We’ve incorporated our blog into our new website. Same unique combination of posts about chocolate and bicycles, design and architecture but in a shiny new wrapper: brainstormoverload.com/blog We hope you’ll drop by and linger as long as you like.
Currently my days are filled researching communication techniques and visualization tools employed in the realm of transportation, and my work brought me to this gem of a video, an excerpt from the 1958 Disneyland TV Show, Magic Highway USA.
Perhaps you’ve seen it, or perhaps this will be your first time to witness the awesomeness. Yes, the paternalistic mindset is a bit vexing but it does hail from over a half century ago. I breathe a huge sigh of relief that many of the speculative technologies and ways of transport have not become part of our urban (or rural) vernacular. (And thank goodness my day is not filled with taking Junior to the mall for “effortless window shopping on a moving walkway.”) But, I also smile and give a silent cheer in support of those who dared to speculate. Where has that gone? Why don’t we see crazy futuristic imagery like in the days of Bucky Fuller or Frank Lloyd Wright?
Wright, F.L. 1958. The Living City. New York: Horizon Press.
Is it that we have more access to information than ever before, making us all arm chair speculators? If access to information has increased, is there no need to employ Disney to visualize these grandiose ideas by planners, landscape architects, engineers and the like? Or perhaps our speculation has turned to different matters, like smaller technologies and communications? We’re all ears if you have some thoughts on this matter. Darn if they didn’t get some things right in this, like some safety features and increased commuter radius (code for suburbanization). Enjoy and let us know what you think.
I’m happy to share that as part of the Next Generation of Parks lecture series Walter is in our hood. The former chair of the Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning program at the University of California, Berkeley, Hood is thought-provoking in word and deed. If this recent article is any indication of what he may describe as 21st Century Parks, we’re in for a great event. I highly recommend the article, and would venture to say the lecture is mandatory for those interested in our public realm.
From Dan Macsai’s article, “…This is public space as Hood believes it should be: multitasking, respectful of the land, rooted in — and watered by — the community. “Think about the history of civilization,” Hood tells me, as if I’m one of his students at UC Berkeley. ‘The agora, the piazza, the theater, the street, the Colosseum — we define ourselves in the public realm. And in America, our public realm is sad. We have to be told how to act.” He deepens his voice. “Sit here, look there, understand this, don’t walk here, don’t do that. It’s crazy.’”
Lecture is at 7 p.m. tomorrow, December 2nd at the Walker Art Center Cinema. It’s free thanks to the co-presenters Minneapolis Park Foundation, College of Design, and Walker Art Center. Get there early as I suspect the cinema to fill as it did for the High Line lecture. We hope to see you there!
BrainstormOverload is happy to announce Cindy’s obsession with streets and non-motorized transportation has landed her square in the middle of another blog. Thanks to Carrie Christensen and Antonio Rosell of Community Design Group for the invitation. Head on over there to Twin Cities Streets for People to check out her first post on the local impact of Congressman Jim Oberstar’s national efforts. Thank you again, Mr. Oberstar, for your service and profound impact in the realm of transportation.
Bike infrastructure is becoming more and more important in cities given the resurgence of cycling as a recreational opportunity and as a viable mode of transportation to work and other destinations. That said, investments that are sub-standard and piecemeal only hurt the effort to increase a city’s bike facilities. Bike infrastructure just for the sake of having bike infrastructure is can be a costly mistake. It negatively impacts peoples perception cycling, cyclists, and of future investments. More importantly, poorly designed projects are just plain unsafe for pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers.
In May of this year we reported a step forward in Saint Paul bicycle infrastructure; the very first bike boulevard in Saint Paul slated to happen on Jefferson Avenue. We were darn excited, and watched for signs of implementation all summer long. We want to stay behind the Jefferson Bike Boulevard. Really, we do. It has the potential to become a solid connection in our vastly deficient and under-connected system. But, in its watered down version and substandard design, we’re afraid we’re going to end up with a serious backlash from some residents and major safety concerns. Case in point #1: the traffic diverter and refuge at the intersection of Jefferson and Cleveland.
While we fully support a true diverter and refuge (this is a test), it will not be safe without additional elements like signage, continental striping, or a change in pavement color through the entire intersection. Ideally, we’d like to see the diverter AND Jefferson Avenue raised and seal-coated with a different color. That would result in a tabletop along Cleveland. Bicyclists and pedestrians would have priority and people would have to slow down. Here’s a good example of what could be done as well as the refuge:
Case in point #2: Sharrows today, noarrows tomorrow. Sharrows (share the road arrows) were part of the original bike boulevard design, but in the section from Snelling to the Mississippi Road, the sharrows were too much for the opposition and the City conceded. But, come implementation time, sharrows appeared on the road between Snelling and the Mississippi River Road (42, to be exact). We were excited for about two days, and then we saw the asphalt version of whiteout because SOMEONE suggested the City couldn’t maintain them (read: people complained).
We wish we had a happy chapter two of the Jefferson Bike Boulevard, but damn if we’re not frustrated by this underwhelming turn of events. We’ve emailed public works and Councilmember Harris (that someone), and we suggest you do, too. Feel free to use this letter about the test diverter and submit it to Public Works (email@example.com) and that someone (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Dear Public Works,
I am one hundred percent behind your efforts to consider various modes of transportation in your projects, and I applaud the designation of Jefferson Avenue as a bike boulevard. While I support the idea of traffic calming on Jefferson and I support the idea of making it easier and safer to cross Cleveland, I’m not sure that the median is the entire answer. Please implement the diverter, but do so with other design elements such as good road striping, a change in seal-coating color, and very visible signage. I suggest you consider some of the other of the various pedestrian crossing road safety devices and configurations well-documented as successful, safe investments. Here is a link with great ideas: thecityfix.com/zebras-puffins-pelicans-or-hawks-for-pedestrians/. A very, VERY visible intersection crossing is the only way to actually make people on foot, on bike, and in cars safer through this area.
Thank you for all your efforts for Saint Paul, I hope to see the Twin Cities region become the most bikable metro area in the U.S. We need you to do better to make this happen.
Author’s Note: You do not have to be from Saint Paul to voice your opinion – this is a regional issue!
A few months back in my post about the approved Jefferson Avenue Bike Boulevard, I promised an update. I’ve been waiting to post until I see signs of implementation so I’ll save that post until I have some real life photos. Cliffhanger, I know.
In the mean time, there are other excellent bicycle-related efforts happening around the City of Saint Paul. The nascent Saint Paul Bicycle Coalition will have its fourth meeting next week, and the Saint Paul Greenway Committee is working hard to generate interest in [thus implementation of] a greenway that would bring the Minneapolis Midtown Greenway goodness all the way to downtown Saint Paul. I am working on some renderings for the effort (see that image up there at the top). The City and the dis-banded Saint Paul Bicycle Advisory Board have been working on the Greenway for quite some time and it’s been a long, and at times bumpy, road. Saint Paul Greenway Committee, formed back in September of 2009, is diligently continuing the effort despite the bumps. They’d like you to share your voice, vision and support for this essential urban trail at the upcoming Envisioning the Saint Paul Greenway Event. The Committee will be on hand to answer questions, as will Smart Trips (the awesome Saint Paul-based organization that is helping lead the charge along with a swell group of citizens). We ask you….do you want this:
We’ll have more information at the event but here are the essential details:
ENVISIONING THE ST. PAUL GREENWAY
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
7:00 – 8:30 pm
Linwood Rec Center (860 St. Clair Avenue, Saint Paul 55105)
Please come and join the effort of creating a world-class greenway system in Saint Paul!
Download a pdf of the flyer Smart Trips produced and feel free to print and leave at your local coffee shop. Really, we’d love it.
The Minneapolis Park Foundation, College of Design, and Walker Art Center have teamed up to bring us a phenomenal lecture series, “The Next Generation of Parks”. Wednesday night’s conversation on New York’s High Line was the second of three summer events. If you didn’t get in the doors, or couldn’t make it, you missed something great, but you can find the full lecture here. Todd and I have been to many a lecture on the subject of design, landscape architecture, architecture, and planning. A few on bicycling, too. This, though, was far more than just your average power point presentation or ubiquitous “here is what I’ve done in the field” lecture. From the introduction by Cecily Hines and Andrew Blauvelt to the last word by Lisa Tziona Switkin and Robert Hammond, it was damn inspirational. Why? We’ll give you our top three reasons.
1. Not just envisioning potential, CREATING potential.
Robert Hammond appreciated the abandoned elevated industrial era ruin of a railroad in his West Village neighborhood enough to take action when it was slated for demolition in 1999. How many of us wonder about the things we see on a daily basis, but when they come crumbling down for surface parking we tell ourselves ‘there’s not much you could have done about it anyway, so don’t fret you didn’t speak up’? Like those cool abandoned grain mills in our Minneapolis skyline. Sure we envisioned a cool future for them, but when they were felled, ground up, and a slab of asphalt was put in their place. Not again.
Linear park in an abandoned elevated rail corridor? Of course. It is a no-brainer now. But, such was not the case before Hammond and his Friends of the High Line co-founder Joshua David, did something about it. Hammond and David used their entrepreneurial spirit to create a movement that resulted in an overwhelmingly successful public space, likely by every index imaginable.
2. Project process and tactical brilliance.
A lot of the process was no different than what developers, planners, or landscape architects do for every project (develop concepts, present to the public, attend seven bazzillion meetings, gain support, refine concepts…implement). But, a lot of the process WAS different. Hammond et al. recognized the power in branding and visualization early on in the project, and as they enter phase two and three, we would predict their savvy in the realm of communication and its power is going to prove to be a game changer.
Before beginning the project, they had a year-long photography project commissioned in effort to show people the life of the rail corridor thus making the space visually (and we would argue emotionally) accessible to those who usually just experience the steel undercarriage of this elevated line. For more project awareness, Paula Scher at Pentagram created a so-simple-its-brilliant logo. And, they held a design competition with phenomenal renderings by the winning landscape architectural and architectural team James Corner Field Operations and Diller Scofidio + Renfro. (Full design team listed here.)
The game changer? Well, the area where High Line Section Three would be is also currently slated to potentially house twelve million square feet of development. Of course, the current plan does not include what could be the coolest end of the High Line.
Friends of the Highline are pushing for a temporary (and relatively inexpensive) walkway installation in this section. The renderings illustrating this temporary installation are gorgeous and compelling (and not available yet). If they are successful in receiving the okay on a temporary walkway they will create insurmountable public support. The public will LOVE IT and when Mr (Mrs?) Developer comes in to place what amounts to TWO DOWNTOWN SEATTLES (Hammond’s smart analogy), the outcry of “not to my Highline!” will be loud. Very loud.
3. 1+2 = 3 for us. Listening to Robert and Lisa describe what we imagine is the abridged version of the project process and game changing tactics resulted in a new vision of possibility for us.
We could list the numerous calls to action we felt last night as a creative duo, but let’s just leave it with the most inspiring. Believe in your vision, hone your technical AND tactical skills, and surround yourself with crazy brilliant talent who will make you better at your own work. Push the envelope in design AND process. The High Line raised the expectations of our own work and the possibilities for public space in the Twin Cities. We hope it does the same for you.
At BrainstormOverload we care not just about bikes, design, and design communities but we care about designing communities, too. We’ve decided it is time to put our interests and skills to good use in our own community. Wednesday night was a small but important victory for citizens in the Saint Paul area, and we were glad to be just a small part of the effort. Saint Paul gained city council approval (6-1) on the very first bike boulevard in Saint Paul. The roughly 4.25 miles of Jefferson Avenue will, in the next year or so, become an important part of the non-motorized transportation infrastructure of the Twin Cities.
In future posts I’ll write more about the policy that paved the way for this project, the people behind the effort, and what I see as the boulevard design positives and negatives, but for now I just want to revel in the warm fuzzies of a community coming together to consider public good as paramount to private good. Eight came out in opposition, largely talking about “my streeet”. On the flip side twenty-eight people agreed to speak in support of the boulevard as a small step in the right direction for our community, our street, our health, and our children. Four of which were a family from the east side of Saint Paul (far away from this boulevard). All four members, the daughter, son, mother, and father spoke about how important this step is for families who rely on safe non-motorized options in the Cities. They bike for nearly every trip from their house, and they felt strongly enough about affecting change that they took three and a half hours out of their evening to support this. I know there are many who have been involved in bike advocacy for years in our region; I commend every one of them and am inspired by their efforts to personally do more for our city and community. More to come on the boulevard implementation, but for now….a warm fuzzy public good feeling.