Category Archives: link

(148) Bicycle super-highway

The pleasure is all’s to make mention of Copenhagen’s new dedicated bicycle super-highway.  The route from a suburb called Albertslund into Copenhagen is 11 miles/18 kilometers in length and the first component of a serious national network of routes.  What a fantastic real world precedent for just about any fossil fuel-using community looking for alternatives!

Cycling is healthy and cheap and empowering.  Bikes are sensible tools for fighting suburban poverty.  Here in North America, compulsory automobile ownership enslaves working people, drawing their resources into a matrix of requirements for gasoline, insurance, repairs, tire replacement, maintenance, tickets, parking fees, interest payments, depreciation, accidents and injuries, noise and pollution.  Something has to change.

The New York Times item covering the cycling superhighway has been picked up in blogs, by the Toronto Star, and in many other places.  It’s hard not to envy infrastructure like this and we hope to see more everywhere.

Copenhagen Journal: Commuters Pedal to Work on Their Very Own Superhighway  NYT

photo: Copenhagen via Wikimedia Commons


(147) …stays in Vegas

Ever on the lookout for clues as to where the suburban project is going we were struck by a recent finding about social conditions in Las Vegas.  The frenetic growth and artificiality of Vegas is something to behold.  Beneath the doom tales of foreclosure and searing drought, beneath the flashing lights and smarm we find human beings adapting to the place they must live.  Las Vegans, no less than the citizens of any other built-yesterday Nirvana, still get up in the moring and make it work as best they can.  In one area, the Las Vegans appear to have pulled ahead of other communities: the number of single fathers raising children.  The general sleaze and the 24-hour “service” economy of the desert gambling paradise seems to be kinda tough on moms.

Why ‘Sin City” has so many single fathers BBC News Altered States
Video 3:42

(146) It’s not where you live, it’s how you live

Neither urban or suburban: FallingwaterMaking a choice between suburban living and some other kind, or even choosing to see much difference between the two at all, has been a proposition since the suburbs were born.  Now, late in the day for cheap energy and E-Z money, the question is defined anew.  Recently political actors in Toronto expressed both sides of the question in a place where the suburbs and the city are, if anything, becoming more alike.  The amalgamation of the old downtown City of Toronto with its sprawlshed never really sat well with anybody and yet it seems the language for describing the differences between city and suburb is much weaker than it should be.

Raising children in the city vs the suburbs Huffington Post

Do the suburbs make you selfish? Time Business

(145) Bastards at Barclays

That snapping, crunching sound you’ve been hearing of late is not just from the femurs of unfortunate horses participating in the chuckwagon races in Calgary.  No, it’s a much bigger vehicular wreck called Barclays. The latter is a massive British bank recently revealed to have rigged what is called LIBOR.  This is the rate of interest at which banks lend each other money.

It’s a big one kids, …again!  Yet another looting-from-the-top-down failure of morality in the global banking system with bad implications for society at large.  It really will never end with these institutions until there is nothing left to loot.  It isn’t like younger managers are drawn to careers in finance so that twenty years from now when they have risen to the top they will lower their wages and bonuses is it?

The only good news we can see is that this one is not open to interpretation.  The dishonesty is plain and in clear sight now.  Baltimore is one of the American cities that, along with state governments and public agencies, has done business with Barclays.  Baltimore has now taken the lead in a massive lawsuit to recover what amounts to money stolen from their taxpayers.  Incredible, since much of the Great Recession has been expressed in the US in the form of cutbacks to state and municipal services.  Money that should have gone to public agencies, their services and employees, is in the coffers at Barclays.

Baltimore takes lead in suit against banks over alleged Libor
Washington Post

(144) Retrofitting near Paris

Retrofitting seems to be the suburban-poverty theme of late.  Here is a link to an article describing the benefit of changes to Plessis-Robinson.  An outer suburb in southwest Paris, France.  What is referred to as “smart growth” or “new urbanism” in North America was put in place there beginning in the 1990s.  The article, like much discussion of suburban futures, is mainly about built form and resource usage.  Again, who would argue with attractive buildings that conserve energy, greenspaces, walkability, public safety, advanced recycling, water saving efforts and so forth?  Well, only an idiot.  What is it then that retards such development in one place but not in another?  See the results for yourself in the six minute video available at the link below.
It would seem to us that improvements to sustainability and general aesthetics might make a suburb more expensive and harder on those with less income.  On the other hand, denser, more economically diverse places with better public transit and a variety of types of housing would make life easier for working people and those in social difficulty.  How late is it to be putting in place a process of working out such issues in North America?

Can US communities learn from this European suburban retrofit? NRDC website

(142) 52 Suburbs Around the World

Louise Hawson and her young daughter are travelling the great cities of the world and photographing their back yards.  They are finding all kinds of colourful, surprising things in the realities of the world’s suburbs and are sharing them via a partially crowd-funding supported blog.  The global blog is a bigger follow-up project to a photo documentation and book  Ms. Hawson created for her home town of Sydney, Australia.  So far they’ve captured images in Hong Kong, Istanbul, Delhi, Paris and Rome.  Berlin and New York are on the books.

At the next editorial board meeting we’ll be demanding to know why we didn’t come up with this idea first!  You see, the more we all know about the suburbs the better.

52 Suburbs Around the World 

(141) Retrofitting the suburbs

Retrofitting Suburbia: Urban Design Solutions for Redesigning Suburbs
Ellen Dunham-Jones & June Williamson
John Wiley & Sons
ISBN 978-0-470-04123-9

We’ve been wanting to mention
this book for a while and now that there is an updated edition available, here it is.  Retrofitting Suburbia: Urban Design Solutions for Redesigning Suburbs is a big, detailed, serious take on just what can be done with aging, unattractive suburban sprawl. With the text you get maps and colour ilustrations of real world improvement projects aimed at making suburbs more walkable and connected, more transit friendly, more aesthetically pleasing, more economically varied and more attached to the realities of the environment.  Who wouldn’t want these things?  And surely retrofitting suburbia would ameliorate poverty there, enhance employment, prevent the suburbs from sliding into deeper obsolesence if not full on ghettohood.  The approach here is rational and advocates a technical, investment-orientated  approach to improving suburbia.  Absolutely these ideas should be on the table, many are already in existence and working well.  On getting acquainted with this book you will look at suburban communities as opportunities, not just as a set of mistakes or doomed to a Mad Max kind of future.

Ellen Dunham-Jones TED Talk 19:24

(140) Marx at 50c

Murmurs of Marxism, of maximum socialist gains, are faintly heard from the fringes as our brains fry in the heat of summer and both Europe and America go nowhere.  It would be far beyond irony and deep into the realm of something crazy if it turned out that thirty years of neo-con horseshit triggered a serious revival of Marxism and that revival were expressed politically.  It’d be hard to decide who the joke would truly be on but few of us at any level of society below the 1% are laughing these days.

Why Marxism is on the rise again Guardian

(139) Toronto builds & builds

A lot of the change in the suburbs is driven by change in the city.  Toronto is among the five largest cities in North America and has a tower building boom going on that appears to outdo the others on the list combined.  The idea of finding a family home in the central city or the inner, older suburbs of Toronto seems to be rapidly becoming obsolete for all but the wealthiest people.  This brings Toronto into line with many other global cities where international financial muscle, physical geography, and high population growth rates shape life.  This type of change pushes working people outward.  The distance pushed goes up even more for those in social difficulty.

The ‘Manhattanization’ of Toronto will change family-housing dreams CBC