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Friday Reading

The Tissue of Straight Lines: a meditation on NYC’s grid street network from Kneeling Bus, one of the few blogs I read which leaves me saying, “I wish this guy wrote more articles.”

The grid that originated in 1811 will never be finished as long as it remains in place, because it will never stop challenging its inhabitants to infuse its neutral, rectangular blocks with the vibrant content of humanity and culture.

Designs For Working: Malcolm Gladwell on Jane Jacobs and how her ideas have been co-opted by corporations looking for collaborative, social working environments. See: Zappos’ plan for Las Vegas.

 

Sparely populated suburbs may look appealing, she said, but without an active sidewalk life, without the frequent, serendipitous interactions of many different people, “there is no public acquaintanceship, no foundation of public trust, no cross-connections with the necessary people–and no practice or ease in applying the most ordinary techniques of city public life at lowly levels.”

“The Solomon Curve, developed in 1964, states that those driving slowest will be at the greatest risk of crashing. This outdated model, which ignores pedestrian safety entirely, still guides traffic engineering toward higher speeds.” StreetsBlog

This has been going around like wild fire. The 85th Percentile Rule in Traffic Engineering from Copenhagenize: an outdated way of setting traffic speeds which ignores neighborhood context, pedestrians and cyclists. This model is still being used in almost every city in the world.

Imagine a street where the average speed is 50 km/h. If the speed limit is reduced by 5 km/h then, according to this archaic model, the drivers are allegedly exposed to a higher risk. What is most shocking is that this entire concept completely ignores pedestrians and cyclists. Another horrific conclusion from this graph is that when you increase the speed limit, the crash risk is alleged to be less than for slow speeds.

The Institute of Traffic Engineers wrote: “The 85th Percentile is how drivers vote with their feet”. They forgot to mention that, when it comes to establishing speed limits in cities, pedestrians and cyclists are excluded from this election. They don’t even get the chance to go to the polls.

All this right now in 2012. In your street. With your tax money.

And finally, the benefits of preserving local manufacturing districts. Proximity is Creativity: Unlocking the Value of the Garment District from Urban Omnibus. There are some things China just can’t do.

Let’s say it’s your last year at school, and you have a set of starter designs that are very marketable. What happens next? You need to get someone to make your production patterns; you need to able to source fabrics; you need to be able to sell, to have access to the stores. So let’s say you come up with a 20-piece order. You can go out into the Garment District, find a cutting room or a sewing room, and have your 20 pieces produced and shipped to a store. You can’t get only 20 pieces made in China, not today, not ever. That is what validates what goes on in the District today: the capacity to produce short runs, samples made with a quick turnaround time.

 

Articles That Stuck

I probably already linked to these articles on Twitter, but if you don’t follow that stuff, this is new to you.  These are the ones that stuck with me:

City Journal: The Barbarians at the Gates of Paris , 2002:

But there is another growing, and much less reassuring, side to France. I go to Paris about four times a year and thus have a sense of the evolving preoccupations of the French middle classes. A few years ago it was schools: the much vaunted French educational system was falling apart; illiteracy was rising; children were leaving school as ignorant as they entered, and much worse-behaved. For the last couple of years, though, it has been crime: l’insécurité, les violences urbaines, les incivilités. Everyone has a tale to tell, and no dinner party is complete without a horrifying story. Every crime, one senses, means a vote for Le Pen or whoever replaces him.

N+1: Raise the Crime Rate, 2012

From 1980 to 2007, the number of prisoners held in the United States quadrupled to 2.3 million, with an additional 5 million on probation or parole. What Ayn Rand once called the “freest, noblest country in the history of the world” is now the most incarcerated, and the second-most incarcerated country in history, just barely edged out by Stalin’s Soviet Union. We’re used to hearing about the widening chasm between the haves and have-nots; we’re less accustomed to contemplating a more fundamental gap: the abyss that separates the fortunate majority, who control their own bodies, from the luckless minority, whose bodies are controlled, and defiled, by the state.

NYTimes: A Payoff Out of Poverty, 2008

The elegant idea behind the program — give the poor money that will allow them to be less poor today, but condition it on behaviors that will give their children a better start in life — is called conditional cash transfers, and the World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank promote it heavily. At least 30 countries have now adopted Oportunidades, most of them in Latin America, but not all: countries now using or experimenting with some form of conditional payments include Turkey, Cambodia and Bangladesh. Last year, officials from Indonesia, South Africa, Ethiopia and China contacted or visited Mexico to investigate.

Slate: The Crisis in American Walking. How we got off the pedestrian path., 2012

Despite these upsides, in an America enraptured by the cultural prosthesis that is the automobile, walking has become a lost mode, perceived as not a legitimate way to travel but a necessary adjunct to one’s car journey, a hobby, or something that people without cars—those pitiable “vulnerable road users,” as they are called with charitable condescension—do. To decry these facts—to examine, as I will in this series, how Americans might start walking more again— may seem like a hopelessly retrograde, romantic exercise: nostalgia for Thoreau’s woodland ambles. But the need is urgent. The decline of walking has become a full-blown public health nightmare.

Co.Design: Can You Get People To Walk More, Simply With Smart Signage?, 2012

The larger goal of this project is to create healthy places for people–socially, economically, and environmentally,” he says. So how does it work? Walk [Your City] is an open-source platform where people can create their own “guerilla wayfinding” signs that state the time it takes to wander from any given point A to point B. The locations on the original Walk Raleigh were “deliberate,” Tomasulo says. “We wanted to reach different demographics–downtown business people, university students, and people going to the grocery store–with a collection of recognizable places and cultural assets that are perceived to be much further away from each other than they really are.

Some Links For Your Thanksgiving

-The great UCLA professor Donald Shoup discusses the ills of free parking and why it will destroy society.

-Making their way across America by bike, Laura Crawford and Russ Roca are my heroes.

-The beauty of statistics presented in compelling narratives which shows the story of global public health progress over hundreds of years at Gapminder.

-Finally, a video having nothing to do with any of this: Alain de Botton, a Swiss novelist and philosopher, discussing what it means to be content and successful in an individualistic society. Now that I’m back in the northeast, I’m picking up the habit of asking people what they do for a living at the very beginning of conversations. I sorta hate that. Maybe I need more time back in small southern cities.

Car Free In Hoboken and some links

Hoboken, NJ.  My stomping ground in undergrad.  Hoboken was the heart of my Saturday nights my junior and senior years. Let me apologize now to all the people living in those upstairs apartments that my friends and I probably woke up as we stumbled out of Black Bear or Scotland Yard.   Now that I’m [more] grown up,  let’s recognize Hoboken for something else:  The Surrender Your Permit program, a city effort to promote car free living.  Sometimes carrots do a better job than a stick.

IBM’s Many Eyes program is a data visualization tool which goes beyond charts and graphs and helps make complex data meaningful and intuitive.

Eric Fischer has made maps of almost every major U.S. city by race.

The New Yorker has an article by Malcolm Gladwell about why social media is ineffective at creating lasting social change. Would your 200 facebook “friends” really be willing to help you change the world?

And Vanity Fair has an interview with John Lennon at 70.

Car Free Day in Baltimore and some links

Tomorrow is World Carfree Day - a worldwide movement to ditch cars on September 22nd and walk, bike, swim, skip, or take transit to work.  Though there are no organized World Carfree Day events in Baltimore (yet), there’s stuff going on in DC.

My Wheels are Turning is a great community transportation blog out of Northern Michigan with a focus on livability issues.

The NYTimes has a piece on the Geometry of Sprawl - a german photographer pointing his lens down at huge subdivisions in places like Arizona and Nevada (thanks to Evan Hershman for the link).

Check out Recovering Lazyholic out of Austin. Not transportation related at all, but this woman’s photography knocks me out.  Look for the series she did in Baltimore.

And finally some love to Detroit from Palladium. Dying cities will be reclaimed by the dreamers and doers:



UPDATE: Streetsblog discusses dangerous wide roads and a CNU study which shows accidents increase 487% when street widths go from 24′ to 36′.

Calculate your transportation costs, Cable Propelled Transit, and walking in L.A.

A few quick links: Abogo.cnt.org is a new site that uses census data to calculate your transportation costs anywhere in the country.  It’s based on housing density rather than neighborhood amenities, though – maybe someday they can merge their system with walkscore.com for a more accurate picture of transportation costs.

Stick2Target, a Portuguse street art blog, has a funny “eyes on the street” post about little old ladies.

Planetizen shows some gondolas, or Cable Propelled Transit (CPT), in South America. Hey, if South America brought us Bus Rapid Transit, why not cable cars too?

And finally, an excellent series about walking in L.A. from good.is