Wednesday, April 13, 2016

April Fools’ Day – Part 4

Photo by Matt Howell, from
Having built up the suspense over three previous posts (1, 2, and 3), it’s time to count down the top six places on the list of my top April Fools’ Day stories.  As I’m written before, the whimsy and quirkiness of many of these stories aren’t necessarily equivalent to the pranks typically associated with April Fools’ Day.  However, urbanism can provide good settings for whimsy and quirkiness and those elements deserve to be celebrated.

With that preamble, this is my best of the best.

#6  Playing Pac-Man in Your Own Downtown – Those of a certain age likely have the Pac-Man grid engraved in their memory banks.  But some aficionados may also have pondered the strategic implications of other grids, maybe even using grids drawn from real life.

Recognizing the possibility, City Lab ran a story announcing that Namco, the owner of Pac-Man, will make Pac-Man grids drawn from real places available for a limited time.  Among the street grids to be used are Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, and Moscow

However, before anyone rushes out to play, I should note that CityLab ran the story on the day before April Fools’ Day 2015.

#5  Clearing a Bike Lane by Brute Force – Some car owners just don’t get it, deciding that their need to park a car trumps the need of bicyclists to use a bike path.  A sturdy biker, faced with a lightweight car, found a solution.  It’s not a solution with universal applicability, but at least one group of onlookers was thrilled.

#4  More Bike Lane Brute Force Needed – The guy from #5 was also needed for this story.  Officials from New South Wales, the Australian province that contains Sydney, set out a sign asking drivers to be considerate to bikers.  The intention was fine, but the sign was placed in the bike lane, forcing bikers to veer into traffic.   It’s either an awkward joke or the best example ever of missing the point.  (If the link doesn’t work, try the first link from this search.)

#3  Urbanism Goes Hollywood – The life of an urban planner can offer complex choices between complying with codes and finding ways to promote concepts that better fit the current and future needs of the public.  Hollywood noted the dramatic potential of this conflict and, as reported by Planetizen, secured the services of Matthew McConaughey for an upcoming movie “The Urban Planner”.

And if urban planning isn’t enough to hold the interest of the audience, Agenda 21 and romance will also have roles.

However, before anyone begins scanning the movie listings for the picture, they should note that Planetizen ran the article on April Fools’ Day 2015.

#2  Riding the Subway Underclothed – Both of the top spots on my April Fools’ Day list go underground, into the New York subway.

At #2 is a video of the first No Pants Subway Ride.  Check out the second video on this webpage as a young woman quietly reading her book suddenly finds herself bracketed by otherwise successful-looking and well-attired citizens who are riding the New York subway in January with fashionable underwear, but no pants.  After a moment of discomfort, she finds the humor.  The text gives the story of how she became reacquainted with the lead prankster.

The first video is of a later No Pants Subway Ride and lacks the element of surprise.  As I’ve always said, five people riding the subway without pants is a prank.  Two hundred doing it is exhibitionism.

#1  I Don’t Care About Your Problems – Lastly, at the top of my personal list is the New York subway conductor who grows tired of whiny passengers and decides to tell it as she sees it.  I’m not sure which of the subway riders were real people and which were members of the comedy troupe, but I don’t care.  Regardless of who was in on the joke, I laugh out loud every time I watch the video.

And if you’re planning on watching this in the office, you might want to rethink that plan.

That was fun.  I’ve already begun saving up for April Fools’ Day 2017.  Suggestions will be accepted.

Early in my career, I bumped against the concept of cumulative effects, the argument that environmental impacts can only be measured by considering the total impact of all possible projects.  There can be times when the theory is appropriate, but it’s more often applied as a strategy by those who oppose a particular project and don’t care about scientific rigor.

Even if wrong-headed, the cumulative effects argument was used effectively enough years ago that I still twitch involuntarily when I hear the phrase.  I recently began twitching again.  I’ll explain why when I next write.

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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