The town of Draachten in the Netherlands is among the first to replace signs and traffic signals with road markings. Flickr/Fletsberaad

A roundup of the best stories on cities and urbanism we've come across in the past seven days.

Tweet us your favorites with #CityReads.

Shared Space, Where the Streets Have No Rules,” Meera Senthilingam, CNN

The future of urban roads may be one where motorists, pedestrians and cyclists act as one. Spaces where these usually segregated members of the population live—or move—by the same rules. Most importantly, these rules would be social, not formal, to befit the increasingly popular trend of “shared space.”

"Shared space breaks the principle of segregation," says Ben Hamilton-Baillie, a street designer who coined the term with the late Dutch traffic engineer Hans Monderman and brought these spaces to the U.K., which now hosts more than any other country.

"It defines a public space where movement is subject to social protocol and informal regulation, not traffic rules." Monderman pioneered the idea in the Netherlands claiming if traffic rules are taken away, people behave more carefully.

Exhibition Rd Hyperlapse from Jps on Vimeo.

Looking for Answers,” Justin George, The Baltimore Sun

As massive protest marches continued across Baltimore, the pressure was building inside police headquarters, and Commissioner Anthony W. Batts wanted answers—fast. Near midnight on a cool April night, he pressed six top commanders sitting at a conference table for details about Freddie Gray’s death.

A 30-person task force was interviewing witnesses, reviewing video and searching records in the days after Gray died, but crucial questions remained. Did Gray suffer an injury before his spine was damaged in police custody? Was he hurt while being dragged to a police van or was he malingering? Did police beat him?

Batts asked his commanders if they were aware of the growing tension downtown, where swarms of protesters had halted rush hour traffic that day. Demonstrators yelled and swore at police officers, chanting “No justice, no peace!” To handle the crisis, the Police Department had canceled vacations and ordered all officers into duty; the Maryland State Police also was called in to help.

A child is hoisted up to speak to the marchers around the Baltimore Police Department's Western District police station during a march in April for Freddie Gray. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

’Disasters Happen When We Forget’: The Slow Rebuilding of a Tiny Japanese Town Destroyed by a Tsunami,” Casey Tolan, Fusion

The festival of Obon, which marks the middle of summer, is sort of like a Japanese Day of the Dead. According to tradition, the spirits of the deceased come back to our world for a few days. People return to their hometowns, light fires at night, and remember their ancestors.

In Onagawa, a tiny fishing village in northern Japan, locals celebrated Obon in a gravel lot a stone’s throw from the sea. Gathering after sunset on a breezy August night, families sat on cushions around a dozen fire pits and talked quietly. The smell of smoke filled the air as kids ran around playing with sparklers. A local food truck sold shaved ice and hot dogs slathered with spaghetti sauce.

Toshihiko Abe, a local government official with greying hair and a gravely voice, was one of the people tending a fire. “The people who have died return to the Earth for one day,” Abe explained to me. “We light the fires so the people returning don’t get lost on the way back.”

Two Japanese soldiers stop to look at a ship blocking a road in the tsunami-destroyed town of Onagawa, Miyagi Prefecture, northeastern Japan. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder, File)

Here’s How Uber Beat the Las Vegas Taxi Industry,” Johana Bhuiyan, Buzzfeed

On the evening of Oct. 24, 2014, swarms of tourists flooded the Las Vegas Strip, clutching massive drinks and gawking at the replica Empire State Building, replica London Eye, replica Eiffel Tower. Outside the Venetian, gondoliers in striped shirts and straw hats paddled couples down manmade canals. Everywhere, Top 40 radio pumped out indefatigably from tinny speakers, and a riot of bright lights and flashing video screens cast a blinding glow. In front of every hotel, there was a long, snaking line of people waiting for taxis.

But tonight, for the first time, there were Uber cars among the limos and cabs. One picked up a fare at Caesars Palace and embarked on what would have been one of the first Uber rides in Vegas. But before it could leave the hotel roundabout, the Uber was cut off by two unmarked cars, sirens blaring. Two men burst out, ordered everyone out of the Uber, and told the driver to put his hands on the car’s hood. They were masked and wearing bulletproof vests.

The Story Of ‘Ghost Bikes’: How a Bike Memorial in St. Louis Sparked a Global Movement,” Madeleine Thomas, Grist

You’ve probably seen a ghost bike. Maybe its skeletal white frame, locked to a street sign on a busy corner, blended into the madness of a hustling urban backdrop. Or perhaps the makeshift memorial emanated its phantomly presence chained to a single lamppost along a lonely country highway. No matter the location, ghost bikes turn an indiscriminate patch of road into a solemn reminder: A cyclist was killed here.

These bikes represent a sobering reality. From 2000 to 2013, rates of commuting via bike have increased more than 100 percent in some parts of the country. Fatalities and injuries have increased, too. In 2013, roughly 48,000 cyclists were injured. More than 740 were killed in crashes with motor vehicles. And that’s just accidents reported to the police. Biking, be it in a metropolis or a whistle stop,can be a continuous flirtation with death if you’re not careful. Cities aren’t off the hook when it comes to making streets co-habitable for both bikes and vehicles. Ghost bikes remind city planners as well as cyclists and drivers that simple mistakes can result in dire consequences.

(Flickr/Paul Downey)

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. a photo of a WeWork office building
    Life

    What WeWork’s Demise Could Do to NYC Real Estate

    The troubled coworking company is the largest office tenant in New York City. What happens to the city’s commercial real estate market if it goes under?

  2. Uber Eats worker
    Life

    The Millennial Urban Lifestyle Is About to Get More Expensive

    As WeWork crashes and Uber bleeds cash, the consumer-tech gold rush may be coming to an end.

  3. James Mueller (left) talks to South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg (right)
    Equity

    South Bend’s Mayoral Election Could Decide More than Pete Buttigieg's Replacement

    Pete Buttigieg's former chief of staff, James Mueller, is vying with a Republican challenger to be the next mayor of South Bend, Indiana.

  4. A man wearing a suit and tie holds an American flag at a naturalization ceremony.
    Life

    The New Geography of American Immigration

    The foreign-born population has declined in U.S. states that voted Democratic in 2016, and increased in states and metros that voted for Trump.

  5. A woman stands in front of a house.
    Life

    How Housing Wealth Transferred From Families to Corporations

    The Great Housing Reset has led to growing numbers of single-family homes shifting from owner-occupied housing to investment vehicles for large corporations.

×