Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Celebrating April Fools' Day – Part One

Not every urbanism story revolves around advocacy or education.  Some are quirky.  Some are whimsical.  Some are cringeworthy.  And some are just plain fun.

Quirky, whimsical, cringeworthy, and fun may not be the adjectives normally associated with April Fools’ Day, but it’s the nearest fit I can find on the calendar.  So today I’ll begin a countdown of the top fourteen off-beat stories with urbanist angles over which I’ve stumbled during the past year.   Expecting that there are too many giggles, guffaws, and jaw-dropping moments for one post, today will be numbers eight through fourteen, with the top seven links to follow in my next post.

#14 Texting Signpost: A disengaged London prankster, trying the find the meaning of life in unexpected places, puts his phone number on an otherwise innocuous street signpost and then engages in churlish dialogue, impersonating the signpost, with folks who call the number.  The five-minute video is about three minutes and thirty seconds too long, but there are smile-inducing moments, like the woman working too hard to make a date with a signpost.

#13 London Bridges: The next item is also from London.  Trying to build a buzz for a massive redevelopment scheme around a former power station, the City of London is seeking creative, even fanciful, design concepts for a new $60 million pedestrian bridge across the Thames River upstream from the Houses of Parliament.

For those who have come to believe that the new eastern span of the Bay Bridge may have been a bridge too far (pun intended), the London designs should give chills.

#12 Snow Maze: Changing the theme from London to winter weather, Swedish architects built an elaborate snow fun zone, including a snow maze with walls of varying levels of translucency.

#11 Snow Tunnel: Lacking architects to plan their snow fun, Boston bicyclists, frustrated by a fifteen-foot high pile of snow left by snowplows and blocking their preferred bicycling route, spent two days building a tunnel through the snow.

Yes, one would think that the two days could have been better spent finding an alternative route and then locating a good cup of hot chocolate, but the snow excavation project could also be considered the building of social capital.

#10 Bumping against Airport Regulations: The piles of snow were even higher in Portland, Maine, where local officials had to worry about whether their growing mound of hauled snow would soon violate airspace restrictions around the local airport. 

#9 Worst Bus Stops: Definitely in the cringeworthy part of April Fools’ Day is the Streetsblog poll on the worst bus stops in the country.  I’m sure that every nominated bus stop has both a backstory that explains how the stop came to be located where it is and a transit planner who is mortified by the responsibility for the bus stop.  Nonetheless, some of the bus stops defy imagination.

My vote went to the St. Louis County bus stop that was the winner.  I’m intrigued by how people can even reach the bus stop given the nearby stormwater ditches.  And I’d love to hear the explanation of the handicapped accommodation.

#8 Bike Parking: Finishing today on a happier note, this Japanese video shows how technology and state-of-the-art mechanical engineering can stash a lot of bicycles in a little space.  Perhaps the first reaction is that the cost per bike must be awfully high.  But would it truly be even as much as the cost per parking space in a multi-story garage?

Next time, I’ll finish up with the top seven.

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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