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Green Urbanism: Learning from the world

Geoff Ghitter & Noel Keough, Fast Forward Weekly (Calgary)
Modern urban life — at least, the technology that makes it all possible — has made a stranger of nature.

Occasionally nature intrudes into our lives through weather or natural calamity. And, while some like venturing into the wild to play or relax, after the weekend is over, it’s back to the urban silo.

In the magical world of the city, needs are invisibly met. Flick a switch and “presto” night is day. Twist a faucet and clean, drinkable water gushes, seemingly without limit. Flush a toilet and stinky sewage disappears out of sight and mind. At the store, shelves teem with fresh and preserved foods that appear, manna-like, each new day.

… The problem is that our flick-and-flush existence conceals many of the destructive effects our consumption patterns create and the fragile state of the ecological systems that underpin them. And being physically removed from nature fosters psychological detachment. So much so that when confronted with alarming claims that could conflict with our daily safe, healthy and abundant personal existence, we often ignore them, or worse, deny them.

This city-nature rift perhaps explains why we continue to build as we do. A city of far-flung suburbs and drive-to malls is unsustainable and everybody knows it: planners, politicians, people and even developers (although they don’t typically admit it publicly). But things are changing out there and to adapt we’re going to have to change as well.


That’s why building cities as we have in the past is not an option for deep thinkers like Timothy Beatley, professor of sustainable communities at the University of Virginia. He believes the future of our species is intimately tied with our ability to coexist with the natural world.

For Beatley, a world expert on city-nature relations and author of 15 books — including Green Urbanism: Learning from European Cities (2000) and Green Urbanism Down Under (2009) — this means reorganizing cities to satisfy our needs for clean, healthy and safe places to live and to balance the environmental impacts created in the process with the planet’s capacity for renewal.

The solution, or part of it, lies in what Beatley calls “green urbanism,” a way of meshing urban development with environmental and social goals in a manner that unites rather than divides communities.

Green urbanism is a necessary evolution of cities, says Beatley.

First, he points out that humans have become an urban species.
(17 March 2011)

Tearing down urban freeways to make room for a new bicycle economy

Elly Blue, Grist
Here’s one way to fund bicycle infrastructure: Stop building freeways in cities.

Better yet, tear down the ones we already have.

Cities are starting to catch on that becoming bicycle friendly is one of the best investments they can make.

Cities are also starting to realize that removing freeways makes more economic sense than maintaining or expanding them. In the last year, with the help of federal and state funding, cities like Baltimore and New Haven have been demolishing the “highways to nowhere” that have divided their neighborhoods, drained their populations, and damaged their economies and their children’s health since the 1970s.

Finding room for safe bicycle infrastructure in already strained and contested budgets can be difficult. That’s especially true in places where bicycling has no historical place in the transportation budget, and is still seen as either a whim of the elite or last resort of the poor.

But the economic benefits of freeway removal make anything seem possible.

… There’s a lot of criticism of the cost of bicycle infrastructure. But look at it this way: the simple act of choosing not to build one mile of urban freeway can buy you a world-class bicycle city with a thriving local economy.

We can tear down these freeways and make sure that green spaces, equitable new development, and quality walking and bicycling infrastructure take their place. Soon, we may have no other choice.
(14 March 2011)

Urban Bikeway Design Guide

National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO)
The purpose of the NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide (part of the Cities for Cycling initiative) is to provide cities with state-of-the-practice solutions that can help create complete streets that are safe and enjoyable for bicyclists.

The NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide is based on the experience of the best cycling cities in the world. The designs in this document were developed by cities for cities, since unique urban streets require innovative solutions. Most of these treatments are not directly referenced in the current versions of the AASHTO Guide to Bikeway Facilities or the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), although many of the elements are found within these documents. The Federal Highway Administration has recently posted information regarding approval status of various bicycle related treatments not covered in the MUTCD, including many of the treatments provided in the NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide. All of the NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide treatments are in use internationally and in many cities around the US.

To create the Guide, the authors have conducted an extensive worldwide literature search from design guidelines and real-life experience. They have worked closely with a panel of urban bikeway planning professionals from NACTO member cities, as well as traffic engineers, planners, and academics with deep experience in urban bikeway applications. A complete list of participating professionals is included here. Additional information has been gathered from numerous other cities worldwide.

The intent of the Guide is to offer substantive guidance for cities seeking to improve bicycle transportation in places where competing demands for the use of the right of way present unique challenges.
(March 2011)