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

Keep up with the most pressing, interesting, and important city stories of the day. Sign up for the CityLab Daily newsletter here.


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)

Tell your friends about the CityLab Daily! Forward this newsletter to someone who loves cities and encourage them to subscribe. Send your own comments, feedback, and tips to

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. photo: Helsinki's national library

    How Helsinki Built ‘Book Heaven’

    Finland’s most ambitious library has a lofty mission, says Helsinki’s Tommi Laitio: It’s a kind of monument to the Nordic model of civic engagement.

  2. Tourists walk on raised platforms during a period of seasonal high water in Venice in February 2015.

    Will a Huge New Flood Barrier Save Venice?

    Finally, construction is finishing on the delayed barrier to protect the city from high tides. But how well will it actually work?

  3. photo: Interstate 70 near Odessa, Mo.

    In the Trump Era, Transportation Funding Is Simple: Build Roads

    Under Trump, an Obama-era transportation grant program designed to fund innovative multi-modal projects became a rural highway-building machine.

  4. Three men wearing suits raise shovels full of dirt in front of an American flag.

    How Cities and States Can Stop the Incentive Madness

    Economist Timothy Bartik explains why the public costs of tax incentives often outweigh the benefits, and describes a model business-incentive package.

  5. Design

    How Advertising Conquered Urban Space

    In cities around the world, advertising is everywhere. We may try to shut it out, but it reflects who we are (or want to be) and connects us to the urban past.