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» “Closing” Lombard Street: The Language of Taking Cars For Granted

The Lombard Street car restrictions have roundly been deemed a “closure,” a term with negative connotations. The other side of that action, that of opening the area for people, is ignored — as is the fact that auto domination is the status quo on San Francisco’s streets. Any impingement upon that norm that is framed as a loss.

From reading headlines found in other news sources around the country, you’d think the street is simply being closed to everyone. Cars are vaguely mentioned, if at all, while the whole “temporary trials on some afternoons” thing often gets washed over, with Lombard deemed simply and totally “closed.” Here are a few typical examples:

  • Washington Post: “San Francisco to close off iconic Lombard Street to tourists”
  • USA Today: “S.F. to temporarily close ‘world’s crookedest street’”
  • SF Chronicle: “Lombard Street to close on 4 busy weekends this summer”

Put simply, unfettered access by cars is equated with “access”. If one cannot drive there, one cannot go there. And as those important distinctions are blurred, we lose sight of what we deem important uses of our streets.

The verbal gymnastics used to avoid mentioning cars are present not just in headlines, but in everyday conversation. In discussions about behavior on the streets, notice how often the operators of motor vehicles are described as just “people” — for example, “People are always flying down this hill.” Not that drivers aren’t people, but the mode of transport is a key distinction to make. People using other modes usually get explicit labels that posit them as “others” — people on bikes are “cyclists,” and people just walking around are “pedestrians.”

When the discussion is framed in ways like these, the role cars play is put behind the curtain. The conversation then takes for granted that most public space will be devoted to the private automobile, and most people will travel by car.

If we can’t explicitly talk about problems and their causes, we can’t talk about fixing them. And if we can’t acknowledge the subtle ways in which our lexicon is inherently centered around cars, we can’t talk about the ways in which we’ve adapted our lives, and cities, to accommodate their costs.

sf.streetsblog, 23.05.14.
photo: sfbike.

» Turn-Only Lanes Are Anti-Pedestrian & Therefore Anti-Urban

A New York City MTA Bus almost ran me over this morning as I WALKED my bike in a crosswalk with a green light. Before he almost ran me over the driver honked at me, loudly, to tell me to get out of his way. And I repeat, I was walking in a crosswalk, with the walk light.

That’s what turn lanes and turn lights do. They give drivers the idea that they have a right to turn, without people getting in their way. And green turn lights and boldly marked turn lanes encourage drivers to go quickly and “take the lane,” because they are clearly in an environment set up for cars—just like in the suburbs. The bus was going at least 35 miles per hour, and so was a long stream of traffic behind him. If the bus had hit me while going 35 miles per hour, I would have almost certainly been dead. While walking with the light in a crosswalk, on an island where 80% of the people don’t own cars.

FACT: There is an inverse relationship between a traffic engineer’s or DOT’s Level of Service (LOS) and the degree of walkability. That’s why in our petition to the US DOT we proposed a Walkable Index Number (WIN) for towns and cities instead of an auto-based Level of Service. WIN versus LOS equals walkability versus drivability.

read more: streetsbook, 20.05.14.
sign the petition here! (nationwide, not only nyc)

what i really like about the dearborn separated bike lanes in Chicago (except for the narrow lane widths) is that they put in bike signals. drivers going straight have the same green time as the bike signals, but drivers who want to turn get a red turning light. so no drivers can turn and hit cyclists or people in the crosswalks. much safer walking across streets and biking across intersections.

so I don’t think turn lanes by themselves are anti-pedestrian. If there are regulations to stop turning vehicles from turning where there are people crossing, then no conflict.

I googled myself..
and found out that someone used one of my pictures in an article about working for Postmates courier service on a website that tries to teach people how to hoard pennies.
i guess i forgot I set that photo not on “all rights reserved”. oh, well—it gets more love! and makes me/my bike look like a bike messenger bike.

The end of the car city — A convenient truth stockholmcyclo,
City Biking Paris


After taking the London city bikes for a spin, I had to give the famous Velib that kicked off the recent city bike expansion a try, in Paris.



I’d heard the terminals only take chip-and-pin credit cards, so I pre-purchased a 1-day Velib membership online (for about $2.50) before my trip. I was pleasantly surprised how well it worked— I entered the numbers from that receipt and my PIN into a terminal, and I was able to quickly/easily check out a Velib for 30 minutes from anywhere in the city.


Paris was a mix of rough cobbles, busy traffic, narrow streets… and also impressively good bike infrastructure along certain streets (separated bike paths, bike boxes, and clear markings for how bikes should cut across complex multi-way intersections, often with bike-specific traffic signals that guided bikes across on a green while cars had reds in both directions for a short period of time).



Unrelated but obligatory photo of a macaroon:


hmm in the second-to-last picture.. two different bike symbols in one crossing? wonder what’s the deal with that. maybe some activists were like, it’s not just a bike, it’s a person riding a bike! and demanded new stencils.

btw that looks like such a tasty macaroon.

Public Spaces Around the World: Eddy Kaijser’s ‘Urban Living Room’



Photos c/o ID Eddy

As a new This City Life feature, I will be profileing a fun, urban public space project each month. This week, I came across Eddy Kaijser, a Rotterdam-based urban designer, who contacted me through the blog. His “Urban Living Room" is a pop-up installation project that brings the cozy warmth of the family living room into local urban landscapes. 

The Urban Living Room consists of your typical living room furnishings: a sofa, chairs, coffee table, dresser and lamp, as well as common objects used in everyday life like a teapot, newspaper rack, plant and even a campfire -  all painted in electric blue. The Living Room’s contemporary furniture was created by leading Dutch designers Dirk van der Kooij, Roderick Vos for Linteloo, Ben Oostrum en Jan Melis. 


According to Urban Living Room creator Eddy Kaijser, installing these comforts of home in an urban context makes big cities feel more intimate and welcoming.

"The world urbanizes rapidly. People live closer together and cities keep on expanding - how do we hold on to the  bond with the city that is rapidly changing? The large scale of the city demands the opposite: a home. Feeling at home is a special feeling. By putting a living room setting in an unexpected place, we create an opportunity for that home feeling. With this project we want to explore that feeling. Important in the development of a city are the contacts between people, especially on a cultural and social level. The Urban Living Room is a prime example of encouraging this."

So far, the installation has travelled from Rotterdam to Istanbul to Barcelona. In each location, small scale activities such as board games, children’s storytelling and live music from local musicians are programmed.


"The Urban Living Room is a social meeting place that we designed to demonstrate who the public space of the city belongs to: the people," said Eddy.

Eddy has been involved in many innovative public space projects that have been showcased around the world, such as his Flying Grass Carpet, an immense Persian rug with a pattern executed in different types of artificial grass. It creates an instant park, bringing a soft, cozy green space to wherever it lands. Since its conception in 2008, it has won the Dutch Design award and been displayed in Istanbul, Madrid, Berlin and many other cities.


According to Eddy, his ideas pop up, based on a combination of intuition and listening to citizens’ feedback on their desires for lively public spaces. 

"My main inspiration for getting involved in public art space projects is a combination of the ‘displeasure’ with how I feel things are designed in public space right now. There tends to be a focus on maintenance free, low-cost spaces, consequently with a very in unsocial, dull end result. I think that the public space belongs to the people and I want to create a pleasant, social place where people can meet, play and enjoy."

Currently, Eddy is designing a total new kind of public space specifically for children.

"They can create their own world in this space. It will be really nice."


» Oakland weighs in on walkability

Walkability is important to the social fabric of Oakland because it “build[s] social capital,” said Jason Patton, Bicycle & Pedestrian Program Manager for the City of Oakland, noting that people of all different classes, races and backgrounds mix it up when they are on foot. “The pedestrian realm is … this kind of great equalizer that keeps us in touch with each other.”

Chris Hwang, President of WOBO’s Board Of Directors and Chair of Oakland’s Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee, highlighted the need for a critical mass of pedestrians: “Walkability depends on me seeing other people doing the same thing.”

comment by melanie:

While we’re at it, can we transform Oakland Chinatown into the pedestrian paradise it could be? Restore the two-way traffic pattern on the streets, add diagonal crossing to every intersection from Laney west, add speed bumps to slow the drivers coming from the tube or the freeway, and, good God, repave. The long-suffering residents deserve much better.

read more: oaklandlocal, 20.05.14.

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