Hi and welcome back to Sunday Reading.
On Tuesday we helped host a fun event with Bike Auckland and Generation Zero featuring Jeff Tumlin. You can see the images here. We will post the video of the event when it’s available. Here is a slide from one of his talks. (Pro-tip: it’s best not to design your city around the peak!)
Last week Peter had a great discussion and content about climate change. Here’s another article from the hippies at Business Insider. Josh Barro, “Here’s what mayors and governors should really do to support the Paris Agreement“, Business Insider.
The most important emissions-related decisions made by state and local leaders tend not to fall directly under the “emissions policy” header. The key emissions-reducing tool available to them is not buying hybrid vehicles for the local police or putting a green roof on City Hall.
State and city governments shape Americans’ carbon footprints through the policies they make about land use and transportation. If mayors and governors want Americans to emit less carbon, they should allow homes to be developed densely near people’s workplaces, and they should provide transit options that are attractive compared to driving.
It's absurd how much cheaper it is to live in Tokyo compared to New York and San Francisco. pic.twitter.com/HTanVVTIZv
— ATTN: (@attn) February 12, 2017
Thanks to mfwic for suggesting this excellent video last week: “How bicycles boosted the women’s rights movement”, Vox.
Ed Wiseman, “More bike lanes and 20mph zones as EU draws up ambitious plans to halve serious road accidents“, The Telegraph.
The European Union has set an ambitious new road safety target – to halve the number of serious injuries between the years 2020 and 2030.
The key target in the Valletta Declaration on Road Safety is to halve the number of people seriously hurt on the EU’s roads by 2030, compared to the figure in 2020. This is in addition to halving the numbers of road deaths in the EU by 2020 from the 2010 baseline – a target that “may not be met” unless “further efforts are made”, according to the document.
One of the key areas of concern is walking and cycling, with pedestrians and cyclists being among the most vulnerable road users. The new plans include plans to “take cycling and walking into account in mobility plans”, with promises to “consider the inclusion of dedicated infrastructure”.
The plans also include the expansion of lower speed limit zones, namely 30kph areas – broadly comparable with 20mph zones found in UK towns and cities.
— Urban Demographics (@UrbanDemog) June 8, 2017
Lauren Elkin, “Flaneuse: Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice, and London“, Long Reads. Here is an excerpt from a new book of “memoir, cultural criticism, and social history about the female urban walker, the contemplative, observant, and untold counterpart to the masculine flâneur.”
In my ignorance, I think I thought I invented flânerie. Coming from suburban America, where people drive from one place to another, walking for no particular reason was a bit of an eccentric thing to do. I could walk for hours in Paris and never ‘get’ anywhere, looking at the way the city was put together, glimpsing its unofficial history here and there, a bullet in the façade of an hôtel particulier, leftover stencilling way up on the side of a building for a flour company or a newspaper that no longer existed, which some inspired graffiti artist had used as an invitation to add his own work, a row of cobblestones revealed by roadworks, several layers below the crust of the current city, slowly rising ever upward. I was on the lookout for residue, for texture, for accidents and encounters and unexpected openings. My most meaningful experience with the city was not through its literature, its food, or its museums; not even through the soul-scarring affair I carried on in a garret near the Bourse; but through all that walking. Somewhere in the 6th arrondissement I realised I wanted to live in a city for the rest of my life, and specifically, in the city of Paris. It had something to do with the utter, total freedom unleashed from the act of putting one foot in front of the other.
As I began researching my senior thesis on Zola’s Nana and Dreiser’s Sister Carrie, I was startled to find that scholars have mostly dismissed the idea of a female flâneur. ‘There is no question of inventing the flâneuse,’ wrote Janet Wolff in an oft-quoted essay on the subject; ‘such a character was rendered impossible by the sexual divisions of the nineteenth century.’ The great feminist art historian Griselda Pollock agreed: ‘There is no female equivalent of the quintessential masculine figure, the flâneur: there is not and could not be a female flâneuse.’ ‘The urban observer (…) has been regarded as an exclusively male figure,’ noted Deborah Parsons. ‘The opportunities and activities of flânerie were predominantly the privileges of the man of means, and it was hence implicit that the “artist of modern life” was necessarily the bourgeois male.’ In Rebecca Solnit’s Wanderlust: A History of Walking, she turns away from her ‘peripatetic philosophers, flâneurs, or mountaineers’ to ask ‘why women were not out walking too.’
It’s rare for me to go a Sunday Reading without linking to an article describing a technology that promises to change how we travel in cities. Here’s a clever story about the real technology that is already changing cities. Tom Babin, “The future of transportation is already here, but everybody is missing it“, Shifter.
There are plenty of Pollyanna predictions that streets will become safer, less congested places because of autonomous vehicles. But there are just as many hypothesizing that our streets are about to become a whole lot worse, particularly considering the recent troubles of the company that was once seen as the future of the city: Uber (if you missed the big New York magazine story, here’s the short version: Beyond the company being allegedly riddled with assholes, Uber has made congestion worse, not better, is still heavily subsidizing nearly every ride by as much as 60 per cent, making it barely profitable in big cities and horrifically unprofitable in small ones, thereby bringing into question the very idea that ride-sharing is the future).
No matter which side you come down on, however, one obvious thing seems to have escaped the notice of most of these predictions, even though it should be clear to anybody with a working set of eyes.
If you were to teleport to today a citizen of a decade ago into a city of today, and asked them to identify the differences in transportation, I’m willing to bet they would not mention technology, or autonomous vehicles, or smartphone apps, or even car sharing. It would be bikes.
This New Yorker said as much. The most profound change to the streets of many cities over the past decade is the prevalence of people on bikes as a practical form of transportation.
Please put your suggestions for Sunday Reading in the comments below and enjoy the rest of your weekend.