Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween is More Fun in Town

After four posts on bicycling, I’ll give the subject a hiatus for a post or two.  But I’ll return with concluding thoughts on some of the directions that bicycling might be taking.

In place of bicycling, I’ll pay homage to the season and to the holiday.  My favorite blogger, Kaid Benfield of the National Resources Defense Council offers a photographic paean to cities in autumn.  I can’t argue that the colors of fall look better in a city than on a Vermont hillside, but an orange-leafed tree silhouetted against a brick building or a walk through a leaf-littered park is a fine accompaniment to everyday life.

My photos are of Chico, California in late autumn.  I was spending a Thanksgiving weekend in the charming college town.

Regarding the holiday, Brent Toderian provides his insights about urbanism and Halloween.  He’s right that children are adept at sussing out “door density”.  And I love his thought that children, especially becostumed children, are the indicator species for healthy neighborhoods.  May you live in a neighborhood to which parents from all over town deliver their children for a great Halloween experience.

Follow-Ups and Scheduling Notes

Morristown, Tennessee: Last December, I wrote about what I can only describe as an ill-conceived downtown redevelopment project in Morristown, Tennessee.  I concluded my comments with a request for anyone who had more information to join the conversation.  Last week, after almost ten months, I received a response. 

In the reader’s words, I happened to find myself in Morristown last spring, and while there I discovered the walkways as well. Curious (horrified?), I went into the nearby antique shop and asked what the deal was.  The clerk explained to me that in 1962 a local creek flooded and wiped out the downtown.  City planners thought it would be clever to build a ‘Skywalk’ (their name for it) as part of the repair efforts.  They also thought that elevating many of the businesses would avoid future flooding disasters.  The clerk also explained that the creek has since been diverted, and is no longer at risk of flooding the downtown.  A much better use of the money than building an elevated downtown if you ask me!”

When I expressed surprise that the structure might date back to the 1960s, my correspondent had additional information.

“As for the construction looking more recent, the shop clerk did make it sound like it had been 'restored' in recent years.  I'm guessing it would've cost more to tear it down?  Never admit defeat?  I don't know.  The whole thing was such a bizarre idea I still don't know what to make of it.”

If the structures have truly been “restored”, I’m dumbfounded.  To me, restoring that failed concept would be akin to taking a submarine down to polish the brass on the Titanic.  It boggles the mind.

My thanks to the reader for the additional information.

Bicycling to School: After recently opining about the miniscule number of students who bicycle to the schools in my neighborhood, I had a mostly enjoyable experience late last week.  While walking an elderly canine member of the household, I spied a group of five bicyclists, perhaps junior high students, racing toward me on the sidewalk.

Although I had a pending cleanup of a deposit that the dog had just made next to the sidewalk, I stepped back, baggie in hand, to await the bicyclists passing.  Four passed uneventfully.  The fifth hit the doggie deposit with both tires, with what I assume was full intent.

Although it made my cleanup more difficult, I took some satisfaction in the knowledge that, with a fenderless bike, it was likely that the rider arrived at school with a distinctive and unpleasant aroma.

It was great to learn that some students still bicycle to school.  It was less great to learn that seventh graders are just as hormone-filled and clueless as when I was a seventh grader.

Petaluma Urban Chat: The next Petaluma Urban Chat will be Tuesday, November 13 at the Aqus Café.  We gather at 5:30.  It’s a loosely organized group with variable attendance.  There’s always room for another chair or two at the table.  Feel free to join us for an unstructured discussion of urbanism, local politics, and whatever other vaguely related topics may be raised.

Urban Chat has selected “Curbside Chat” by for their first shared reading.  I anticipate that we’ll begin discussing the booklet in December.  The booklet is available as a free download on the StrongTowns website.  However, if anyone would prefer a hard copy and doesn't like buying ink for a home printer, we can coordinate the printing of multiple copies at a local print shop.  I’d expect something like $8 per copy.  Please let me know if you’re interested.

As always, your questions or comments will be appreciated.  Please comment below or email me.  And thanks for reading. - Dave Alden (

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