Donsimon / Shutterstock.com

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.

Cities Are Not as Big a Deal as You Think,” Courtney Humphries, Undark Magazine

Last month, the journal Science published a special issue examining the challenges and opportunities of an urbanizing world. Titled “Urban Planet” and featuring an image of clouds wafting across skyscrapers in Dubai, the issue opened with an eye-catching statistic: “More than half of the world’s people now live in cities.”

Of course, that number would be even more impressive if it were actually true.

“We don’t have 50 percent of the world living in cities,” says Karen Seto, a geographer at Yale University who studies urbanization trends. “A lot of these people are living in towns and small centers.” In other words, their surroundings are more urban than a rural village, but a far cry from Dubai.

Choosing a School for My Daughter in a Segregated City,” Nikole Hannah-Jones, New York Times

In the spring of 2014, when our daughter, Najya, was turning 4, my husband and I found ourselves facing our toughest decision since becoming parents. We live in Bedford-Stuyvesant, a low-income, heavily black, rapidly gentrifying neighborhood of brownstones in central Brooklyn. The nearby public schools are named after people intended to evoke black uplift, like Marcus Garvey, a prominent black nationalist in the 1920s, and Carter G. Woodson, the father of Black History Month, but the schools are a disturbing reflection of New York City’s stark racial and socioeconomic divisions. In one of the most diverse cities in the world, the children who attend these schools learn in classrooms where all of their classmates — and I mean, in most cases, every single one — are black and Latino, and nearly every student is poor. Not surprisingly, the test scores of most of Bed-Stuy’s schools reflect the marginalization of their students.

Why Should We Save the National Parks?” Jeffrey Zuckerman, Pacific Standard

Last month, to close its budget gap, the National Park Service decided to begin accepting (and soliciting) corporate sponsorships. The parks need all the help they can get as park rangers and staff brace for a long summer: This year, Yellowstone National Park will likely see more than four million tourists, shattering last year’s record. Station wagons and minivans will likewise crowd every other national park across the country, including Rocky Mountain National Park, where I still remember spending many summers with my own family, sleeping in cabins and trying to catch butterflies.

These national parks are widely regarded as family destinations. They are also a family affair in a grander sense, thanks to the philanthropy of the Rockefeller family. After John D. Rockefeller Jr. toured the Grand Tetons in the 1920s, he began steadily acquiring parcels of land and donating them to the American government; his son, Laurance S. Rockefeller, eventually donated the last of the Rockefellers’ Jackson Hole properties to the government in 2001. The extended family’s efforts have been instrumental in creating or expanding at least 20 of the national parks in the United States, effectively making the Rockefellers the “first family of national parks.”

Yellowstone National Park (Flickr/Eric Vaughn)

If No-One Helps You After a Car Crash in India, This Is Why,” Preeti Jha, BBC Magazine

Kanhaiya Lal desperately cries for help but motorists swerve straight past him. His young son and the splayed bodies of his wife and infant daughter lie next to the mangled motorbike on which they had all been travelling seconds earlier.

The widely broadcast CCTV footage of this scene - showing the suffering of a family of hit-and-run victims in northern India in 2013 and the apparent indifference of passers-by - troubled many Indians.

Some motorcyclists and police eventually came to the family's aid but it was too late for Lal's wife and daughter. Their deaths sparked a nationwide debate over the role of bystanders - the media hailed it as a "new low in public apathy" and worse, "the day humanity died".

Pedestrians climb a fence on a road divider to cross a busy road in New Delhi. (Reuters/Anindito Mukherjee)

That Little Section of the L.A. River You Inherited Might Actually Be Worth Something,” Doug Smith, Los Angeles Times

When the city of L.A. set out to build a bike lane along the banks of the Los Angeles River in Elysian Valley, there was a surprising obstacle.

Much of the river channel there doesn’t belong to the city, the county or any other government agency. For reasons lost to history, many of the industrial properties that abut the river there actually extend into the concrete channel itself.

Though it could be argued that any value in the land was long ago surrendered through flood control easements, the city offered 75 owners token payments of $2,000 for a bikeway easement.

All but one accepted.

AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes

Top image: Donsimon / Shutterstock.com

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. a photo rendering of "Siemensstadt 2.0" in Berlin
    Life

    Berlin's Take on a High-Tech ‘Smart City’ Could Be Different

    The German company Siemens is launching an ambitious adaptive reuse project to revitalize its historic corporate campus, with a modern data-collecting twist.

  2. a photo of a security camera
    Equity

    Six U.S. Cities Make the List of Most Surveilled Places in the World

    Atlanta and Chicago top the list of U.S. cities that are watching their citizens with security cameras, but China leads the world when it comes to official surveillance.

  3. a photo of a man at a bus stop in Miami
    Transportation

    Very Bad Bus Signs and How to Make Them Better

    Clear wayfinding displays can help bus riders feel more confident, and give a whole city’s public transportation system an air of greater authority.

  4. a photo of Fred and Donald Trump.
    Perspective

    Donald Trump Knows How to End Homelessness

    As a real-estate developer, he repeatedly argued that building adequate housing requires federal subsidies. As president, he’s forgotten that.

  5. a map comparing the sizes of several cities
    Maps

    The Commuting Principle That Shaped Urban History

    From ancient Rome to modern Atlanta, the shape of cities has been defined by the technologies that allow commuters to get to work in about 30 minutes.

×