Let’s Make Our Cities for Everyone

Let’s Make Our Cities for Everyone

I’m Lolly — welcome to my old blog, “Reimagine an Urban Paradise,” a collection of 180~Caffeine Free Selfieposts about bicycles, public space, the romance of exploring cities, walking, urban gardening, public transportation, living slowly. You can see keep up with new writing on Lolly Pop Tour Shop and subscribe here.

I wrote “Reimagine an Urban Paradise” regularly between August of 2009 and February of 2012.  I started it when I was living in Washington, DC and continued it as I moved first to Pittsburgh and then to San Francisco. Living in and exploring three different cities while studying and writing about many different aspects of these places gave me a helpful perspective on the best and less great aspects of each one.

I’m excited to realize that a lot of the analysis here is still extremely relevant and is part of a national conversation in a way that it wasn’t a decade ago when I first organized Car-Free Day in Washington, DC.

I constantly imagined how things could work better or be more beautiful or more resourceful, I was always dwelling on problems. I wanted to write about how to make things amazing and so I had to articulate how and why the status quo wasn’t working.

Since I started this blog, I’ve worked in bicycle advocacy and Open(ing the) Streets in Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Washington, DC, and New Orleans. I’m currently based in Asheville, NC and write at Lolly Pop Tour Shop.

 

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Let’s Have Brunch On Our Bridges, Part II

Let’s Have Brunch On Our Bridges, Part II

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?

Poll: How Often Do You Use Public Transportation?

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 Neighborhood Revitalization

Vacant Lot Transformation for Green Jobs and Neighborhood Revitalization

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

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

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
Love to and From San Francisco

Love to and From San Francisco

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

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

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 moregardenslesscars@gmail.com. More details here.

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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.

Read more

Bicycle Love Story Redux: Bessie, My First Real Relationship

Bicycle Love Story Redux: Bessie, My First Real Relationship

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.

Read more

Bicycle Love Story Redux

Bicycle Love Story Redux

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: moregardenslesscars@gmail.com

Future topics will vary. Suggestions are welcome.

Pittsburgh, You Are Beautiful!

Pittsburgh, You Are Beautiful!

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!