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Is it hot in here? Yes, and it’s killing us

hotinhere
Shutterstock

Stop me if you know this feeling: It’s 95 degrees in the shade, with 95 percent humidity. Walking three blocks requires Herculean effort and occasional detours into air-conditioned bodegas. The idea of standing in close proximity to other humans on the subway inspires a sensation of nausea. You think: “If I have to live another hour like this, I might actually die.”

Here’s some uplifting news: Turns out that today, you actually are more likely to die from a heat wave than at any point in the last 40 years! Happy Monday!

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LeBron James heads back to Ohio, and perhaps his greatest challenge yet

lebron james
Domenic Gareri

LeBron James broke the news today that he is returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers, the NBA team of his home state that he bolted from in 2010 to join the Miami Heat. His homecoming announcement in Sports Illustrated sends a message that his return is less about bringing the state an NBA championship, and more about creating a better future for the children of Ohio, particularly those of his home city, Akron. Says James:

But this is not about the roster or the organization. I feel my calling here goes above basketball. I have a responsibility to lead, in more ways than one, and I take that very seriously. My presence can make a difference in Miami, but I think it can mean more where I’m from. I want kids in Northeast Ohio, like the hundreds of Akron third-graders I sponsor through my foundation, to realize that there’s no better place to grow up. Maybe some of them will come home after college and start a family or open a business. That would make me smile. Our community, which has struggled so much, needs all the talent it can get.

It sounds like James is growing less concerned with trophies, and more concerned with quality of life -- and that’s applaudable. It not only shows leadership, but also signals a mature understanding about economy that broadens the definition of “winning” from one focused purely on franchise.

There is plenty of disenfranchisement to go around in Ohio right now, especially in the voting world. But communities get disenfranchised in many ways, and the cities of Cleveland and Akron are unfortunate examples of this. Contrary to James’ statement, there are better places to grow up.

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Bank your turns

Bike lanes save lives AND money

cyclists in bike lane
Shutterstock

Next time you hop on your bike, give yourself a pat on the back for being such a model citizen. Not only are you about to get some fresh air and exercise, you are going to save your city some serious dough.

According to a study from Environmental Health Perspectives, cycling infrastructure is a smart investment for penny-pinching city planners. Taking the city of Auckland in New Zealand as a test case, the researchers looked at simulations of different biking scenarios: a shared-road bike lane network, separated arteries of bike lanes on all main roads, something called "self-explaining roads" with car-slowing design elements, as well as a sweet-spot combination of those separated lanes and self-explaining elements.

In every scenario, between $6 and $24 were saved for every dollar spent, compared to a business-as-usual baseline. How, you ask? In addition to the pollution, traffic congestion, and sedentary-lifestyle health problems associated with cars, society bears the brunt of our automobile addiction in the form of medical and emergency services. That car crash is, yes, tragic, but it is also expensive.

Read more: Cities, Living

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“Bicycle face” for the modern woman

This week, Vox published a great piece on a (completely imaginary) 19th century phenomenon called "bicycle face." In a nutshell: Doctors in the late 1800s invented a velocipedically induced physical condition to dissuade women from riding bikes:

"Over-exertion, the upright position on the wheel, and the unconscious effort to maintain one's balance tend to produce a wearied and exhausted 'bicycle face,'" noted the Literary Digest in 1895. It went on to describe the condition: "usually flushed, but sometimes pale, often with lips more or less drawn, and the beginning of dark shadows under the eyes, and always with an expression of weariness." Elsewhere, others said the condition was "characterized by a hard, clenched jaw and bulging eyes."

Fair enough -- keeping one's balance sure is hard! Especially for those of us with uteri, because of our confused and equilibrium-challenged lady-brains.

This got me thinking about different conditions that threaten the modern urban woman trying to get from Point A to Point B. Henceforth, a brief catalogue:

Read more: Cities, Living

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Join us for a bumpy ride through Uber’s myriad challenges

Lately, app-based ridesharing company Uber has had a maze of issues to work through. Legal challenges from the taxi industry, disgruntled drivers looking to unionize, and protests in Europe and the U.S. are taking the company, recently valued at $18.2 billion, for a rough ride.

Will Uber make it through the maze of problems it faces from taxi companies and its own drivers? The company has several fine lines to walk drive.

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Take back the streets, ladies — two wheels at a time

girlwithbike3
Shutterstock

I don’t bike. There’s no real reason for that beyond the fact that I’m not very coordinated, and I feel like I fall off a bicycle every time I get on one. (Block Island, 2011: Attempted to bike up a minor incline, fell over within two wheel rotations. Mendoza, 2009: Crashed into a ditch on the side of the highway, lost 200 pesos that fell out of my pocket, cried.) Personally, I’ve always felt more comfortable getting around on two feet than two wheels, even if it takes twice -- or thrice -- as long to get anywhere.

But in my social circle, I’m absolutely in the minority -- in fact, I’m regularly surrounded by (braver) women who love riding bikes for the pure freedom it allows them, and swear that there’s no better way of getting around. Both environmentally and economically speaking, it’s hard to beat -- especially for city-dwellers.

But as with anything that women do in public spaces, the simple act of getting on a bike and pedaling down the street opens us up to unwanted comments, sexual advances, and even violence. Because my own velocipedic career is so pathetically limited, I set out to ask others about their experiences of biking as a woman.

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the Earth-based God

Cryptic rapper Lil B drops environmental wisdom. Here are his greatest hits

lil-b
Facebook

You may or may not know who Lil B the Based God is. Or, according to his legend, you can know who Lil B is, but you may never know who the Based God is, or you may not want to know, for your own sanity. Some have tried to explain his mystique, but to little resolution.

My buddy Eric Tullis, hip hop expert and music contributor for the alt-weekly Indy Week, calls Lil B “an accidental eclectic who’s made a career out of being an idiot savant rapper.” He’s revealed so much on his Myspace, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and Youtube pages, and yet we know so little. The little we know:

  • He was or is part of the Bay Area rap group “The Pack,” popularly known for their hip hop ode to Vans footwear.
  • It seems that he has a mouth full of gold teeth.
  • He appears to have a large, faithful following as a solo rapper based purely on social networks.
  • His Youtube music video hits reach into the millions, including this one named after Ellen DeGeneres (4.8 million+ views to date).
  • He’s been in a number of high-profile Twitter feuds with badass rappers like Joe Budden and Joey Bada$$.
  • He’s also involved in a long-standing feud with NBA MVP Kevin Durant (a guide to which you can read about in Grantland.)
  • He’s a motivational speaker who once gave a lecture at NYU.
  • He’s a misogynist.

And his latest reveal: He’s an environmentalist.

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Ask Umbra: Can I survive in the city with just a bike?

girl-bike-headphones-lead
Shutterstock

Send your question to Umbra!

Q. Driving everywhere makes me feel like a cretin. However, I live on a hill in Los Angeles. I've considered a bicycle (with some type of engine or motor boost) alternative, but several things stay my hand:

  1. Bike safety.
  2. Hill. Big one. And my job is one where I'm on my feet and moving, so long rides after a hard day don't sound fun.
  3. Groceries. Tools. My dog. There are certain things I can't imagine accomplishing with a bike.
  4. No public transport stations within walking distance.
  5. Dear old mom trained her girl to always be wary. There are times when it’s a relief to be able to lock my doors and be in an enclosed car.

What's the next most eco-friendly decision for a busy gal in a city of cars? Or are there just more lifestyle changes I could/should make?

Remy,
Los Angeles, Calif.

A. Dearest Remy,

Your personality-filled letter – which, regrettably, I had to edit for length – neatly identifies the hurdles many of us face when contemplating life without our four-wheeled gas-guzzlers. While the benefits of ditching the car are huge (among them saving tons of cash, no traffic and parking hassles, and more exercise), it can be intimidating to take the leap – especially in a place as stereotypically auto-crazed as L.A. But fear not: With the help of a bicycle, public transit, and perhaps a little technology, you can indeed reduce your reliance on that fossil-fuelmobile. You can even dump it entirely.

Read more: Cities, Living

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Billions of oil dollars will buy you the largest mall in the world

When Busta Rhymes released the seminal hit "Arab Money" in 2008, was it a prophetic vision of this century's most absurd testament to conspicuous consumption to date? How could Mr. Rhymes possibly have envisioned a 48-million-square-foot, climate-controlled indoor city, complete with sparkling waterfalls and the largest mall in the world?

Dubai's Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, a global petrodollar symbol in his own right, has announced plans to construct a massive, hermetically sealed city in the UAE's most populous emirate. In addition to 20,000 hotel rooms, 50,000 parking spaces, and something ominously called a "cultural celebration centre," the development will include an 8-million-square foot Mall of the World. (Is that really a title that anyone is vying for?)

Read more: Cities, Climate & Energy

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Dead Heat

Hot summers make for a bloody Chicago

summerchicago
Seth Anderson

The Fourth of July weekend is widely recognized as a nice little oasis in the middle of the summer for Americans to reflect on their love of country through explosions, grilled meats, and beer (not necessarily in that order.) By contrast, this year's holiday in Chicago was commemorated by 82 shootings, including more than a dozen murders. Yesterday, the murder count for the city hit the 200 mark.

In a city so infamously beset by violence that it's earned the nickname Chiraq, the general trend has been that murders become more frequent in warmer weather. In 2012, there were 500 murders in Chicago, and many attributed the jaw-dropping figure -- the highest in the country -- to an unseasonably warm spring and unbearably hot summer. It wasn't hyperbole: I was there, and I didn't fully comprehend the meaning of "stifling heat" until July 2012.

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