Friday, November 23, 2012

A Day of Leftovers

Over the past couple of months, I’ve established a practice of including “Follow-Ups and Schedule Notes” into my midweek posts.  On the follow-ups, good commentary by others always seems to appear on my desk shortly after I thought I’d finished covering a subject.  And I feel obligated to share.
 My midweek additions will definitely continue.  And right now I seem to have a superfluity of follow-up material.  It seems fitting to share this cornucopia of links and tweets on a day when many of us remain in a turkey coma.

I’ve previous quoted Vancouver urbanism consultant Brent Toderian on other subjects, including the complexity of cities and the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics.  This time, he weighs in with a tweet about bicycling.  “In Copenhagen, people cycle because it’s convenient, not because it's green, healthy, or cheap.”

What a vision!  Rather than arguing that more people should be on bicycles, just make it the most convenient option and let people make their own decisions.  We’re a long ways from achieving that vision, but it’s an inspirational destination to target.

Also on bicycling, the tumult in Toronto over the removal of the Jarvis bicycle lane continues.  As the scraping of the painted bicycle lane markings commenced, local bicycle advocates took to sitting in the street to obstruct the city operation.  There are more photos here.  At least one protester was arrested. 

To further muddy the waters, the City of Toronto began to install parking meters on what was supposed to be a fifth lane for car travel, resulting in this humorous piece by SpacingToronto.

Still on bicycling, Sarah Goodyear of Atlantic Cities writes about a new book on how to help your friends become more comfortable with bicycling.  To note the extent of hurdles to be overcome, New York City resident Goodyear writes about how she offered the use of a bicycle to her friends in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, when bicycling was the only way around town for many.  No friends accepted her offer.

Also on bicycling, many new apartment buildings in Denver are including bicycle repair rooms.  And the amenities aren’t limited to benches and tools.  Also offered are energy bars and bicycling maps.  One project is even offering a free bicycle to anyone who signs a one-year lease.

Here in the North Bay, a rash of road rage incidents directed against bicyclists, including an almost incomprehensible incident of an elderly driver chasing a bicyclist onto a golf course before finally striking him, has prompted the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors to consider stronger ordinances to protect bicyclists.  Coverage is provided by both the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat and the Petaluma Patch.

Meanwhile, Sebastopol began their own process to adopt an ordinance protecting all “vulnerable road users”, including bicyclists, pedestrians, and  joggers.

Finishing with bicycles, you may enjoy this newest entry from New Zealand in the weird bicycle category.  I absolutely appreciate the creativity, but the Yike Bike just seems to offers too little protection to the bicyclist in real traffic situations.  Of course, I once thought the same about driving Smart Cars at freeway speeds.  I’ve now grown accustomed to seeing them in the next lane.

Another thing the electric Yike Bike does is further blur the line between bicycles and motorcycles.  The day is coming when we’ll need a complete update to how we allocate our roadways.  And it’s likely that cars will lose some of their current prerogatives.

Changing subjects, on several occasions I wrote about the dearth of comments about cities and urbanism during the presidential campaign.  It now seems that vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan wanted to speak in urban cores.  His intended topic was poverty.  I think that urbanism would have been a better subject.  But the question was moot because the Romney campaign overruled Ryan’s request.

It’s uncertain that Ryan’s message would have found resonance in the urban centers, but it’s a shame that he wasn’t given a chance to try.  Especially because it might have forced the Obama campaign to respond, pushing urbanism closer to the spotlight.

I’ll close with Venice.  I spent two weeks there in 2007 and fervently hope to return.  Even setting aside its history, beauty, and uniqueness, it is absolutely the most walkable city in the world.  Not because it’s easy to walk there, but because there are few alternatives.

With that said, it’s hard to look at the photos of Venice during the recent extreme “acqua alta”.  During my stay there, I saw a small acqua alta late in my visit, around which a wedding couple had to stage their picture taking in the photo above.  But it was nowhere near as high as the recent event.

I mention this not because my affection for Venice, although I do someday intend to recount my Venetian stay in this blog, but because of the debate over the cause of the increasingly high acqua altas.  There is little doubt that Venice is subsiding.  Indeed, the entire region around Venice is sinking at about one millimeter per year.  There is also little doubt that higher water levels in the Adriatic are also part of the increased incursion of the sea into Venice.

And yet some argue that as long as one cause, the subsidence, can be identified, then no other cause, such as climate change, is valid.  It’s an absurd argument, one that is contradicted by the most casual observation of many natural, political, and economic phenomena.  Many occurrences in the real world have multiple contributing and often mutually-reinforcing causes.  And yet the idea of a solitary cause is often passed off as logical on the internet.  Just like urbanism, reality is complex.  We must embrace complexity, not pretend it doesn’t exist.

Closing Note: My first blog post was published on the Monday after Thanksgiving 2011.  So, today concludes my first year.  After fifty-two weeks of three posts per week, I still have a long list of topics about which to ruminate, to share, and to listen to your thoughts.  It’s been a great start, but it’s only been a start.  There are many more miles to cover before I sleep.

It sometimes seems as if progress on urbanism in the U.S. is a Sisyphean task.  But inspired by the readership of this blog that has been slowly but steadily increasing, I intend to keep pushing on the boulder.  Besides, in the words of anthropologist Margaret Meade, “Can a small group of people make a difference?  It's the only thing that ever has.”

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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