Also: Making opportunity zones work in Chicago, and the language debate inside Japan's convenience stores.

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What We’re Following

Winter wonderland: Let’s face it, shoveling snow can be a bear. Most cities leave the responsibility of sidewalk snow removal to homeowners, landlords, and businesses—and the results are haphazard at best. U.S. cities have typically relied on outreach and fines to keep walkways clear, but the results are far from perfect. Persistent challenges—like vacant properties or residents without the physical ability to shovel—can leave a patchwork of ice- and snow-covered concrete that endangers pedestrians.

It’s enough to make you wonder: Why don’t cities just plow sidewalks like they do with roads? Well, beginning this snow season, that idea will get tested in Syracuse, New York, which plans to plow 20 miles of priority sidewalks when it gets three inches of snow or more. The snowy college town joins a short list of cold-weather cities plowing through to make complete streets a year-round idea. Today on CityLab: Why Cities Should Take Charge of Sidewalk Snow Shoveling

Andrew Small


More on CityLab

How Your Neighborhood’s Density Affects Where You Work Out

Gym and fitness-studio chains tend to specialize in either urban or suburban areas. But overall, they skew toward rich neighborhoods with lots of graduates, renters, and white people.

Richard Florida

The ‘Driverless Experience’ Looks Awfully Distracting

At CES 2019, carmakers showed off vehicles with perfume-puffing headrests, augmented-reality video displays, and all manner of in-car entertainment.

Laura Bliss

How to Make Opportunity Zones Work in Chicago

The Urban Institute looks at how local leaders can get the most out of a new federal program designed to boost investment in struggling neighborhoods.

Tanvi Misra

L.A. Joins the Growing Battle Over Location Data

Los Angeles is taking the Weather Channel to court over its treatment of app users’ location data. Expect that to be one of many such lawsuits in 2019.

Linda Poon

National Parks Get Some Volunteer Love During Government Shutdown

With National Park Service employees furloughed and trash mounting, cleaning up “helped me feel like I was doing as much as I could,” said one volunteer.

Nicole Javorsky


Land Ho!

Long before cars and coal plants, humans were reshaping the Earth’s ecosystem through humbler but no less dramatic means: pastures and plows. Since 1700, humans have gone from using just 5 percent of the Earth’s land to occupying more than half of it with agriculture or human settlements.

The map above, using data from environmental scientist Erle Ellis and his team at the Laboratory for Anthropogenic Landscape Ecology, demonstrates the dramatic changes in over 300 years of human land use. In that time, the footprint of cities boomed, growing to about 40 times what it was in 1700. Today, cities are just half a percent of the planet’s land area, but they have had the most dramatic impact on its ecosystems. CityLab data reporter David Montgomery has the story: How 300 Years of Urbanization and Farming Transformed the Planet


What We’re Reading

The mayor of McAllen, Texas, demystifies the “crisis” at the border (NowThis News)

Civil rights group finds housing discrimination in several Chicago communities (WBEZ Chicago)

How a recession could affect the housing market (Curbed)

Swing low, sweet Chariot: Ford axes microtransit shuttle service (Wired)

What if cities are no longer the land of opportunity for low-skilled workers? (New York Times)


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