Open Streets (are) for People

22 Jul

Lolly Walsh:

This post about Open Streets is on my new blog at

Originally posted on Minimize Stress, Maximize Fun:

Let’s Open the Streets for People!

According to urban planning heartthrob Gil Peñalosa, Open Streets means “people traffic replaces car traffic, and the streets become ‘paved parks’ where people of all ages, abilities, and social, economic, or ethnic backgrounds can come out and improve their mental, physical, and emotional health.”

“Open Streets” as a concept has been around since the mid-60s when Seattle created the car-free celebration “Seattle Bicycle Sundays.” While a smattering of similar events popped up around North America that decade, they didn’t last long. Bogotá, Columbia introduced their own version, Ciclovía, in 1974 and has been a primary source of inspiration for today’s Open Streets initiatives. Bogotá’s Ciclovía ambitiously closes 70 miles of the city to cars and opens them to one million participants every Sunday.

I was so smitten with this idea that I gathered together some like-minded individuals to organize the first Car-free Day in Washington, DC in 2007. It started…

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Let’s Have Brunch On Our Bridges, Part II

26 Feb

Let’s Have Brunch On Our Bridges, Part I is from 2010, but it’s Sunday and I’m thinking about brunch again so I remembered this idea.

Say, Pittsburgh and other cities with (nice) bridges…

Wouldn’t it be great if we could have brunch on our bridges once in awhile? This time lapse video shows how they do it for the Portland Bridge Festival.

Brunch On the brige

Originally uploaded by Aaron I. Rogosin

Mmmm, Pittsburgh, you are delicious. There are so many great bridges to choose from here, so many beautiful things to see around the city which we just can’t appreciate when driving 25-75 mph over a bridge. You need to (be able to) stop and sit and eat brunch with your neighbors in order to be able to take it in.

I took these pictures last week while a friend was driving. They’re okay, but they leave me dying to stop and see more!

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Riding or walking makes it possible to take in the sumptuous view more thoroughly, but the opportunity to sit and relax and talk to people and eat and absorb the city over one of our three rivers isn’t a regular experience of people here.

I think it should be.

This fits in to what I was thinking at 2 o clock in the morning several years ago when I came up with the awkward name of this blog “Re-imagine an Urban Paradise.” After all, what is could be more of an urban paradise than a temporary retreat on one of the bridges, over the rivers? Feeling the gorgeous summer breeze while having the opportunity to have brunch in a magical space?

What Else is Possible?

  • Repurposing a bridge permanently!
  • Let’s turn a bridge into a public park.
  • And extend the public market onto one of the bridges, with outdoor cafes (without door cafes?).
  • Let’s have all age dance parties every night during warm weather on one side of the bridge.
  • And show movies over the river!
  • Let’s have music and art performances.
  • Let’s have some grass and trees and flowers!
I think at least half of the space should always always comfortable public gathering space that is free and has clean and attractive drinking and bathroom facilities.

What Would You Like to See?

If you could have it your way, what would you do with the space? Imagine any bridge in any city. Then re-imagine it. Suddenly it’s not just for transportation anymore. What else could it be?

Poll: How Often Do You Use Public Transportation?

23 Feb

I don’t know about you — hence, the flashy poll– but I use public transportation all the time. How often do you ride the bus, the streetcar, the metro, subway, train, incline, ferry, people mover? I’ve always tried to live in cities that have excellent public transit so that I don’t have to spend money on a car, and I can use my money instead for adventures.

I ride a bike and I walk a lot. But sometimes it’s nice to have someone else paying attention so I can pay my fare, relax, read my book, and get there on time and in style.

Reading on the bus

Like every service in this country that is for the public good, it is facing funding shortages. In cities around the country there are service cuts, layoffs, and an increased reliance on automotive transportation to get around.

Last year Pittsburgh had a 15% service and route cuts on an already shaky and skeletal system. Though often called the “Most Livable City,” Pittsburgh’s meager public transportation system is facing another 35% in cuts! Even in dense neighborhoods with the most bus routes and riders, buses are often 30 minutes apart now, and there will be even fewer if funding does not come through from Governor Tom Corbett. If a bus route even still exists after this systemic demolition, it’s likely that it will stop at 10pm. This truly is a travesty which will leave many Pennsylvanians stranded.

Public transportation is a resource for everyone. It makes the most sense for our money, our land use, for efficiency, for socializing, for socialization, for our time, our sanity, our quality of life, for our lungs, and for our future.

Pittsburgh bus in Lawrenceville


What are your thoughts?

Vacant Lot Transformation for Green Jobs and Neighbhoodhood Revitalization

21 Apr

I just found this little blue-print I drew up for a vacant lot by one of my houses in Pittsburgh. I never had the chance to put this into place, but it would be wonderful to have more non-consumerist places to spend time between home and work.

Break it Down!

There’s tons of space in Pittsburgh and tons of bricks from demolitions so it would be pretty great to build a rainy or very sunny day pavilion as you see in the top left corner.

The top right corner would hold the Constance Street community bread / pizza oven and would also benefit from spare bricks.

Going down the top center are several long picnic tables.

Trees are much needed on this highway-side of Pittsburgh’s Northside so some nice fruit and shade trees in the middle of a block will sooth the residents and be beautiful and delicious. Sporadic dots both labeled and unlabeled represent trees.

The bottom center of the lot includes plans for some weird seating to be designed by one or several of Pittsburgh’s many amazing artists.

And at the very bottom, a lovely long row of soil-cleansing, sun-worshiping, smile-making sunflowers!

Let’s Make Green Jobs Fixing Our Communities

We have so much public land that’s being wasted as over-grown and trash-filled lots. At the same time, we have so many under and unemployed people. Let’s find a way to create and fund jobs that would enhance our communities, like rehabilitating abandoned lots, while putting under-worked Americans back in the workforce.

I’m underemployed myself and I’d jump at the chance to have a part-time job cleaning up and beautifying my neighborhood.

Give Me Work and Give Me Beauty

We want bread but we want roses too!

Seven Things You Can Do to Protect Air, Water, and Soil Quality

19 Apr

These tips are taken from the posts “Thank You Pittsburgh For Banning Marcellus Shale Drilling” and “Drilling for Natural Gas in the Marcellus Shale: What’s It All About and What Can We Do.”  They are specifically about working to protect air, water, and soil quality from the dangers of natural gas fracking. Of course, the last three can apply to anything.

  1. Check out Marcellus Protest
  2. Here are some tips from Pittsburgh organizer Gloria Forouzan
  3. Watch background and analysis of Marcellus Shale industry by the Real News Network
  4. Watch Gasland and share your story
  5. Write letters to the editor
  6. Talk to your neighbors
  7. Educate yourself

The Private and Public Horror of Cut Trees

19 Apr

There are few things more depressing to me than walking by trees that are being butchered or cut.

I just can’t take it when I walk by a scene like this:

20 Dead Trees Under BART Tracks

Tree Amputation at its Finest

I dont really like the 30mph either...

How could 20 dead trees benefit anyone?

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Love to and From San Francisco

19 Apr

105 years after the legendary earthquake that shook San Francisco to the ground, I lived through my first San Francisco earthquake. I didn’t even feel it, but I was there when it happened.

You probably don’t know, but I skipped out of Pittsburgh last month and now I’m living and working in the Bay Area. To celebrate San Francisco, I will share some of my favorite scenes so far:

My first sunset over the Golden Gate Bridge:

My bicycle on a greenway:

Bikes are everywhere. These are bikes that people use to ride to work, friend’s houses, grocery stores, coffee shops. I love it.

And I enjoy this amazing tree outside my window that provides incredible shade and a home for many wonderful birds.

This temporary street furniture suited me just fine! I got to a friend’s house way before they did recently and found this lovely table and chair set up so I just made myself comfortable and got to work. When I was done, some lucky person in need of a new table and chair moved it to their place.

I’ll probably furnish my new place in much of the same way.

I’m fond of this one-man band set-up of a charming fellow I met on Market St.

I’m still the newest lady in San Francisco so every single thing is new and amazing to me. Send me all of your recommendations so I may take them seriously!

What are your favorite places?

to eat? to drink? buy books? read books? to frolic? to ride your bike? to hide from the world?

Bicycle Love Story: Rediscovering the Joy of a Two-Wheeled Life

6 Apr

This is another popular post from last year submitted by a reader. I heard from a lot of people who really loved the story of Matt riding with his kids. Do you have a similar story? Send it to More details here.


My wife and I have two-year-old twins. We refer to the first 14 months of their lives as “The Time.”

I loved biking around Erie when I was in high school. As soon as the weather turned each spring, I’d be out riding and exploring, doing 20, 30, 40 miles each trip. I loved it; hopping on my bicycle and just riding until the sun went down was the best way to spend those long summer days.

I went away to college in ’96 and promptly forgot about bicycling. My old bike was stolen from my mother’s garage sometime during my sophomore year and I didn’t really care.

A few years later, after I’d moved to Pittsburgh, a good friend bought a shiny new mountain bike. I asked him what he planned to do with his old one and got a blank stare, so I offered a new wireless keyboard/mouse combo as a trade. The bike was immediately relegated to the basement where it sat completely unused, but never forgotten, for years.

I needed to replace the brakes and rotors on our car last June (right during the hardest part of “The Time”). It’s an easy, simple job, and one I’ve done many times. I planned it to coincide with naptime to minimize the time my wife was on her own with the little people.

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Bicycle Love Story Redux: Bessie, My First Real Relationship

5 Apr

This is the first in a series of Bicycle Love Stories that have been submitted by readers and riders. To find out how to submit your own Bicycle Love Story, click here.

We met on Craigslist. I had looked at so many other shiny faces, with various reasons why they were newly single. Their past sig-o just didn’t have time, found out s/he had gotten someone pregnant and had to set “priorities”, found out they were moving to Burma. I got a little sad looking for you. So many people had tried to find love here and, in the end, just wanted to try to re-coup some of their “losses.” You were so blue in your picture, shiny and shared my interests in soul music and b-movies. Wait, that was someone else.

First Date

I called your ex-boyfriend’s wife about you. I didn’t have a car, so I asked if she could bring you over for our first date. She said yes, but only if I paid for the gas money. You showed up, with your original seat cover, disintegrating bar tape, and water bottle–all from 1987, the year you were born. Most people lose something of themselves over the course of two decades. I was in grad school at the time, and had trouble keeping track of my feet let alone my water bottle.

Continue reading

Bicycle Love Story Redux

4 Apr

I got this idea in a cafe in Pittsburgh last year and received several great submissions of Bicycle Love Stories. Read on for more information and send me your story and a photo if you’d like yours to be featured. I’ll repost a few of the stories from last year this week because they were so lovely.

If you can’t wait, here’s the way to find them: Bicycle Love Stories.

Tell Your Bicycle Love Story

I am looking for your stories.

And your friend’s stories, too. Please tell your friends who like words and like bikes.

I am looking to bring a personal perspective to people who ride bikes for transportation, exercise, or health, as a way to people watch.  Maybe you’re motivated by environmental, economical, ethical reasons. Maybe not.

I love bikes, I love being able to get where I want, when I want, and as fast or slow as I want. I relish the independence my bicycle affords me, and the ability to get in shape while getting around almost for free. I love that I never worry about gas prices, that I don’t have car or insurance payments, and that it’s always easy to meet new people while riding bikes.

I like making friends at stop lights.

I want to know what motivates and excites other people because I want to see more people on bikes in all of our cities. Because it is contagious and makes riding safer and more fun for everyone of all ages and abilities to ride when the numbers of bike riders increase.

Because bike traffic jams are fun.

For Even More Details…

Submission Details:

I want to hear how biking has changed your life.

I’m looking for joyful, swoony, excited non-fiction (now) stories celebrating bicycles and their impact on your life, family, or community.

If you can tell your story in  300-600 words, that’s best, but shorter or longer pieces are possible too. Please include at least one relevant photograph, a short bio (about two sentences, maybe longer), and a link to your website if you have one. I will include at least one new story/article/post weekly, and but I would love to include more if I receive a number of quality stories.

If you are interested in contributing something longer, or something else entirely, please let me know and we can discuss it.

Email submissions to:

Future topics will vary. Suggestions are welcome.

Pittsburgh, You Are Beautiful!

8 Feb

I am sad for my city that the Pittsburgh Steelers did not win the Super Bowl. Pittsburghers would have been so joyful for years to come if the Steelers had won the Super Bowl for the 7th time.

I watched and partied with everyone else but since we can’t celebrate the Steelers win, I want to celebrate the city of Pittsburgh by showing some pictures I really like of this city.

Pittsburgh, You Are Beautiful!

I’m kind of between cameras, so most were taken by photographers on Flickr who have listed their photos under Creative Commons. Thanks for sharing!

This is Heinz Field, home of the Steelers, taken by Flickr user brunkfordbraun.

This photo below is by my friend Dave.  Despite the criss-crossing highways and jail in the background, I think this is a beautiful photograph and scene. I love Pittsburgh’s steps! (More about Pittsburgh’s steps here). And I love the greenery! Pittsburgh, you’re beautiful!

This photo was taken on the Smithfield Bridge, one of about 446 bridges in Pittsburgh,  over the Monongahela River, one of exactly three rivers in Pittsburgh. This gorgeous photo is by Flickr user michaelrighi.

This incredible shot is the inside of the Cathedral of Learning at the University of Pittsburgh. Photo by Flickr user Talke Photography.

The photo below is of the 16th St Bridge, one I used to cross daily over the Allegheny River to go to work or the markets in the Strip District. I like this photo by simple pleasure. If you’re interested in reading an idea I have for the Strip District, check out How to Create a Shopping Paradise for Pedestrians: Carfree Saturdays in the Strip District.

These motivational steps in Bloomfield were photographed by macwagen.

I took the photo below of Allegheny Cemetery. This was at noon on a Friday. The sky was so strange!

Something else beautiful:

That 500 people turn out, in the middle of the day on a Wednesday, for the opening of a new bridge just for bicycles and pedestrians. Also beautiful, that Pittsburgh is building bridges for bicycles and pedestrians. Photo by Kordite.

If you’d like to see Pittsburgh in live action, I think the city looks fantastic in this video by Streetfilms, one of my very favorite organizations. I helped put it together for my job at Bike Pittsburgh and a friend recently suggested that I may have killed the internet by over-posting the video. Yikes, so tacky! But the city really does look GLORIOUS here, it’s impossible not to keep looking at!

Bike Parking and Plants: Everywhere For Everyone

3 Feb

I just found a new website tonight called Materialicious. It’s about architecture and design. Apparently you can post anything from their site on your blog so I will thank them (THANKS!) for that and allow some of their collected work show you some of my dreams for the present and future (as soon as the next five seconds!).

So I want this, everywhere. Just perfect:

I love plants and I love bikes and I like when more plants mean more bikes and more bikes mean more plants as they do with this clever invention that was nominated for the The Design Museum’s ‘Design of the Year 2010’.

PlantLock – “provides attractive & secure bicycle parking in the home garden, at work and in public places.”

Great! I need bike parking everywhere I go and I want plants everywhere I am.

These could line city streets all over. The could also be on residential streets where bicycle parking is most often absent. Clean up the air with more plants and provide parking everywhere so biking anywhere will be an option for everyone.

Readings on Winter, Snow, Getting Stuck, and the Importance of Options

2 Feb

For those of you who are following the three whole posts I’ve written since November and for those who have commented even when things seem dead on this side of things, thank you! I’m clearly terrible at getting back into the swing of things. So I am going to give it a try posting with a regular schedule.

You can expect posts from me on Mondays (starting next Monday probably). I am always, always writing, but rarely posting to my blog lately so a writing plan will help me formalize my writing into a post, though I might post the occasional link or list of links. We’ll see how that goes. Please subscribe on the right hand side of this page and you can read each new post without even coming to the site.

So in the meantime, I’d like to recommend some links that I’ve enjoyed recently for your reading pleasure or dinner party banter preparation.

Readings on Winter, Snow, Getting Stuck, and the Importance of Options

I really enjoyed Erik Weber’s piece yesterday in Greater Greater Washington about the different realities of a crippling snowstorm when you depend on a car to get to the suburbs (you get stuck, sometimes up to 13 hours as happened to many in the DC area) or you live in the city where you have the options of car, bus, train, bike, walking, and in some cases, even skiing to get around.

This excerpt is long but I think important and fits in quite well with topics I have addressed all over this blog: that dependence on cars — or any one type of transportation — is extremely limiting. What we need here in the U.S. and everywhere is the ability and availability for people to choose how they want to get around and be able to do that safely.

Cars give people mobility. But what’s more important is accessibility. Sometimes these are the same: if I live 10 miles from a grocery, and I own a car, I have access to the grocery.

But if my car breaks down, it snows a foot and a half, or I’m suddenly unable to drive for another reason, I no longer have access to that grocery. Because I’ve relied on a single means of mobility, when it is no longer available, both my mobility and accessibility are severely diminished.

Many people often argue that smart growth proponents (like me) are trying to force people of their cars in favor of biking, walking and transit. But, to me, growing smarter really is just providing more legitimate options. I don’t necessarily want to live in a place where you can’t have a car. Nor do I want to force other people to do so.

I do, though, want to live in a place where you don’t need a car, a place where, when driving is no longer an option, we are not imprisoned by our built environment.

Me too. What about you? Has snow made getting around harder? What’s your experience?

On transit

This is a link that I’ve been meaning to draw attention to for awhile.

This is a post from August that was recommended by a reader from a blog called “A Midwest Story.” It’s an analysis of public transportation perception in the U.S. and abroad, there are three posts before this one that address different facets of public transportation.

The American perspective:

The fact that American riders are poorer indicates that in U.S. public transportation services are focused on people that are unable to drive a car – because they cannot afford one or because they are to young or to poor. Now, if we eliminate the riders under 18, and we consider the  the other market segments – the poor and the disabled – in correlation with American culture , the conclusion is striking. In the U.S. public transit is considered by the public as well as their representatives as an alternative for the society’s destitute no different than public assistance services such as welfare and food stamps.

And the German perspective:

Unlike their American counterparts, Germans are more likely to use public transit indifferent of income or car ownership and, to a much larger extent, as a viable alternative for commuters. The way that politicians and their constituents regard public transportation is also different. At the local level, it is an alternative which lowers congestion in urban area and the  pollution damage to historical buildings. At the state and federal level it is a green, sustainable alternative. And for riders it is, beyond being the  only option for the poor and disabled, a comfortable alternative to spending empty hours commuting by car

What do you think?

On Fear

Check out Elly Blue’s post on Grist on fear and bicycles.

Many people don’t bike out of fear — with the most significant terrifying factor, of course, being cars. As many as 60 percent of people in U.S. cities would like to ride a bicycle if it weren’t for traffic-related concerns.


Bicycling […] is astoundingly, incontrovertibly good for you. A 2009 review of the scientific literature found that the slight increase in risk from bicycle crashes is more than offset by the vast improvements in overall health and lifespan when you ride a bicycle for transportation. In fact, the health benefits of bicycling are nine times greater than the safety gains from driving instead.


The real thing that’s killing us is that we continue to create places that impose barriers to actually being able to move your body. High-speed streets without sidewalks or crossings. Walkable neighborhoods where there is literally nowhere to go. Gyms accessible primarily by car.

Suggested Reading by Bike Pittsburgh

Some things I’m reading at work:

The Post-Gazette continues blaming pedestrians for the increase in pedestrian fatalities, but is this just more of the same “windshield perspective?”

Is bike-sharing a possibility in Pittsburgh?

Want to see some of the steepest streets in the world? Check out Rick Sebak’s video of the annual Pittsburgh bike race, the Dirty Dozen.

Grist goes over the six reasons free parking is the dumbest thing you’re subsidizing and StreetsBlog shows how European parking policies are leaving the US behind.

Sec. of Transportation Ray LaHood touts how bike infrastructure creates more direct jobs, more indirect jobs, and more induced jobs per dollar than either road upgrades or road resurfacing with national bike advocates

New Year, New Plans, New Un-inventions, New Everything

14 Jan

Part I: The Greeting and Re-introduction!


It’s me, Lolly, your friendly neighborhood bicycle advocate!


Photo taken by the lovely Elly Blue


I’ve been away for quite a long time. I hope you’re well. I am doing quite well myself. Something about November and December makes it absolutely impossible for me to interest myself in writing on my blog. I avoided it in 2009 and mostly in 2010 as well.

I’m back now and there are a number of wonderful things I would like to share with you in the coming weeks and months.

Part II: Direction and Plans: Un-invent and Write Away!

Photo of wasted human effort and mind-wrecking sounds by Flickr user hectorir

There are also some things that are less wonderful I might touch on as well.

Such as the electric leaf-blower.

I hate hate hate these abominations (too strong? NO!) and if I could, I would un-invent the leaf-blower. There are some other things I would like to un-invent in order to enhance the human experience and I will occasionally focus with much vigor (and maybe even some vim) on these topics as they occur to me, when I am by a computer.

What else?

Tiny picture of the issue in which I wrote about Washington, DC back in my youth

This year, I’ll be starting a short column in the spectacular magazine Momentum which is a magazine by and for people who use bikes for almost anything but sport! If you haven’t seen it, you should check it out. It’s one of only two magazines that I wait by the mailbox to receive and then read cover to cover.

I’ll be writing with very very active and eloquent Elly Blue, photographer of above photo, author of the popular “How We Roll” column on Grist, general bicycle activist and entrepreneur, and my “advocacy pen pal.” I’m excited to see what comes of it!

Part III: Questions and Resolutions

How are you doing? Did you have a good new year? Any exciting plans or projects coming up?

I’ve made some rather strange and grueling resolutions which I’ve already told about 1.3 million people about but I’m loathe to say on the internet… lest it make it too hard to give up! But I’m considering it for the social pressure possible in the internet tubes and because I feel so great that I think I can’t keep it a secret.

Stay tuned, next week for the potential resolution-reveal, or at the very least, my review of Capital Bikeshare from Washington, DC. Here’s a sneak peak of me getting ready to ride from Chinatown to Adams Morgan.

Photo taken by Kurt Steiner, an outstanding transportation planner in Boston





New Streetfilms About Pittsburgh Out Today!

20 Dec

Streetfilms just released their newest film about Pittsburgh! I worked for a while trying to convince Clarence Eckerson, Jr to come see how beautiful Pittsburgh is and to see the exciting and vibrant livable streets movement here.

If you’re not familiar with the work of Streetfilms, now is the time to start. They’ve made nearly 340 short films about livable streets around the world. It’s part of a genre I’ve been calling “Infrastructure Porn”.

Clarence came to Pittsburgh to film the video in November and today released his 7 minute snapshot of the city. It’s certainly worth a watch. Check out my post from last month about some of the excellent work of Streetfilms:

The Case for Separated Bike Lanes: Streetfilms is Coming to Pittsburgh

I can’t embed the Pittsburgh now, but take a look at it, the city looks spectacular!

Check it out here! And let me know what you think!

(I’m in it, and I had the opportunity to use the word “swoony”!)



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