Saving Ukraine’s History

February 25, 2014

The Global Investigative Journalism Network has published a fascinating story about a small group of journalists are saving and releasing tens of thousands of previously secret papers from the fallen Yanukovch regime.

A small group of local journalists discovered papers floating and sinking in a reservoir on the ex-President’s estate:

“The reporters then did something remarkable. They made a decision to cooperate among all the news organizations and to save first and report later. It wasn’t an easy decision. But it was clear that if they didn’t act, critical records of their own country’s history could be lost …

“At one point more than 50 people were there trying to help. Food, supplies, rides, and other needs were being continuously supplied by people supporting the work. The reporters had to systematically separate, dry, catalog, and photocopy every page. Meanwhile, every knock on the front door set off alarms in the compound as people expected the police to try to eject the citizen brigade. Armed protestors arrived to help secure the compound. Negotiations between protestors and government officials provided a backdrop. In moments of rest, the journalists  read – not for their stories but to figure out where other documents might be. On Monday, reporters headed out to Suholucchya, a hunting club frequented by Yanukovych’s cronies, and Honka, Yanukovych’s main house. The process is still ongoing.”

Great story.

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Bikes On The Drive

February 25, 2014

I went to a very interesting meeting last night organized by Sarah Fiorito and a group she has formed called the Commercial Drive Action Group. There were about 40 or more packed into the Britannia boardroom, nearly all of whom were young and active and keen to be cheerleaders for bikes, biking and bike lanes.

Chris Brunlett (the cyclist on Twitter sans paraeil) gave an introductory essay which had a lot to say about alternative uses for streets and sidewalks.  Then Sarah Fiorito, who was well prepared and researched, gave a thorough and well-illustrated presentation.  We then had about an hour of Q&A and discussion.

The admitted purpose of the meeting was to generate political pressure to support those City Councilors (i.e. mainly Vision) who support bike lanes.  It was also to generate a campaign against the BIA and its members that oppose bike lanes.  One fervent disciple even suggested a boycott of businesses that would not support bike lanes; but that wasn’t taken up.  Other suggestions included building parking structures at each end of the Drive — boy, they would be attractive!

There was a messianic fury about it all but, once I raised the issue of the difference between the Drive south and north of First, it became clear that Sarah and her followers, at least, would probably be happy to restrict radical action to the section south of First.  Eliminating two lanes of car traffic was the favourite proposal.

The key phrase they use is a bike lane that is “safe for all ages and skills” which is code for bikes lanes separated from traffic by god-awful ugly concrete blocks.  That’s an issue for me.  If we ever did get a car-free Drive (which would be my long-term preference), those things will be really expensive to remove.  In the meanwhile, they will get in the way of pedestrians crossing the street.

There was some talk of telling the BIA to be in touch with the BIAs where bike lanes have already been launched.  However, the Drive is different from each of those in Vancouver so far: the Drive is a two-way street with bus stops; not a situation faced to date downtown or on Burrard Bridge.

I also have trouble visualizing the design.  As I understand the concept for south of First, the outer lanes on each side would be bike paths, with the next lane for parking, and the third lane for traffic.  If that is so, how do the buses operate?  Are pedestrians forced to cross to the middle of the street to board the bus?  This design seems problematic in spades.

I only decided to go at the very last minute given the snow, but was glad I did in the end.