Walking is more dangerous to the established order of things than it is to the pedestrian trying to avoid being run over at a faded zebra crossing. It’s one of a number of antidotes to ignorance, binding us to our environment through the accumulation of local knowledge. (Cars, used largely for local journeys, reduce such knowledge to that of shortcuts and rat runs.)”
Author, Lynsey Hanley, in her commentary, Why it’s good to walk (Guardian).
Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are that of the author and do not represent the opinions of writers previously published here or any of the organizations, committees, commissions or other affiliation the authors may belong to, unless so stated.
Extended quote from Allison Arieff’s opinion piece, The American Dream: Phase II (NYTimes):
We’ve built more houses than we’ve needed — and built them farther away from jobs. This has led to longer commutes, which has created more traffic. In response, we built more highways, increasing fuel consumption and, as transportation planners acknowledge, doing little if anything to reduce traffic. It’s a vicious, seemingly endless cycle, and at its core is the notion that the American dream can exist only within the framework of the single-family home on a large lot.
Indeed, we’ve become so fixated on this as the sole delivery mechanism of that American dream that we’ve spent a disproportionate amount of our collective energies (home-) improving it without considering meaningful alternative visions — or devoting at least a smidgen of attention to what’s outside the front door or down the block. Everything in our culture today reinforces this idea of home as castle (or fortress) rather than home as part of a larger whole (i.e., neighborhood). We need to find our way to the latter view, and part of that means finding a better way to talk about it.
The good news is that more and more people are.
Let the reactionary cries of “you just want to change everyone” and “our rights are being taken away!” of the faux-libertarians begin. Really, I don’t see the worry–there are still plenty of champions of sprawl (OakGov) seeking subsidies and externalizing costs (Atlantic Cities) to prop up their
dream “growth Ponzi scheme” (Strong Towns).
Personally, as a Gen X’er, I thought the American Dream meme evaporated a long time ago. I’ll take another stab at it though if it avoids the hyper-individualistic-consumerism pitfalls of the previous version. If it’s based on “what can we do to improve community as our home?” I’m all in.
by Arcade Fire
They heard me singing and they told me to stop
Quit these pretentious things and just punch the clock
Sometimes I wonder if the world’s so small
Can we ever get away from the sprawl?
Living in the sprawl, dead shopping malls rise
Like mountains beyond mountains
And there’s no end in sight
I need the darkness, someone please cut the lights
Things don’t always go right. I know this because I still fall off my bike, not often but it does happen when I am trying something really tricky.
~ 9-year-old Martha Payne of Argyll, NeverSeconds
Have a nice long weekend.
The worst thing for a city to do is assume that things will always be the way they are because this is the way they have always been. Things are going to change, and if we don’t look forward, we’ll be forever looking backward.”
~ Irene Kennedy and Ed Houdeshel, City Council members from Newark, Ohio
The above was written in a letter to the Newark Advocate after the paper ran an editorial critical of that city’s complete streets initiative. The Ohio city has since passed a complete streets policy.
NOTE: The Complete Streets Coalition arm of the Grand Vision is hosting a discussion over lunch this Wednesday from 12-1. More information here.
Downtown isn’t going to win big box shoppers and the mall isn’t going to win the person seeking character & history. We could pay someone to park but the Bed, Bath & Beyond shopper still wouldn’t come downtown.”
- Steve Patterson, Poll: Thoughts on On-Street Parking Downtown
Humility is the recognition that we don’t know, even when we think we know.
~ Tony Schwartz, in his article There’s No Such Thing as Constructive Criticism
Worth a read for a reminder of how we are all in this experience of inquiry together.
Hat tip to @joelga for the find. Ding! Ding!
Suppose the fault really lies in the device, so that lots of people have the same problems. Because everyone perceives the fault to be his or her own, nobody wants to admit having trouble. This creates a conspiracy of silence, maintain the feelings of guilt and helplessness among users.”
~ Donald A. Norman, The Design of Everyday Things
Norman is a cognitive scientist who has applied his skills to the usability of objects big and small. The Design of Everyday Things, which I just started this weekend, spends a lot of time defending humans against
shitty shoddy design. A key observation from his work is that humans spend a lot of time assigning blame to ourselves for an environment largely designed against our natural ways of interaction.
There must be one object in your house or office that is designed pleasing to the eye, but that trips you up every time you use it. For many, it is stove top controls that aren’t intuitive or an office copy machine/printer that seems to always require a technician. For my household, basic food packaging that can never simply be opened is a constant source of aggravation. It is a bag of chips, do I really need a saws-all?
Poor design is a series of small crimes in our everyday lives that add up to societal retreat and helplessness. It must be us; it usually isn’t.
If you follow this blog, you see where I’m going…the design of our public spaces and our streets is helping to create a feeling of helplessness and retreat. We have city parks that are aesthetically pleasing, from the roadway, but that do nothing to draw us in as humans. We might logically conclude from this that we personally aren’t into city parks or people watching, when we all know what happens when we are in a place that works. Who doesn’t stop, if even for a moment, when passing a busy ice rink like you’ll find in the Rosa Parks Circle Ice Rink in Grand Rapids?
Elsewhere in the public realm, we have city streets that are built and maintained for one mode of transportation and thus we find it arduous, if not dangerous, to walk or ride a bicycle as viable options. We might logically conclude from this experience that we don’t like walking or that we don’t have the ability to ride a bicycle to get to work. We shut down that desire and think others are crazy for suggesting such nonsense. We apply the same logic to inadequate public transit.
The problem is that it isn’t you. It’s the design.
…to be continued
Where have you seen poor design? Big or small?
#TCVote Yes on Proposal 1
~ By guest contributor Mayor Chris Bzdok
Good evening and welcome. I want to thank you for coming tonight and I want to thank the organizers and staff of Traverse City Equality and the Vote Yes campaign: Ross Richardson, Marshall Persky, Rick Shimel, Diana Ketola, Lee & Donna Hornberger, Danielle Stein, and Laura Wilson. I want to thank our hosts tonight – the Dettmers, Hornbergers, Robbs, Parsons and Waltons.
We’re here tonight at the culmination of a long process in Traverse City. Over a decade ago TC voters rejected an anti-gay ballot initiative on this subject, by a wide margin. Then, last summer, the Traverse City Human Rights Commission led by Marshall worked with our city attorney to draft a non-discrimination ordinance.
The ordinance prohibits discrimination in Traverse City. The key difference between the ordinance and Michigan law is that the ordinance protects against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, while Michigan law does not. It prevents employees from being fired from their jobs or denied housing or access to public accommodations because they are gay or transgender. It requires contractors doing business with the city to comply as well, whether they are located in the city or not.
The ordinance then came forward from the Human Rights Commission to the City Commission. The effort was spearheaded there by City Commissioner Jim Carruthers. Jim not only worked tirelessly for its passage at the City Commission, he stood firm under a storm of personal harassment by some ordinance opponents.
The City Commission passed the ordinance unanimously. In passing it unanimously I believe the City Commission sent a message that equality in Traverse City is not a partisan issue. Equality in Traverse City is a human rights issue. Not only did the CC unanimously approve the ordinance; all but one of the current city candidates endorse it too. Equality in Traverse City is a consensus.
Now the opponents of the ordinance have put it on the ballot, and that is their right. It is crucial to remember, however, that in the year the ordinance has been in effect their two main predictions have not come true.
The opposition said the ordinance would drive away business from the city by imposing scary new regulations. The ordinance has not driven away business, business has accepted it. The Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce official position statement says that the Chamber “believes any form of discrimination is wrong,” and that “our members have not brought any concerns or issues about the current ordinance to our attention.”
The opponents also said the ordinance would be used to persecute people for their religion. Not one person has claimed to be persecuted. The ordinance also has important exemptions to protect religious beliefs.
On November 8th we will settle it once and for all. We must do this because it is our only path forward for the future. It is the only way to build a city out of the bricks of our aspirations and held together by the mortar of our values.
The bricks are aspirations of who and what and how we want to be as a city and a community. An inclusive place, a place that looks after people, a place that steps forward into the future and not backward into a skewed and myopic vision of the past.
The mortar of our values say it’s worth the effort of writing and recommending and passing and then defending at the ballot box a law that says people will not be treated unfairly because of who they are. These values that hold our aspirations together say not only do we not practice discrimination ourselves – discrimination is so antithetical to what we stand for that we will not allow it within our boundaries.
It takes courage to be unambiguous. It takes courage not to hedge. But as a city, we have no other choice. Nobody ever built anything for the long-term by treating people unjustly. Nobody wants to live in a community that wallows in fear and intolerance.
If you create something that is well thought out and fair, as we did; and you build a broad consensus for it, as we did; and you are on the right side of history, as we are; and you communicate clearly and with energy what is at stake, as we must – there are few limits on what you can do.
I read a statement this week that it’s the job of leaders to invent alternative futures and enroll others in the cause of making them come true. In the Traverse City future I hope for, we won’t have these arguments any more, because we will have resolved them once and for all. We won’t spend time enforcing this ordinance, because we won’t have to. It will simply be a baseline for the way in which we live.
At the city commission meeting last fall where we passed this ordinance, I mentioned that my wife Colleen grew up on a farm in southwest Ontario, in a community that was the literal end of the underground railroad. That community resolved the argument about whether people are entitled to equality under the law in 1850. As a result, many of those escaped former slaves stayed in that community, and their descendants are still there. They live alongside the descendants of the Irish and Scottish immigrants who welcomed them 160 years ago. They stayed because the community embraced them.
When Colleen was 9 years old she asked her mom if they knew any black people. Her mom said yes dear, Odessa and Harold – who lived across the laneway. Colleen disputed this – “Odessa’s not black mom, she’s our neighbour.”
If they figured it out in the Ontario farm country in 1850, I am confident Traverse City can figure it out in 2011. If you tell the world that you treat people fairly, whatever the distinctions among them, eventually you won’t have to argue about those distinctions any more. Eventually, we’ll all just be neighbors.
That’s our future. Thanks to you – thanks to all of you – that future starts November 8th.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The above comments were made by current the mayor last Thursday night at a Traverse City Equality party and fundraiser. The Mayor has one week left in his term and his leadership will be sorely missed–thank you for serving Mayor Bzdok.
Earlier, I overlooked this press release quote from Rep. Nick Rahall, ranking member of the House Transportation Committee, while reading the reports concerning this week’s Graphic Friday post. Emphasis is mine:
Instead of being consumed by the parochial ‘donor’ and ‘donee’ debate, this GAO report confirms that Congress should be working toward crafting a surface transportation bill that meets the needs of a 21st century national transportation system. Using rate of return as our rationale for how we spend our limited transportation dollars simply detracts from the national focus when we ought to look at the larger picture and determine what investments best help create American jobs and grow our economy.“
I know of no other place in the world where anyone leaving home or office is put to periodic torture because great pains have been taken to hide the location of rest rooms.”
~ Edward Hall, anthropologist, in The Silent Language
…Or, great pains to not build them at all.
…Or, great pains to place them at wide distances from activity centers.
This passage was found while reading A Geography of Time by Robert Levine. The book explores the construct of time in different cultures. The American obsession for hiding toilets was used as a point of reference to describe the American tendency for an “unwillingness to deal with immediate needs.” In general, people in the U.S. require “greater urgency” before solving some of life’s daily problems.
Basically, we hold it as long as we can.
In related news, another hurdle arises for public restrooms downtown TC.