A round-up of the best stories on cities and urbanism we've come across in the last seven days. Tweet us your favorites with #CityReads.
"A Safety Plan With Swedish Logic and City Smarts," Matt Flegenheimer, The New York Times
Indeed, the Swedish philosophy assumes human imperfection at every turn, and places the onus of mitigating its effects largely on traffic engineers.
This approach seems to undercut the long-held traffic safety model, popular in the United States, that focuses on the three E’s — education, enforcement and engineering — giving each roughly equal emphasis.
“It’s actually quite horrible,” said Ylva Berg, the national coordinator of road safety for the Swedish Transport Administration, of some such education efforts, including a New York Police Department campaign earlier this year to deliver fliers in areas with a recent history of fatal crashes. “Those being victimized in those crashes are those being told to do better.”
"Covering a City's Potholes with Art," Kate Sierzputowski, Hyperallergic
Inspired by trips to Italy’s ancient ruins in the 1990s, Jim Bachor creates mosaics of what he sees as modern civilization’s take on religion and the eternal: Cheetos, packaged meats, and Lindsay Lohan — greasy bits of Americana preserved in glass. His portraits in grout point to our over-processed existence. Recently, however, the former advertising designer has become more practical with his chosen form, taking it to the worn-down streets of Chicago to confront the city’s own type of ruin: the pothole.
"Now on Auction in Detroit: Homes Starting at $1,000," Emily Badger, Wonkblog
The idea is to lure neighbors, not investors or opportunists (#NeighborsWanted is the city's hashtag for the program). And that does not include out-of-state urban homesteaders dreaming of cheap property in Detroit. Right now, the land bank is focusing on otherwise intact neighborhoods, as opposed to those parts of town where vacant parcels outnumber the residents who've stuck around.
These also aren't just any empty homes: They have peeling paint but chandeliers, water damage but marble fireplaces, broken appliances but crown molding of the kind no one constructs any more. The Land Bank warns that winners will probably spend more money rehabbing these properties than acquiring them in the first place. But the rehab jobs are realistic, and the payoff for anyone who follows through will be potentially large.
"The Upper, Upper, Upper West Side," Joshua Rothman, The New Yorker
Barrie, Ontario, population a hundred and twenty-eight thousand, is a bedroom community for Toronto. It’s also the location of Upper West Side, a new real-estate development that started construction this month. Upper West Side’s three buildings, which are four stories tall, are called the Rockefeller, the Bloomingdale, and the Empire; the community picnic area incorporates design elements from Tavern on the Green; and a three-bedroom condo, with underground parking, costs two hundred and eighty-nine thousand dollars. “How delightfully posh!” the developers write, in their brochure. On West Side Rag, the blog for New York Upper West Siders where I first heard about the development, people had a different attitude. “Where will the Duane Reade be? Three buildings, must have at least three Duane Reades,” one reader wrote. Another pointed out that the development will be missing “Kvetchers and Komplainers Kvetching and Komplaining About Whatever It Is Somebody Else Likes Just to Prove Their Superiority.”
"A Crosswalk Too Far: The Hunt for America's Least Crossable Street," Angie Schmitt, Streetsblog USA
But there’s a special class of shame-worthy street we have yet to fully examine — and they haunt all corners of America. We’re talking about the street with an enticing destination on the other side, but no access, no crosswalk, no safe way to get across. A street that separates more than connects.
Put in this position, a rational person would just make a dash for it rather than walk as much as half a mile out of the way. But that decision can also put you in danger. And that’s the problem.