What makes a Town or City Walkable?

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From the Daily Durning comes this gem from  and Alan Ehrenhalt that once again reinforces the importance of sidewalks and street life for walkable places.  Jane Jacobs based her thesis of creating healthy happy communities on the vital necessity of face to face daily contact with residents on the sidewalk, with  every day meetings of neighbours on the sidewalk   as reinforcing social cohesion and safety. “Lowly, unpurposeful and random as they may appear,” Jacobs wrote, “sidewalk contacts are the small change from which a city’s wealth of public life may grow.”

Sociologist  Mark Granovetter later found the importance of  “weak ties” to a community, “informal contacts among casual acquaintances who stop on the street to share news, gossip or simple good wishes. A robust array of weak ties gives city dwellers access to jobs, child care and practical advice, and it enhances their overall sense of well-being.”


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Carson City’s Carson Street Revamps for the 21st Century

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Earlier this year Price Tags Vancouver reported on a phenomenon that is occurring in many towns that are reclaiming their historic downtowns back from thoroughfare highway use to more pedestrian friendly sidewalks, bike lanes, and slower vehicular flows more attractive for locals.

Carson City Nevada is 30 miles south of Reno, has a population of 55,300 (2010) and is also the state capitol of Nevada. Despite a downtown that contained a lot of important heritage buildings as well as the grounds for the state capitol, motordom reigned supreme on the main street. Four lanes of traffic went through Carson Street at speed, and pedestrians were hurt and killed trying to cross the street. At one point the City installed fence barriers along the narrow sidewalk to try to separate pedestrians from vehicles. It did not make for an inviting experience on this main commercial street.

With the use of a…

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Twinning the Lions Gate Bridge

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lions-gate-bridge-nvma-photoEve Lazarus photo

In one of those utterly cool moments The Richmond News reports that the historian of the North Vancouver Museum and Archives received a call that there was something that might be of interest in the Burnaby Hospice Thrift Store on Kingsway. That store had received a scale model of the Lions Gate Bridge which was six feet long. The model which was about 24 years old was for sale in the 200 dollar range, and had a unique feature~it was a twinned model of the bridge. 

And it also had the initials of a great Canadian architect~Moshe Safdie. While the original bridge was opened in 1938, the 1990’s had brought discussions about how to repair the bridge. There was also discussion of a complete bridge replacement.  It was the Squamish nation on lands on the north side of the bridge who advocated the twinning of the bridge…

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Make Your Mark in Mount Pleasant

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                       Sandy James Image

The Daily Hive notes that the City of Vancouver is looking for artists and designers  to create “sidewalk stencils” for the sidewalks in front of commercial businesses along Mount Pleasant’s Main Street. There have been sidewalk stamps before, most notably along Heather Street between 49th and 54th Avenues. Those sidewalks stamps were chosen from images created  by the Churchill Secondary School’s fine art class,  and were cut into metal stencils using a plasma cutter at the City works yard. Some of the images have been so successful that they have been used in other parts of the city as well.

Sidewalks were installed on Heather Street from 49th Avenue to Marine Drive and there was the opportunity to imprint the metal stencil directly into fresh cement. In the Mount Pleasant case,  a metal stencil will be…

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Anish Kapoor’s Descension

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IMG_0601Sandy James Image

For the fortieth anniversary of the City of New York’s public art fund, Anish Kapoor’s “Descension” public art piece has been placed in Brooklyn Bridge Park from May until September. This is a very visceral work ,in that it is a “negative” space work-it looks like a large round swimming pool that has a continually spiralling vortex of water funneling but is flush to the ground. In other places it has been installed with the water frothing black to emphasize the wave. The Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy insisted that the water be the same colour as the East River, so it is more transparent looking.

The work is fenced off by a simple bar fence and is under 24 hour guard so that no one slips into the water. The actual pool is eight meters in diameter, and the water is about 1.2 meters deep.  The water…

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Noises Off at Brooklyn Bridge Park

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Sandy James Images
Via NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver is this Fast Company article on the Secret Life of Parks. Diana Budd explores the work in Brooklyn Bridge Park that Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA) has undertaken in making parks quieter, even when surrounded by traffic and other noise. “By sculpting the land, MVVA gives cities their very own mute button.” 
In the parks of three major cities heavily impacted by traffic noise- Brooklyn Bridge Park in New York, Maggie Daley Park in Chicago, and A Gathering Place for Tulsa,  MVVA  decided that having a conversation at normal tone was a measure.  “If you have to yell or get really close together to talk, it’s not park-like . . . You try to lower ambient noise level so people can start to hear the insects.”
Sandy James Images
Last month I visited Brooklyn Bridge Park with NYC…

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Copenhagen’s Iconic Benches Stolen off the Street

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Well everyone grew up and instead of coveting that Teddy Ruxpin  bear or the Christmas Furby, some of us have aimed higher with good design in good landscape furniture.  As noted in  The “Copenhagen bench”, a beautiful  Danish bench with clean lines has become popular because of its classic lines. So popular that “across the Danish capital, thieves are targeting a local design icon—the classic Copenhagen bench”.  Designed in the 1880’s “the benches are one of those visual clues that Danish people instantly associate with Copenhagen, like the Wallace Fountains of Paris or the now defunct red telephone boxes of London”.


And everyone wants their own. This year 45 benches have been stolen so far, at a cost of about 1,765 Canadian dollars a bench. That’s about six  benches being pilfered a month. Here’s the strange part-you can actually buy the bench at retail stores…

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