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William “Holly” Whyte in His Own Words, “The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces” (1980)

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 important his work and research ...
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Transportation Videos & Photos from Montevideo & Buenos Aires!

I was very fortunate to be able to take a long vacation to South America and was in the cities of Buenos Aires, Montevideo and Asuncion. Of course with me a vacation can never be truly 100% relaxing when there is transportation observations to be made and I was able to squeeze in some Streetfilms work here and there.  Here are some short videos and photos with commentary.

The first video above (apologies for some sound, it was a very impromptu shoot without using all my gear) is from Montevideo, Uruguay. I was very surprised to see so much bicycling and very new bike infrastructure. And also: bike share! My wife and I had a few hours to rent bikes and were able to meet up with Matias Kalwill, creator of the app Bikestorming which aims to increase urban bicycling, who took us for a very quick city loop. I thought viewers would be happy to experience biking in another country, even if not given the usual Streetfilms treatment.

Public Space Takeover! While in Buenos Aires (an official Streetfilm on their MetroBus and other transportation accomplishments coming soon) we were fortunate to capture residents flooding the Avenida 9 de Julio (widest Avenue in the world) to celebrate Argentina advancing to the World Cup final. How exciting it was to be in the middle of it as it all occurred. Instant public space by the people!

Speaking of Avenida 9 de Julio (which is where Buenos Aires' MetroBus BRT runs) coincidentally we happened to be there on July 9th which is a national holiday. They had many car-free celebrations and festivals. They had some vintage buses to check out. I grabbed the above footage for all you bus nerds out there. (more…)

Asunción, Paraguay: A Walk on a Bikeway Yields Evidence of a Rail Past

IMG_5885This week while in Asunción, the largest city in Paraguay, I was surprised to learn the country introduced the first railway service on the content - sometime in the 1830s. But sadly, there are no longer any kinds of rail or passenger service here.

That's such a shame. Paraguay is a very poor country. For the most part its roads are choked with traffic and the vehicles on the road spew emissions that you can taste. The pedestrian environment is as bad as I've seen anywhere with horrible sidewalks and drivers who yield your right of way, um...never! For a place that frequently scores as one of the happiest places on the planet, it's very hard to get around without a car. If you don't have one, you'll be cram on the packed buses that really need to be modernized.

IMG_5874While staying with new relatives outside the downtown, my wife and I went for a long walk in the median of Ave Boggani, a very rare pedestrian and bike path sandwiched by fast-moving, noisy cars.  Although the greenway was pretty beat up in parts, it was one of the few places to take a safe stroll and recreate.

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It was along here that I found evidence that many years ago (it was said maybe forty or fifty?) that the street had a rail line down part of it. I snapped some photos when we came upon a few segments of the leftover rail tracks. And then a little further up we saw what was likely the remnants of a boarding platform, which I believed was the final stop on the Avenue. (more…)

In the U.S. Walking & Biking to School is Becoming Extinct, Get Inspired by some Streetfilms to Change That

Last year, we debuted a crisply-edited Streetfilm "Children Have Lost the Freedom to Roam" as a chapter in our STREETFACTS series. We were surprised the 4-part educational series didn't do better. However, the last week saw renewed interest as people started forwarding it around Facebook, nearly 100 shares! Perhaps the general public is beginning to crave change?

Things sure have changed in most parts of the country since I was a kid. I'm now 47. I walked over 2 miles each way to school - in rain and snow (and I was also a morning paperboy for the Times-Hearld Record in Goshen, NY!) In many parts of our country, the built-environment has made it nearly impossible for kids to walk and bike. And as we all know in some places it is illegal or forbidden by the school district.

That's really depressing, sure. But at Streetfilms we've been lucky to be around cities trying to do it right here in America. Our recent hit from Lakewood, Ohio a Cleveland school district that has never provided buses for its students, just soared to nearly 60,000 plays! In Lakewood you can sense the atmosphere is much different than a typical school morning. The kids and parents seem happy, The energy level is infectious.

Last year we got to visit Portland, Oregon where thanks to much traffic calming and slow streets of the Neighborhood Greenways, children are walking and biking in growing numbers. It's encouraging. It's a very fun film. Especially the Bike Trains!

There are many videos to get inspired by via Streetfilms. In Brooklyn, PS 67 students painted the pavement to make streets near their school safer. In Davis, California the bike mode share is high, and most of the school districts there don't have buses either.

But in the U.S. we have so much further to go. See above, for this short video from the Dutch city of Utrecht, where children learn about transportation at an early age. And if you watch our 2010 Streetfilm from Copenhagen, you'll see plenty of young children riding bikes, and hear about how the learn how at a very early age to navigate the streets.

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Then there is this clip last year from an Amsterdam trip that shows what we are looking to attain is humanly possible. Yes this kid is four years old! I couldn't ride that well as a teenager!

But don't get depressed too much by this stellar work beyond done overseas. There are many communities and advocacy groups out there pushing to make our streets better. Use these videos as your inspiration and don't wait any longer. And also, our Zozo series can help spread the word!

Adventures in Montreal: Bikes, Bike Cafes & Riding Musical Swings in a Public Space

I was honored this weekend to be a guest of Vélo Québec to ride in the 30th annual Tour de l'Île, a 50km group ride I did way back in 2001 & 2003. It's really a great way to experience the city on car-free roads with 25,000 other people. In fact, I find Montreal to be one of the most fun places on the planet.  The entire city is so beautiful, relaxed and interactive from a visitor's standpoint.  And everything is accessible by bike.

Additionally, I was invited to take part in Friday night's Tour la Nuit, which is the companion night ride to Sunday's big event. As you can see from the above video montage, it was a celebration of people and joy, sort of like an official critical mass with closed streets. I really don't know why more cities don't try the night ride concept. I hope you enjoy the music I used. It's a little happenin'.

While there I got to learn more of Vélo Québec's mission including taking in a scrumptious meal at their cafe La Maison des Cyclistes which is on the ground floor of their staff headquarters. I got to talk to Vélo Québec's CEO Suzanne Lareau about what their organization does and why they created the cafe at its location, which is at the intersection of two of Montreal's most used cycle tracks.

Every time I visit Montreal I can't wait until the next time I come back. The quality and tranquility of its many pedestrianized areas I have documented before. It's a city that is constantly utilizing its public space for the health of citizens and visitors in unique ways. Art is everywhere.

Which brings me to the "21 Swings" interactive musical installation. The video says about it all, but to say I felt like a kid again (with plenty of other adults!) would not be doing the exhibit its due magnificence. There's more info on "21 Balançoires" here on the Daily Tous Les Jours site. I was fortunate to catch it on its final working day of 2014.

My coverage will continue later this week with a Streetfilm of my ride on the Tour de l'Île and what it has meant for cycling in Montreal.

Streetfilms: Street Theater & Public Parody as Effective Advocacy!

If you're having trouble garnering public attention for one of your advocacy initatives, one thing you should consider is performing some crafty, quirky street theater or parody. Both equally enlighten, and if done intelligently, lead to action.

Streetfilms has been around quite a few good ones over the years.  One of the earliest is the above 2002 video I participated in and shot was our car-free Prospect Park Theater protest! We had a nice group of advocates show up in cardboard automobiles. Then Brooklyn T.A. Chair (and future Streetsblog founder) Aaron Naparstek was the creative force behind the action and also supporting us at the rally? Our then-Councilmember and future Mayor Bill de Blasio!

Soon after Mayor Bloomberg and then NYC DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan pedestrianized parts of Times Square, the tabloids and tv stations were running amok with  stories about how "controversial" it was. We decided we needed to point out how ridiculous these assertions were. Enter Veronica Moss, a character invented earlier to make fun of the fictional A.U.T.O. lobby. This time we brought her to Times Square. The results are hysterical, mainly because behind that wig is the ultra-talented comedian and newest star of Saturday Night Live, Kate McKinnon!

This is from the 2008 Javits NYC Auto Show and it's absolutely hilarious. We captured this demonstration from Transportation Alternatives & Reverend Billy and the Stop Shopping Gospel Choir. Rev Billy presided over the mock marriage of Lady Liberty (Karla Quintero) and Mr. Transit (Noah Budnick) as attendees watched on. Just about every shot in this Streetfilm (from Elizabeth Press) is priceless so watch it to the very end.

I've had my share of making myself look a little foolish to make a point. One came early in Streetfilms when I wanted to make the point that traffic calming and bicycle accommodation in Portland, Orgeon was so good, that it brought the legendary Sasquatch out of hiding!  Yes, that's me as "Clarence the Traffic Calming Sasquatch" in this vid made with Dan Kaufman. It's production occurred when Dan called one day during my visit and said he had a big foot costume at his house. Less than an hour thru the magic of improv, we had our video.

In many cities, there's a "Bike Party" movement that has the traditional critical mass morphing in to something more celebratory and less confrontational. Having ridden enough times during both, it basically just seems like a re-branding to allow fun bike riding in a large group. "Bike Party" seems to always have a theme, although many critical masses have as well. The Bike Party from D.C. was a toga ride. And as you can see from the footage, it was plenty of fun.

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