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This is the sweetest, mushiest bike map you’ve ever seen

Click to embiggen.
Click to embiggen.

Vincent Meertens and his girlfriend Larissa tracked all their bike trips for a year, and the result is a dense, cross-hatched map of their travels as individuals and as a couple. It's like one of those Facebook relationship pages, but centered on biking.

Meertens' routes are picked out in blue and Larissa's in red. The paths mark their solo activities, their favorite haunts, and their adventures together (although Meertens was more zealous about tracking and some of the blue-only routes, like the one around the perimeter of Manhattan, are actually trips they took as a couple). The yellow dots are places where they took photos.

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Forget cows — people are now going Smart car tipping

smart-car-upside-down-flicker
Fred Scharmen

Youthful San Francisco hooligans don’t exactly have access to a field of snoozing cows. What CAN they tip? Smart cars. And on Monday, four were flipped over in San Francisco neighborhoods. Reports the Associated Press:

[Officer Gordon] Shyy said ... police were looking for multiple suspects wearing black hooded sweatshirts who were in the area at the time of the destruction.

You rebellious teens with your hoodies and raging hormones and pent-up aggression! The prank seems merely silly on the surface, but it could actually point to underlying class-based tension in one of America’s most spendy cities.

Police said they didn't know whether the attacks were a prank or another episode in escalating tensions among some residents who blame the tech industry for rising rents and cost of living.

As Shelley Gallivan, who inherited one of the Smart cars when her 70-year-old dad died, told the AP:

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10 places to visit before they’re gone: A bucket list for a warming world

statue-of-liberty-snorkel-flood-2
Shutterstock

Summer is just around the corner and, after a winter like this one, it’s high time to start making those vacation plans. Of course, our buoyant spirits were somewhat dampened by the latest U.N. climate report. Spoiler alert, it wasn’t real good, well, unless you’re into horrific droughts, monster storms, heat waves, mass extinctions, failing crops, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria, in which case, jackpot!

Ever the troopers, we here at Grist decided to not let the bad news harsh our fantastic inner mellow and instead to look at this as a crisitunity. Usually picking vacation spots is such a challenge, but by focusing on the best places that may not be places much longer in our warming world, we were able to shorten our list to the top ten do-it-now vacation destinations. So get ahold of your travel agent, load up the family truckster, and set a course for fun!

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Watch commuters live your public transit nightmare as they avoid a rat in a subway car

Everyone in New York has made peace with the idea that there are rats in the subway. But usually there aren't rats IN the SUBWAY, as in running around inside the cars. When that happens, it's pretty horrifying:

Well, half horrifying, half hilarious to watch everyone standing on the seats squealing, with one subway rider executing a deft little jump as the rat comes barreling towards his feet.

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Not so fast

States try to block cities’ transit plans

bus rapid transit sketch
Will Tennessee's Republican-controlled state legislature kill this proposed bus rapid transit line in Nashville?

As more cities come to terms with Americans’ shifting desires to get out of cars and onto mass transit, we are beginning to see bus and rail projects in some unexpected places. Mass transit isn’t just for your Europhile socialist coastal enclaves anymore. Cities in the Midwest and the Sun Belt are trying to develop well-planned transit systems such as light rail and bus rapid transit.

But there is a hitch: States tend to control both how transportation funds are raised and how they are spent. Even federal transportation dollars are mostly disbursed to states rather than localities. Many states, even liberal California and transit-rich New York, prohibit cities from levying most kinds of taxes without state permission, making it hard for metropolitan areas to raise funds for their own projects.

And, you’ll be shocked to discover, Republican state legislatures aren’t so keen on mass transit. In Indiana, for example, the counties in the Indianapolis region need state approval just to hold a referendum on whether to fund mass transit projects. And the state legislature would not give them that permission unless they dropped a light rail system from the proposal, and also dropped a corporate tax to pay for it.

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The big leafy

What “kalegate” taught us about New Orleans and food

kale
Shutterstock

It started with an off-hand snub in a New York Times travel story about New Orleans, and how minor celebrities like Solange Knowles (Beyonce’s younger sister) and the guy from the band Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes are moving to the city. Halfway through the story, Dutch actress Tara Elders down-talked the availability of produce in the city. “New Orleans is not cosmopolitan,” she said. “There’s no kale here.”

Turns out, you can insult New Orleans about its inability to do anything on time, or its culture of indulgence, but if you talk bad about its greens, the locals get up in arms.

Read more: Cities, Food

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These little hacks make cities more sustainable and fun

Sometimes all it takes is imagination, some stealth, and a little elbow grease to turn the mundane into something playful. Rotten Apple, an anonymous art project based in New York City, turns ordinary and forgotten city objects into usable, sustainable mini-hacks. Here's how they describe where they land:

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Rotten Apple

So, how does that look on the ground? They added a seat on a hinge to a bicycle rack for a pop-down chair:

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Rotten Apple

They turned a forgotten newspaper kiosk into a cold weather clothing bank:

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It helps to like your neighbor during a natural disaster

hurricane-sandy
Shutterstock

"When a storm hits, there are no strangers -- only neighbors helping neighbors, communities rallying to rebuild," says President Obama in a YouTube video, looking out at Americans on the internet. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the White House has gone to some lengths to communicate its long-term strategy on disaster preparedness. You might expect the president to start a speech like this by talking about improving infrastructure, facilitating fast responses from FEMA, or even addressing environmental concerns, but instead, he led with the idea of strong communities. Which raises a question: What does neighborliness have to do with storm preparedness?

Quite a bit, apparently. A June study from the Associated Press and National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago found that towns and neighborhoods with a strong sense of social connection recovered faster after Hurricane Sandy. People living in the areas that recovered from the storm the fastest were more likely to say that others can be trusted (44 vs. 33 percent) and that the disaster brought out the best in their neighbors (81 vs. 63 percent). In areas that have had a harder time bouncing back, more people reported seeing looting (31 vs. 7 percent), vandalism (21 vs. 5 percent), and hoarding of food and water (47 vs. 25 percent).

Read more: Cities, Climate & Energy

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Eat your heart out, Rome: This 3D-printed village was built in a day

house-3d-printed-shanghai-12
3Ders.org

To review: In the world of sustainable real estate, they’re making hobbit houses out of straw bales, outfitting old shipping containers with green roofs and compostable toilets, and now, using 3D printers to build cottages. It can be hard to keep up, we know.

In Shanghai, the WinSun Decoration Design Engineering Co created a tiny village using little more than an enormous 3D printer. The printer produced the houses’ walls, roof, and floors, which were then manually assembled. The layers of concrete used to create each component were partially made from recycled construction and industrial waste.

WinSun claims to have constructed the entire village, which includes 10 houses, in less than a day.

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Smoggy Chinese city offers residents bags of fresh air

woman-oxygen-mask-air-breathe-flickr
Clear Communication People

In what totally sounds like a Spaceballs-inspired April Fools’ joke, a travel company shipped bags of fresh air to highly polluted Zhengzhou, China, for residents to enjoy. The stunt was promoting tourism to Laojun Mountain, an area 120 miles away that's full of mushrooms, monkeys, and apparently quite clean air.

Up to 20 people at a time could slurp the good stuff through oxygen masks for a few minutes before someone else got a turn (the Wall Street Journal has photos). State-run China News Service reported that some people even tried to wring every last breath out of the air-pillows, and a pregnant lady supposedly felt her baby kick when she started breathing the clean stuff.

Read more: Cities, Living