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?

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!

Tax Cuts are Not the Solution: The Country That Pays Together Stays Together

Tax Cuts are Not the Solution: The Country That Pays Together Stays Together

While our crappy economy continues to crash, tax cuts are not the solution.

They’re not the solution for the middle class.

They’re not the answer for the moneyed class.

They’re not even close for the corporate class.

It’s time to pay up, everyone.

Taxes are how we buy services together.

How we buy roads, how we buy bridges.

Without taxes, trash will go uncollected in many places.

Without taxes, we would have no public schools, no police.

Parks, libraries, trails, road maintenance, unjust wars, we pay for these thing together.

If you want to restore America, restore taxes, but tax justly.

If we don’t pay for these things, we will continue to dive deeply into debt with other nations who finance our invasive incursions into other nations.

End tax cuts and tax incentives and tax subsidies for all corporations that bury their assets offshore.

It’s time to stop the downward spiral of politicians promising tax cuts in order to be elected. No one can pay for all of these services on their own, and if they can, they ought to be taxed more.

Now is the time for just and robust taxation.

Help Flood Victims in Nashville

Help Flood Victims in Nashville


With all the excitement and rage about BP’s reckless management of offshore drilling, the massive flooding of Nashville has lost opportunities for press coverage and sympathy. If you have some extra money lying around and want to donate to restoration efforts in the land of country music, the Community Foundation is a non-profit organization that is accepting donations of any size.

In partnership with Davidson County’s Office of Emergency Management, The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee has activated its Metro Nashville Disaster Response Fund to help to those affected by the May 1, 2010 floods. Donations of any size are welcome. Grants from the fund will support relief and restoration in the Davidson County area.

Photo by Southern Tabitha, Flickr

Nashville is the city where I was born, where my parents bought their first house, where I learned how to walk, and talk, and ride a bike. It’s the home of my grandma who gave me my name and tons of vintage clothes, as well as the home of numerous aunts, uncles, dozens of cousins, and relatives that I haven’t even met yet.

Flooding in Nashville, Photo by Southern Tabitha, Flickr

Nashville is my first city. I was born there and lived right by Vanderbilt University until I was seven, and I even went on my first upside down roller coaster there. I started my life walking everywhere: to school, to the grocery store, to friends’ houses, to the park down the street. Nashville is the fantastic city that I no longer know but that spoiled me for the next ten years that I spent living in the suburbs of Washington, DC. (Sorry parents, but blech! What a wretched departure!)

Yield to Pedestrians

So if you have a little disposable income and want to help out some people who are drowning in dirty water, please pass some dollars along to the Community Foundation or another reputable non-profit.

For a little swoon from my childhood, here is the Dragon Park down the street from my semi-ancestral home:

The Dragon Park, photo by Brent, flickr

For more pictures of this incredible park, check out this blog on Mosaic Art.

Changing the Face of the Allegheny Riverfront, Tonight

Changing the Face of the Allegheny Riverfront, Tonight

Attention Pittsburghettes and Pittsburghers,

Reminder about the Allegheny Riverfront Meeting tonight! (And after that there is going to be a fantastic dance party at the Brillobox).

This is a major cycling corridor, and plans and ideas are being put on the table that need your input.

Thursday, April 29th

6:30 to 8:00

the History Center

1212 Smallman St


“For decades, Pittsburgh’s riverfronts were used as transportation corridors for industrial production, and the land surrounding them did not connect to our communities. Today we recognize the riverfronts as our most treasured assets that have tremendous potential to improve our quality of life. We now have the opportunity to reconnect our neighborhoods, reclaim these waterways as amenities, and provide new venues for recreation.”
– Mayor Luke Ravenstahl

Thoughts from an Urban Visionary – Enrique Peñalosa

Thoughts from an Urban Visionary – Enrique Peñalosa

“A premise of the new city is that we want a society to be as egalitarian as possible. For this purpose, quality-of-life distribution is more important than income distribution. [And quality of life includes] a living environment as free of motor vehicles as possible.” – Enrique Peñalosa

I stumbled onto the website of the Project for Public Spaces the other day and was revisiting the work of Enrique Peñalosa, the former mayor of Bogotá, Colombia whose ideas have been very influential to my own. When I decided to start planning a Carfree Day in Washington, DC in 2007, I had stars in my eyes and was imagining a city-wide stoppage of car usage such as happened in Bogotá in February 2000 for the first Carfree Day under the leadership of Enrique Peñalosa.

Over 600,000 residents left their cars at home and walked, cycled, or took the bus in Bogotá, this is what I was hoping to see happen in Washington, DC. According to the BBC, “The empty streets marked a tremendous change for Bogota. Usually, the morning and evening rush hours bring paralysis to the city streets, and every year more than 1,000 people are killed in road accidents in Bogotá.”

The change faced some resistance initially but was popular enough that people voted for a referendum to adopt a “yearly car free day and decided that from the year 2015 onwards, there would be no cars during rush hours, from 6 AM to 9 AM and from 4:30 PM to 7:30 PM.”

This radical change in regulation and perspective on the part of the government and residents show a dedication to re-creating their city with a focus on people rather than cars. Here are some notable quotes from Peñalosa on his building cities with children in mind, creating cities that are “marvelous”! (Thanks to the Project for Public Spaces for compiling).

  • “We had to build a city not for businesses or automobiles, but for children and thus for people. Instead of building highways, we restricted car use. … We invested in high-quality sidewalks, pedestrian streets, parks, bicycle paths, libraries; we got rid of thousands of cluttering commercial signs and planted trees. … All our everyday efforts have one objective: Happiness.”
  • “Over the past 80 years we have been building cities for cars much more than for people. If only children had as much public space as cars, most cities in the world would become marvelous.”
  • “The importance of pedestrian public spaces cannot be measured, but most other important things in life cannot be measured either: Friendship, beauty, love and loyalty are examples. Parks and other pedestrian places are essential to a city’s happiness.”

We need to follow his example in the United States to eliminate the horrendous congestion that is dominating our landscape.

If you’ve got several minutes, check out this interview with Mr. Peñalosa by Streetfilms:

For more on Enrique Peñalosa’s other accomplishments and background, visit the Project for Public Space.

Pittsburgh Demonstrates Multimillion Dollar Commitment to City Parks

Pittsburgh Demonstrates Multimillion Dollar Commitment to City Parks

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, a partnership between the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy and the city’s Department of Public Works will invest $3.02 million to improve the trails in four city parks.

Gorgeous view of Nine Mile Run in Frick Park by John Moyer

Frick, Schenley, Riverview and Highland parks will benefit from this joint effort and some of the work is projected to be completed as early as mid-summer.

One major problem currently facing the trails is their size. Stretching in some places to 20 feet wide, the trails are difficult to maintain and are susceptible to flooding, water-damage, and erosion during heavy rains. Compacting the trails to a more manageable 8-10 foot width will make them easier to clear and preserve.

In addition to funds for maintenance, the investment will also allow the creation of a new trail in Highland Park, and the installation of 100 new signs to make the trails and parks easier to navigate.

To enhance the parks and keep the momentum of involvement during the cold months, the Mount Washington Community Development Corporation is seeking volunteers to knit or crochet trail markers for the city’s parks. To offer your time or assistance to this effort, contact the Community Sustainability Coordinator.

The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy offers numerous opportunities to volunteer, as well as dozens of events and activities to become acquainted with the over 10,000 acres of parkland within the city of Pittsburgh. I look forward to exploring this preserved public space in the coming months.

Public Space Transformation Needs to be an Urban Priority Now

Public Space Transformation Needs to be an Urban Priority Now

Neil Takemoto’s excellent blog Cool Town Studios points out a few great examples of the pedestrianization of cities taking place across the United States.

New York and San Francisco are coming out ahead with their programs designed to reclaim wasted space and return it to the residents in the form of public squares and pedestrian zones. New York City’s Department of Transportation manages the city’s Public Plaza Program which is designed to “re-invent New York City’s public realm.”

Why? “In New York City, the public right of way comprises 64 square miles of land – that is enough space to fit about 50 Central Parks” while “San Francisco’s streets and public rights-of-way make up fully 25% of the city’s land area, more space even than is found in all of the city’s parks.”

Following the lead of New York City, San Francisco’s new Pavement to Parks program “seek[s] to temporarily reclaim these unused swathes and quickly and inexpensively turn them into new public plazas and parks. During the temporary closure, the success of these plazas will be evaluated to understand what adjustments need to be made in the short term, and ultimately, whether the temporary closure should be a long term community investment.”

Image from Streetblog of Pearl Street Plaza, a triangular pocket park that only a few weeks ago served as a parking lot and illegal dump.
Image from Streetsblog of Pearl Street Plaza, a triangular pocket park that served as a parking lot and illegal dump a few weeks before this photo.

This is the type of initiative we need to see from our city leaders across the country.

Cooperation between city agencies is necessary to move forward and we need visionary leaders who are willing to make some waves in order to shake up the status quo that is simply not working.

If you build cities for people, you get people

New York and San Francisco are vying to become the most progressive pedestrian and urban planning cities in the U.S. and they are surpassing other cities, particularly Washington, DC, not just by leaps and bounds but by 64 square miles of creativity.

Clearly, proposing some little pedestrian park or plaza on paper isn’t going to and hasn’t persuade anyone that it will improve our cities. 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.

It’s not. Support is overwhelming for pedestrian plazas ONCE people have the chance to experience them. According to a poll by Quinnipiac University, “banning cars on Broadway, creating a pedestrian mall from Times Square to Herald Square is a good idea, New York City voters say 58 – 34 percent … Support ranges from 66 – 27 percent among Manhattan voters to 50 – 44 percent among Bronx voters.”

I’ll paraphrase a common adage: If you build cities for cars, you get cars. If you build cities for people, you get people.

Streets for Cars:

photo from earth island institute
photo from earth island institute

Streets for People:

photo from NY Daily News
photo from NY Daily News