anthropology · behavior · community · culture · environment · happiness · health

Los Angeles has Cancer — Stephen Corwin on Medium

This is a scathing opinion piece looking at the negative influences of space and place, specifically cars and car culture. Corwin argues passionately against the takeover of cars in to the city space and how it is anything BUT enriching. It is full of examples of what NOT to do, and therefore offers suggestions on how to solve it.

Our experiences driving cars in this city are, for the most part, fleeting. We drive somewhere, we get out of the car, we close the door, and we walk away. But to think that we can escape the world that cars have created as easily as we escape the car itself is foolish. In fact, when we leave our cars, we walk into that world. We have to live in that putrid mess.

Let’s talk about how Los Angeles is a city where construction projects can fence off whole blocks, including the sidewalks, without offering people on foot an alternative. Let’s talk about how when that happens, no one even considers converting one of the two car lanes into a temporary sidewalk, because dear god, that might cause slight inconvenience to people in cars. And let’s talk about how ironic it is that inconveniencing people in cars is the end of the world, but doing the same to people on foot is a non-issue. Then let’s talk about how when frustrated walkers decide to use the car lane rather than take the ridiculous detour, the city’s totally acceptable solution to that problem is not to concede space to those people, but rather to bolt permanent, metal signs into the middle of the sidewalk to keep them from doing so. That is cancer.

read the whole thing via Los Angeles has Cancer — Medium.

It is worth a read.

anthropology · community · creativity · design · happiness · play · youtube

Freak Bikes of Portland

I’ve been watching episodes of American Hipster Presents – a fun video series about different entrepreneurs/artists/etc. around the U.S. (side tangent, how crazy is it that we live in an economy where I can write entrepreneurs/artists/etc. and have that not be weird? Hello Etsy!) – I came across the freak bike builders of Portland. It’s a group of guys and gals around Portland that build their own bikes and then pedal around town in bike gangs, playing games, hanging out with friends, and being overall pretty silly.

To me this is a great showcase of grown-ups making playful spaces and space for play in their lives.

The main interviewee says it best [paraphrasing]: “Kids get to play on bikes, why shouldn’t grown-ups?”

It also makes me kind of want to move to Portland.

creativity · play · youtube

Unique Monday commute

If you’re looking for a way to mix up your commute, this might just be the ticket. From Inhabitat:

A video has been posted on YouTube of a Russian man riding what appears to be a fully working bicycle… apart from the fact it could probably fit in the rider’s pocket. It’s a good thing he’s wearing a helmet, as he doesn’t look particularly stable – the man’s feet appear to be five times bigger than the pedals!

I’ve actually seen a couple of unicycle commuters, but never a mini-bike. During the first gas price increase of recent years a couple of high school girls tried riding their horses to school, but the school wasn’t set up to stable the horses during school hours (lame!). What other fun ways have you seen people try to get to work or school?
behavior · community · culture · education · environment

Bicycling our way into work and out of the Great Recession | Grist

Ringstraße, Vienna, Austria, 2005
A commuter in Austria. Image via Wikipedia

I am always interested in how organizations promote healthier, more enriching, more environmentally friendly practices, and I think this article makes a good point, that a lot of the bike commuter programs are geared towards the middle to upper class, yet the people who NEED to use bikes, and in many college towns I’ve lived in DO use bikes but need the support and information, are poor young folks:

The way we work has been changing for a long time, and our transportation needs and options along with it. With the recent recession, fewer people are working as much or for as much money, or as regularly — or at all. More of us are, in a word, poor.

We’re the ones who need bicycling the most. Yet the broke and the tenuously employed aren’t always reached by bicycle transportation advocacy, education, and services. When they are, the messages being promoted are not always relevant or welcome.

The mainstays of bike advocacy organizations are the three E’s: engineering, enforcement, and education — with a fourth E, encouragement, becoming increasingly popular.

U.S. bike advocacy is also imbued with a heavy focus on individual responsibility as more important — or perhaps more readily achievable — than social and infrastructure change, as exemplified by the until-recently prominent vehicular cycling movement.

Such initiatives tend to reach out to the people who ride — or don’t — out of choice rather than economic necessity, whose only barrier to getting on a bike is motivation.

When you’re already broke, you don’t need to be encouraged to adopt someone else’s lifestyle. You need solutions that arise from your own circumstances and community.

That means that simply choosing to hop on a bike isn’t actually that straightforward. Even as your car is sucking your savings dry and pummeling your credit, at least it’s the devil you know.

People living in low-income households are less likely to have access to a working bicycle (only 29 percent of households making less than $15,000 do, according to the NHTSA’s most recent survey). Aside from the cost and learning curve of acquiring, outfitting, and maintaining a reliable everyday bicycle, if you’re broke your neighborhood is also less likely to be graced by bike lanes, calmed traffic, and other facilities that are lauded for their ability to raise property values. You’re also less likely to have easy, central access to grocery stores and other amenities.

more via Bicycling our way into work and out of the Great Recession | Grist.

I’m curious to hear what solutions people may have for this. How do we focus more on getting the poor, or more accurately the broke, onto bikes safely and effectively?