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William H. Whyte in His Own Words: “The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces”

When I first got started making NYC bike advocacy and car-free streets videos back in the late-1990s on cable TV, I didn't know who William "Holly" Whyte was or just how much influence his work and research ...
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Great Strategies to Get Protected Bike Lanes in Your City!

Last week I was invited to speak to a group of bike/safe streets advocates in Montclair, NJ about what are some good strategies to get better people who bike and walk in their town. I gave a good accounting of ideas I thought were important but realize there are a lot of Streetfilms resources for anyone who wants to get better bike lanes in their city that I could pen. So here's some advice!

  • START WITH A CORE OF DEDICATED VOLUNTEERS/COMMUNITY MEMBERS:  You simply can't do it without some very motivated people in your city wanting to help manage and motivate your neighbors (and eventually push back against the sure to come NIMBY naysayers) The video below shows how it is done. Visuals. Energy. Sign up sheets. Facts & info about what you want to do. Engaging, happy people. Now this NYC Transportation Alternatives event for the PeopleWay had dozens of volunteers stopping by to help all day. But NYC is big. Your smaller city or town might only need 10. Or maybe 3 to 5 highly energized people.

  • DREAM BIG, BUT WITH AN EYE ON WHAT YOU CAN WIN IN INCREMENTS:  A lot of people like to get jealous of progress made in cities like Portland, Oregon and (of late) here in New York City, but the truth is you can't win everything all at once. If you're in a big city your goals may be different than a smaller town which might have limited funding and/or public support. For example, instead of your dream master plan try proposing extending trails or greenways outward to adjacent roads. Or by asking for more safety near schools or universities and protecting a few popular bike routes where they become the most hairy for biking.

  • ORGANIZE NOT ONLY RIDERS, BUT POLITICIANS & BUSINESSES:  The Streetfilm above shows how just four Londoners formed CyclingWorks, where they pursued business support for the Cycling Superhighways proposed there. Over 180 business CEOs signed on with smart campaigning (just watch the short video). It has been duplicated in other places since and many other cities are plotting to do the same. Another great tactic is to get your elected leaders involved, out on the streets with you. NYC's TransAlt loves to cajole city council members into ride alongs. See the very successful one below with Ben Kallos and many others during Bike Week 2017. It's fun, momentum, investment and exercise!

  • DOCUMENT DANGEROUS AREAS, OR BIKE LANES THAT AREN'T WORKING:  This is key. You'll need the evidence. And unless you have an often-riding bike mayor or elected town officials, it's likely they don't know conditions that suck or are frightening.  Here's just one example: one simple shot of a painted bike lane on Lafayette Street in NYC that obviously isn't providing any protection or help to cyclists. You must do this as much as you can.

  • TRY TO GET CREATIVE IN SHOWING WHAT COULD BE OR SHOW UNIQUE BENEFITS THAT MIGHT WIN OVER OTHERS WHO DON'T BICYCLE:  If you want more or better bike lanes, you may have to emphasize the overall package that they can bring. Slower, calmer streets. Shorter, safer crossing distances for pedestrians.  A nicer business environment. And as below shows, even greener, more attractive streets to live on.

  • AND USE STREETFILMS AS A RESOURCE AS MUCH AS YOU CAN!

And finally, as we know visuals are the best. They put people more at ease as to what to expect and is achievable. Many times you can watch the enlightenment unfold on folks faces when watching a video about a hard to grasp transportation concept. So whether you use our Streetfilms, others on the internet or ones you make yourself, spread them around. And note: you are certainly free to hold screenings using our films provided you just give us the heads up and don't re-edit them. Another good suggestion is to intersperse local films amongst ours in a screening or to insert even just small bits or photos of your own city pointing out problem areas.

The amazing thing is, if you're looking for videos about protected bike lanes, well we got 'em. Heck, we got more from more places than anybody! How many? OVER 80!! You can scroll thru them all on Vimeo at this link and simply hit the download button to get a digital copy if you want to show it at a screening or just sit down with your local leaders and pop it into a laptop!

Highlights from NOLA: Riding Blue Bikes, Fixing Transit & The “Neutral Ground”

As I usually try to do, here's a quick wrap-up of highlights from my adventures in New Orleans from mid-December to work with TransitCenter and Ride New Orleans. The above Streetfilm was quickly pieced together as I wasn't there to focus on bicycling. But thanks to using New Orleans' Blue Bikes bike share to get around to many shoots (its debut week!) and being around the Bike Easy staff (who shares an office with Ride) I was able to gather a few interviews and footage. Let me stress this one fact: New Orleans has a lot of cyclists. An incredible diversity in age, race, sex and type of bike ridden. I don't think my footage here does it any justice. Cyclists are a constant presence on the streets, but unlike many big cities, you won't see commuting peletons or large groupings waiting for lights. They are just there. Every intersection you'll see them.

But as I said the mission was to showcase the hard work of Ride New Orleans who is scoring victories for its riding public and providing momentum in a city that desperately needs even the bare essentials for its bus riding public. Simple things many might take for granted like signage, route schedules, benches and shelters. The above excerpt with Matthew Henrickson, the Policy Director for Ride, wasn't planned. We were waiting to interview another subject and he sarcastically pointed out we were standing under a bus stop. Knowing there are uncountable similar conditions throughout the city, I just told him to start talking. We got one fast take in right before our interviewee showed up. But this shows the hard choices facing their incoming mayor, which was buoyed by this late December news where the RTA approved a long-range, comprehensive plan to improve NOLA transit.

And speaking of interviews, one of the lovely people you will meet is Ms. Sonja (below with me, and by the way that's HER bike bag) who is on the Transit Riders’ Advisory Committee that meets first Saturday of the month. They're a wonderful, smart group of people who know they pushing the conversation to drastically change their city. Ms. Sonja gathered 600 signatures to get a bench and bus shelter installed at her senior living home, which she is very proud of. And now she is helping other volunteers and motivating people do the same.

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I really get to meet so many nice people in my travels. She's certainly one of them.  You'll get to meet her and up to a dozen others (hopefully) by the end of the month or early February.

And finally, if you watched the Streetfilm at the top of the page, you'll see I became a bit obsessed bike riding in the "neutral ground", which is the term for medians (grassy, concrete, whatever) in NOLA. I did some research on it and the history of the evolution of the term is quite cool. Click to read here. Then watch my extended outtake riding on the neutral ground and many of the other people riding bikes enjoy there.

Two Promos & a Streetfilm from GoHuman!

This year I had the opportunity to work on two promotional videos for the "Go Human" campaign from SCAG, the Southern California Association of Governors. The above is the version featuring footage/photos from nearly ten events we helped document.

The campaign encourages Southern Californians to use human-powered transportation and change how people see other modes of transportation. They operate in many cities and do many types of events including open-streets events, traffic calming demonstrations and using tactical urbanism to educate people.

One Streetfilm you may remember from earlier this year was a long excerpt I did while covering one of their events in Riverside, CA where the town was experimenting with new crossings including a pedestrian scramble. It was well received by residents and visitors who were exposed to the concept.

We also produced a wonderful instrumental version for SCAG to use. That one is below. Enjoy!

 

Meet Some of the “100 Most Influential Urbanists” via Streetfilms!

Recently, Planetizen named their 100 Most Influential Urbanists of all-time, based on public voting off of a list of 200 nominees. Jane Jacobs won. As she should have.

Whether you believe the list is correct or has some people ranked too kindly or not at all, it has been circulating like mad on Facebook and other social media. Of course, when I took a look at the list, my first thought was how cool it was that Streetfilms had interviewed or featured dozens of them.  So if you want to learn or see many of these individuals in action, take a gander at the films below!

2. Jamie Lerner

The renowned urban planner became mayor of Curitiba and implemented their BRT system which we explore in this popular Streetfilm. But I selected the more intimate video we did on the story of Curitiba's first pedestrian street since it has lots of him.

 

4. Jan Gehl

In fact, there are many Streetfilms that have featured Gehl over the years. The film below is one of four I made - in five days - while in Copenhagen in 2010.  But our first with him was the most important: an influential video we cut of him  evaluating a horribly un-friendly-to-people Times Square in 2005 with Mark Gorton! In many ways it helped ignite the livable streets renaissance that NYC has been moving towards since.

 

10. Charles Mahron

About five years ago, Streetfilms first met Chuck, and we could tell he was an original thinker with ideas about our cities we needed to help spread. I thought he would make an interesting subject and followed him to a few cities.

 

12. William H. Whyte

Holly Whyte passed before I became deeply immersed making videos about urbanism and transportation. But since I always admired the simple language he used in his book "The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces", I wanted to honor him with this montage of my favorite shots that matched the words in his book.

 

13. Donald Shoup

The undisputed expert of parking policy was part of our plan early on to highlight how ample free parking was a hurdle to having better cities. We interviewed him the first time he came to NYC and the 2nd time we did I decided it was time to take out some matchbox cars and show visually some of his concepts.

 

16. Janette Sadik-Khan

As NYC DOT Commissioner, we were perfectly positioned to watch the meteoric rise of Janette Sadik-Khan and how she introduced progressive public space initiatives and changed Times Square, Madison Square & brought us Summer Streets and more! She easily holds the record for appearing in more Streetfilms than any other person and  you might as well chalk all of this up to her,  Here we feature one of her first sit down interviews in 2008 with Mark Gorton about her work.

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A Groovy Array of Bicycling Streetfilms From The Netherlands

With so many of my friends posting Facebook photos and Tweeting short video snippets of what they are seeing while in Amsterdam at the PPS Placemaking Summit, I thought this would be an excellent time to compile in one place most of my Streetfilms I've shot there since my first visit in 2013, great films to watch right now whether you are there with them or not.

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"Bicycle Anecdotes from Amsterdam" at nearly 370,000 plays was a fun one to make and very quickly edited together with little effort. So much so that I thought it would be entertaining but by no means did I expect it to become our 4th most popular film of all-time (out of over 800!) But it has a lot of nice moments in it. (Side note: partly due to it, I ended up buying a Fre8 WorkCycle thanks to seeing them being made in the shop while being able to chat with Henry Culter. See above photo!)

Of course, our universally loved Streetfilm on Gronigen proved to be groundbreaking and now is heading towards a half million Streetfilm plays across all media we can track. We had read stories (50% bike mode share!) and seen a few short snippets of the great downtown of Groningen on Youtube before deciding to work in a visit. We were glad we did. Even four years later, if you type in "Groningen" and "bicycling" into search engines, our film is the first to pop up. And in the aftermath of my visit there were dozens of stories on Groningen, many citing or even embedding our Streetfilm in their coverage. (BTW, a reminder: anyone can embed our linked videos in their reports or websites.)

In 2017 I was able to return to The Netherlands while attending the VeloCity 2017 conference and I fell in love with the city of Nijmegen. I had been planning to just shoot a few shorts while there on all sorts of tours and interviews with people. But while roaming around on foot downtown, I couldn't believe how car-free the city was and how there were a series of steel bollards that kept cars out most of the time. Simply amazing. So I rushed to grab enough interviews towards the end of the conference to produce the result above!

Additionally, the Arnhem-Nijmegen region boasts the quickest, safest continuous bikeway I have ever ridden. You are gonna want to watch that too!

Jumping back to Amsterdam, I actually assembled this fun montage in a few hours one night after my first full day of shooting to get people psyched for my videos to come. It too was a very modest hit!

At this point, I'll leave you with the linkage below to even more Streetfilms. Please enjoy them!  And go to the Netherlands if you want to see great bicycling infrastructure!  And for those still waiting for more? I do have a long gestating film from  Rotterdam I hope to have ready, eventually.

"Danish Infrastructure Tour of Bicycle Streets & Intersections" 

"Journey from Assen to Groningen with David Hembrow":

"From Netherlands to America: Translating the World's Best Bikeway Designs"

"Groningen's Green Phase For Cyclists"

"Rotterdam: Trams on Grass"

"Amsterdam Draws Bike Boxes to Better Organize Bike Parking"

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