A few things to know this week: July 26, 2019
Happy Friday! Every week, we round up some of the things we read, listened to, or watched that really caught our attention. Here are 8 things we think you should know this week (plus a very special event to know about for next week):
This week's things to know:
Across the country, cities big and small are facing a housing affordability crisis, yet many single-family houses sit vacant. Many of the same cities have serious infrastructure funding shortages. We examine the role of single-family zoning in shaping these issues and more—and we explore why there is momentum building to re-legalize other housing types, such as duplexes and fourplexes.
In our work, we encounter some version of a common refrain: "Safety is a high priority for us." Yet, the plans and design standards on the books (and being implemented daily!) in cities across the country, big and small, reliably generate deadly environments. It's not terribly insightful to point out that we completely handed over the keys of our cities to the all-mighty automobile decades ago, but it's a testament to how thoroughly auto-centric we've designed our cities (and our lives) that we often fail to even consider the immense damage done to public safety. The country's roads and streets have seen over 640,000 deaths since 2000—and more than 30 million injuries. We can keep talking, at the local level, about how important public safety is, but until we take bold (and maybe politically sticky) actions to change the physical environment that virtually demands we all drive, we are just saying that we don't care at all. – Jordan
I always pay attention when I see a Todd Litman post, and this one did not disappoint! This piece contains some interesting data on factors influencing how we travel, and it does a nice job of priming the reader on the various relationships at play—transit spending and passenger trips, population density, etc. While correlation does not equal causation, it does prompt important questions. Even better, it leaves you wanting to dig into the issue further, and a robust list of additional sources allows you to do just that. – AJ
As the era of the startup transitions from the suburb to the urban area where efficient public transit is evident, the centrality of transit access shines as a priority to those who want to be as efficient in their work and time as possible. These areas, most notably the San Fransisco area and Lower Manhattan area, are attractive to these companies and others because of the density of the development that they are adopting. These areas are large examples of prioritizing the pedestrian and human experience above the vehicular experience in the city, allowing for the transit commute to become an organized event that many people are able to take advantage of efficiently. – Ryan
5. Video: The busiest bike lane in North America turns 10 years old
This video showcases one of the ways people will resist change irrespective of the eventual result. It also shows us how bike lanes are so very important for traffic management and safety leading to secure roads. I love biking; thankfully where I live I have the privilege of having bike lanes—but as soon as I cross into another city they vanish. Connectivity leads to better accessibility. This can be computed by using a spatial index called spatial accessibility index. This is what I believe can make streets and bike lanes integrate for a better infrastructure relatability and connectivity. Here's an article related to the same. – Bhargava
"What projects demonstrate the change you want to see in the world?" As advocates for healthier and more sustainable communities, we should be ready to answer this question when it comes our way. This article describes a residential bungalow project mirroring older forms of housing in Los Angeles that have essentially been coded out of existence. It describes the effect that parking minimums have had on housing, and how reducing those regulations can lead to more affordable housing that matches what residents are willing and able to pay for. – Tim
Housing—and in particular the development of new housing options—has been on my mind all week, since we put out our most recent podcast examining the effects of single-family zoning (and the momentum building to re-legalize other missing middle housing types). So I was happy to see our pal Daniel Herriges' latest piece on Strong Towns, which takes a look at some of the ways our cities have become dysfunctional when it comes to allowing neighborhoods to evolve with the times. Operating on the twin principles that "No neighborhood should be exempt from change," and "No neighborhood should be subjected to radical change," Herriges and (Strong Towns, more broadly) suggests that we need to relinquish some control. If you make 90% of a community off-limits to any kind of new development or the next increment of intensity, then you ensure that the other 10% will be a frenzy of high-priced development. Keeping most of a community under glass and forcing the remainder to bear the brunt of new development—and the displacement and inflated prices that come with it—is not a sustainable situation. As hard as it might be to fully embrace, to avoid radical change anywhere, you need to allow some change everywhere. – Jordan
Loved this week's episode of 99% Invisible (one of the most consistently excellent podcasts out there), which is all about how—across basically every facet of society—males are the default subject of design. This blind spot has huge and serious impacts on not just the women in our society, but all of us. There are probably some ways your city fits this pattern. Start with this question: what makes women in your city uncomfortable? Whether it's a design issue or a process issue, chances are life in your city could be greatly improved by asking—and addressing—questions like this. (While we're at it, we also should be asking the same question of and about children. Because a comfortable city or neighborhood for a 4-year old is also going to be comfortable and safe for a fit adult. The War on Cars recently did a great episode called "Self-Driving Kids" that got at exactly this issue.) – Jordan
Did you listen to our recent interview with incremental developer Monte Anderson? We’re hosting a live Q&A webinar with him next Wednesday, July 31 at 4:00pm (CST), exclusively for members of our Community Cultivators Network! If you’re already a part of the Network, RSVP here, and submit questions early if you want! If you aren’t, go ahead and sign up. It’s free (but you must be employed in a local government to join)!
Hey, friends in local government:
Have thoughts on any of the links above? Think we missed something essential? We’re discussing these topics and more over on our brand-new online community, exclusively for local government employees.* Sign up for the Community Cultivators Network and join the discussion!
* The network is currently only for those wonderful folks out there who work in local government. If you’re not currently working for a city, town, or county, we still love you (and are sure many of you would add value to the community), but we want to keep our commitment to making this a community focused specifically on our friends working in local government. Thanks for understanding!