A roundup of the best stories on cities and urbanism we’ve come across in the past seven days.
“Ten Streets That Define America,” Curbed
What can we learn about our ever-changing country from individual streets? To get to the heart of that question, Curbed took a deep dive into ten cities around the United States—selected for their diverse sizes, ages, populations, and locations—and talked to the people that call each place home.
Throughout these stories, from Burlington to Key West to Denver, four factors emerged as the dominant forces shaping our cities: Regeneration fueled by small businesses, new development and the changes that follow, alternative transportation options, and rich, if burdensome, cultural legacies.
These motifs exist to some degree everywhere, and may be playing out where you live. ...
Because while our differences can seem outsized, our exhaustive reporting has confirmed a universal desire to see American homes and communities prosper.
“Mayors to Trump: Enough With the Hellhole Talk, Already,” Ben Wofford and Ruairí Arrieta-Kenna, Politico Magazine
Donald Trump has some unflattering opinions about American cities. The situation, he assured a crowd in coal-country Pennsylvania last week, is “worse than some of the war zones you’re talking about. There is no education, no jobs, no safety. There is no safety.” And, he intoned, “It’s getting worse and worse and worse.” (In another speech, he likened cities to “hell.”) But Trump’s dystopian stump speech gets heavy pushback from at least one constituency: America’s mayors, who are celebrating a year of positive gains and clutching the stats to back them up. They’ve grown tired of hearing their cities described as toxic hellholes. Actually, they’ve grown tired of listening to Donald Trump, period.
“The Best Show on TV Right Now is About Living Carless in the Suburbs,” Ben Adler, Grist
The first scene of Atlanta, Donald Glover’s hilarious, magic realist new sitcom airing Tuesdays on FX, takes place in an unusual spot for a TV show: a parking lot.
This should be a common setting, as most Americans live in the suburbs. But sitcoms about 20-somethings always seem to be set in New York or L.A., depicting low-paid young people who can somehow afford giant apartments and take taxis everywhere.
Not Atlanta. The best show on TV right now is about working-class African-Americans in the Southern suburbs, and it highlights one of the country’s biggest, least-appreciated problems: living without a car in the midst of sprawl.
“Why Urbanization Smells Bad(ly),” Tanya Basu, Inverse
Smell is a pretty standby human sense. Evolution has barely touched it in thousands of years and yet, it still represents the most efficient spatial mechanism between touch and perception. It’s easy to consider it decorative but olfaction is central to our sense of geography. It’s part of how we conceptualize closed spaces, and it helps us know when we should be concerned about chemical exposure. When we smell smoke and decay, we react with adrenaline and the fight-or-flight response. When we awake to the aroma of bacon wafting in the morning, our stomach grumbles and guides us to the kitchen. But when we smell nothing, we feel nothing; we fail to react to the world on a fundamental level.
Which is why it’s so concerning that cities are increasingly dulling our sense of smell.
“Mexico City’s Plan to Fight Sexual Assault: Whistles on the Subway,” Carrie Kahn, NPR
Mexico City's Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera is handing out plastic whistles. A half-million of them. At three bucks a pop, he's hoping that women will use the whistles to scare off harassers on the packed public transportation system.
When the plan was announced this summer, it received a flurry of scathing criticism and mocking memes on social media. But city officials are moving forward and have been handing out the whistles by the thousands at subway and bus stops.
At the Zapata metro station in the southern end of Mexico City, the buses and subways are packed at midday, the perfect conditions for harassment, say women. Nearly everyone has a story.