With Citizens’ Help, Cities Can Build A Better Bike Lane — And More

With Citizens’ Help, Cities Can Build A Better Bike Lane — And More

As Burlington and other cities adopt the scrappy tactics of their citizens, they’ll need to show that they can make good on tactical urbanism’s original principles — to move faster, try new things, and not be afraid to fail.

Tactical urbanism. So it has a name.

From Laurel Wamsley/NPR.

Density Yields Few Benefits If Sprawl Still Occurs

Aside from Quartz’s very misleading title, a recent study concluded that if cities increased density into their urban cores, there would still be few benefits to air quality if sprawl isn’t reduced as well.

Boston University study published on April 6 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that a major push in cities like Denver to build dense housing, better transit systems, and more bike lanes in their urban core doesn’t necessarily lead to lower per-capita CO2 emissions. That’s because suburbs continue to sprawl and residents there still drive to work.

Mass transit isn’t necessarily the answer to lower carbon emissions

Attend TechniCity Through Coursera

If you have some free time over four weeks in early May 2013, consider signing up for Jennifer Evans-Cowley and Tom Sanchez’s online Coursera course: TechniCity.

Above is the embedded introduction video. And below is the course description:

We are part of the ‘TechniCity’. The increasing availability of networks, sensors and mobile technologies allows for new approaches to address the challenges that our cities face. The way we understand cities is undergoing sweeping transformation, right along with the analytical tools we use to design our cities and the communication tools we use to engage people. Absorbing, studying and understanding the role of technology from a critical viewpoint allows us to generate creative ideas for improving our cities.

This course begins by examining how our cities are changing. We then jump into how technology is used to engage with the public to support decision-making. Students will be examining tools for analyzing the city. Then we move into exploring the infrastructure that makes the real-time, technologically-enhanced city possible. And rounding out the course is an exploration of entrepreneurial urbanism, looking at how creativity can spawn technological innovation. You’ll hear from technological innovators and thought leaders about all of these topics.

I’ve already signed up, and I’m very excited to see what’s in store for next May.

Website: https://www.coursera.org/course/techcity

Richard Florida’s “The Joys Of Urban Tech”

Outside Velo Rouge Cafe, San Francisco

I just read Richard Florida’s op-ed “The Joys of Urban Tech” that was published last week in The Wall Street Journal.

Florida makes a good cultural argument about why technology companies are relocating to cities after previously headquartering in suburbs–namely to keep their young employees happy. Why would the brightest engineers and software developers want to live and work in Silicon Valley when San Francisco represents a funner environment. I’m assuming San Jose doesn’t exist in this scenario, or represent a “true” city in Florida’s argument.

That aside, Florida doesn’t mention a couple things that would make cities (using the Bay Area as an example) more attraction to this workforce demographic. First, technology companies employ high-salaried people. These workers can actually afford to live in high cost cities like San Francisco; sure, they may not want to live in big houses, but SF rental housing isn’t what you would call cheap. Add the fact that couples are waiting longer to start families and you have people that have much more disposable income.

Second, Silicon Valley is almost completely built out (i.e., there aren’t many vacant lots to build campuses and new development on). There really isn’t enough office space in the South Bay to expand, unless you can convince those cities to accept denser neighborhoods and build up. Some of the companies have chosen to relocate to cheaper parts of the cities. Florida himself states that Zappos moved to Las Vegas’ “old city hall” and Twitter moved to the “formerly derelict Art Deco building in San Francisco’s Mid-Market neighborhood.” With the latter, San Francisco officials bent over backwards to persuade the company to move in a blighted neighborhood. In other words, the decision to move back to cities may be financial as urban real estate may be cheaper and local tax breaks may be possible.

While I think Florida’s cultural argument has merit, he glosses over a more plausible financial argument that cities could just be cheaper to locate nowadays.

[photo via PJ]