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Posts tagged "Public Space"

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The Streets Have Changed: A NYC Bicycle Journey During the Coronavirus

I hadn't been on my bicycle in over a week, choosing to walk and run for exercise during the Coronavirus (and observing recommended precautions) but I was curious what my normal commute looked like. So on Friday I chose to get my exercise by bicycling in to Manhattan and brought my camera along as I visited many spots I might typically do if scouting for great locales to film footage for a Streetfilm.

The amazing thing is I have so much archives of New York City that in many cases I had exact matching footage from the last few years of each location or spot, showing what it looks like typically (or in some cases showing what it looked like before the streets received an intervention from NYC DOT) and in some cases is pretty mind blowing.

I hope this Streetfilm (likely the final "new" one shot until the world heals) is entertaining, gives you hope and stretches your mind to what is still possible when we emerge from this pandemic.

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Amsterdam’s Removing 10K Parking Spaces: See what that can look like!

On my swing to The Netherlands to visit Utrecht, I planned on just trying to gather up enough footage and talk to a few people in Amsterdam regarding the transportation headlines they made a few months ago when they announced they would be removing from 10,000 to 11,000 parking spaces from the city's core.

I really only planned on perhaps a very short 90 second vid showing a few shots of parked cars and soundbites from a few notable folks in Amsterdam. What I got was so much more. As you will see I got to talk to some amazing folks including Zeeger Ernsting, a City Councilperson for GroenLinks (Green Party) who gave me the story how the initiative came about and told me I needed to visit the Frans Halsbuurt neighborhood where an entire grid of streets now virtually has no parking except for loading spaces (an extremely good idea!) and a few spaces for handicapped access.

The neighborhood has been undergoing a transformation for many years and there are a myriad of reasons why the spot was chosen (in fact I am planning on going back in July to fully document it even more in-depth.) But if you go to Google and check out the street views from 2012 thru this year, you will see car parking evaporate in the final panels. As dramatic and lovely as this film makes it seem I must advise you: it is even more lovely, lush and livable. If you have a chance, go there. See it for yourself.

We need to be thinking about this in every major city. A commitment to start shrinking the number of places we allow parking.

Paging Dr. Don Shoup!

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Central London’s New Aldgate Square Opens

On assignment in London to cover bicycle superhighways, I once again had the pleasure of a tour with the charming and insightful Iain Simmons, assistant director of city transportation for the City of London. He took me around to several recent projects, including the brand new public space at Aldgate Square, which opened the day before.

London has embarked on an ongoing quest to remake its busiest districts with high-quality public space, taking real estate that used to belong to cars and designing areas where people come first and drivers behave accordingly. The Aldgate project is the latest example, repurposing several lanes of car traffic so people can enjoy themselves outside. What used to be a stressful traffic circle is now a place where people can congregate in central London.

Several areas in New York City are teeming with pedestrians and could use similar treatment -- think of Midtown and Lower Manhattan. The more room we devote to car-free public space, the less people will drive, which is better for everyone.

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Rotterdam: A Post-War Central City Moves Beyond the Automobile

On a trip to the Netherlands this summer for the VeloCity conference in Nijmegen-Arnhem, I had one extra day on my itinerary. So I asked the Streetfilms Twitterverse what I should do with my 24 hours, and I heard loud and clear from people in Rotterdam that I should come see their wonderful city. I'm glad I did.

Rotterdam is the second largest city in the Netherlands. Because so much of the city was razed during a World War II carpet bombing, Rotterdam lacks a historic central district. Its newness makes it an interesting comparison to American cities. Even though much of central Rotterdam was built during the era of mass motoring, the city is still taking major steps to shift away from cars and toward transit, biking, and walking.

Traffic and parking are on the wane in Rotterdam as the city actively encourages more efficient modes of travel, with an extensive tram system and improving bike network (bicycling mode share currently stands at 20 percent and it's rising quickly). The city even has rain and heat sensors at traffic lights that give cyclists more green time during tough weather.

My guide to the city was José Besselink, a planner and one of the leaders of Rotterdam's "City Lounge" initiative, which makes public spaces in the central city more active and inviting for people. The program has been transforming parking lots and other underused spaces since 2008, and the results are impressive.

Perhaps the most stunning change is around the majestic Rotterdam Centraal Station. A 2014 overhaul reallocated huge amounts of space around the station, limiting car access while opening up more room for pedestrians and cyclists and laying down a "green carpet" for trams.

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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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Just a Great Big Pile of August Kudos for NYC DOT

NYC DOT is on a very productive roll recently with many innovative projects going on in New York City. I guess this is my way of saying thanks.

I was away when NYC DOT officially debuted the new shared space (5 mph) street on Broadway near Madison Square Park. So I decided to get a quick look on Friday and, well, it works extremely well for NYC's big foray in to a new kind of street design! It'll be interesting to see where they might try this in the next few years. (And of a quick reference, check out this nearly ancient Streetfilm from when Madison Square Plaza was first created back in 2010!)

Another debut I missed due to travel was the fantastic two blocks on Broadway that have been transformed into car-free urban oases. It's called the Garment District Urban Garden and has been in the ground for nearly two months. I don't know why it took me so long to get over there (maybe because Broadway's eventual foregone destiny is to be car-free?) but the installation ends on September 1st. So get your posterior over there to see it. Lunchtime is fantastic!

To many, this green-paint-delineated, Queens Boulevard bridge path over the Sunnyside rail yards might night seem like a really big deal, but for those of us who ride it we've been made very, very happy. It's been many years coming and now that it is properly marked with #freshkermit, pedestrians are sticking to their posted side making the riding experience much less frustrating and smooth. For reference: if you are not familiar - this section is a direct link to the Queensboro (NOT Ed Koch!) Bridge ped-bike path. See some history on that here via this short Streetfilm!

And finally NYC DOT's amazing Summer Streets continues! An event I have never missed getting out to and enjoying since 2008! (Even being in tremendous pain for 2011 and 2012 following a hip injury due to a car crash and resulting surgery, blood clot and compartment syndrome!) We've even brought my son each year since he was born.

The above compliation is really just the result of cruising down on my way to another shoot. I picked up about 20 shots and threw together this montage for future b-roll use, so figured why not share! The only suggestion I have is one I have every year: there needs to be more events and the course needs to be significantly lengthened. It's popular! It's getting ridiculously crowded at some bottlenecks. I hope Commissioner Trottenberg can give us something even more great in 2018!

screenshot989

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Use our Streetopia Promos in Your City!

Last month was NYC's Streetopia kickoff event at the Museum of the City of New York. We debuted four great promos that will be used throughout the campaign. Although these promos focus specifically on NYC, you can see that any group can get a ton of mileage out of them. Each are about 1 minute long, but gives a crisp argument as to why we need to continue to do better.

In NYC bicycling has soared. Each year the numbers of people riding bikes goes higher. But to reach incredibly high bike mode shares, we will need to dramatically increase and improve bike lanes and accessibility. If you are in the United States, your city is probably experiencing something similar that needs fixing!

Parking is the root of all evil in thwarting safer streets in just about every city. Because more parking (on or off-street) invites more vehicles and congestion and less safer commutes for those on bike, walking or transit. There are many cities in the world that challenge parking that we can learn from!

If you go to some of the best livable cities/places in the world, most have vast networks of pedestrianized downtowns where people are free to shop, meet, lounge, eat or use as car-free transportation. There are dozens of great examples, but here we take a quick look at a few that are regarded at shining beacons to what we should be striving for!

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Vancouver’s Multi-Modal Success Story

One of the best transportation stories of 2016 comes from Vancouver, British Columbia, which achieved its goal of having transit, biking, and walking account for 50 percent of all trips a full four years ahead of schedule. Bicycling is a big part of that shift, and now one of every 10 work trips is by bike.

Vancouver is a city that prides itself on rejecting freeways in the 1960s and 70s. It is the only major city in North America without freeways in the core. Recently the city set out to build on the achievements of previous generations by increasing "sustainable modes" to account for two-thirds of all trips by 2040 (read up on the city's goals).

I was in Vancouver for the ProWalk ProBike ProPlace conference this summer and spoke to several people involved in the effort to make Vancouver a more multi-modal city, including former chief planner Brent Toderian, Manager of Transportation Planning Dale Bracewell, and Melissa and Chris Bruntlett, the activist couple behind Modacity.

I hope this Streetfilm provides a taste what it's like to have so many different options at your disposal -- bike, bus, SkyTrain, SeaBus, and more. And don't miss our short from earlier this year: Vancouver's Breathtaking Network of Protected Bike lanes.

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Streetfilms and Streetsblog: The First 10 Years

This summer, Streetfilms and Streetsblog celebrated our 10-year anniversary, and to mark the occasion, we created this film looking back at how our reporting and videos have changed streets in New York, the U.S., and cities all over the world.

This film showcases only a small portion of the work that thousands of volunteers and advocates have put in. It begins with the NYC Streets Renaissance, a collection of organizations that banded together in 2005 to rally people around the idea that streets can change, by showing best practices from other cities and photosimulations of what NYC streets could become.

You'll see clips from important Streetfilms like the series on Bogota's Bus Rapid Transit and Ciclovia, as well as recaps of how Streetsblog influenced transportation policy at City Hall, defended the work of transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, and put pressure on Albany to stop raiding transit funds. Getting closer to the present day, we look at why Streetsblog's coverage of traffic crashes matters, the new generation of elected officials working for better streets, and what's next for advocacy in NYC.

A note: This Streetfilm runs over 12 minutes, but if we had the resources it easily be a 90-minute feature documentary. Apologies to anyone left on the cutting room floor and topics not addressed, but perhaps someday we'll be able to make that film!

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Great Streets: Walking Burlington’s Church Street

From the beautiful photos of its major car-free shopping street, I've always been intrigued by Burlington, VT. While looking for a destination to bring our young son for his first airplane trip, we opted to go explore via a one hour flight to Burlington.

It's a very lovely small city and as you'll see Church Street did not disappoint. We spent a good deal of our time there. It was a vacation but my wife allowed me a few hours to shoot a little video and an interview.

One thing that did not make the final cut, was the story of how the marketplace came to be. I will type it verbatim for you from the historical markers that bound the street.

In 1962 architecture student Bill Truex experienced the transformation of Straget, Copenhagen's main shopping area, from traffic-snarled nightmare to successful pedestrian mall. Seven years later, while on the Burlington Planning Commission, Truex enlisted support from Pat Robins of the Street Commission and together they promoted turning Church Street into a pedestrian district. U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy and his chief of staff, Paul Bruhn, secured a federal grant and Burlington voters, with support from Mayor Gordon Paquette, passed a bond for the city's share of construction costs. The Church Street Marketplace, which opened on September 15, 1981 has been described as a the gem in the crown of the Queens City of Burlington.

What's amazing of course is how much further Copenhagen has gone in the years since the 1960s. Church Street is a great street and more U.S. cities need the heart of their downtowns to look the same.

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Five Eclectic Questions for Streetfighter Janette Sadik-Khan

Right before former New York City Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan set off on a multi-city book tour for Streetfight (along with co-author Seth Solomonow), I was able to get a few minutes to ask her five eclectic questions in Washington Square Park.

Want to know the story behind the appearance of hundreds of cheap lawn chairs on opening day in car-free Times Square? We asked her. Want to know if she has a crush on David Byrne? We asked her that too! Want to know her favorite color jellybean? Well, we didn't ask her that.

But we think you'll enjoy our quick, engaging conversation that's saturated with footage from the Streetfilms vault from Sadik-Khan's 2007-2013 tenure at NYC DOT.

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For the COP21 Paris Agreement to Work, Countries Must Watch these Streetfilms

We now have a "historic climate accord" from Paris via the COP21 summit with 195 countries on board. There are many noble goals including stopping climate change warming at no more than 2 degrees Celsius (that's 3.6 F) at which point most scientists have agreed is the point at which the planet will become drastically, catastrophically altered. It's a great achievement after many long decades of trying to get something very concrete in writing.

But there's nothing in the COP21 agreement that penalizes nations for not meeting goals. And that's troubling to many critics. Sure, there's talk about reducing our reliance on fossil fuels, transitioning to more efficient technologies and cutting back on pollution. But government leaderships change often. Global economic catastrophes can leave countries crying poverty. In short, we can have hope, but five or ten years from now will this pact remain solid?

For the world to thrive and rely less on energy, we'll need to make our dense cities function better on our streets. (And most of our suburbs too!) Residents of the United States and other countries will need to alter how they get around, using less of the private car. With that, I say, watch this batch of Streetfilms to learn what's working in cities and what is currently an abomination.

The Streetfilm at the top is from Groningen in The Netherlands, where the city has achieved a spectacular 50% bike mode share! Although we know it's asking too much for U.S. cities to easily and quickly that, we need to re-think the way our roads work and how our cities are structured. We can do much better: cities with 5% to 15% for biking trips is certainly not out of the question with the right infrastructure. Thanks to many decisions since the 1970's, Groningen has done far more than that, much like other great world cities like Copenhagen and Amsterdam.

But it goes beyond bikes & walking. It means a solid commitment to transit and using the most efficient ways to get people around on our streets. You can see how Zurich does that with a clean, efficient, and often-running tram system that even people that are rich choose to use over the private car.

We also need to continue to make cities more attractive for people to live. See here what New York City has done over the last five to ten years with some of its public spaces with this incredible before and after montage!

Read more...

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NACTO Previews the “Global Street Design Guide” at Designing Cities 2015

In October, NACTO held their 4th annual "Designing Cities" conference with a record 650+ attendees from all over the world. This year's event was in Austin, Texas which showcased many of the recent transportation improvements the city has done, including the new 3rd Street protected cycle track which you can see via this link.

As usual the event focussed on what people can learn from best practices in cities all over the United States & the world featuring plenary speakers such as Janette Sadik-Khan and Philadelphia Mayor Micheal Nutter as well as panels, city tours and the NACTO Camp which is an unconference which allows attendees to propose their own topics for discussion.

One big highlight of 2015 was the announcement of the impending release of the "Global Street Design Guide" which is the culmination of years of NACTO research in 46 diverse cities around the globe. Much like their "Urban Street Design Guide" in the U.S. which helped change the playing field for cities and states wanting to move away from highway design manuals for re-making streets, the new guide hopes to do the same for cities across the world.

As Janette Sadik-Khan explains, "It is a new operating code for cities across the world to use in redesigning their streets, rethinking their streets and implementing safe streets that work for everyone."

The Global Street Design Guide can be pre-ordered at the following link on the NACTO website.

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Gabe Klein Talks About Getting Sh*t Done in “Start-Up City”

Streets can be tough to change. Between institutional inertia, tight budgets, bureaucratic red tape, and the political risks of upsetting the status quo, even relatively simple improvements for walking, biking, or transit can take years to pull off -- if they ever get implemented at all.

But a new generation of transportation officials have shown that it doesn't have to be that way. Cities can actually "get shit done," as former DC and Chicago transportation commissioner Gabe Klein puts it in his new book from Island Press, Start-Up City.

Streetfilms and our producer, Mark Gorton, recently got to sit down (and walk around) with Gabe to talk about the ideas in the book, which ties together his career as a transportation commissioner and his experience in start-ups like Zipcar. Start-Up City is filled with advice about how to get projects done quickly while choosing the best option for the public (and, of course, having fun). You can get a flavor for the book in this extensive interview with Gabe.

Full disclosure: Gabe Klein sits on the board of OpenPlans, the non-profit that produces Streetfilms and Streetsblog. This video is made possible by the Knight Foundation.

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Fort Worth Turned Two Parking Lots Into Sundance Square Plaza

While in Dallas for the CNU23 conference this May, I wanted to explore. It was my second time there in less than a year, and I wanted to see if Fort Worth was much different than the tough-to-be-a-pedestrian conditions I was experiencing in Dallas. I spoke to some folks at Project for Public Spaces (PPS) who convinced me that I needed to go see Sundance Square Plaza, which PPS President Fred Kent has called one of the best squares in the world.

I was glad I went. Sundance Square Plaza is a bold, beautiful space filled with energy. As PPS wrote soon after the plaza opened in 2013:

Where once there were two parking lots on either side of Main Street in the center of downtown Fort Worth, there is now the much-loved and much-used Sundance Square. The Square has become an integral part of the downtown Fort Worth experience, hosting events both large and small, and taking on an increasing role in the life of the city.