Nice Ride MN sets an example for the nation

Bike sharing seems like it’s finally catching on in the States. While we don’t have the stomach for something as radical as Paris’ Vélib’ bike share program, the Twin Cities are among the first markets in the country to roll out a successful public / private bike share partnership. I couldn’t be more excited or proud of my hometown. Every time I see a bright green Nice Ride bike I get almost giddy. My girlfriend can attest.

Nice Ride MN works because it is pedestrian-focused (but why Nice Ride Minnesota, and not Nice Ride TC? We’re not biking to Bemidji!).  The program is targeted at subscription based short-term rentals. A daily rental will cost you $5, plus any extra fees you incur during the day. However, for a yearly rate of $60 you can use the bikes as many times as you want. Take a bike and go, as long as you return it to another station within a half hour. This is easy to do if you have a specific destination; there are Nice Ride stations all over Minneapolis and St. Paul, and they are quickly multiplying.

The target market for these bikes is the most exciting part of the program. They fit perfectly as the missing layer of urban living. A short bike ride from your apartment to the grocery store, or a quick trip to the nearest light rail stop is made so much easier with Nice Ride. Just leave the bike at the nearest station once you arrive. It’s a pleasant alternative to getting in your car, or a welcome option for someone without a car.

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Farming fish in Hamm’s Sky Blue Waters

Aquaponics is paving the way for future sustainable food production.

Food is one of the most pressing problems as the world surpasses 7 billion inhabitants. The world is becoming more and more urbanized, and the farming techniques we use to feed ourselves are more important than ever. As Michael Pollan pointed out in his book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, the current model for food production is dependent on a massive supply of artificially cheap corn, which is produced with a sea of oil. This is not only unprecedented in terms of our diet, it is unsustainable for our land, our country, and our planet.

I have long been excited by urban farm tower proposals, and also grassroots efforts to make urban gardening mainstream. These movements are so important because of proximity. The energy that it takes to get our food from the ground to the table is enormous. The toll that the modern practice of monocropping takes on our land is devastating and extremely difficult to reverse. If we internalize a portion of our food production in cities we can eliminate many negative effects of food production; reducing travel distance for food, and returning our rural landscape to its former beauty.

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Friday Links from Walk Bike Bus

Some interesting things from this last week:

The Tea Party has declared war on urban planning.

Embark makes apps that make transit even easier.

A great blog from New York celebrating originality in everyday life.

The Minneapolis Downtown Council released the Downtown 2025 Plan, and a related editorial by Steve Berg in the Star Tribune.

Abandoned mine pits could solve wind energy storage problem in Minnesota.

Minneapolis has a Transit Development Director for the first time ever.

The Minneapolis Transit Interchange project has been awarded $10 million through a TIGER III grant, in anticipation of increased light rail usage.

Bikes are essential to serious emissions reductions.

Thank you and check back next week for more!

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Livable Streets: Evidence for traffic-calming

While doing research for my thesis topic, I wrote a case study of Livable Streets, a project that Donald Appleyard completed 30 years ago in San Francisco. In it, he collected tangible evidence to support his proposition that traffic levels directly affect the desirability of a neighborhood street. I have reprinted it here, with minor modifications to fit the blog format. I hope you find it interesting.

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Livable Streets

In 1981 Donald Appleyard studied three different streets in San Francisco that were nearly identical in every way except for the amount of traffic. He chose three streets to study: a street with a low amount of traffic, a street with a medium amount of traffic and a street with a high amount of traffic. His findings were published in his book Livable Streets that presented the first evidence-based argument for traffic calming measures on neighborhood streets.

In an easily understandable way he was able to graphically illustrate much more information than just statistics such as traffic or pedestrian deaths. Appleyard proved that a neighborhood with light traffic is much more unified and pleasant to live in than a street with heavy traffic. Social ties between neighbors were found to be much more common in a lightly trafficked street. People had more friends on a lightly trafficked street. They enjoyed living there more and were more aware of the intricasies in their home environment. The quality of life was found to be much better on a lightly trafficked street than on a heavily trafficked street with all other factors equal.

A short film was produced in 2010 by Elizabeth Press of StreetFilms.org called Revisiting Donald Appleyard’s Livable Streets in which his son, Bruce, makes commentary. The graphics shown are taken from the film.

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Live tweeting a podcast for my blog. Explain that one to Grandma.

I’m trying something new. I’ve always been jealous of the people that get to live tweet at events, so I thought I would try live tweeting a podcast as I listen to it and then post it to my blog. It’s better than nothing!

The podcast I chose is from the American Dream Survival Guide series by D.E. Sellers, a project he created as part of his Architectural Master’s thesis. He managed to interview two giants of urbanism: Lars Lerup and Peter Calthorp. Lars Lerup has recently written a book on Houston titled One Million Acres & No Zoning. Peter Calthorp is a founding member of the Congress for New Urbanism, and his newest book is Urbanism in the Age of Climate Change.

This is a live tweet of the first episode: American Landscape Overview.

I apologize for the fuzziness. I might get around to trying to make it better. Maybe. Enjoy!

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You might not have heard of them, they’re pretty underground.

I’ve been so preoccupied with the Minneapolis skyway lately, it seems I’ve fallen way behind in cutting-edge urban thinking. The DeLancey Underground is a project proposed in New York by James Ramsay of RAAD Studio. Ramsay is an architect and former engineer at NASA, where he worked on satellite technologies. He wants to turn an abandoned underground trolley terminal in the lower east side in to a thriving, verdant public park. Underground.

He plans to keep his park from becoming Atlanta’s dingy Underground by utilizing cutting-edge solar technology and fiber-optic cables to channel down sunlight, allowing plants and trees to grow. In a region of New York City with an especially low ratio of parks-to-people, the DeLancey Underground seeks to create a bright and welcoming public gathering space.

I am a little skeptical, since it seems that this enormous space would be designated as purely park space. It’s hard to keep a single-use space such as a park from becoming a magnet for crime, especially if it were underground, making it even more difficult to be monitored. However, the idea of using fiber-optics is really exciting. Underground spaces offer many advantages in a built-up urban setting; a cool, even temperature being one of them. If underground spaces started utilizing natural sunlight, something that just can’t be faked, a new era of underground innovation may be ushered in.

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He’s got the rentrepreneurial spirit

Jake Stangel brought in over $650 in one week by renting out everything from his airstream camper to his dog.

While at my grandparents’ house for a Thanksgiving feast, eagerly awaiting all the Black Friday stories of television-induced pepper-spraying incidents, I came across a very interesting article in Newsweek. You can call him a rentrepreneur, Jake Stangel says. Living in Berkeley, California, he was able to rake in over $650 in one week by renting out stuff he wasn’t even using.

In justifying his foray in to the budding personal-belongings rental industry, Stangel raised some exciting insights in to the direction of our consumer culture. While the internet is slowly but surely taking market share from brick-and-mortar stores, big and small, it also is helping to facilitate a movement some are calling “collaborative consumption”. The real question is whether this Great Recession that we are going through will permanently alter how a generation approaches spending, living, and consumption, such as the Great Depression did for the Greatest Generation.

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