Stepping out of the vehicle they attached a bare wire between a manhole cover for ground, and touched a city lamp standard.

The photo above shows the result – an immediate spark. Catanese's meter said there was 240 volts charging through the lamp standard. It wasn't the only one he found like this. Speaking with Tom earlier today he reports that he found two poles with 240 volts and one with 120 volts running right into the metal exterior.

sparky dan "Just covering an area of about one kilometre, we found over 100 potential problems," says Catanese. "Our company does surveys annually for New York City. A woman died there from a 57-volt charge. Here I've found problems with two times and up to four times the voltage." In Seattle, where Power Survey Co. has recently worked, a dog died from an electric shock after relieving itself on a lamp standard.

Mineer contacted Al Luongo from the City of Vancouver to get their reaction to his story. Asked whether his staff could conduct a survey of the whole city, Luongo responded, "It would be significant for us to set up an inspection program where we would actually would test the poles for continuity and shorts and what not. We do have a pole-checking program, so this may be something we need to look at in the future..."

Catanese says that his company's system is unique for its swiftness and relatively low cost compared to manual testing. It's why they've been hired all around the continent.

Meeting with Delta Mayor Lois Jackson today, Catanese impressed the Metro Vancouver chair, who promises to raise it among her colleagues at the board.

The City of Vancouver faces the struggles all cities do – our infrastructure is aging. Wiring overhead and in particular underground is susceptible to the elements. So what will the City do to ensure that we are safe?

Last year the City's chief electrician Ark Tsisserev, recognized nationally for his expertise, was fired by Mayor Gregor Robertson and City Manager Penny Ballem. In the face of these potential health and safety risks posed by electrical wiring on our streets, maybe that seems like a short-sighted decision?

Like many US and Canadian cities who have already contracted Power Survey Company's services, maybe the City of Vancouver and surrounding municipalities should be looking closer at these risks?

Kudos to CKNW News and Brett Mineer for a provocative piece of reporting. Listen to the whole report and see more images at their website.

UPDATE: No shock to us, Mineer's story is now being covered by other media, including GlobalTV who ran it as their top story at noon. It also ran on their 6 o'clock newscast. The Province newspaper and 24 Hours have also weighed in on this story. And now one of our readers Gerry has published a video he took last September of a homeless person getting zapped.

- post by Mike


Al Luongo says.Wow. Not bad for a guy that got a promo from Dobro and was a heavy duty mechanic. Good back ground for the city electrical depy.

Easier to control if they don't have a TQ for the department they run

This story is nothing new a few years back PSD Bear was electrocuted in the Stathcona area and had to be rushed to the vet. Aging insulation on the wires eventually start to leak voltage and you end up with a ground gradient fault
Lets just hope it is only Fido getting a little tingle when he tinkles and we don't kill a kid because we are spending money on refurbishing condemmed fire hals and bike lanes.

I can't help wonder what Ark Tsisserve's comments would be....

Would this be under job description of the Safety Electrical Inspector.... the name Ark comes to mind....

we must have both been typing at the same time ;-)

At the same time I posted this (Sept 14, 2011) I phoned the City and Translink and told them about. This is not aging infrastructure, it is a near new installation on the Granville St Transitway. Scary.

Thanks for posting Gerry..

If the city does not respond by obtaining this technology and checking the city monthly, as does New York, it will not be a question of "if" but "when" someone gets zapped and files suit against the city for gross negligence.

There is no excuse, knowing this technology is available, for allowing this to continue one day longer.

Additionally, knowing that the city is now liable, this opens the door to those few who wish to risk their lives or those of their pets, looking for a good reason to sue the city.

I remember hearing the bike advocates in the early days of the Burrard Street bridge "trial" talk about the safety hazards of those sidewalks and the potential lawsuits from accidents on the bridge.

Some idiot on a bike not wearing a helmet and getting into a collision on the former bridge is nothing compared to this potential nightmare legal scenario.

the city spent 3+million fixing up the Granville Street bridge after on-ramp capacity was highlighted. Liability is a big motivator around the hall. Don't be surprised if this story has legs and all of a sudden we get some action.

Why is it someone has to get hurt (or killed) for this "new vision" administration to take action? And why is it that "action" often involves finding fault with anyone else but the people hired by this Vision Cabal? Gregor Robertson diverted his Provincial political aspirations to achieve Vancouver's highest elected office on what can only be viewed as the most hypocritical reason I've ever heard (three more homeless men have paid the ultimate price). His agenda has politicized the City's beaurocracy to such an extent that it's been rendered virtually impotent with the decision making powers now resting with a group of indiviuals that have no social conscience or mores. How many more will wind up paying in blood?

A Chemical Engineer now heads up the electrical inspections department! How can someone like this (or the appointment of a Structural Engineer as "City Electrician") provide the same level of safety the citizens of our City enjoyed when Ark Tsisserev held that much esteemed role? What possible justification is there for his summary (and illegal) dismissal? If you want to know what Ark did all day, you only have to review the number of bulletins, procedural policies, and official correspondence he authored while he was employed by the City. Now juxtapose these achievements (along with his voluntary personal committments to the various committees on which he still serves) with those of the TWO individuals that now replace him. Then ask yourself how many more will the City have to hire to actually fill his shoes?

And how many more of the City's marginalized citizens are going to ultimately succumb to Vision's (and this Mayor's) moronic human resources policies? And more! What sane person would put an unwanted bike lane (at a cost of $3.5 million) before the needs of the 450 homeless people Vision has identified in their latest report on the "state of our City"? The Hornby bike lane had positively nothing to do with the infrastructure plan to which Mr. Jang referred in rebuttal to my comments to him on CKNW.

What is the "City Electrician" doing about the numerous bogus fire alarm verifications performed by agencies I've identified to him? I can sum up his actions in a word Mike used in another article on "bupkis".

While the City burns, the "Tambourine Man" plays on!

Someone should really give him a fiddle instead. He's got a nice new private office to play it in.

when was this CKNW conversation with Jang, I'd like to listen to the archives..

The shocking truth behind the visionless empire running the city of Vancouver today. Could it be the Peter principal has been overtaken by the Gregor principal. Incompetent management hollyhock style. Lets fix the leak after the boat sinks.

This has got to be a hoax. It is not possible to get electrocuted by stepping on a manhole cover.

Light standards are supposed to be grounded, so they too should pose no danger. However, if a "hot" wire were sticking out of a lamp post near the base, then it's conceivable that a dog could be harmed if he peed on it. But otherwise I can't see that this is anything more than an urban legend.

To Tom Anderson

Lamp posts, manhole covers, wire pullbox covers, can very well become energized. This is no hoax. The grounding at these locations can become compromised if tampered with, such as by vandals trying to steal copper, or by age, area roadwork, street vibration. Blame Penny Ballem and Robertson for staff cuts and for the multi-millions spent on bike lanes instead of maintainance.

@Tom Anderson
Lamp and trolley wire posts are supposed to be grounded. "Supposed to be" is the operative phrase. The ground wire could become compromised with exposure to excessive humidity and something called dissimilar metals corrosion (the wire is copper, the pole is steel). The hot wire in the pole in the picture was obviously in contact with with the pole (frayed wire). If this were to occur with an intact ground wire, you would have yourself a "short circuit" and trip an appropriate breaker or circuit disconnect means. In the absence of a ground wire, a man hole cover in the vicinity of such a pole will therefore provide the potential necessary for current to flow (in fact the sidewalk surrounding the manhole could form a path to ground when it's wet - albeit a very poor one). Now all we need is someone to provide a lower resistance to ground (or a suitable conductor as demonstrated by the picture). I don't know Ray's story, but given the facts as presented I certainly wouldn't be so quick as to lump it into the category of "urban legend".

Money for useless bike lanes to appease the Bicycle Mafia Lobby.


Money to recycle poo heat in the Olympic village.


Money to make over Emperor Gregor's office so it matches his "status".


Money for useless push-polling contracts to make Ballem look competent.


Money to prevent ordinary citizens from being electrocuted by just walking down a Vancouver street . . .

Not important.

A clear illustration of the priorities of Vision Vancouver.

What's our new Chief Engineer doing? . . . too busy having coffee with Ballem to actually do something.

By its nature this problem cannot have just arisen in the last two years. It must also have existed under, dare it be said, Mr T's watch. To me this is something that poses as many questions about the quality of the permanent bureaucracy as the temporary city government

@ George
I don't recall. He appeared on the Mike Smyth show about two weeks ago. I did a little mathematics exercise with him. I took 3.5 million dollars and divided it by $500.00 (the rent Steven Yellowquill was paying for the room at the Pandora Street house in which he died) and came up with 7000 months. I then divided that by the 450 homeless people Vision Council has identified and came up with 15 (rounded down). That's 15 months of shelter dollars for the entire homeless population of Vancouver that Vision frittered away on a bike lane not one of the businesses on Hornby Street wanted. Gregor promised to get rid of homelessness by 2015. He had the means (money) to do it today. Some commented to me that $500.00 was a little "light" considering a number of our marginalized citizens require supervised treatment and additional help. Doubling the figure would give you 7 months (rounded down) where their quality of life would greatly improve and provide some with the ability to start treatments. Personally I would have preferred to see the money go to UGM if actual rooms couldn't be found. I greatly admire the work they're doing to help our homeless.
For Councillor Jang to state that the money for the Hornby Bike Lane was part of the infrastructure planning the citizens of Vancouver approved years ago is patently ridiculous. When you put a bike lane ahead of the needs of such marginalized individuals or local schools is certainly not responsible (or responsive) governance.

@ Flash

you mention vibration.
In the video "Ray" referrers to the damage the vibrations have caused. The sinking he refers to. Is this the vibration from traffic?
It appears that Ray has been very observant.

@ Frank.. sadly I think you were asking Jang too complicated a question.

@David Hadaway
I have no doubt that this issue would have been appropriately addressed by Ark (the former City Electrician) in accordance with Clauses 2.1A, 2.2, and 2.5 of Vancouver's Electrical Bylaw. You're missing the point here. While Council appointed Will Johnston in the role (the same day Ark was dismissed, by the way) he has done practically NOTHING - in fact if he actually exercised the power of that office it would be in direct conflict with APEGBC's Code of Ethics. He is a Structural Engineer and would essentially be practicing a profession in which he has NO TRAINING and LIMITED KNOWLEDGE. Vancouver's latest hire (and the new "head" of the inspections department) is a CHEMICAL ENGINEER and faces the same conflict.
Vancouver has effectively been without a City Electrician (Electrical Safety Manager and Chief Electrical Inspector) for over a year. Alex Tsakumis ( has been one of the only main stream reporters to recognize this (Global TV has also provided some excellent coverage as well in following up with Alex). Kudos to CKNW (and the guys at for bringing this issue forward, but I think you have to give the real credit where it's due.

The company in question has been around since 2004. Toronto is the only other Canadian city that has utilized their services. Yet, as the company's website states, this is not a new problem.

Suggesting cycling infrastructure somehow bled off the money required for the necessary work to be done is political posturing, not responsible journalism. Thankfully the CKNW report sticks to the facts.

"Liability is a big motivator around the Hall". Couple of reasons: first, the City is self-insured for liability because they could buy coverage, but the premiums are insane. So that means injury claims come out of your fellow taxpayers' pockets (as opposed to falling off the back of the magic money truck that the government has been hiding or being created out of thin air by an inspiring oration). Second, there have been some terrible precedents: a drunk climbs over a stree-end barrier and falls down a ravine while trying to relieve himself. Sues and wins fat claim. Result? An epidemic of warning signs on every available surface and by-laws banning urination while intoxicated. A guy stumbles and falls down a flight of stairs in a city-owned parking lot. Sues and wins a fat claim. Result? Every staircase in Vancouver must have a hand-rail which complies with a new by-law and they must all be exactly the same everywhere.

It gets harder and harder to assess risk, both for governments and individuals. How to reduce or even eliminate it altogether? If only it were possible. It begs the question of who is ultimately responsible for personal safety, oneself or some bureaucrat with problems of his own? (I put to one side, for the sake of argument, the empty rhetoric of our elected "representatives").

Electricity runs our lives around the clock. Without it most of us would die, particularly in this country. And yet very few people know anything about it. Electricity is a complex subject but the more you learn, the more careful you become. Quick tip: never touch a live source with both hands, keep one in your pocket.

Mr. Catanese has struck a vein of solid gold. Not fear-mongering as such, but close. The perfect pitch in a society driven by fear (the electrocuted dogs are a nice touch. Oh yeah, the homeless guy too). Fear of unemployment or poverty or the legal system or the godless government or terrorists or earthquakes or climate change or runaway technology or global financial collapse or starvation or war. What are you going to do, pull the covers back over your head?

I own a couple of radiological survey meters (Geiger counters). You'd be amazed what's radioactive. Not highly radioactive, but still. I could find 100 sources easily. For example, the granite in the walls of City Hall expose the people inside to a higher level than is permitted on the fuel-rod floor of a nuclear reactor. Now, I wouldn't want anybody to panic, but...If you don't believe me, ask Dr. Suzuki to check Wikipedia.

For a small fee I would be happy to survey the whole city to identify all sources. What you do after that is up to you. I can get you a good rate on radioactive warning signs and lead-lined containers.

are you denying that Gregor is spending more time on homelessness (provincial issue), food security, separated bike lanes and environmental issues than meat and potato issues such as lamp standards? You look foolish when you do.

@Chris Keam
I'm not entirely certain where you see the "political posturing" you mention. Where, in either this story or the numerous comments filed in response to it, has anyone stated (or inferred) that "cycling infrastructure somehow bled off the money required for the necessary work to be done"? The City spent 3.5 million dollars on a "temporary bike lane" on Hornby Street (that doesn't look all that "temporary" to me) with practically no consultation with the local businesses that it is now impacting. The City's priorities have been politicized by this Council. City staff are reluctant to bring any issues forward that could negatively impact this Council's agenda (they risk following Ark and Carlene's "example"). Ark was fired because he was in a position to affect final approvals for Olympic venues and wouldn't compromise your safety for this Mayor's photo-ops. Carlene was made the scape goat for Pandora Street because her boss didn't have the guts to act on the report she filed days prior to the fire.
This issue has nothing to do with bike lanes. It has everything to do with a civic council that has placed your safety behind "feel good" speeches and empty promises that they hope will win them another term at the trough. Worse, they're staffing the Hall with managers that understand this agenda but don't have the experience or knowledge to actually do the jobs of the people they're replacing. Vision is playing with marked cards and loaded dice but reporters like Alex Tsakumis, Mike Klassen, organizations like CKNW and Global TV aren't blind to this, thankfully!

For the past 11 years, my job has involved the installation of street banners on electrified poles. For those 11 years I have been aware that there is electricity in those poles with wire subject to corrosion, water, age, and the like. If I am not mistaken, there is a schedule somewhere that has poles replaced in a systematic manner. There is also areas of the city where the grid is maxed out and those areas are also being addresses. I suspect Hydro is part of this conversation along with the city.

Is it possible to check every pole, several times a year? Personally, I don't think so. Could we be doing better - likely yes. Is this a new problem - no. Is there a perfect solution - sure - turn off the electricity.


First sentence, second paragraph:

"While Vancouver has made several social causes such as setting up homeless shelters and building separated bike lanes into top priorities, there are some questions on whether more mundane work is taking a back seat."


At the risk of incurring your wrath (or worse, looking positively stupid), I don't see where you can infer they're "diverting funds". As Cousellor Jang pointed out the other day on CKNW's Bill Good Show (apologies to George - it wasn't Mike Smyth), we elected them on their platform (and thereby "approved" the additional spending for all this). I don't believe the various departmental budgets were cut or impacted by this Mayor's "green" initiatives. I do think it has added costs (reflected by the necessary increases in property taxes). It has also cost us talent-wise. The dumbing down of the City's Management has a good many of us (in the life safety and electrical professions) deeply concerned.
Ark Tsisserev would have taken immediate steps to address this particular issue (and he had the power to do so). When do you suppose Will Johnston is going to "weigh in" (or the new guy Mark Roozbahani)? Or do you suppose the City Manager's office is out looking for another "fall guy"?


Stick your political posturing up Robertson and Ballem's posterior.

Cuts to staffing equals cuts and delays to maintaining, repairing, replacing aging equipment. Spending money on frivolous planters and cement blocks where perfectly functional paths for bikes already existed is hands down reason for political posturing.

Firing someone brave enough to stand up for mandatory safety by-laws and processes,(Tsisserev, Robbins), by an out of control, control freak, (Ballem, who else) is not reason for political posturing? Whatever way you view it, Vision has directed where the funding goes. Pour it down on the wasteful bike path and make Robertson Hornby. Play the political posturing card by giving a couple of dollars to the Firehall repair fund. (Ballem pretending to care) Add a completely unnecessary office renovation for our fumblemouth mayor to hide in when the ball is dropped by Vision.

Yes, us hacks just love political posturing for no reason at all.

BRAVO! I think the one cyclist on Hornby Street in the past hour fell over when I laughed out loud.


Based on your posts, it sounds like you have some expertise in this area. In looking at the company's website, I see that Toronto is going to spend $3m to $m annually to address this issue, which, also according to the company's website, has resulted in one fatality since 2007.

What do you think would be an appropriate amount for Vancouver to spend on this problem, and in your opinion, why haven't we heard about this issue sooner?

Sorry for the typo

$3m to $4m annually"

As an insider here I have to be careful on what I say.
The problem with the poles is that many of the bonding connections have corroded and are no longer effective. For those who would like to know, the bonding conductor that is supposed to be installed and connected to each pole, provides the electrical current a low resistance path back to the source should a fault occur. This is designed to trip the breaker feeding the circuit. If the bonding conductor is not effective and a fault occurs the current will seek all paths back to its source, including the ground (earth)which of course people or animals are in contact with. The ground is a LOW resistance path and does not allow enough current to flow to trip a breaker. However enough current will flow to do a lot of harm to us.

Sorry, a correction.

The ground is a HIGH resistance path.

I was typing too fast.


The city has a current program for upgrades. The intent for quantity of upgrades and replacements is limited to a certain area each year based on crew and equipment as well as budgets.

An acceleration or restoration of upgrades is due. Generally, all street lighting is fed from photocell, contactor, controlled panels. Rather than paying an outside contractor to cruise the streets with a fancy toy, existing crews can easily find faulted circuits with simple testing methods. Street lighting crews have been in the past, redirected from annual maintainance by such work as new pedestrian crosswalks, transit priority lanes, and Cambie skytrain related work, some of which is still in progress.

Not an insider but, having worked for outside contractors on street lighting projects, I would agree that grounding connections of poles do become corroded. A pole or wireway being energized is very likely due to splicing connectors, or marrettes, possibly coming loose or wire insulation breakdown, within the pole or even at the light fixture. Ground fault breakers could protect for these faults but may also cause nuisance outages.

If you might be trying to test my committing a dollar figure, I couldn't give an accurate number but 3 to 4 million per year would be excessive as it may be that certain areas of the city are more prone to faults due to the age of the installation.

Ask the poster named Sharon why there's been no earlier report of this.
According to her, the issue has been known. The degree of faults may not been known though.

So, I wouldn't be surprised to see a few city electricians on mountain bikes testing lamp posts with voltmeters, and volt ticks on night shift for a while.

What Flash has outlined is exactly how I have understood it. Engineering staff were running full out with Olympic, Entertainment district and Canada Line installations. Everything else was lower down the urgency list. I suspect that we will now see some catch up - especially now that this problem is getting some media traction.

Re-evaluating priorities of city spending might go a long way to rectifying this problem sooner rather than later but aging infrastructure is not a sexy election topic.

This is yet another wake up call for Cities in Canada, here is my take on our streets: Electrified Street Results should not be ignored says Owner of Canadian electrocuted dog

Vancouver, B.C- The electrical problems of Vancouver’s city infrastructure and other cities in Canada is a very real danger and unfortunately seems to be getting worse, not better, says Rachel Sentes, Vancouver author and publicist and the owner of a border collie that was electrocuted (and survived) on Edmonton city streets in 2004.

“With all the rain that Vancouver sees per year, we are at a higher risk for electrical accidents– especially if there is salt on the sidewalks or if ponds and runoff penetrate defective electrical equipment. The public need to become more aware that these shocks not only kill pets, but people too.” says Sentes. This year- marks the 7th anniversary of the death of Jodie Lane, a 30 year old that was electrocuted to death while trying to pull her dogs off an electrical
junction box in New York.

As was reported yesterday by CTV and CBC, Tom Catanese, president of the Power Survey Company in Seattle tested the Vancouver area, and he reported very high voltage areas that are worrisome. In response to his findings, Delta Mayor and Metro Vancouver Chairwoman Lois Jackson wants the region to investigate Catanese's findings.

Sentes, who has published hundreds of articles about pets and safety in magazines, welcomes Jackson’s recommendation and applauds any investigation into solving the city’s problems.

“It’s great that we are FINALLY starting to take this seriously. In 2004 my own dog, Lucy, was electrocuted on a street in Edmonton by stray voltage. Luckily, she lived; but most dogs die when this happens. When we phoned Epcor to let them know what happened, we were told, & I quote, "That can't happen."

Since her dog’s brush with death, Rachel frequently connects with Streetzaps, an American run website organized by Blair Sorrel to educate the public about the dangers of electrified telephone poles, manhole covers, grates and other sources.
“Infrastructure deterioration affects everyone and we have the means to solve this--regular city inspections. Why aren't we doing it? Canadians need to step up and take on the challenge, for the safety of pets and people.”

Rachel Sentes is an author of the forthcoming book One Faithful Step – the shocking tail of Electrolucy and a publicist in Vancouver. For more information on Streetzaps visit:
To book an interview contact:
Rachel Sentes- Publicist


I find it very "convenient" that you speak of "...running full out with Olympic, Entertainment district and Canada Line installations....",

but don't bother to include mentioning a Hornby St. bike lane that was rushed through planning, having virtually no public consultation.....

or even the Dunsmuir lanes that received slightly more planning.

Both have excessive changes to traffic light infrastructure that would diverted the cities attention away from prioties such as this ever present danger.

As you go onto to say, "....Everything else was lower down the urgency list....."

But of course you wouldn't want to suggest any bike lane being a problemm now would you?

The leader sets the culture and priorities for the organization he/she leads. In the case of Mayor Fauntelroy, his priority is aspiring to higher political office and his priorities are green initiatives and, in his words, solving "street" homelessness. So the civic senoir staff and employees focus innovation, efforts and our tax dollars on such things as empty bike lanes that constrict downtown traffic and HEAT shelters. the result is this...neglect of the very basics like safe infrastruture. An example as well was the burnt out street lights between the 2000-1800 blocks of west 2nd avenue that were out of serviec for about 8 weeks, Thanks Mr Mayor. as well, the same neighborhood ahs fallen prey to panhandlers ( HEAT shelter nomads looking for spare change and graffiti) Again, my own experience. sunday mornin in front of Whole Foods on west 4th, for the second time one of the panhandlers called me a "F*****g Faggot" because I had no change for hiem. Again, Mayor Fauntelroy's leadership.. ignore the basics of running a city but focus on the frivolous pet projects.

You guys realize they found the same thing in Surrey, Delta, etc...

Visions fault there as well?


Where you come from trying to knock Sharon for simply stating that capital projects (pet projects of PropellerHead) have indeed been prioritized?? You want her to state the obvious?? Here you go... Cyclists who dust off their bikes in Spring Summer can now enjoy $25 million dollars worth of barricaded streets and special traffic lights. Meanwhile, potholes go unrepaired, streetlights burn out, pets may get zapped, Robertson can fly through pedestrian crossings, Meggs can zoom through stop signs, Louie can insult citizens at meetings, Riemer can goof her way through a deputy mayor stint.

Happy now?

G, the electrical upgrade/modifications for the Hornby bike lane is a microscopic project compared to the ones I mentioned.

I regularly retain services from the City Electrical department and for the better part of 18 months prior to February 2010, I was hiring independent contractors or simply sucking wind. Even after the Olympics, the crews has amassed so much holiday time it took months to get the department back to normal and then they were hit with internal restructuring.

Do the poles need attention? absolutely. Is the engineering department would be contrary to my knowledge of their professionalism and expertise.

re: Surrey and Delta - Visions fault there as well?
- the Fraser River is no doubt acting as a Ground Fault Interrupter ! (sorry - I probably should have resisted......)

Try addressing the issue. What a waste of 450 words...

Sorry booboo, Vancouver city poles are Vancouver City Council's problem, and there's ample reportage here that they have been ignored.


I never said they weren't. But all these posts decrying the mayor ignoring basic safety in favour of bike lanes and chicken coops rings a bit hollow when it's a similar issue in other cities in the area.

"Here you go... Cyclists who dust off their bikes in Spring Summer can now enjoy $25 million dollars worth of barricaded streets and special traffic lights."

Once again it is necessary to point out that this $25 million figure bandied about is for a wide range of cycling related projects, not just the downtown bike lanes.

It's bizarre that the only thing about bike lanes that people appear to accept without question is also a piece of incorrect information.

Could that possibly be because most people don't consider bike lanes a huge priority and that some of the $25 million spent to date on enforced "social engineering" projects could have gone towards local schools, helping the homeless, hiring more police officers, (and better managers) and repairs to "aging electrical infrastructure"? Don't get me wrong, I'm all for ensuring cyclists have safe lanes of travel but the consultative process is flawed and Councils priorities are badly skewed. Not one of the local businesses along Hornby wanted a fixed bike lane and the City has sacrificed a good deal of parking revenue as a result. For those of us that NEED to service these buildings (and drive vans too high for many of the parkades) we need to carry equipment for entire blocks now. A service call that should take 30 minutes turns into an hour and thirty minutes because I'm looking for a place to park the beast. And the customer is paying by the hour.
I'm not sure what the criteria is to justify making the Hornby lane "permanent", but if you think that the City isn't going to play a numbers game so they don't look like total morons if the experiment "fails", I've got this dandy new bridge I can sell you.


People have every right to make their opinions known as to how they would like to see public money spent. But, when people suggest that the downtown bike lanes cost $25 million that's simply wrong. If, as a city, we want good governance and a clear understanding of how our money is spent, then the first step is making sure we as individuals aren't propogating erroneous information that only muddies the waters.

Imagine the outcry if cycling advocates consistently suggested it cost less than the actual price.

can someone double-check on jurisdiction on this issue of poles and electricity. I actually think it might be Hydro.

$25 million does not come close to the cost of separated bike lanes. Factor in the value of the real estate asset that has been allocated to bike lanes ( I have never seen a sum of the square footage of prime Vancouver real estate set aside for cyclists nor the cost), the value of the additional time spent by commutes in cabs, their own vehicle, transit in clogged downtown streets, the value of gas used in idling traffic.


If you want to start calculating externalities I would be careful what you wish for. Delays due to traffic accidents cost our economy huge amounts of money and most roads are empty most of the time. Think of all the valuable real estate in residential neighbourhoods taken away from the city because people store their cars on the street instead of in their yard.

@ Sharon:

I mean no offense with this but the Olympics, Canada Line and Entertainment district are a year old or more.

As for money, Louie mentioned the city 'found' $8 M through an audit they did on past capital plan projects perhaps they can put it to good use.

And while they are at it, the issues with the Burrard bridge still have not been addressed and I could have sworn Vision said that work would be started after the bike lane 'trial' over.

Again, done.

Max, I am simply telling you what I know. Between emergency work, Olympic work, accumulated holidays, followed by serious restructuring within the department. I would say things are still not caught up and back to 'normal'.

Again, is the electrical supply in those poles the city or Hydro and where does Translink fit in to the mix.

Money is a totally different issue and I am the first to say that we spend money in lots of places that would be better spent on the basics.

One is a governance/political issue and the other is a competence issue. In this instance, I will stick up for the great guys that serve our city in the engineering department.

Last year the City's chief electrician Ark Tsisserev, recognized nationally for his expertise, was fired by Mayor Gregor Robertson and City Manager Penny Ballem. In the face of these potential health and safety risks posed by electrical wiring on our streets, maybe that seems like a short-sighted decision?

I agree with Max...

The value of an asset allocated for the exclusive use of one group is not an externality. It is a direct benfit to that group and in this case it is the allocation of a massively espensive real estate asset for cyclists. Not a bad thing per se, but a proper analysis of the cycling program requires the value of that asset. The city has not done so rather they have assumed the role of advocate and produced spurious statistics about bike lane useage and under inclusive economic analysis. As an example of an externality, I use to ride my mountain bike across the bridge from Kits to the seawall around stanly park and back. Meggs and Robertson's politicization of cylcing has stimatized this actvity as a leisure time and I decided not to buy a new bike and do much less cyclying. Thus, a negative externality.


Anyone who can ride a bike (a larger group than those who can drive a car) is free to use the lanes. You might as well argue we shouldn't fund playgrounds because you feel silly climbing on the monkey bars.

booboo, there's something hollow around here alright...

True. Bike lanes have only chewed up about $7-9 million dollars in the last year or so, with $25 million slated to be spent in the next ten years, making the cumulative figure about $35 million over ten years. That's a lotta cake.

Sorry Frank, if it's the Burrard I'm not interested...

Just can't help yourself eh Gerry?

Hydro supplies the power to the city which then sends it to the poles.

then why did I have to wait for Hydro to supply power for a pedestrian signal?

Nope. I mentioned a spiffy NEW bridge. When you buy it, feel free to designate as many bike lanes as you want. And I'll throw in the toll booths too! :-)

No matter how you slice it, $25 million or $35 million or even $10 million on bike lanes is too much. Throw some paint on the pavement to designate the bike lane, provide some signage, and voila. Spending millions on separated lanes while restricting access to street parking, taxi drop off and pick up... That's what's got me steamed. Throw in a lack of consultation with the businesses that are negatively impacted and my kettle's boiling over.
As a driver, I respect signage and traffic lanes. I think most here do. Bike riders seem to have an "attitude problem" that this Council's Mayor has even demonstrated (not to mention some feel a measure of "entitlement"). I rarely see car drivers deliberately run red lights, but it's a common occurance with bike riders. A few respect pedestrians while others just don't give a hoot.
This Council's priorities are totally screwed up. I'd like to know how many bikes travelled the Hornby corridor BEFORE the City spent 3.5 million on this "experiment". I don't care about total numbers TODAY. I want to know how many MORE riders the new segregated lane has attracted. The true measure of Hornby's success will never be known because the City's management has to justify this expense so they'll skew the numbers to reflect the Mayor's spin.
This Vision Council is a blight on Vancouver. We are all less safe because the Mayor's hand-picked senior staffers have tied the hands of competetent staff and gagged (or fired) anyone that doesn't "play along" or that doesn't allow the Mayor to play with the "big scoop" in the sandbox he views as HIS.


Interesting thought. There are city poles and there are transit poles. Some are shared purpose. Some are dedicated. The bottom line is that if a fault is found at 120 or 240 volts, the cause of the fault would be traced to a city controlled load. If the voltage is higher than 240 volts the cause may be traced to a transit load, though very unlikely because this higher voltage fault would make itself quite noticeable.

To Max

What is your point? "again done"??
The projects you so 'cleverly' state as having been "over a year old" are known to have diverted several staff in a major way. The funding that condescending Louie 'found' was not forgotten money. It was for capital work that will now be further delayed. His 'audit' focus should go into Ballem's and Robertson's office. See if some belt tightening can be done there.

"I rarely see car drivers deliberately run red lights, but it's a common occurance with bike riders. A few respect pedestrians while others just don't give a hoot."

I LOL'ed. And then I wept.

This week I watched a black Maserati accelerate past to make a left turn on a red light (not a stale yellow, the light had changed) from Melville to Thurlow. Thankfully pedesstrians are so gun-shy in Vancouver now that no one stepped into the crosswalk. Next day, white Honda, left from Broadway to St George on a red light, speeding up to make the turn.

Windsor and Twelfth. Red light runners nearly every time the pedestrian crosswalk light is activated.

Clarke and 10th. Friday morning - driver cruises through red light as kids are walking to school

Victoria Drive at Brewster Park, almost hit by driver blithely cruising through red light while my daughter and I make the crazy assumption traffic lights will be obeyed.

I could go on and on. Don't get me started on the number of times people drive right through crosswalks full of people at Cambie and Broadway. I see it everytime I'm in the neighbourhood.

The reality is that there are scofflaw driver AND scofflaw cyclists. Guess which one is more responsible for the double digit pedestrian deaths in Vancouver nearly every year?

If you're concerned about public safety, a big push to prevent dogs from jolting their johnson when they take a pee is definitely a lower priority IMO than reducing the risk of crossing the street.

@ Gerry:

From my understanding, the $25 M is being spent over the next 2 years as part of a 10 year plan.

Which means more monies may be allocated to cycling infrustructure after the initial $25 M is spent.

Your experiences with Vancouver (or Lower Mainland) drivers are obviously much different from mine. "I" rarely see drivers "deliberately" run red lights. I've seen plenty of bike riders who (upon happening on an intersection with a RED LIGHT) will look both ways and cross anyway. Your response is, in MY opinion, uncalled for and would be something like my saying "All Maserati drivers are Testosterone challenged Lawyers".
But if you want something really meaty to chew on, here it is. Our Mayor is a LIAR. Our City Manager is a LIAR. Our "City Electrician" is INCOMPETENT.
I for one don't expect to be electrocuted when I activate a walk signal on a lamp post or when (after lugging 50 lbs of gear for 2 blocks) I decide to rest up against one. As a bike rider or a car driver there are certain risks you face when you're cruising down our City's streets. Driving defensively helps to minimize them. Being aware of your surroundings and traffic is par for the course. Getting electrocuted when you're putting a poster on a lamp post isn't something ANYONE would either expect or deserve.

It's tough to get elected when your accomplishments say 'we repaired 2,843 potholes, rewired 1,200 aging street lamps, installed 320 curb cuts, planted 221 trees and replaced 2% of the cities sewer pipe.

Arts, culture, car free days, birthday celebrations and bike lanes are far more sexy and attract votes.

We only have ourselves to blame.


You should re-read my comments. I was talking about pedestrian safety. Should I assume crossing the street in accordance with existing road rules has an inherent risk associated with it?

Really? Just shows how broken the system is.

Of course there's an inherent risk when you're crossing a street (even at a marked intersection WITH a "walk" light). My point is that as a (sighted) pedestrian you should be aware of your surroundings at all times and are therefore in a better position to make an informed decision as to the acceptability of that risk.
On the flip side, you can't "see" electricity and an energized lamp pole doesn't appear any different from the other ones along the street. You are therefore at a distinct disadvantage and (wouldn't you agree?) at greater risk of harm.
As a frequent downtown pedestrian I've learned to wait for the Lawyer driving that black Maserati to pass before I step into the crosswalk. :-)

I completely agree. That's why Vision hired the "Doctor of Spend and Spin". You don't tell the electorate that you've fixed umpteen thousand potholes! You say: "We've helped reduce ICBC road hazard related claims by a whopping (insert number) percent due to our proactive road repair strategy"!
As to energized lamp posts... When Fluffy the cat disappears in a flash of burning fur and smoke next week, Dr. Ballem will be the very model of concerned City Manager as she addresses the nation's television audience. "Fluffy was actually a successful test of our new anti-cat scratching system. We still have a few bugs to work out but are confident that the paint on the City's lamp poles will no longer be at risk from miscreant kittens after today."

Frank, you made my morning.

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