Mid-week reading: strategy games, housing politics, fossil fuel subsidies, and the benefits of bike lanes

Welcome back to mid-week reading, which is (happily) becoming a more intermittent feature. One of the most interesting things I’ve recently read was Jonathan McCalmont’s exploration of anarchist scholar James C Scott’s arguments about the way that governments interact with their people: “Seeing like a state: why strategy games make us think and behave like brutal psychopaths“: Cloaked as they were in the trappings of religion and medieval warfare, it was all too easy to overlook the morally dubious nature of the games’ relationship between players and in-game characters. Indeed, it was not until the release of Bullfrog’s Syndicate (1993) that the political savagery of the strategy genre became fully …
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Time for a car free Domain?

If New York can make most of Central Park car free, then why can’t we do the same with the Domain. That was my thought when watching this video from Streetfilms. Last week, people walking and biking on the Central Park loop had to worry about taxi drivers and car commuters motoring through the park as a rush hour shortcut. This morning was different: Above 72nd Street, you could ride your bike, walk your dog, or go for a run on a safer, quieter path with a lot more elbow room. Officials and advocates celebrated the permanent expansion of the park’s car-free zone under sunny skies this morning. While traffic is …
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An 8-bit Subway Delay Story

A great 8-bit video from New York’s MTA showing how incidents on PT can quickly lead to long delays plus what can be done to mitigate them. Of course we don’t quite have the same frequencies as the New York subway but the same principles apply. Warning, the music is quite catchy. The video comes from this post which also has more information on how the subway performs and what is being done to reduce delays h/t Mike George
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Sunday music: Talking Heads on cities

A blast from the past: the Talking Heads’ ode to urbanity, “Cities”. This is from the band’s fantastic concert film Stop Making Sense: The Talking Heads emerged from 1970s New York. The city itself wasn’t doing so well at the time – like many other large American cities, it was struggling with deindustrialisation, white flight, and a crime wave. But it was a fantastic time and place to make music. Grandmaster Flash and Afrika Bambaataa were originating hip-hop; Television, the New York Dolls, Patti Smith, and the Ramones were putting together punk rock. People were swapping ideas and innovating. Things were happening. That’s what happens in cities. Talking Heads frontman …
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Citi Bike Rides visualisation

Citi Bike in New York has been spectacularly successful and incredibly popular since it launched in May last year. Just a few months later tens of thousands of trips per day were already being taken on the bikes. Below is a fascinating visualisation covering trips users made over two days. At long last, we have documented trips on Citi Bike. Rides are displayed as point-to-point journeys (not routed in the street grid – yet) and are rendered in color based on whether the rider was an annual or casual user. This visualization was produced using journey data from Tuesday, September 17th at 12 midnight and Wednesday, September 18th at midnight. …
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Postcard from New York

As far as cities go, New York is *the* superlative. At once soaringly vertical and unfathomably broad. Dense and constrained, yet with an expansive commuter belt spread over three states. A place where local neighborhood hangouts sit a block away from global institutions. I found New York to be a surprisingly homely and friendly place. The people are gracious and polite, helpful and personal in a way that belies a population counted in the tens of millions. Curiously I felt safer and more welcome in midtown Manhattan than I have in most other places. A real enigma of a city where the sense of wonder extends far beyond the garish …
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New York’s transformative transport commissioner comes to town

This is a guest post Christina Bellis from Frocks on Bikes It’s not often you hear “transportation bureaucrat” and “celebrity” in one phrase, but Janette Sadik-Khan has shaken up one of the world’s most famous cities – and most famously dense – and started it flowing again. Her approach is profoundly common-sense but – unsurprisingly – it’s quite uncommon. It’s a “have a go, see what happens”.  The Department of Transportation (DoT) does things to New York’s transport-scape that are “radical”, and does them as temporary trials – with paint, cones, orange-painted drums, cheap furniture. There is a lot of communication, monitoring and assessment, and the promise that if it …
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Driving and sprawl are killing you

An article in the New York Times a few months ago summarised quite nicely recent research into connections between transport modes and health outcomes: Millions of Americans like her pay dearly for their dependence on automobiles, losing hours a day that would be better spent exercising, socializing with family and friends, preparing home-cooked meals or simply getting enough sleep. The resulting costs to both physical and mental health are hardly trivial. Suburban sprawl “has taken a huge toll on our health,” wrote Ms. Gallagher, an editor at Fortune magazine. “Research has been piling up that establishes a link between the spread of sprawl and the rise of obesity in our country. Researchers have also found that people …
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The Metamorphosis of New York Streets

A great video from Streetfilms showing how the streets of New York have changed over the last few years with primarily quick and cheap transformations that have re-prioritised space around pedestrians and cyclists. There’s nothing more dramatic then looking back five or ten years at Streetfilms footage (some of it a bit low-res) to see how much the livable streets landscape of New York City’s streets have changed. In this wonderful montage that even makes us cry check out the transformation of Times Square, Herald Square, the Brooklyn Waterfront and many other places that out-going NYC DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan and her staff have intrepidly installed. We have similarly high …
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Improving the PT user experience

Public transport systems in cities all around the world comes in many different shapes and sizes. However there seems to be one thing universal to them all, the locals who use them daily always think they can be better. There are systems in some cities that we would dream to have in Auckland but it doesn’t make them perfect. One of the great things about the Internet is it lets people share their ideas for improvement. In New York one designer is trying to improve things with some suggestions. Here is a description of what he is doing. For the next 100 Days, I will propose various improvements to the New …
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