Cities

Critical List: Bike to work today; Amazon deforestation rate rose this year

It's Bike to Work day. Now all you bike commuters know how secretaries feel on Administrative Professionals Day: “One DAY? I’ve been doing this day in and day out all year!” The rate of Amazon deforestation has been declining in recent years; this year, it climbed again. The Brazilian government is — rightly — freaking out. The head of Tokyo Electric Power, the company responsible for handling the Fukushima meltdown, resigned today. Rumor has it that BP CEO Tony Hayward has already invited him to join the new, quickly growing Ex-Heads of Disastrous Energy Companies club. (Motto: “We Just Want …

Biking

Never too old to bike to work [VIDEO]

So, Friday is Bike to Work Day. And if you are one of those people who comes up with endless excuses about why you can’t get your ass onto a bicycle and use it to go somewhere, you need to meet Lucette Gilbert, the latest star in Streetfilms‘ series on New Yorkers who ride. Gilbert admits to being in her “high 70s,” and she has been biking since she was a 7-year-old in France. She and her friends didn’t have phones, so if they wanted to talk, they hopped on their bikes and went and found each other. Is it …

Making power lines beautiful with the help of a giant reindeer

Here's the down side of increased renewables: It means an increase in unsightly overhead power lines. And if you can't put them underground (which isn't always feasible), the answer might lie in turning an eyesore into a triumph of design. Germany is abandoning nuclear and embarking on a big renewables push, but to make it work they'll need "energy autobahns" to transmit power — large networks of overhead lines that are just crying out to be blocked by NIMBYism. Power masts that focus as much on aesthetics as on functionality might be the answer. I'm fond of the striking "Mirror …

Urbanism

The man who thinks Manhattan isn’t dense enough

New York City may not be the best example of a place that hasn’t lived up to its potential for greater density.Photo: Randy von LiskiCross-posted from the Natural Resources Defense Council. New York County, which comprises all of Manhattan, is the densest county in America at 71,166 people per square mile. It is twice as dense as No. 2, Brooklyn (which, incidentally, is followed by two more New York City counties, Bronx and Queens, at Nos. 3 and 4, respectively). Manhattan is over four times as dense as No. 5 San Francisco. This makes me wonder about Ed Glaeser, a …

Cities

Fat city: The way your neighborhood is built could be killing you

Road to ruin.Photo: Alfonso SurrocaCrappy urban development isn’t just ugly and noisy and dirty. It is turning out to be lethal. One Toronto study looked at how the quality of a community’s streets can affect people’s health, factoring into drastically reduced life expectancy. It’s the focus of an article in The Globe and Mail that discusses how Toronto and other cities are segregated not just by race and income, but also by the quality of the built environment — and what that division means for residents’ health. People living in less walkable, outlying parts of the city, with less access …

Urbanism

Bringing a dead public plaza to life in Dallas

Cross-posted from the Natural Resources Defense Council. Although it sometimes makes “ugliest building in the world” lists, I rather like I.M. Pei’s iconic Dallas City Hall, featuring his trademark architectural triangles. Photo: Chris Zúniga But I’ll grant that it is imposing. What I don’t like is the vast, forlorn “plaza” and pool that separates the city’s most important civic building from its citizenry and from the street. By all accounts, it’s six acres of dead space, except perhaps when various protests need a place to gather. “A concrete desert,” wrote Ryan Jones on the FrontBurner blog, hosted by DMagazine. “Almost …

Minneapolis to open 12 vacant lots to gardening

Minneapolis is opening up 12 vacant lots across the city to groups that will turn them into community gardens, because a lot strewn with tomatoes and strawberries sure beats one strewn with empty McDonald's cups. There's a long tradition of using empty space in cities for community gardens, and these programs can go wonky when the city decides the land's more valuable as a condo of office building. Minneapolis ran into this problem back in 2002. But the good news about these new plots is that the city has determined that they're "non-buildable," which means that if all goes well …

Cities

Win-win situation: Using competition to change behavior

Ready, set … change!Photo: Jon MarshallA couple of weeks back, I went to a conference at the Garrison Institute, located in a former monastery in the Hudson River Valley of New York. The presenters included municipal officials from around the country, many of them somewhat weary veterans of battles to motivate citizens to recycle, or make energy-efficient retrofits to their homes, or change their incandescent light bulbs for  CFLs. There was no real consensus on what works, or whether anything works in every case. But one mantra kept being put forward by the conference’s organizers: Attitudes follow behavior. Behavior does …

Project Aura bike lighting system puts wheel reflectors to shame

Project Aura is the brainchild of two Carnegie Mellon students, who challenged themselves to make a bike lighting system that would make night riding more secure. Currently, most bike lights focus on the front and back of the bike, and are all but invisible from the side; with Project Aura's wheel-mounted LEDs, bikes are unmissable from the side and more visible overall. You still need a headlight — these distributed LEDs don't look like they generate enough light for you to see the road, and it's not like you want to be hit from the front or rear any more …

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