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!

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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
Bike Parking and Plants: Everywhere For Everyone

Bike Parking and Plants: Everywhere For Everyone

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.

We Don’t Have to Accept the World We Inherited

We Don’t Have to Accept the World We Inherited

Someone commented yesterday on a post I wrote back in January with the riveting title  “New Study Shows 20 mph Speed Limit Drastically Reduce Injury and Death“. Said commenter seemed to think that the idea of embracing slower speed limits, even if it has been shown to dramatically reduce death, was crazy.

The post cited a study published in the British Medical Journal revealing that the introduction of 20 mph zones was associated with a 41.9% reduction in road casualties, and that the greatest reduction in fatalities was in younger children.

Just because we’re used to driving 25mph or 30 or 40mph in cities or towns where people live, just because that’s what we see around us, just because our parents did it — doesn’t mean that we’re stuck with it forever.

We can learn and grow. When we find out new information that can help save people’s lives, we can progress, we can evolve, and we can adapt to incorporate those life-saving behaviors into our lives and routines.

This world belongs to all of us, and we need start living consciously as though we share it with 6 billion other people.

We can, and should change it.

If you’re interested, here is a rather gruesome video montage that someone sent me yesterday. It’s disturbing and illustrates some of the dangers of speeding and distracted driving. (Warning: real footage mixed in with PSAs and some bits with actors)

Are You Ready to Move Beyond Petroleum?

Are You Ready to Move Beyond Petroleum?

Thanks to Greenpeace for this creative action.

From the Guardian:

The protests, coinciding with the replacement of BP chief Tony Hayward by Bob Dudley, was meant to encouraged the public to help speed-up the end of the oil age.

Greenpeace executive director John Sauven said: “The moment has come for BP to move beyond oil. Under Tony Hayward the company went backwards, squeezing the last drops of oil from places like the Gulf of Mexico, the tar sands of Canada and even the fragile Arctic wilderness … They’re desperate for us to believe they’re going ‘beyond petroleum’. Well now’s the time to prove it.”

What do you think?

You Can Do Anything With A Bicycle: Moving by Bike

You Can Do Anything With A Bicycle: Moving by Bike

You can really do anything with bicycle!

Next week my old roommate is moving from DC to Arizona. On his bicycle.

Photo of a "Move by Bike" by Flickr user theoelliot

He’s starting next week in a crowd of six dudes that are riding with him for various lengths of the trip. First they’ll be riding to visit me (!) in Pittsburgh and they’ll be able to ride nearly the entire trip on a car-free trail. Exciting progress has been made this week on the trail from Pittsburgh to DC:

When all is complete, it will be possible to bike about 335 continuous, mostly flat miles from Pittsburgh to the nation’s capital without interference from motorized traffic.

Hooray! Hard not to love that!

After Pittsburgh the traveling fellows will ride to Cleveland where the first rider will drop off and the group will travel north and west towards Madison and Minneapolis, then eventually in the direction of Arizona.

If you’re getting ready to move, maybe moving by bike is right for you.

Another moving shot by theoelliot

Portland has an active “Move by Bike” community and people regularly move around town with the help of a few trailers, friends, and post-move beer.

Flickr user Mark Stosberg moves his new couch (and friend) by bicycle

Moving across country on bicycle is not for everyone, or even very many, but a move within your city is entirely possible with a little help from your friends, trailers, and imagination. The promise of a challenge and a post-move beer is often motivating enough for many people.

I haven’t moved by bike yet, but I’m excited to. Let me know if you’re going to try it soon, I’d love to help.

Especially if there will be a post-move beer.

How to Create a Shopping Paradise for Pedestrians: Carfree Saturdays in the Strip District

How to Create a Shopping Paradise for Pedestrians: Carfree Saturdays in the Strip District

Broadway in Times Square is permanently car-free. Wouldn’t this be a dream in Pittsburgh? What do you think?

How could this work? Why?

What: We could close Penn Ave to cars and open it to people.

When: the busiest shopping time of the week: Saturdays 8am-4pm.

Where: in the Strip District: from 23rd St to 16th St.

How: Cars could drive and park to the Strip on Smallman and Liberty.

Why: Vendors, stores, and restaurants could display on the sidewalk and people can walk in the street.

More space to walk means more people means more business for businesses!

If you’ve ever walked down this packed shopping district on Saturdays in Pittsburgh you’ve noticed how crowded every spot is. Traffic moves slowly because there are so many people and those cars could easily be diverted onto the parallel streets.

If they can move cars off the main street of America, we can do it on the main street of Pittsburgh. This is a post I wrote back in February on Broadway becoming a pedestrian zone.

Broadway Now Permanently Car-free

Yesterday Mayor Bloomberg of New York City made an historic announcement that will have wide-reaching implications for street design and public space transformation around the country.

Broadway in Times Square (42nd St. to 47th St) and Herald Square (33rd St. to 35th St) will now be permanently closed to traffic. What initially started as an experiment to improve public safety and traffic flow in May 2009 is being widely touted as an outstanding success.

The result? Traffic speeds are up on diverted routes, pedestrian and motorist injuries have plummeted (down 63%), businesses are benefiting from increased foot traffic, noise pollution is down and the area is dominated by people rather than modes of transportation.

The move to make these stretches of Broadway permanently car-free is supported by 74% of people who work in the area, according to a survey conducted by the Times Square Alliance.

Take a look at the stark difference in the Before and After pictures of Times Square:

The transformation has widespread support from the business community as well and was called “a 21st century idea”by Dan Biederman, director of the 34th Street Partnership (thanks to Streetsblog).

Last October I argued that temporary transformation is a more effective and legitimate way to gauge public opinion:

“People are used to roads and streets and public space being devoted to cars. That’s why it is essential to make the changes initially and give people the opportunity to feel and experience the delight of a public plaza and then to vote. New York and San Francisco are making temporary changes to demonstrate the value of returning space to people and have promised to return them to business as usual if that’s what people want.”

I’ll repeat: If you build cities for cars, you get cars. If you build cities for people, you get people.

New York did this and people love it. The rest of the country should begin following suit immediately.

Conflict Kitchen: Hungry Vegetarian Request

Conflict Kitchen: Hungry Vegetarian Request

I just heard NPR’s story on the Conflict Kitchen.

It’s worth listening to, maybe when you’re done reading this blog! I’m excited that project / business is in Pittsburgh and can’t wait to go to some of their events.

This is what the people of the Conflict Kitchen have to say about themselves:

“Conflict Kitchen is a take-out restaurant that only serves cuisine from countries that the United States is in conflict with. The food is served out of a take-out style storefront, which will rotate identities every 4 months to highlight another country.  Each Conflict Kitchen iteration will be augmented by events, performances, and discussion about the the culture, politics, and issues at stake with each county we focus on.”

The first incarnation of Conflict Kitchen is called “Kubideh Kitchen” which focuses on Iranian / Persian culture and conflict. They offer just one sandwich, the Kubideh beef sandwich.

Kubideh Kitchen

I stopped to marvel at the facade several times before it opened and I really like the action-packed and informative wrappers, but I wish they would wrap something I could eat.

I understand the point and the limitations of the experiment and applaud it, but it would be a lot nicer if there was something I could eat there.

I’m a vegetarian and haven’t eaten meat since 2004. Even if many Iranian / Persian dishes are not traditionally vegetarian, it would be very delightful if a hungry vegetarian lady or gent in Pittsburgh could get a sandwich too, but without the beef.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand that most people eat meat and I used to eat it like crazy myself. Until a few years ago, I ate kabobs nearly every week, and had quite a ravenous appetite for beef and lamb in my youth. (That sentence is really gross but true.) But I don’t eat meat anymore, for reasons I might get into some other time, and I’d like to make a request!

Conflict Kitchen, This Is My Hungry Vegetarian Request:

Conflict Kitchen, would you please consider making one sandwich for vegetarians? It would be simple, please a lot of people, and be easy to afford without much variation from your other offering.

I came up with a simple one that is strikingly similar to the Kubideh! (but anyone in the world can make this!)

The No Conflict Vegetarian Sandwich Recipe

Same tasty looking barbari bread

Same super- thin onions

Same fresh basil & fresh mint.

But skip the beef.

And instead add several slices of tomato and cucumber. (These might enhance the Kubideh and you could charge more money for the premium version which would also include….)

A nice refreshing yogurt and cucumber dip! (Mast-o-Khiar). That looks so good I want to dive in with my face.

This summery looking dip was taken by My Persian Kitchen

(You could go crazy some days and grill some eggplant! Yum.)

And maybe some students of International Relations from Pitt or Carnegie Mellon or Chatham, etc would like intern at the at the Kitchen. They could make food and engage people in dialogue, and the Kitchen could stay open at different hours and be accessible for even more people.

Pittsburgh is delicious and provocative!

Are Americans Ready for Nimble Cities?

Are Americans Ready for Nimble Cities?

Imagine you had the power to do anything to fix the transportation systems in this country.

What would you do?

A fellow named Tom Vanderbilt wrote a book called Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us). Lots of people have already read it. I’m not one of them but it’s on my list, moving closer to the top. He wants to know what you’d do, and so do I.

Tom Vanderbilt talks enthusiastically about transportation, is pretty cute in a Traditional Clean-Cut Sort of Way, and also writes a great column at Slate.

Now he’s started something that is mix between a project and a conversation called Nimble Cities that is looking to solve the great transportation problems of today by looking to the whole world for ideas.

Ideas are flowing in nearly as quickly as the BP oil catastrophe pumps gas into our oceans. Submit yours now.

This is your chance. What are your great ideas?

Our Transportation System is Bankrupting and Killing Us

As he says in his Request for Ideas:

Transportation is also costing us even more: At the turn of the 20th century, U.S. households spent about 2 percent of their income on transportation. That figure is now around 18 percent, and it’s also rising.

And then there are the other social costs, not just time lost in congestion but the larger cost in human lives: The World Bank estimates that by 2030, road deaths could become the fourth or fifth leading killer worldwide, a larger threat than malaria.

I suggest that we Fully Fund Public Transportation

I think the most effective method to change consumption patterns in the U.S. would be to fully fund public transportation with public money. If taking public transportation was free for the user, ridership would grow astronomically. It’s been demonstrated again and again.

Level the mobility playing field. Give everyone the right and the means to get to work, to school, to fun, to appointments, to recreation.

We should invest in excellent public transportation that is:

  1. Fast
  2. Free (to the user)
  3. Predictable (schedules available at all stops and on phones)
  4. Attractive / Beautiful
  5. Clean
  6. Frequent (always less than a ten minute wait)
  7. Everywhere (less than a ten minute walk from most locations)
  8. Efficient (Local and Express)
  9. Resourceful (should maximize options of local terrain. Pittsburgh for example could use streetcars, along side ferries and the incline to take advantage of our rivers and hills)
  10. and has the right of way against all other modes of travel.

(Thanks to the blog, Free Public Transit for their constant work on equitable transit for everyone.)

Manhattan Will Ban Private Cars By 2020

Manhattan Will Ban Private Cars By 2020

That’s my prediction.

Or will it be San Francisco? Or Washington, DC?

Someone’s got to do it, who will be first? Will it be a South American City?

Maybe Medellín or Bogotá?

Or maybe a European city: Copenhagen or Amsterdam?

Or perhaps Asia will take advantage of its density and invest primarily in public transportation. What about Beijing?

I wonder if the United States will become an innovator again or if we’ll continue unimaginatively trailing the world and throwing all our weight, money, resources and land at obsolete technology.