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London is installing bus sensors to hopefully kill fewer people

Aditi Rao

Nearly two-thirds of the deaths on London’s roads in 2012 were pedestrians or cyclists (as opposed to drivers), and now the city is doing something about that. You know the parking sensors that help people not back into fire hydrants and stray cats? London’s slapping similar technology on 12 buses this May.

The buses’ sensors will tell the driver when a cyclist, pedestrian, or superhero is getting dangerously close, according to the London Evening Standard. (It’s unclear what proportion of road deaths are caused by buses, but safely steering something as a big as a whale can’t be easy.)

Buses will also get latest-generation closed-circuit TV monitors. Older technology didn’t successfully filter out stoplights and railings, but a new version eliminates this visual clutter and helps drivers see people walking or cycling more clearly.

Read more: Cities, Living


Light pollution could be contributing to cancer, depression, and obesity


Air and water pollution are pretty understandable health risks. But light pollution? It sounds a little hokey at first. Tons of streetlights and lit-up office buildings make Earth look freakishly nocturnal from space, sure, but could they actually make us sick?

Rebecca Boyle says yes. Those of us staring at our phones, laptops, and iPads until bedtime aren’t just inducing insomnia -- we could be playing with “the major factor in depression, obesity, and cancer,” she writes in Aeon Magazine.

That’s because our bodies need darkness to produce the hormone melatonin, and melatonin protects our DNA, ultimately preventing cancer. If left to nature, our bodies would normally start producing melatonin after sunset. But we can’t all wake with the sunrise like Laura Ingalls Wilder, so we’re surrounded by bluish artificial light. Writes Boyle:

Shift workers, who rise with the night and work awash in blue light, experience not only disrupted circadian rhythms and sleep deprivation, but an increased risk of breast and prostate cancer.

Thankfully, it’s not too hard to fix:

Read more: Cities, Living


Parks and Reconciliation

To attract minorities, the national parks need some better ideas

confederate soldiers
Larry Darling

Last week, I wrote about the problems the National Park Service is having with hiring people of color. Despite having a major presence in predominantly black and brown cities like Washington, D.C., the Service’s workforce is around 80 percent white across the nation, even in places like New York City. This is obviously not a good look for a taxpayer-funded federal agency that is headed into its 100-year anniversary.

When I spoke with David Vela, the Park Service's associate director for workforce, relevancy, and inclusion, about why that is, he said of the problem, “We know that. We own that and we are developing strategies to deal with it.”

We talked quite a bit about those strategies in our discussion, which ran nearly 60 minutes. I asked about how they addressed legacy racism and current barriers that keep people of color away not only from the parks, but also from park jobs. It was the kind of conversation that helps you understand perfectly well why the Park Service has failed to connect with people who aren’t white.

Read more: Cities, Living, Politics


Cops want you to stop crime by hanging out in sketchy areas

Renee McGurk

The LAPD is giving crowdsourcing a try by asking residents to hang out in high-risk areas. Thankfully, it’s a little different than, “Yo! Can you chill in this scary dark alley for a while?”

The cops are using “predictive policing,” in which a computer analyzes neighborhood crime locations and spits out recommendations of certain blocks where a police presence would prevent future infractions. (“The idea is that the more time spent in the box areas, the more crime will be deterred,” writes the police department.)

But since cops can’t be everywhere at once, the LAPD’s Pacific Division recently asked neighbors to chip in. The police department will post an updated map of suggested hangout spots every day using social media, sending cops to those areas when possible, but also relying on residents to jog or walk their dogs there. Conor Friedersdorf of the Atlantic, for one, is willing:

Read more: Cities, Living


Even better than more cowbell: Doctors are prescribing bikeshare memberships

Mr. TinDC

Feeling the wind in your hair is way more fun than popping a pill. And now Boston residents can say, “I HAVE to go for a bike ride. Doctor’s orders!”

Beantown physicians have started offering poor patients $5 memberships to the Hubway bikesharing program, which normally costs $85 a year. It’s called Prescribe-a-Bike, and the goal is to help reduce obesity. Writes Streetsblog:

The program is being administered by Boston Medical Center in partnership with the city of Boston. Qualifying patients will have access to Hubway’s 1,100 bikes at 130 locations. Participants will also receive a free helmet ...

Local officials hope the program will result in about 1,000 additional memberships.

Read more: Cities, Living


These sad photos of NYC’s gentrification show chain stores replacing local businesses

Sometimes you can see a building's history in its architecture -- old Pizza Huts, with their distinctive trapezoidal architecture, are a great example. But just in case you forgot what preceded that Verizon store in Hell’s Kitchen, photographers James and Karla Murray will remind you.

The duo juxtapose photos of defunct New York City mom-and-pops with their depressing corporate replacements in a new book, Store Front: The Disappearing Face of New York. For instance, East Village institution 2nd Ave Deli -- which opened in 1954 -- became a Chase bank in 2006 when the deli moved:

James and Karla Murray

Greenwich Village's Bar Martins on West Houston Street got turned into a Subway:

Read more: Cities, Living


Rich countries: Sure, climate change will screw poor countries, but what about us?

Citizens rescue a dog from the flood of November 2, 2011 in Bangkok, Thailand.

The new report from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change highlights that we are already feeling the pain of global warming across the planet. Heat waves and drought are increasingly in rhythm in every major continent, including our own, while severe flooding is more frequently becoming the business in Africa. If you don’t want to read the IPCC’s 2,500-plus page report, here’s the shorter version: Climate fuckery is not futuristic; we have been fucking up the atmosphere; it is fucking us back.

But, as I wrote recently, there are certain people -- particularly those with large concentrations of melanin in their skin, and smaller concentrations of money in the bank -- who are suffering more of that fuckery than their less-melanated, more-resourced counterparts.

The IPCC’s latest makes note of this. Disturbingly, the report’s authors wanted to keep this critical information out of the much-shorter IPCC executive summary -- the part that’s supposed to be the most accessible to the public and lawmakers.

Read more: Cities, Climate & Energy


Watch North America’s busiest bus stops become more efficient using only sidewalk tape

Nelson\Nygaard landed a super-easy job. The transit planning firm had to streamline a couple of bus stops in British Columbia for TransLink. Only about 100,000 people ride that particular route a day. It’s just the busiest bus line in North America. (But no big, right?)

Palms sweaty, knees weak, and arms heavy, Nelson\Nygaard already knew what didn’t work: a huge passenger shelter where riders of Vancouver’s 99 Broadway line simply ignored switchback arrows on the ground. (Think airport security without any crowd-control ropes -- madness.)

So rather than armchair postulating about what MIGHT work better, the firm did some real-time analysis at two east- and westbound stops, laying down some sidewalk tape on a busy Monday morning and capturing the results on video:

Read more: Cities, Living


We found love in a tiny place

Tiny house for two? Yes, this dating site is real

Tammy Strobel and Shutterstock

Every Friday night across the country, a familiar scenario plays out: Someone listens to Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” for the 14th time in a row, consumes Nutella by the fistful, and dons old sweatpants with paw prints on the butt, all while thinking, "It might be time to try to get a date." Why shouldn’t this be happening in a 120-square-foot cottage on wheels? Tiny house people have needs, too. And slowly, a few enterprising souls are popping out of the reclaimed woodwork to fulfill them. Enter Tiny House Dating. At long last, someone thought to outdo FarmersOnly, Purrsonals, and SaladMatch by creating a niche dating …

Read more: Cities, Living


In a Vancouver down by the river

How did Vancouver get so green?

English Bay, Vancouver, BC
Wikimedia Commons

Vancouver is supremely green, in both senses of the word. Set between ocean and mountains and lined with verdant trees, Vancouver also has the lowest greenhouse gas emissions of any major city in North America. In 2007, the most recent year for which comparisons are available, Vancouver had annual emissions of 4.9 tons of CO2 equivalent per capita. By 2012, according to Vancouver’s city government, it had dropped to 4.4 tons per person.

“Vancouver has done really well at decreasing greenhouse gas emissions and showing leadership on climate change,” says Ian Bruce, science and policy manager at the David Suzuki Foundation, a Canadian environmental research organization. “Vancouver is bucking the trend of a lot of North American cities when it comes to how quickly the city is growing in population -- it’s increasing quite dramatically, its economy and jobs have increased -- while greenhouse gas emissions have decreased by 9 percent in the last decade.”

Read more: Cities, Climate & Energy