Sense of Place

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As cities around the country begin to increasingly embrace bicycle culture, there has been a concerted attempt to incorporate appropriate facilities into the urban fabric. But as bike usage has exploded, so has a previously car-oriented problem: lack of parking. Quite simply, there aren’t enough bike racks and it seems that even when new ones are added, their usage is maxed out immediately. Combine this scarcity with the fact that it is often illegal (or at least frowned upon) to attach a bike to light poles, street trees, and sidewalk cafe barriers; every legal, secure space become that much more valuable.

So when the all to common phenomenon of a “stripped” bike languishes for weeks on end, it can make the average bicyclist throw up their hands in dismay. In New York City, Dead Pedal NY is working to solve this problem. By using the common smartphone app Instagram, DPNY is asking users to geotag pictures of abandoned bikes and include the hashtag #deadpedalny. DPNY will then pass the information along to the NYC Department of Sanitation in hopes of removing the offending bikes. While this is very much a grassroots effort, it shows the powerful effects of everyday technology and the ability to influence the public realm and encourage action. It will be interesting to see if similar efforts emerge in other cities and if more formal partnerships between citizens and local government can lead to greater efficiency and livability.

Berklee College of Music students and staff proving that bicycle commuting is a year-round option, snow or shine.

Berklee College of Music students and staff proving that bicycle commuting is a year-round option, snow or shine.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that a technology heavy city in a state known for starting the slow food movement has given rise to a new type of food start-up. San Francisco’s Good Eggs is at the vanguard of a new trend: creating a virtual farmer’s market to service city dwellers who are looking for healthier options year-round. As detailed by Terence Chea, Good Eggs was created by two veteran tech entrepreneurs with the intent of using the web to expand opportunities for farmers and consumers alike. Having already expanded to New York, LA and New Orleans, Good Eggs has ventured into heady territory, competing against behemoth retailers like Walmart and Amazon in the emerging home delivery grocery market. What separate Good Eggs from the competition is it’s ability to connect individuals to healthy, locally-sourced food options outside of the traditional food distribution system, which has growing appeal across the country. 

Need a place to rest your feet AND charge you phone while takeing a break from the hustle and bustle of Downtown Boston? Thanks to a partnership between the City of Boston, the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway, and the MIT Media Lab, you can do just that. Located at the RFKG North End Park, this urban prototype bench installation by Seat-e brings practical convenience powered by renewable energy to the streets of Boston. Solar panels power both the USB charging port and embedded LED lights that add a public art element throughout evening hours. This unique park feature will be on display for the rest of 2013 (weather permitting) and will hopefully lead to additional locations in the spring.

Can a sports arena survive the loss of the home team? This is the question facing Long Island’s Nassau Coliseum following the departure of the New York Islanders to Brooklyn after the 2012-13 season. Instead of admitting defeat, Nassau County has decided to embark on an ambitious plan to re-imagine the aging venue. This past week it was announced that Forest City Ratner, the developer of Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, would oversee a $229 renovation. Plans call for scaling back the building and the inclusion of new amenities such as movie theaters, restaurants, and a bowling alley. Equally important will be the activation of the vast parking lots with significant new green space. The downsized area will host 6 Islanders games per year and hopes to attract a minor league hockey team. While there is no precedent for an abandoned arena that evolves into a vibrant, mixed-use destination, other municipalities facing similar challenges will be watching this experiment closely, hoping that Long Island is able to establish a template for success.

Portland, ME is looking to get into the bike sharing business. The runaway success of the Hubway program in Boston has prompted strong interest in a similar program for Maine’s largest city. In recent years, Portland has strengthened it’s rail link to Boston with Amtrak’s Downeaster service. The only problem is that the city’s Transportation Center is approximately 2 miles from the bustling Old Port District and Waterfront, frequently the number one destination for any visitor. In a innovative first step to address this issue and move towards a larger bike sharing network, the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority (NNEPRA) has partnered with Zagster to provide bike rentals at the Transportation Center. For $20/day, car-less tourists can easily unlock the diverse amenities of Portland’s downtown from the moment they step off the train, bypassing infrequent bus or taxi service. Although aimed at tourists, NNEPRA and Zagster hope that this program is only the beginning for a more bike-friendly Portland transportation system.

With news of Boston’s second bicycling fatality within two weeks, it remains the sad reality that conflicts between the city’s exploding bike culture and a well established vehicular one are far too common. While there is no single solution to ensure safer conditions for all users in the public realm, ensuring that every cyclist is wearing a helmet is a good place to start. To that end, HelmetHub, a Boston based company originating out of MIT, has devised a helmet vending machine. Beginning in July, approximately 15 stations will be rolled out in proximity to the city’s Boston 100 Hubway bikeshare stations. For around $2, riders will be able to rent a helmet for a period of time before returning it to a HelmetHub kiosk. Used helmets are then sanitized prior to being redistributed. Armed with data that more than half of cyclist involved in accidents where EMS became involved did not have helmets, city planners hope that this newest innovation furthers Boston’s move to safer (and better shared) streets. 

thisbigcity:

The Green Lane Project is bringing together six U.S. cities – Austin, Chicago, Washington D.C., Memphis, Portland and San Francisco – to build more protected bike trails. We interviewed Martha Roskowski - the project’s Director. 

May 3

Make sure to read this enlightening Boston Globe Magazine story ”The End of Ownership”. It’s a great discussion on the Sharing Economy and what it means for consumerism and innovation in the 21st century.