We like optimism, yes we do. Infrastructure gets us going pretty good as well. To wit: an item that counsels us to look out to the sprawl for innovative approaches to badly needed infrastructure.
image: Garrett via Flickr/CC
The architects of America’s interstate highway system knew it would alter life there in many ways but we wonder if they looked ahead sixty years and saw it as the stage for so much civil unrest.
Why highways have become the center of civil rights protest (with video)
image: George Kelly via Flickr/CC
Access to reliable and fast digital communication through Internet hookups and laptops, phones and other gadgets is pretty much a requirement of Canadian daily life now. Job hunting and education are particularly problematic without access to the World Wide Web. Our social and consumer lives are increasingly Web dependent, too. That makes the the Canadian Internet Registration Authority’s 2014 Factbook all the more interesting to suburban-poverty.com. We recommend CIRA’s effort as a rich source for understanding this aspect of Canadian life. Along with the motor vehicle, the Web is one of the most important tools for reducing the tyranny of distance in the sprawl lands around the major cities. As with access to motoring, access to the Web is an often troubling cost to the working poor as they negotiate their increasingly precarious lives. The nature and extent to which the benefits of Internet use accrue to us is attached to our levels of education and income it seems. In global terms, Canada is a fortunate nation regarding communications infrastructure: our rate of Internet penetration to households is higher than that of Japan, for example. Still, access could be improved, prices brought down and speeds brought up. Rural areas, First Nations communities and the working poor have less when it comes to the Intertubes in Canada. When we consider the ever growing importance of digital communications we can see the digital divide as a magnifier (or reducer) of social inequality and social difficulty.
Digital divide persists in Canada, both in access and Internet fluency
Financial Post referring to Statistics Canada’s 2010 Canadian Internet Use Survey
image: TRS-80 Model 3 by Bilby via Wikimedia Commons
Cost-of-sprawl considerations affecting Winnipeg, Manitoba are considered in this article by an architect living and working there. While the city is experiencing growth it also hosts notable poverty, especially among First Nations people. A progressive and balanced future through internalized growth – in the core and the suburbs – is pretty much a no-brainer for Winnipeg if it wants to remain in reasonable control of its future.
Embracing density. Keeping urban sprawl in check beneficial to everyone
Winnipeg Free Press
The Next City got the new year started off on bit of a lame, frowny-downy note. They provided a brief, negatory reaction to UK starchitect Norman Foster’s support for an elevated bicycle expressway in London, England. The structures would reach about 220km in length eventually and would utilize space directly above rail lines. Foster may be an elite practitioner but it’s doubtful he’d associate himself with something like this before giving some consideration to costs, benefits and practical matters of useability. He’s a cyclist and trail advocate.
The reaction at the first link below feels superficial, like the pre-1900 pooh-poohing of aeroplanes in which the person doing the pooh-poohing would tell listeners that if man were meant to fly he’d have been born with wings. Just think of the interesting views of Londinium from up there on the SkyCycle.
Norman Foster’s Pie-in-the-Sky Cycling Plan for London Next City
Norman Foster-Designed Scheme Aims to Transform London into “Cycling Utopia” ArchDaily provided a less reactionary description of the proposal
See also: (148) Bicycle super-highway
image: Foster + Partner
Last year the Urban Land Institute produced a document with a half dozen case studies of communities doing sprawl repair, adding transit infrastructure, and undertaking suburban retrofits. It’s nice to see these projects because it seems logical that a better designed community offers its residents some insurance against difficulty compared to poorly thought out, low density, car-dependent ones, the kind that are everywhere. These projects and their various components represent at least a good attempt at adapting the lived-in North American landscape to an emergent future which doesn’t really support the things that made suburbia possible any more, namely E-Z money and cheap energy. Our relatively limited experience of these refitted places is that they rely too much on retail and ironically, cars. What will happen to the major continental chains like Starbucks or The Gap as we move forward is not fully clear. They and their global supply chains may contract along with everything else. A coffee bar an upstairs tenant can walk to doesn’t mean much if the windows are boarded up. One of our interns was in Toronto’s Liberty Village this weekend. Liberty Village is not so much a refitted suburb as a refitted industrial area but it models many of the same attributes as ULI’s case studies. “Don’t know when I’ve ever seen so many luxury SUVs, Minis, Japanese sports cars, German sedans in one place, ever,” said our intern. The very success and enjoyablity of the area’s renovated buildings, its retail opportunities and so forth attracts loads of people, many of whom arrive by car even though there’s multiple possibilities for arrival by public transit.
Shifting Suburbs: reinventing infrastructure for compact development
uli.org 56 page .pdf file
ULI Infrastructure Initiative
image: dead shopping mall by Augustawiki via Wikimedia Commons
The pleasure is all suburban-poverty.com’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