Laura Bliss is a staff writer at CityLab, covering transportation and technology. She also authors MapLab, a biweekly newsletter about maps (subscribe here). Her work has appeared in the New York Times, The Atlantic, Los Angeles magazine, and beyond.
A roundup of the best stories on cities and urbanism we've come across in the last seven days.
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One of the most challenging maneuvers for a driver to make — a left turn — is also one of its most dangerous for pedestrians.
Park Slope resident Emily Miller learned that first-hand. On the day before Thanksgiving last year, she was doing some last-minute food shopping not far from her home. She waited for the walk light at the corner of Fourth Avenue, a busy thoroughfare, and Third Street, a side street. Then she stepped out to cross Third Street.
She was struck by a car making a left turn from Fourth Avenue.
"I heard a thud," she said, "and I felt myself traveling through space. And the next thing I remember was being on my back and pretty quickly being surrounded by a good number of people.”
“The Price of Nice Nails,” Sarah Maslin Nir, The New York Times
The women begin to arrive just before 8 a.m., every day and without fail, until there are thickets of young Asian and Hispanic women on nearly every street corner along the main roads of Flushing, Queens.
As if on cue, cavalcades of battered Ford Econoline vans grumble to the curbs, and the women jump in. It is the start of another workday for legions of New York City’s manicurists, who are hurtled to nail salons across three states. They will not return until late at night, after working 10- to 12-hour shifts, hunched over fingers and toes.
On a morning last May, Jing Ren, a 20-year-old who had recently arrived from China, stood among them for the first time, headed to a job at a salon in a Long Island strip mall. Her hair neat and glasses perpetually askew, she clutched her lunch and a packet of nail tools that manicurists must bring from job to job.
“The High Cost of Driving While Poor,” Sam Levin, East Bay Express
When two men approached Carlos Smith outside his home on September 26, 2008, he knew he was in trouble. It was just after midnight, and Smith was parking his GMC Denali truck by his house on 66th Avenue and Arthur Street in the Havenscourt neighborhood of East Oakland. He had never seen the men before, but they walked up to his vehicle and told him to get out. But before he could exit, they assaulted him, wrestling to get his keys.
"They just started attacking me, and I ended up fighting for my life," recalled Smith, 45. One of the men pulled out a gun, and they eventually knocked Smith to the ground. At that point, he realized that his hand was covered in blood. One of the men had fired shots at him, striking him in his left shoulder. During a recent interview, Smith — who previously worked in construction, but now is unemployed — showed me the seven-year-old scars on his body from the gunshot wounds.
“The Cuban Town Mr. Hershey Built,” Nick Miroff, The Washington Post
HERSHEY, Cuba — Along the coastal highway 30 miles east of Havana, the road signs point to a turnoff for Camilo Cienfuegos City. It doesn’t exist. At least not by that name.
“AIR-shee” is what everyone still calls it. Hershey. That much remains.
Most of the rest of the model town founded by U.S. chocolate tycoon Milton S. Hershey in 1916 is in a state of heartbreaking ruin. The looming sugar mill, once among the world’s most advanced, is a gutted, ghostly hulk. Its rusting machinery spills from the wreckage as if blasted by a bomb or kicked apart by a giant.
Up and down Hershey’s grid of neatly laid residential streets, many of the original company-built houses remain, with clapboard siding and some of the only screened-in front porches anywhere in Cuba. The old company hotel and several of the bigger, stately flagstone homes, where the American supervisors lived, have caved in.
“How Amsterdam Became the Bicycle Capital of the World,” Renate van der Zee, The Guardian
Anyone who has ever tried to make their way through the centre of Amsterdam in a car knows it: the city is owned by cyclists. They hurry in swarms through the streets, unbothered by traffic rules, taking precedence whenever they want, rendering motorists powerless by their sheer numbers.
Cyclists rule in Amsterdam and great pains have been taken to accommodate them: the city is equipped with an elaborate network of cycle-paths and lanes, so safe and comfortable that even toddlers and elderly people use bikes as the easiest mode of transport. It’s not only Amsterdam which boasts a network of cycle-paths, of course; you’ll find them in all Dutch cities.
The Dutch take this for granted; they even tend to believe these cycle-paths have existed since the beginning of time. But that is certainly not the case. There was a time, in the 1950s and 60s, when cyclists were under severe threat of being expelled from Dutch cities by the growing number of cars. Only thanks to fierce activism and a number of decisive events would Amsterdam succeed in becoming what it is, unquestionably, now: the bicycle capital of the world.