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BY BRIAN BARTH

Parks and bike paths embroider the city in the Bayou Greenway Initiative plan.

Parks and bike paths embroider the city in the Bayou Greenway Initiative Plan.

From the March 2016 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

Kinder Baumgardner, ASLA, the president of SWA Group and the managing principal of its Houston office, is not the type of landscape architect to shy away from controversial ideas. In 2013, at the zenith of the vitriolic debate around the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, he sent an unsolicited design proposal to the White House, the State Department, the Department of Energy, the Department of Commerce, and a slew of other federal agencies with a stake in the project. In it were a set of overlay maps of the proposed route that illustrated various ecological and cultural dimensions of the pipeline landscape, as well as a set of renderings suggesting that a bike path be built within the pipeline corridor from its starting point in Hardisty, Alberta, down to the terminus in Port Arthur, Texas, near Houston.

“It was roundly hated,” says Baumgardner of the idea, insisting it was not an endorsement of the pipeline but an attempt to puncture the status quo notion of “infrastructure as a one-dimensional thing.” Reactions were neatly divided along ideological lines. “Some people saw it as: ‘You’re trying to make this bad thing better, and that might mean it would get built.’ On the other side, people who were much more conservative were saying, ‘You shouldn’t be doing this; it’s going to make it difficult to operate and they’ll end up closing it down.’”

The Obama administration recently gave what appears to be the final ax to the (more…)

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From the January issue of LAM:

I wouldn’t call 2013 the Year of the Bike in the United States, but only because I hope that 2014 will be an even better one. It was a pretty great year, though. Two of the biggest American cities added bicycle sharing programs. New York City opened its Citi Bikes system in May with 330 stations; by year’s end, nearly 100,000 people had bought a year’s subscription to the system, and by October, the system had recorded 42,000 trips a day. Not bad! Chicago started its Divvy bike system in June with 3,000 bikes at 300 stations between Cicero Avenue and Lake Michigan, and is planning on 4,000 bikes by this spring. The new Bay Area Bike Share started in late August in San Francisco. It was considered a slow start by some measures, but then many people in the city are already married to their own bicycles. The San Francisco Chronicle reported in December that the Municipal Transportation Agency, which has counted cyclists around town since 2006, found that by 2013, cycling had risen by 96 percent. One September evening during rush hour, more than 1,200 people were counted on bikes at the corner of Fifth and Market Streets.

What could be the downside to all of this? I honestly don’t know, but for some people, there seems to be one—usually grounded in irrationality. A perfectly benign technology that runs on calories, presents almost no harm to anyone, that is cheap and environmentally sound, fast, convenient, and, not least, very enjoyable will inevitably make people uptight for their own reasons. Dorothy Rabinowitz, of the Wall Street Journal editorial board, finds Citi Bikes depressing to no end because she thinks it’s socialist and ugly. You could grant her those points and she still sees no benefits. Rob Ford’s bike hatred helped him become the mayor of Toronto. Adrian Fenty’s bike love helped unseat him in Washington, D.C. Many people in cities greet bikes as you might an invasive species.

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