Wednesday, January 2, 2013

New Year’s Resolution (Singular)

Welcome to 2013!  I’d like to think that we made some urbanist headway in 2012, at least in education.  But the road ahead remains daunting.   Luckily, most of us urbanists like challenges.

New Years is traditionally a time of resolutions, goals, and other lists.  And I tend to do some of that.  But sharing a list seems trite, so I’ll offer only a single goal.  For which I must give a short back story.

Last weekend, I met with group of North Bay urbanists.  I had scheduling conflicts, so my attendance time was short.  But it was inspiring to listen, even for a short time, to the stories of others who are arguing for urbanism in the region.

At one point, the organizer of the meeting turned to me and said, “I’ve been reading your blog for awhile.  You’re more of a generalist.”  I’d never thought of myself that way.  But I realized that he was right.  The other people in the room were mostly tackling urbanism from a transportation angle.  Less reliance on freeways.  Streets that serve a broader range of transportation options.  Effective use of transit.

Transforming how we build and utilize transportation is essential to urbanism.  But my personal feeling is that urbanism can’t come to full flower if we predominantly focus on transportation issues.  Or on any single issue.  Instead, we need to spread our attention over housing, public places, retail, jobs, sustainability, energy, and a host of others, including transportation.

Viewing urbanism as a far ranging list of interrelated issues, all of which must be solved, is sort of like going to sea in a colander.  It seems a nearly impossible task, but with enough believers, enough enthusiasm, and enough problem solving, it’s achievable.  And it’s essential if we are to provide the urbanism needed to save ourselves in the coming century.

And that is my one resolution for 2013.  To embrace that I’m an urbanism generalist and to promote the generalist perspective.  (Actually, that sounds more like one-and-a-half, but we’ll round down.)

Other urbanists weren’t as hesitant to share lists, some of which were quite good.  The best are offered below:

Brent Toderian uses Planetizen to issue a 2013 call to action for all urbanists.  He admits to writing the piece with his thumbs.  I wish I could write as well with all ten fingers.  If you only follow one link today, this is the one.

Kaid Benfield of the National Resources Defense Council nominates his best of 2012 across a number of sustainable urbanism subjects.  To me, walkable urbanism is so much more sustainable than drivable suburbanism that I’m less excited about rain gardens and their like.  But I’m pleased that Benfield is paying attention.

Lastly, Lauren Drell writes on Mashable about the 25 technologies that cities should have to provide more effective urbanism.  Most you’ve probably read about before, but there are a couple that were new to me, such as a trashcan adopting app.

Here’s to keeping resolution(s) in 2013!

Schedule Note

The next meeting of Petaluma Urban Chat will be Tuesday, January 8, 5:30pm, at the Aqus Café.  Newcomers are always welcome.  Make a New Year’s resolution to join us this year.

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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