Also: Uber drivers want their data, and an artist brings hidden communities to light.

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What We’re Following

Old town road: Last week, a local vigilante began slapping “Save Historic Alexandria” stickers on scooters in Old Town Alexandria, the colonial-era heart of the Northern Virginia city. And while we’ve seen no shortage of reasons to criticize scooters, saying they threaten an area’s historic character puts a new spin on a classic complaint. Believe it or not, motorized scooters go all they way back to the 1910s, predating the establishment of Alexandria as a national historic district in 1946. (Aviator Amelia Earhart was a scooter fan back in the day.)

So what’s behind the “historic” defense? “Neighborhood change can be frightening to longtime residents,” CityLab’s Laura Bliss writes. But saying “I find change scary” isn’t likely to get you very far in city halls. Instead, pleading the cause of historic preservation can become a way for residents to oppose things like new bus lanes or housing, without having to resort to self-serving arguments for protecting parking spots or cherished views. Ultimately, people too often invoke history to defend a very narrow interpretation of it: their own recent memory of a place. On CityLab: Don’t Say Scooters Destroy “Historic Character”

Andrew Small


More on CityLab

For Ride-Hailing Drivers, Data Is Power

Uber drivers in Europe and the U.S. are fighting for access to their personal data. Whoever wins the lawsuit could get to reframe the terms of the gig economy.

Sarah Holder

The Philosophical Argument Against Banning Scooters

New technologies like dockless e-scooters can generate unexpected harms—but regulations aren’t always the answer.

Ryan Muldoon

A Black Minneapolis Artist Brings Hidden Communities to Light

Bobby Rogers’s art finds beauty and creativity in unseen communities, from black Muslims to Minneapolis gang members to faces of police brutality protesters.

Aida Alami

The Surprising History of Politics and Design in Playgrounds

There are more than 2,000 playgrounds spread across New York City. Ariel Aberg-Riger explores the creative and political history of concrete jungle’s jungle gyms.

Ariel Aberg-Riger


Job Center

When studies rank the economic performance of U.S. cities, they’re usually really talking about broader metro areas, made up of principal cities and their surrounding suburbs and exurbs. But looking at cities themselves is useful for considering their comeback. While Nashville, Boston, and San Francisco may rank high on lists of booming metro areas, they aren’t quite as high when you look at population or job growth within city limits. In the first of a four-part series on the economic performance of American cities, CityLab’s Richard Florida examines the fastest- and slowest-growing cities. Read: The Fastest Growing Cities Aren’t What You Think


What We’re Reading

Bernie Sanders unveils his Green New Deal plan (Vox)

How Opportunity Zones and co-working spaces joined forces (New York Times)

New York City’s school buses will now be routed by a ride-hailing algorithm (Fast Company)

Visiting a park boosts your happiness like Christmas morning, new research says (Washington Post)

Highway expansion is the Lone Star State’s status-quo solution to easing traffic—but it just makes more problems (Texas Observer)


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