Cities

Watch a train run over a market (Everyone’s fine! They do this every day!)

Talk about dense living! At the Maeklong vegetable market in Thailand, retail and transportation are closely connected — like, really closely. The vendors lay out their wares so close to the train tracks that when the train comes through, it's literally sitting on top of the produce. Everyone just sort of puts up their awnings and steps aside for a second, and then once the train has passed through they go back to normal. It's awesome until you think too hard about eating those vegetables. Let's just imagine that the train's underbelly is coated with delicious rosemary.

Three Gorges Dam has serious issues, China admits

When a country commits to any project as monstrous as China's Three Gorges Dam, it is bound to encounter occasional difficulties. The Chinese government, as governments are wont to do, has preferred to gloss over the dam's detriments and emphasize its attributes, like the 84 billion kilowatt hours of electricity it produced last year. But this week the government released a statement acknowledging that the dam has fostered a few "urgent problems" that need addressing. Numbered among those are: the increasing concentration of raw sewage and pollution and of the algae that feeds on it; the threat of landslides; the …

Green Cars

Turning over the new Leaf

How do the Leaf’s emissions stack up?Finally. If you don’t like being dependent on oil — but find that you do need to drive — you’ve got at least one decent option. The Nissan Leaf is the first mass-produced, mass-market electric vehicle to hit the U.S. sales floors in … well, essentially forever. (Yeah, I know about the Tesla and the EV1. But the former is too expensive to be in the range of most families, and the latter was never really offered for sale — you could only lease it.) The Leaf’s a bit pricey, but for many families …

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 …

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