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!

Visit the Bike Pittsburgh Lounge Tomorrow for PARK(ing) Day

Visit the Bike Pittsburgh Lounge Tomorrow for PARK(ing) Day

First posted on the Bike Pittsburgh blog!

Ride on over to visit the Bike Pittsburgh Lounge to see how we’ve transformed a parking space into a temporary lounge for PARK(ing) Day 2010. Whether you are going to work, on your coffee or lunch break, you cannot miss this!

What’s the Bike Pittsburgh Lounge? And what’s this “PARK(ing) Day?”

The Bike Pittsburgh Lounge is the parking spot we’ll be transforming Friday for PARK(ing) Day: the annual, one-day, global event where artists, activists, and citizens transform metered parking spots into temporary public parks.

Bike Pittsburgh staff and volunteers will be interviewing people for the very new Bike Pittsburgh Channel. We’d like to hear what you like about biking in Pittsburgh and what you would change if you suddenly had magic powers. Also, we’d just really like it if you stopped by to say hello. (We’ll only share your opinions if you want us to).

When? Where? How can I possibly take part in this wondrous affair?

Day: Friday, September 17

Time: 8:30 am – 4 pm

Where: Outside the Caliban Book Shop: 410 S. Craig St. in Oakland.

Cool! Will there be other PARK(ing) spots to see?

Yes! Pittsburgh is coming out in full force to celebrate this creative event for the third year in a row. Over 30 of your favorite Pittsburgh organizations and businesses are creating temporary parks and public spaces in every corner of the city.

But I just want to ride my bicycle, bicycle, bicycle…

You’re in luck! Industrious and illustrious Bike Pittsburgh volunteers are orchestrating a lunch-time bike tour of all (or most) of the 25+ temporary parks. Meet at the Bike Pittsburgh Lounge for the ride at 11:45 to leave at noon, and watch this site for details as they unfold. We’ll share the Google Map with you with all the sites once it is complete.

And then I want to party!

Well, you won’t want miss Car Free Fridays, South Side edition with morning and evening events. And then, there are two after-parties!

Kelly Strayhorn Theater After Party Extravaganza, 5PM – 7PM

Get your kicks en route to the Kelly Strayhorn Theater for the PARK(ing) Day After Party Extravaganza! Eat, drink, and play games with Obscure Games Pittsburgh outside and in the theater. If you feel the spirit move, then move with the sweet sound of music that fills the theater. Put the breaks on life and enjoy yourself and the company of others at KST! (5941 Penn Ave, 15206 in East Liberty)

Over the Bar (OTB) Bicycle Café Late Night Extravaganza, 7PM – 12AM

Join the folks at OTB and check out their Reduced, Reused and Recycled Bike-Friendly Pedestrian Park. The park will be interactive and fun, featuring creative installations such as bike racks made from recycled bicycle parts, interactive Bikerators (bicycle-powered generators) from Kova Enterprises, as well as several other recycled installations and a bicycle/pedestrian safety educational component. From 5 pm to 12 am, OTB will be offering the Bike Pittsburgh burger, The Bicycle Advocate, for $5 and East End Brewing’s Pedal Pale Ale for $3. (2518 East Carson Street, 15203, in Pittsburgh’s South Side)

Please, I need even more information!

01. Stay tuned to the Bike Pittsburgh blog for more info

02. Check out the Pittsburgh PARK(ing) Day site

03. Become a fan of Bike Pittsburgh on Facebook

04. Follow us on Twitter

05. And join our Flickr group to see all the fantastic footage as it pours in and add your own

06. You’ll also want to check out the website of the group that started PARK(ing) Day all just a few years ago: Rebar Group

07. Like what we’re doing? Why not support our efforts by becoming a member of Bike Pittsburgh? None of our work would be possible without our dedicated membership, join today!

The United States is Now Criss-Crossed by Nearly Four Million Miles of Roadways

The United States is Now Criss-Crossed by Nearly Four Million Miles of Roadways

And what we need more trees, less highways.

Photo by flickr user shawnconna

I found this article the other day when browsing the site of the very excellent organization Friends of the Pittsburgh Urban Forest and thought it was worth sharing. Notice especially the part in italics:

Why Shade Trees? The Unexpected Benefit

Davis, CA (November 1, 2007)- We would all prefer to walk down a tree-lined street to one without trees, but did you know that the street itself prefers to run under trees? This report examines the cost-saving benefits of having shaded streets. All other factors equal, the condition of pavement on tree-shaded streets is better than on unshaded streets. In fact, shaded roads require significantly less maintenance and can save up to 60% of repaving costs over 30 years.

After more than 100 years of road and highway building, the United States is now criss-crossed by nearly four million miles of roadways. Add in all the parking lots, private roads, driveways, and road shoulders, and the total amount of paved land comes to approximately one percent of the total area of the contiguous United States. The cost of maintaining this asphalt can be lowered through urban tree planting.

Photo by flickr user scratch n sniff

Asphalt streets are a combination of filler materials, known as aggregate, and a binder- asphalt cement- on top of one or more layers of gravel and compacted soil. As pavement temperatures rise, the binder evaporates and breaks down and the pavement begins to harden, making it easier for cracks to form. Tree planting along roads provides shade, thereby improving pavement conditions. According to research conducted by this study, 20% shade on a street improves pavement condition by 11%, which is a 60% savings for resurfacing over 30 years. Read Tips for Street Shading Trees

Three Easy Things You Can Do

1. Learn to identify the trees in your neighborhood

2. Become a tree tender at your local urban forestry or tree organization

3. Write to your local legislators to voice support to fund tree planting programs

We Need Beautiful Public Toilets in Every Neighborhood

We Need Beautiful Public Toilets in Every Neighborhood

Pittsburgh is constantly called “Most Livable City”, but we should strive to be “Most Marvelous City”.

Revolutionize the Repulsive

I have been thinking about this a lot, for years. I found that an automatic self-cleaning toilet was installed on the South Side of Pittsburgh. At the time (2003), it was one of only 19 in the world and was “a computerized, state-of-the-art, heated, constantly disinfected, graffiti-resistant, remotely monitored, well-lit, landscaped, wheelchair-accessible, ornamental-iron-and-brick-adorned automatic public toilet.”

I’m just a few blocks away from that right now and haven’t seen it, but even if it is there, we need more of them. We need hundreds of lovely public toilets, and we need them now.

Public bathrooms have a stigma that we should crush by making them exceptional.

Our public toilets should be sparking architectural delights that spur tourism.

We should create toilets that people want to photograph;

Bathrooms that are works of art.

That you long to visit again.

Revolutionize the repulsive and make the city marvelous.

Please Stop Parking on the Sidewalk

Please Stop Parking on the Sidewalk

I was surprised when I moved to Pittsburgh to find that parking on the sidewalk seems to be somewhat common and tacitly accepted.


Truck on Penn Ave sidewalk in Lawrenceville

Someone explained to me that the streets were built before large trucks became prominent so there is not enough space on the road for drivers to drive and drivers to park, so the move onto the sidewalk began.

But where are pedestrians supposed to go?

Walking up to this giant truck in Lawrenceville there was no option but to step into the traffic on Penn Ave. I can hop around it, but I shouldn’t have to.

What about parents with a stroller? A grandmother in a wheelchair? A man using a cane? There are no options except walking directly into the path of traffic.

Anyone walking by is forced to walk into the busy street to get around this truck

This is a truck parked on the sidewalk in the Strip District:

Large truck blocking the sidewalk in the Strip District

When I asked someone else about it they responded it wasn’t a problem on this particular street because “No one really walks there anyway”.

No kidding! Why would anyone WANT to walk somewhere if you were going to be dodging cars and trucks when crossing the street and trying to escape them on the sidewalk too?

For more delightful images of “Space hogs” around the world, check out the Streetsblog photo contest from last year.

And if you drive, please think about your neighbors before you decide to park on the sidewalk.

Can’t Get There From Here: The Woeful Tale of a Stranded Pedestrian

Can’t Get There From Here: The Woeful Tale of a Stranded Pedestrian

This is the soundtrack for my exploration stroll the other day around my neighborhood. Unless you loathe R.E.M., it is a good accompaniment to reading this post.

Several times in the past I have celebrated my neighborhood and home on the North Side of Pittsburgh. But I have to tell you that I exaggerated a little and omitted much.

There are many beautiful areas of the North Side and much of it is quaint, wonderful, and convenient. But I have to confess: I live on the OTHER North Side, the part that was cut in half by a neighborhood dividing highway.

The parts that contain all the amenities like the National Aviary, the Andy Warhol Museum, coffee shops, grocery stores, and parks are all on the other side of this highway:

That is the scene I have to ride or walk across when heading to other, more lovelier parts of the North Side.

And if I want to go downtown or shopping in the Strip District, I find myself facing signs like this:

No Pedestrian Signs are More Common Than Crosswalks

Riding bikes is not much of a problem as you’re on the road, but if you are trying to get around by foot, as are children and many elderly who do not own cars, it is a death-trap. A place filled with crumbling gravelly sidewalks that are dangerous for nearly everyone except the most fit.

What if I depended on a wheelchair to get around? I’d never make it in this neighborhood.

Getting to the bus stop is quite perilous and I waited through three lights at one intersection waiting for a pedestrian signal. Over 50 cars drove by in three light switches and not one stopped to let me cross,  so I finally had to just make a run for it.

To cross to this intersection:

If you look really closely there used to be a crosswalk

Then the friendly pedestrian must run across another faded crosswalk, but this time there is a light for the walker!

Crossing East Ohio

Seems like that should be hazardous enough, right? But if I want to get my groceries from the Strip, I still have to get to the 16th Street Bridge and walk past the highway exit where this sizable vehicle powered up to the sidewalk where I was standing:

Intimidatingly Large Truck

And though I wasn’t trying to walk onto the highway, seeing this sign just reinforced how my walk felt:

Pedestrians Prohibited

By this point I’d walked less than half a mile but it took me nearly 20 minutes with all the waiting and trying not to die.

I’m fairly young and in shape, I ride a bike and move around all the time and this area is really difficult for me to navigate. Imagine how dangerous these streets are for people who are older, maybe less fit and less able to make a run for it across the street.

This area is incredibly unfriendly to pedestrians and many people do not have the luxury of investing a substantial amount of their income on a vehicle.

We need, very soon:

  • Crosswalks to be repainted
  • Pedestrian crossing signals at all intersections

Can you think of any other easy-to-implement solutions that could make this area safer for everyone?

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

Parking in San Francisco, Planning in DC, Walking Everywhere

Parking in San Francisco, Planning in DC, Walking Everywhere

There has been quite a bit of buzz over San Francisco’s parking census and future smart parking plan. I wrote about it here (“Golden Gate Parking Lot: San Francisco Conducts First Ever Parking Census“) a few weeks ago concluding that it’s great to know how much parking is available but the goal and the outcome of making parking easier is misguided and short-sighted.

The other day I wrote about it in greater detail for my column in Next American City. It’s generated an interesting discussion with a little bit of frantic windshield panic thrown in from a resident in DC who seems to think that pro-people measures that make streets safer for pedestrians and bikers are “anti-car” and anti-poor.

I’m not anti-car, but I am against the financial, social, and environmental burden they place on individuals, cities, and the world.

Freeway Jail

I’m for people, not for modes of transportation. I want to make our cities healthier, safer, cleaner, more efficient, and more affordable for all.

I want to create better cities for the person who travels by foot and so becomes a “pedestrian”.

I want to create better cities for the person who travels by bicycle, not for their bicycle.

I want to create better cities for the person who travels by public transportation, not for their bus or train.

And lastly, I want to create better cities for the person who drives a car, not for their car.

I want to make better places for all of these people, not their mode of transportation.  Moving people by foot, bike, and public transportation are the most efficient ways to provide mobility for all in terms of space and cost as well as causing far less pollution and sprawl than creating a world where each person drives an individual car.

That is why I support infrastructure that makes walking safe for everyone from the very young to the very old, infrastructure that makes biking safe for the very young and the very old, and accessible and affordable public transportation for all.

Mobility is a human right, free parking is not.

Golden Gate Parking Lot: San Francisco Conducts First Ever Parking Census

Golden Gate Parking Lot: San Francisco Conducts First Ever Parking Census

Over the past 18 months, San Francisco engaged in the first known parking census of any major city.  The city painstakingly counting every publicly available space, on-street and off, metered and free.

They discovered that on-street parking comprises 940 acres of valuable land in one of the most expensive cities in the country, almost as much as one of the city’s most revered spaces: Golden Gate Park (1,017 acres).

There are 441,541 parking spaces and of those, over 280,000 are on-street spaces, 25,000 of which are metered. And the rest are free.

Donald Shoup, the main authority on parking and land use in the U.S. had this to say:

“One surprising result is that 72 percent of all the publicly-available parking spaces in the city are free,” he said. “In San Francisco, housing is expensive for people but free for most cars.”

Let's just pave everything, there will be a car here eventually

If San Francisco began charging an absurdly low rate of $5/day ($.20 an hour) for each of the 250,000 free on-street spaces, that would bring in a revenue of $1,250,000 per day.

Of course they wouldn’t all be full, all the time, but if even half of the spaces were full, that would be $625,000 per day and $228,125,000 annually. I believe the potential revenue waiting in parking is pronounced Two Hundred Twenty Eight Million, One Hundred Twenty Five Thousand Dollars. Two Hundred Twenty Eight Million Dollars. Wow.

Meanwhile, San Francisco is facing a massive budget shortfall of $522.2 million and has taken some draconian measures to make up this money, such as the recent firing of 15,000 city employees, which was expected to save only $50 million. Explaining the layoffs — moving city employees from the payrolls to the unemployment rolls — Mayor Gavin Newsom said “We’re actually doing everything to avoid layoffs.”

No, he’s not. Charge for parking, keep people employed, and keep the city working.