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The secrets of the world’s happiest cities
Charles Montgomery, The Guardian
Two bodyguards trotted behind Enrique Peñalosa, their pistols jostling in holsters. There was nothing remarkable about that, given his profession – and his locale. Peñalosa was a politician on yet another campaign, and this was Bogotá, a city with a reputation for kidnapping and assassination. What was unusual was this: Peñalosa didn’t climb into the armoured SUV. Instead, he hopped on a mountain bike. His bodyguards and I pedalled madly behind, like a throng of teenagers in the wake of a rock star.
I first saw the Mayor of Happiness work his rhetorical magic back in the spring of 2006. The United Nations had just announced that some day in the following months, one more child would be born in an urban hospital or a migrant would stumble into a metropolitan shantytown, and from that moment on, more than half the world’s people would be living in cities. By 2030, almost 5 billion of us will be urban.
Peñalosa insisted that, like most cities, Bogotá had been left deeply wounded by the 20th century’s dual urban legacy: first, the city had been gradually reoriented around cars. Second, public spaces and resources had largely been privatised. This reorganisation was both unfair – only one in five families even owned a car – and cruel: urban residents had been denied the opportunity to enjoy the city’s simplest daily pleasures: walking on convivial streets, sitting around in public. And playing: children had largely disappeared from Bogotá’s streets, not because of the fear of gunfire or abduction, but because the streets had been rendered dangerous by sheer speed. Peñalosa’s first and most defining act as mayor was to declare war: not on crime or drugs or poverty, but on cars…
There is a clear connection between social deficit and the shape of cities. A Swedish study found that people who endure more than a 45-minute commute were 40% more likely to divorce. People who live in monofunctional, car‑dependent neighbourhoods outside urban centres are much less trusting of other people than people who live in walkable neighbourhoods where housing is mixed with shops, services and places to work.
(1 November 2013)
Charles Montgomery is author of the book Happy City: Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design
Food Matters: Fifteen Tons of Groceries, Sailing Down the Hudson
Eviana Hartman, New York Times
Now that urban rooftops are buzzing with beehives and C.S.A. deliveries are the new FreshDirect, where does the slow-food movement go next? One key issue confronting the locavore movement is transportation — the “to” in “farm to table.”
Before the Industrial Revolution, most food was regional by necessity, shipped via wind-powered boats. Urban waterfronts were vibrant centers of commerce and community. Seeking a more sustainable way to get his grain to market, the Vermont farmer Erik Andrus conceived the Vermont Sail Freight Project to find out if this model could work again today…
“We’re at an inflection point,” said Severine von Tscharner Fleming, the founder of the Greenhorns. “Can we, as farmers, collaborate on a distribution system that matches our values and preserves the craft economy?”
(24 October 2013)
Flint’s Ingenious Plan to “Right-Size” Its Streets With Road Diets
Angie Schmitt, DC. Streest Blog
Flint, Michigan, is probably best known as the poster child for population loss and de-industrialization, as captured in the Michael Moore movie, “Roger and Me.”…
Here’s one innovative new idea out of Flint that was a long-time coming and should be emulated in cities across the Rust Belt. Flint is planning to reduce excess vehicle capacity on its streets by implementing road diets that make room for walking and biking. Road diets “are central” to the city’s in-progress regional plan, known as Imagine Flint, according to a recent report by the Detroit Free Press. Imagine Flint is funded through a $3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Sustainable Communities Program (a grant program which Congress has since de-funded).
(29 October 2013)
Commuting’s Hidden Cost
Jane E. Brody, New York Times
…Suburban sprawl “has taken a huge toll on our health,” wrote Ms. Gallagher, an editor at Fortune magazine. “Research has been piling up that establishes a link between the spread of sprawl and the rise of obesity in our country. Researchers have also found that people get less exercise as the distances among where we live, work, shop and socialize increase…
A recent study of 4,297 Texans compared their health with the distances they commuted to and from work.It showed that as these distances increased, physical activity and cardiovascular fitness dropped, and blood pressure, body weight, waist circumference and metabolic risks rose.
(28 October 2013)