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Posts tagged "Public Space"

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It’s Smart to Be Dense

As the world’s population continues to urbanize, our cities have two options for growth: densify or sprawl. To accommodate a more populous and more prosperous world, the spread-out, car-dependent model of the 20th century must change. In this video, the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP) and Streetfilms team up to bring you the most important reasons for building dense.

If you like this one, don't miss our other productions with ITDP:

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America’s Love Affair With Great City Streets

People crave interaction with other people. Given the choice, we'll gravitate to places where we can socialize or just be in the presence of our fellow humans.

It's not in our nature to spend hours each day isolated inside a car, but for much of the 20th century we shaped our streets and cities to make driving inescapable. In a few short decades we all but designed walking out of our lives. The good news is that by now, many cities have recognized that mistake and are working to fix it. We're falling in love with our streets again.

In this Streetfilm, four American mayors talk about why they're working to make their cities more walkable, bikeable, and sociable, and you'll hear from advocates and experts who are leading the movement to reclaim streets for people.

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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 had on New York City. A few years later I met Fred and Ethan Kent at Project for Public Spaces. I got a copy of Whyte's 1980 classic, The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces, which in its marvelously-written, straightforward style is the one book all burgeoning urbanists should start with.

Recently, I read it again. With all the developments in video technology since his day, I wondered: How might Whyte capture information and present his research in a world which is now more attuned to the importance of public space? What would he appreciate? Are his words still valid?

So I excerpted some of my favorite passages from the book and tried to match it up with modern footage I've shot from all over the world while making Streetfilms. I hope he would feel honored and that it helps his research find a new audience.

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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. Read more...

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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.

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Charles Montgomery Talks “Happy City” With Mark Gorton

In this Streetfilm, Mark Gorton interviews award-winning journalist Charles Montgomery about his fantastic new book, "Happy City: Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design," which delves into the hard-to-measure question of how the built environment affects our mental wellbeing.

Mark and Charles discuss how research from the fields of neuroscience, behavioral economics, and psychology is helping us to understand the relationship between happiness and our surroundings. The film also ends up touching on quite a few New York City places like Times Square, the Lower East Side, and Jackson Heights, Queens.

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Five Great Streetfilms You May Have Missed! So Watch ‘Em Now!

Since we have over 500 Streetfilms, invariably there are some I thought deserved far more viewers then they ultimately got. And some of these I really enjoyed working on or believed are important to see. Since I was recently asked which of my Streetfilms I wished had gotten more play, I decided to look over the past 7 years and pick out the Top Five that deserved to be seen some more. If you are new, you should check them all out.

1. Via RecreActiva: A Transformative Ciclovia for Guadalajara (Jan 2012):  This is the one I always cite as one I thought was gonna rack up mega views and never did.  In fact it only got about 2K in its first few months. I was stunned. Perhaps by the time we debuted it, people already knew enough about Ciclovias and just didn't need another.  This is one of the most magical open streets events in the world and the energy should be experienced.

2. Queens’ Corona Plaza: A Community Place Rises (August 2012): Maybe it's because this plaza is so near and dear to my heart only a few miles away from my home in Jackson Heights. But the wonderful people who have helped make this plaza happen against many odds deserve a lot of credit. It looks different from the plazas you'll find in Times Square and all over Manhattan. You should watch. Now.

3. GOP Mayor Greg Ballard: Making Bicycling a Priority in Indianapolis (June 2013):  This mayor is a huge believer in cycling. I see his personal tweets talking about it constantly. He has toured the country talking about the Indianapolis Cultural Trail (that video DID perform  amazingly). But Mayor Ballard is also a Republican. We need more in his party to talk like he does about transportation. This quick profile on him has been amazingly under viewed.

Read more...

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A Montreal Intersection Morphs Into a Wonderful Neighborhood Space

On a Bixi bike excursion to get some ice cream in Montreal, my wife and I stumbled upon the intersection of Fairmount Avenue and Rue Clark, recently upgraded with colorful new street furniture, traffic calming treatments, and a two-way protected bike lane. The space is teeming with street life. When you arrive at this lovely place your first instinct is to stop, sit down, and enjoy.

This intersection is a prime example of how a neighborhood street should cater to people. All local streets should strive to make pedestrians feel welcome, slow traffic speeds with physical infrastructure, and provide art and greenery wherever possible.

Since we were only there for a short time and could dig up only scant information online, I don’t have much backstory to share about how this space was created. If anyone can provide more info in the comments, please fill us in.

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Montreal’s Car-free Rue St. Catherine and Bustling Bike Rush Hour

While spending a week in Montreal, my wife and I stayed right along the Rue Sainte Catherine, which we discovered is closed to motor vehicles from May 15 through September 6 in two main sections. The first, a mile-long stretch that's been car-free in the summer since 2008, has a lot of restaurants and is filled with pedestrians all night long. The second, a more recent addition, is a smaller section to the west which features plenty of programming and music near the Place des Arts.

I put together a montage that will give you a small taste of the experience. It's hard to convey the peace and quiet you feel, but I tried.

I last visited Montreal in 2001 to ride the annual Tour de L'ile, and the bicycling is as good as I remember it. We got Bixi bikes one day and documented a little of the biking life. The p.m. rush hour in Montreal is pretty thick with cyclists in the protected bike lanes. And, as in world's other great bike cities, you'll see many children and seniors riding. Good indicator species.

Mikael Colville Andersen at Copenhagenize seems to think Montreal doesn't get its bicycle props. I'd have to agree, at least during the beautiful summer months.

I'll end with the below photo. My wife used a restroom and was telling me all about this great advert on the back of the door featuring women and transit. I wanted to see it badly, so I made her go back in and take a photo. Translated as "Beautiful Girls Aren't Just in Limousines," it sends a great message to young women: "Save time, save money, chance encounters, autonomy, speed, etc. Public transportation is more than just a way of getting around."

I'd love to see similar campaigns here for American teens. After all, a big part of gaining independence is having the ability to travel.

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Amazing Art in the Public Realm (Chicago, Milwaukee, NYC)

Streetfilms Shortie - Fantastic Art in the Public Realm (Chicago, Milwaukee, NYC) from Streetfilms on Vimeo.

Here's a quick Streetfilms shortie I just thew together that I shot with a point & shoot on vacation in Chicago and Milwaukee.  I hope you enjoy, with these shorts you never know whether a couple dozen people or thousands will watch.

First, in Chicago's Daley Plaza, I stumbled upon one of the coolest art installations I've ever seen in a public space: interactive, human-size letters that spelled out the name P-I-C-A-S-S-O (which were helping advertise the current exhibit at the nearby Art Institute Chicago.) The energy in the plaza was magic. People were having so much fun posing and climbing all over the letters. Later on a short trip to Milwaukee I stumbled upon these some great flip-books downtown bolted onto light posts  featuring residents of the city in amusing interactions. Very cool, would love to see those in many other cities.

When I got home I had to add in a few seconds of my current favorite NYC MTA art project - "Hive" which went live last year when the opening of a new entrance to the Broadway/Lafayette (Bleecker Station) that happened late last year.

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Highlights from NACTO’s 2012 “Designing Cities” Conference

The National Association of City Transportation Officials' 2012 Designing Cities Conference drew hundreds of city transportation officials from around the U.S. to New York City last fall to share ideas and learn about the latest innovations from places around the country.

As you'll see, the conference featured some nice twists on the usual fare and included many great speakers, including U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and the Brookings Institution's Bruce Katz. Among the headliners was NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who nicely encapsulated how some elected leaders are starting to approach transportation in their cities differently than their predecessors:

"Streets are there to transport people. They're not there necessarily for cars they're there to transport people - and there are lots of different ways of transporting people, and in fact one of the original ways was walking. So we've come full circle here - surprise, surprise."

Also, if you haven't already seen it, do not miss Streetfilms' video of the NACTO commissioner's panel, hosted by MSNBC's Chris Hayes. It is 52 minutes of fascinating dialogue between the transportation commissioners from five of America's greatest cities.

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“The Porch” at 30th Street Station Welcomes You to Philadelphia

For nine months now, Philadelphia's awesome new public space "The Porch" has been flying under the nation's livable streets radar.

Installed next to 30th Street Station as part of a larger PennDOT undertaking, the project reclaimed asphalt from cars and devoted it to people. The Porch provides a great place to meet up, and it shows what American cities can achieve at major transit hubs when they strive to create great public spaces.

The planners of The Porch looked to New York City's Times Square for inspiration, and there might be something for NYC to learn in return as the city considers transforming parts of Vanderbilt Avenue outside Grand Central Terminal into pedestrian spaces.

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Mark Gorton’s Rethinking The Automobile Talk Tours India

Mark Gorton is not only the co-founder of Streetfilms, he is an information technology and finance entrepreneur. His success is well recognized in India and drew crowds for his presentation, "Rethinking the Automobile: Lessons from 100 years of Urban Experience with the Automobile” by India's top thinkers, business leaders, and information technology students. In a week-long tour, organized by the Institute for Transport Development Policy, Gorton made stops in Delhi, Chennai and Ahmedabad, generating a buzz in the media about the harmful impacts of automobile dependency.

Mark was able to share his ideas and lessons learned from the Livable Streets movement in New York.  Along the tour we were able to see and document best practices in Bus Rapid Transit and space allocation. Watch some of Mark's observations and reactions to India's changing transportation landscape.

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Streetfilms Visits Medellín, Colombia

Every year the Institute for Transportation & Development Policy (ITDP) picks one or two cities deserving of the Sustainable Transport Award. San Francisco and Medellín, Colombia, are this year’s winners.

Streetfilms worked with ITDP to document these two cities and we'll be releasing videos on each this spring. But since I just returned from Medellín, I can't help but share a few highlights.

I met Carlos Moreno from despacio.org at the airport. Carlos translated and helped coordinate the logistics of this video shoot. We started with a 45-minute cab ride down the mountain to the valley where Medellín is situated. The view as we descended was absolutely spectacular and set the tone for our week's work.

Once in Medellín, we met Jorge Iván Ballesteros and Jesús Acero. These two gentlemen were going to show us why their city was nominated for ITDP's prestigious award. And we were to dedicate each day to a different theme, starting with "public space" on the first day.

Throughout the day we must have visited half a dozen public spaces where young people were playing in fountains and giant sand boxes while their folks relaxed in the nearby shade. In Medellín there are permanent public space projects popping up seemingly everywhere. Then there are the temporary public space projects like the annual festival of lights, better known as Los Alumbrados.

Here is Carlos Moreno talking about Los Alumbrados:

Read more...

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Via RecreActiva: A Transformative Ciclovia for Guadalajara

In Spanish/en Español: click here.

Watch this film in Spanish Guadalajara, Mexico is showing how amazingly transformative a ciclovia-style road closure can be for its citizens. In 7 years, their inaugural Sunday event Via RecreActiva has grown from just 7 miles with 35,000 participants to 41 miles with 400,000 users every Sunday. It goes from 8 am to 2 pm. It covers 6 municipalities. The diversity of activities features traditional ciclovia staples like aerobic classes and music, but also some new wrinkles including free haircuts for children and a city that clearly knows how to hula hoop!

Another unique aspect of this story is that one of the forces behind the success of the Via RecreActiva is a civil association called Guadalajara 2020, a group of primarily made of  business owners, real estate people and entrepreneurs who envision Guadalajara to be a healthier, greener and more humane city.

That mission includes bringing better transit to the city, making it safer to walk & bike and create equality and empowerment among its people. Perhaps it is best put by Guadalajara 2020's President, José Palacios Jiménez, who told us:

"...we would like to be able to remove the cars from the entire city. Because with all the information we manage to get, we are able to understand that the biggest problem of humanity are the cars."

Guadalajara does feature  public spaces on par with the greatest in the world, but also faces many extraordinary challenges with horrible traffic and unsafe pedestrian environments on nearly every street.  It's refreshing to see business folks not only speaking out and understanding the real solutions, but investing their funds to create an organization like Guadalajara 2020.