- See more at: http://www.bloggerhow.com/2012/07/implement-twitter-cards-blogger-blogspot.html/#sthash.DO2JBejM.dpuf

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Is There a "One-Way Epidemic"?

Recently, City Limits ran an op-ed by architect John Massengale about the need for safer street design. Under the photo at the top, the caption read: "First Avenue in Manhattan. Avenues used to run two-way, which is safer for pedestrians, but were mostly made one-way, to make life easier for drivers." This argument was elaborated in detail in the text. This week, Cap'n Transit followed up on his blog, extending the campaign against one-way streets.

These are familiar arguments. After beginning a discussion a while ago about one-way streets, it was suggested that I refer to "The One-Way Epidemic" section in Walkable City, which makes these same claims. These pieces all serve as good examples for discussion purposes. I wholeheartedly agree with the need to redesign New York City's streets to be safer for pedestrians, and I share the majority of the views of these safe-street advocates. I find some areas of common ground regarding one-way streets, as well, but it is useful to draw out the key differences as well as the overlap to illustrate why the rhetoric against one-way streets is overblown and counterproductive.

Let's start with the term "epidemic" used in Walkable City. This is rhetoric that invokes fear. The book explicitly compares the creation of one-way streets with an outbreak of influenza that killed 20 million people in 1918-1919. The not-so-subtle claim is that one-way streets are an imminent threat to your life. Avoid them like the plague!

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Invasion of the Christmas Trees

Soon after Christmas every year, New York City is invaded by trees. It's no killer Christmas tree attack, but the discarded trees start to take over the city's public spaces.
Observing the places where trees end up can be instructive. It can expose differences in community attitudes toward public space, demonstrate which places and activities are sacrificed first, and expose other interesting relationships.

Discarded trees often fill in spaces along the curb between street furniture, maintaining an effective sidewalk width for pedestrians
Sometimes trees pile up in the curb lane, reducing some of the available on-street parking

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Lunchtime Around a Construction Site

Construction in an area often illustrates opportunities and shortcomings of a place. Just keep an eye on how the workers use the area during their breaks.

Since they're less worried about getting their work clothes dirty, they're not bashful about finding comfortable places to sit when there aren't proper benches around. Their seating choices largely illustrate locations where there could be a general interest in sitting, since the desire to watch the crowds during lunch is such a broadly shared human interest. The street furniture they use can also suggest ways these features might be designed differently to deliberately incorporate seating in ways that could be both comfortable and appropriate for long-term maintenance.

The activity these workers bring can also start to activate a street in the interim before new buildings open. Class tensions surface at times between the working-class laborers and affluent residents and workers who usually populate areas with new construction. It is probably too optimistic to hope, but there may be potential for change by exposing these tensions. If nothing else, I find it positive to see the working class claiming some public ownership, if only temporarily, in parts of the city they increasingly can't afford.