It will never be easier than it is right now
Open streets should be expanded and made permanent.
Summer is technically still a little less than a month way, though no one seems to have passed that information on to Mother Nature. Here on the shores of Lake Erie, it’s been summertime hot for a few weeks (this morning’s cool, rainy weather notwithstanding), and you won’t hear me complaining about that.
With warmer temps comes the itch to be outside, especially in the Great Lakes region, where we just endured about seven months in which leaving the house wasn’t anyone’s definition of fun. Tack on the cloistered nature of the pandemic for the past year-plus, and we’d all be excused for experiencing some major cabin fever.
All of which is why the open streets programs that began popping up across the United States in the past year are so important. Giving people access to outdoor areas for recreation, dining, or just plain congregating is a valuable thing all cities should be doing, in whatever form they can provide.
Parks fit that bill, of course, but streets shut down to vehicular traffic are sometimes the only viable options for some places. These programs should not go down as a footnote of the pandemic, a fun experiment, but rather ought to be expanded and made permanent.
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Something I wrote, and;
A few things I read, watched, or learned that I found value in and think are worth sharing.
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Something I Wrote
Open streets programs have really grabbed my attention of late, so I wrote even more about them over on Medium. You can check out the article here.
Representative line from the piece: “We can have streets closed to vehicular traffic so that people can walk, bike, jog, play, and congregate. We can take over redundant roads with pop-up retail. We can utilize parking spaces for outdoor dining, DORAs, and seating. We have seen the benefits of taking space from cars and giving it to people.”
Some Things Worth Checking Out
Why are open streets so important? Check out this image from the University of Illinois showing brain activity after sitting vs. walking:
While we’re talking about open streets and outdoor places, it’s important to address equity issues. For instance, an analysis from the Trust for Public Land found that neighborhoods of color have significantly less park space than majority white neighborhoods. This is an issue cities must work to address.
One of my favorite follows on Twitter has a unique approach to solving rush hour traffic, which I wrote about on my blog.
Cleveland’s abysmal lakefront, which I mentioned last week, has yet another proposal for a makeover making the rounds. This time it’s the ownership group of the Cleveland Browns, whose stadium happens to be right on the lake, who want to help spearhead development. I’m all in favor of better utilizing such a vital resource for placemaking purposes, but it needs to be done right.
Strong Towns has been running a really good series on building local prosperity. They show how traditional community development has been turned on its head from a scenario where public investment followed private investment in the past to public investment now trying to catalyze private investment. This tends to be a bad deal for local governments and their communities.
Real estate prices have been dominating news headlines lately, as they grow increasingly insane. As Kriston Capps at CityLab wrote, the Biden administration is looking to confront issues with housing supply as part of the American Jobs Plan, investing a whole lot of money into existing programs, many of which were gutted by the previous president. It’s sorely needed, but one hopes this infusion of cash spurs the kinds of housing we actually need.
A bill in New York state wants to put warning labels on pickup trucks and SUVs. Yes, these vehicles keep getting bigger and more dangerous, but I’m not sure how this bill accomplishes anything unless car insurance rates are tied to the warning label system or CDLs are required to operate those vehicles.
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