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Contested Streets: Breaking New York City Gridlock

Produced in 2006 as part of the New York City Streets Renaissance Campaign, Contested Streets explores the history and culture of New York City streets from pre-automobile times to present.  This examination allows for an ...
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New #FreshKermit Bike Lanes Continue to Sweep le Twitterverse

Any lover of Kermit the Frog knows he famously rode a bike in "The Muppet Movie", and in fact has piloted a bicycle quite often in his career. But when I started the #freshKermit hashtag with this quick post a few years back, I wasn't thinking of the friendly amphibian riding a velocipede, I just saw those bright green colors in some of our newest NYC bike lanes and, well people remembered.

If anything, its use on Twitter is becoming more regular, sometimes dozens of contributions per month. I've done a few blog posts on 'em, but love the variety of listings so much, I can't go too long without compiling some for your consumption. Check some of these out!

 

The Results of our 1st Ever Viewer Survey

Thanks to all those who took the time to fill out our viewer survey we posted in early 2016. We figured it was about time to get to know you. How many videos do you watch per month? What are your favorite transportation topics? Who are your favorite livable streets superheroes?  (Full disclosure, mine is the indefatigable Gil Peñalosa!)

We'll put out much of the information over the next few weeks, but check this out, today we are releasing our very first infographic where we have published some of the key nuggets!!  You guys are really freaking interesting! This info is really valuable moving forward planning for the future. Please take a gander and pass along.

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Comedy as Transportation Advocacy: Fun Streetfilms to Employ

As you can see above, we just had some pretty huge numbers with our Peatónito production, following the masked superhero around New York City filming him protecting pedestrians from bad car drivers in the crosswalks. It just got me thinking: over the years we have used humor quite a bit (though not as much as I always want to) to make our advocacy beliefs stronger, to engage the public and to educate the general population about transportation.

Below is a nice curated list of our best work. Hopefully it will get those of you who may be pondering ways to get the attention of your community that viral comedy/parody done right, can yield results - sometimes better than years of hard work.

As many of you already know, we got so, so lucky to get a chance to work with Kate McKinnon, the funniest current cast member of Saturday Night Live and now segueing into a Hollywood megastar. We did a series of Streetfilms featuring her as Veronica Moss, an auto lobbyist fighting for the rights of car owners in D.C. Here we placed her in the midst of the recently made car-free Times Square to offer her thoughts. One of the favorites on our site.

Working with established groups is a great thing. The Riders Alliance in New York City was conducting campaigns trying to get New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo to agree to fully fund the MTA capital plan for subways, buses and commuter rail. We hatched a great idea: get a cardboard cut out of the Governor and have him actually ride the trains and interact with customers. Eventually thanks to the work of probably a dozen groups he agreed to fund it (though update: he still has not actually dedicated the money!)

I used to put myself out there to try to get attention. When New York City installed its first protected bike lane under Janette Sadik-Khan we wanted to highlight it in a great way different than the rest of the press. This was the result.  Believe me, just about every group of advocates have a class clown or humorous spokesperson that you can put on camera to do the same. (Though this is also coming from someone once wore a Sasquatch costume to explain traffic calming.)

A lot of people love our four Streetfilms featuring the hysterical, but critical Hal Ruzal from Bicycle Habitat showing you the dangers of locking your bike improperly. The numbers on these popular videos are always so high, we can't go too long without asking him back to do another one. 2016?

Finally, sometimes you can twist the ridiculousness of what city agencies and polices are and show how absurd they really are. For example, in NYC we have about a dozen or so "Gridlock Alert" days around the holidays. These do mostly nothing. But you can go out and have some fun with them as Mark Gorton, one of our biggest funders and supporters, shows during this hilarious poke that can easily be duplicated in your city.

We have had plenty of fun on Streetfilms. I recommend exploring more to find ways to make shorts that are fun and sometimes ridiculously fun!

Sneckdown: The Comic Strip!

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This year in NYC we had one giant #Blizzard2016 but little other snow to speak of.  The region as a whole has missed out on the train of traditional nor'easters that dump feet of snow on the D.C.-Baltimore-Philly-NYC-Boston megalopolis.  This year #sneckdown hunting was certainly down.

But we still wanted to get this fantastic comic strip on sneckdowns that my brother Gary put together out in front of the masses (and we'll probably be using it every season anyway!) It's a real unique way to have a little humor and educate the public on traffic calming and Vision Zero. In fact, we are hoping to raise a little bit of funding so we can do this on different transportation terms maybe monthly. So hopefully more to come. Enjoy and click the image below to embiggen.

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Streetfilms as Your Resource on Public Space

As a livable streets filmmaker for the past twenty years, it’s been both my primary responsibility and passion to document cities around the world, and much of that has revolved around public spaces and the what goes on in them.

The bulk of my work has been done via the website Streetfilms, a non-profit resource promoting “transportation best practices” through short films, where I’ve been the Director for over ten years. In that time, I’ve produced, shot or edited over 700 shorts on the topics of transportation, walking, biking, public plazas, street interventions and open streets public events - where our roads become open to people and activity. All of our videos are free for the public to use in screenings, for communities to show to elected leaders and for journalists & advocates to embed in written stories on related transportation topics. We are nearing the 11 million views mark since 2006, and are consistently cited as an inspiration by experts and leaders across the transportation world.

As mentioned previously, a healthy percentage of Streetfilms’ work has been devoted to advocating for more public space by showing great projects, their birth and their evolution. As is the case, many stories involve a myriad of city agencies, small non-profits and the community, but sometimes involve big business, developers and citywide advocacy groups as well. What happens at the intersection of these players can be benign or contentious and what public uses are permitted or negotiated is crucial to if a space feels free, open and safe.  The best public spaces are ones that foster a happy environment for people to sit, mingle, date and relax.

In 2010, I produced the wonderful Streetfilm Copenhagen’s Car-Free Streets & Open Spaces. Happinees and energy abounds throughout it. And it contains one of my favorite filmed moments: at the 1:40 mark watch as Gil Penalosa, Executive Director of 8-80 Cities, is speaking about car-free environments when spontaneously a school celebration breaks out behind him. In Stockholm: The Walkable City, people roam the car-free streets and plazas of the old city without a care in the world, some even swim while basking on simple wood platforms along the water.

Austin, Texas, the city closes its famous music nexus 6th Street Car-free Nights a few times per week to let music lovers roam freely. And while visiting Buenos Aires people took over the streets surrounding the famous Obelisco monument following a 2014 World Cup Semifinal Victory. Wherever you go, it’s obvious that letting people have space is a democratic right that we needs to do even more of.

One place I absolutely adore for public space is Montreal. Every summer for a few months, large sections of the city are given back to the people. One which is a huge success is Montreal’s Car-free Rue St. Catherine an over mile long, 24-hour corridor which bustles with people, food, art and nightlife.

But there’s plenty in Montreal for families as well. Every year in April they bring out Montreal’s 21 Swings (21 Balançoires), where people of all ages ride swings and thus participate in musical masterpieces with strangers. And even in just the sidewalk realm, Montreal can soar as here in A Montreal Neighborhood Intersection Morphs into a Wonderful Public Space” where ample sidewalks, traffic calming and colorful benches draw people to eat, chat, and relax.

When it comes to creating public plazas in the United States, New York City has prospered. Under the leadership of N.Y.C. D.O.T. Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan (2007 to 2013) the Bloomberg Mayoral Administration enacted more projects to better accommodate the majority of users on streets by questioning the amount we’ve cater to private vehicles. Dozens of plaza and streets projects followed. (more…)

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