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» The Simple Power of the Bicycle

another article summarizing transportation x urbanization x climate change x advocacy x urban planning.

Transportation is the largest single source of air pollution in the United States. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, fine particulate matter alone, much of which comes from transportation related emissions, is responsible for up to 30,000 premature deaths each year. Yet transportation is one of the areas that we, as individuals, have the most ability to control. A whopping 60% of carbon emissions generated by transportation in this country originates from cars and light trucks (the remainder mainly from heavy-duty vehicles & airplanes). The average person who bikes five miles to work, five days a week, avoids 2,000 miles of driving a year – the equivalent of 100 gallons of gasoline saved and 2,000 pound of CO2 emissions avoided. This equates to saving 5% of the average American’s carbon footprint. This means that regular people like you and me have the greatest potential to turn this problem around.

Simply put, too many people are burning too much fuel in single-occupancy vehicles. Fortunately, a surprisingly straightforward, inexpensive, and low-tech solution to this problem is right under our noses or, more likely, stored in our garages..

Americans are no different than our friends in northern Europe when it comes to making basic lifestyle choices. How we decide to get to work, bring our kids to school, or move around for errands or recreation is largely based on what’s most convenient and expedient for us personally, not some grand environmental motivation. If it’s easier and faster to drive, we usually do. If transit is most convenient, we take the bus. If biking proves speediest and most enjoyable, then we’ll pedal.

Unfortunately for our environment (as well as our pocketbooks and general health), American communities have largely been built to prioritize automobiles, making it a challenge to see bicycling, transit, or walking trips as the most attractive options in many places.

This is where the work of bicycle advocates can be most effective. Our focus is on improving the policies, plans, and investments needed to make communities bicycle-friendly so that more people have the option of biking for more of their trips.”

by Leah Shahum, sfbike.
read more: stanfordenergyclub, 07.04.14.

first time actually having lunch out on the park blocks. 
man, portland’s so european.  not only is there easy, direct public transit from the airport to downtown, but there’s a median/boulevard park as well.
» How the City Affects Your Psyche: Best #Cityreads of the Week

Can Free College Save American Cities? 

"Kalamazoo’s spirits—much like its population—had been in precipitous decline. From 1970 to 2007, the city’s population shrank 20 percent to just over 70,000. The sad, slow leak of manufacturing jobs had caused a sad, slow leak of the middle class. Poverty was nearly twice the national average. Within some pockets of city, the problems were startling: in Northside, a predominantly black neighborhood, the poverty rate was 37 percent—worse than even basket-case Detroit, two hours to the east …

The idea was one part radical social engineering: How better to change the life trajectory of the city’s struggling urban poor than to send them to college? As economists have long known, the biggest single predictor of financial success in modern America is a college degree… Increasingly, those with no higher education are the ones left behind. But the Kalamazoo Promise wasn’t just a big idea about the new economics of education; the hope wasn’t just to send more kids to college – but to turn around an entire town.”

read more: Politico Magazine, 04.2014.

» 'Tactical Urbanism' Converting Vacant Lot In Downtown San Diego Into Urban Park

An empty parking lot doesn’t have to be an empty parking lot forever. It can really be transformed into something amazing. And it doesn’t take that much money, it doesn’t take a lot of time, it just takes people who are willing to participate and really want to make a difference.”

David Loewenstein, the chief operating officer of RAD Lab.

A “tactical urbanism” project is underway in San Diego’s East Village, where commercial real estate company HP Investors is lending a vacant lot to the Downtown Partnership. The nonprofit, working with the design firm RAD Lab, decided to ask for the public’s input on what should go in the lot. So they put up a sign in front of the lot asking people to write down ideas for what they want to see in the space.

One of the most popular ideas was a children’s playground and family park. Sifting through the suggestions, it seems the lot will likely be transformed into some kind of urban park.

Sumeet Parekh, HP Investors’ principal and the property’s owner, is loaning the space for free and will pay for all of the costs of the makeover. He said he’s doing it because he owns some of the surrounding buildings and wants to add value to the neighborhood.

"Small things like this can have a really transformative effect on the neighborhood, and we want to invest back in the neighborhoods that we invest in," he said.

kbps, 13.03.14.

Oakland and Berkeley are the best places to live in the US. There’s culture, and the weather’s great. All other places have aspects of American culture that I don’t like, or crappy weather.

bf on choosing where to live in america.

(ex. Portland is really bike-friendly and has excellent bike/beer/coffee/etc. scenes, but rains too often. Tampa has great weather, but is too auto-dominated/bike-unfriendly and the type of people there are generally not his type. **also near SF but don’t need to live in the cold fog!)

» ‘I Just Wasn't That Stoked on Where the City’s Going’

"Even when I was a kid, so much of the illusory “prosperity” of the city has been fueled by land grabs. It’s been politicians taking land and selling it to developers at below market value, who in turn pay off the politicians and develop the land for resale. All without paying the full cost of things like maintaining sewer and water and roads far from central areas of the city.

That’s the core underlying story of development in Southern California and that’s shaped our communities.

There are people who are trying to change that, but they’re outgunned by money.

A great example of this is back in 2010, when the city indicated that they didn’t want big-box stores and Walmart just steamrolled through the process and got in anyway. Yes, Walmart pushed that through, but the City Council was complicit. It didn’t go to a vote or anything. City Council just rolled over…

I don’t want to say that the city can never improve, but I think it’s a really long process. The progress is not very impressive.

So, for me, I want to live in a place that supports the things that city dwellers value.”

read more of the interview: vosd, 06.02.14.

» Cycling in cities: the search for the world's most bike-friendly metropolis

a quite complete overview of cycling in cities—covering policy history in Amsterdam and Denmark, how Danes don’t consider cycling exercise (it’s just their mode of transport), cycling in Paris, vs London, vs Canadian cities, the advent of “vehicular cycling” in North America, and statistics from research like death rate and health benefits.

A woman weaves through traffic in London. The city was found to be the ‘most terrifying’ of the places sampled. Photograph: Martin Godwin for the Guardian

So while most other developed nations continued through the 1980s and beyond with road transport design that prioritised the needs of motorised vehicles, a dramatic change was taking place in northern Europe. The shift in thinking catalysed by public protest was that, rather than requiring children and cyclists to adapt to motorised traffic, traffic should adapt to children and cyclists. 

Making people feel safer on bikes should not mean equipping them with high-vis and reflective helmets,” says Jack Harris, owner of London’s Tally Ho! Cycle Tours. “We need infrastructure that allows a broader cross-section of society to get onto a bike.” The places that are serious about encouraging cycling as a safe, accessible and pleasant mode of transport have some tough decisions to make about vulnerable users, including cyclists, in the allocation of urban space.

read more: theguardian, 04.03.14.

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