Two less cars!

0419141724aOne of my favorite bicycle advocacy catch phrases is “One less car!” In celebration of this worthy and sustainable effort, Kathy and I spent yesterday (Saturday) accomplishing all our errands on our bicycles. Between us, we totaled more than 27 miles of travel on our bicycles, riding to places like the florist, Kohl’s, the bank, my apartment, her house, Douglas J, the Trek store, and other businesses in the area.

Source: pioneerpress.com

Source: pioneerpress.com

All in all, it was a very rewarding experience that we intend to duplicate over and over again, thus removing our two cars from the local roadways on those days where we ride about town instead of driving. Combined with our regular bike commuting to/from work, we are hoping to eventually limit our car usage solely to longer trips, inclement weather (particularly in winter) or travel-related purposes.

Source: zazzle.com

Source: zazzle.com

Considering 50 percent of all trips are three miles or less in length, just imagine the positive impacts that could occur if each and every one of us dedicated just one day per week or one day per month to run all our errands by bicycle…or by transit…or by foot. Such an act would lower our individual and collective carbon footprint, improve our health, reduce congestion, demonstrate sustainability to others, and serve as a positive reminder that not all transportation must be done by the almighty automobile. Will you join us?

USA’s most exciting mid-sized cities

Below is a list created by the Movoto Real Estate Blog of its top ten most exciting mid-

Source: blogworld.com

Source: blogworld.com

sized cities (120,000 to 210,000 people) in the United States:

  1. Providence, RI
  2. Charleston, SC
  3. Fort Collins, CO
  4. Eugene, OR
  5. Syracuse, NY
  6. New Haven, CT
  7. Fort Lauderdale, FL
  8. Pasadena, CA
  9. Grand Rapids, MI
  10. Salt Lake City, UT

(Pasadena and Grand Rapids tied for eighth place)

A total of 117 cities fell into Movoto’s population range as being considered mid-sized. Then, the following six criteria were used to determine the top ten most exciting ones.

Nightlife per capita (bars, clubs, comedy, etc.)

Live music venues per capita

Active life options per capita (parks, outdoor activities, etc.)

Fast Food restaurants per capita (the fewer the better)

Percentage of restaurants that are fast food (the lower the better)

Percentage of young residents ages 20 to 34 (the higher the better)

To this urban planner, the criteria is missing a key element that I believe would lend itself  to creating a more accurate calculation — a vibrant and diverse multicultural population is critical to a city being exciting. The music, artistic, and cuisine options grow exponentially as new cultures are introduced. While the fact that they didn’t include that factor does not diminish the interesting aspects of their list, it would have made it a more inclusive study.

Which city is best for you?

Just a little lighthearted Saturday fun today. Below is a link to a fun city compatibility test on Buzzfeed that identifies what city would be most compatible with you lifestyle and beliefs. My answer was Portland, Oregon.

Enjoy!

Favorites of 2013

Source: parablesblog.blogspot.com

Source: parablesblog.blogspot.com

With just over three weeks left in 2013, here are some of my favorites for the year, subject to last-minute change before January 1st.

ADVERTISING

BREWS

FOOD

 LITERATURE

MOVIES

  • Movie – Gravity
  • Runner-up – Dallas Buyer’s Club
  • Actor in a movie – Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyer’s Club and in Mud
  • Actress in a movie – Sandra Bullock in Gravity
  • Supporting Actor in a movie – Jared Leto in Dallas Buyer’s Club
  • Supporting Actress in a movie – Jennifer Garner in Dallas Buyer’s Club

MUSIC

TECHNOLOGY

  • New option – Mayday button on Amazon’s Kindle Fire HDX
  • App – Smart Compass (whether intended or not, I love the play on words)
  • Online shopping website – Amazon.com

TELEVISION

SPORTS

  • Sports play – Auburn’s victory over Alabama in the Iron Bowl
  • Runner-up – Andy Murray winning the men’s title at Wimbledon
  • Third – Tony Kanaan winning the Indy 500
  • Fourth – Michigan State’s victory over Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship football game

How Liverpool shaped The Beatles

Source: amazon.com

Source: amazon.com

While I enjoy many songs by The Beatles, I tend to think of myself as more of a Rolling Stones man – music that is a little harder, edgier, and rugged. But, I too was (and still am) captivated by the magical and mystical tunes written and performed by The Beatles, both as a group and later as individuals. Back in 2008, I found myself completely mesmerized during a two-hour Beatles walking tour of London. Just the thought of standing right where the introductory scene of A Hard Day’s Night was filmed alongside Marylebone Station had me hooked. One amazing sight was followed by another, as two-dozen of us made this increasingly common pilgrimage.

Fast forward to 2013 and I discover by chance a book entitled The Beatles – Liverpool Landscapes. Published in 2011, this superb book was written by David Lewis, a native of Liverpool who explores geography and history of his hometown’s most famous four sons.  The book is an absolute delight to read and details the conflicting allure and danger one finds in this great Merseyside port city. Literally step-by-step, Mr. Lewis walks you through Liverpool and its environs to explore the urban community that raised and influenced these four lads. In doing so, he brings youthful images of John, Paul, George, and Ringo to life right before the reader’s eyes. Furthermore, Mr. Lewis brings  the City of Liverpool to life itself, highlights echoes from its past, and describes the city’s gritty and ever-changing persona. After reading The Beatles – Liverpool Landscapes, it became quite apparent that not all was sunshine, cookies, and merriment during the band member’s upbringing.

Source: tracklogs.uk.co

Source: tracklogs.uk.co

Famous lyrical references abound and are investigated whenever possible, including obvious ones like Penny Lane, Strawberry Field, and Eleanor Rigby. Other references are more subtle, as the author leaves interpretation to the reader.

Liverpool - circa 1960 Source: flickr.com

Liverpool – circa 1960 Source: flickr.com

I cannot say enough about how good this book is to read. Even if you are not a Beatles fan, this publication will touch your heart and make you yearn to be a time-traveler back to the late 1950s and early 1960s when the British Invasion was about to explode upon the world.  Please read this book! It explores a wide range of disciplines including sociology, genealogy, geography, psychology, architecture, urban design, urban planning, and history to document a very special moment in time when all the stars aligned in one city to give birth to sheer greatness. Enjoy!

Here are a few of the wonderful excerpts from Mr. Lewis’ oh, so eloquent book:

“Ordinary events in ordinary places are given resonance and magic by our knowledge of what came next, what these ordinary events led to.”

“There is a gentle, poetic melancholy in the relationship between a grandparent and grandchild, of time at the opposite ends of lives, and I have always found an extra element of this in public parks.”

“Yet again I was reminded that these streets are how the city sees itself, how it sees its history.”

“I have always felt that the Beatles’ early recordings, those dark sleeves and solemn young men, are a soundtrack to a city being demolished.”

“…many early Beatles gigs ended in enormous bloody fights, a dark landscape of anger and fear erupting into senseless violence.”

“The abrupt end of the trams in 1957 seemed to me to be one of the fault lines in Beatles history.” (see photo below)

“The Beatles and their family stories reflect a Liverpool journey from the Irish boats to the back streets, to the better back streets, and out into sunny suburbia.”

“Childhood and landscape are sometimes, perhaps always, inextricably linked, connected by memory and geography of home, school and play.”

“Is it a coincidence that Paul McCartney’s Beatles songs seemed to look out into the world whereas John Lennon’s work was darker, wilder, more introspective?”

“These dark Cavern cellars are the holy of the holies for Beatles pilgrims, because here the music started.”

“But Liverpool Beatle City is a clean, safe place with nothing too deep or serious, a place that has chosen its art and its history carefully.”

“I saw the city to a soundtrack of their more famous pieces of music, the city unrolling around us as if in a film, the achingly familiar music defining the landscape as never before. Liverpool looked loved and shabby, full of mad people and happy girls, emptiness, beauty and squalor.”

Source: Liverpool-city-group.com

Source: Liverpool-city-group.com

Islands of sanity amid sprawl schlock

Royal Oak's main Sgtreet Theater - Source: detroitfunk.com

Royal Oak’s main Sgtreet Theater – Source: detroitfunk.com

Despite seas of commercial and residential sprawl in many parts of suburban Detroit, there are a few places of sane, sensible, and progressive planning that stand out as beacons of hope. Probably the most obvious of these dichotomies is just north of the Detroit city limits in southern Oakland County. The cities of Berkley, Birmingham, Ferndale, and Royal Oak form a four-part cluster of active, vibrant, and well-planned downtowns surrounded by healthy, interconnected residential neighborhoods. These four cities stand in stark contrast to the sprawl schlock of many nearby communities.

It is amazing how much more welcoming, walkable, and vibrant these four cities are compared to many of their abutting neighbors. Just driving through them, one quickly discerns the sense of community that prevails. Cooling and colorful tree canopies (it is fall), street-side store fronts, and bicycle/pedestrian traffic compared to the acres of largely empty parking lots, bland shopping plazas, and mundane suburban sprawl features just beyond their borders. It is quite a stark contrast between human-centric planning and auto-centric planning.

There are several other suburban parts of metro Detroit where healthy communities can be found, including the Northville-Plymouth, Milford, and Brighton on the west side, the Grosse Pointes on the east side, as well as the cities of Farmington, Rochester, and Dearborn.  Each of these is an obvious and clear contrast to most of those low-density “once-township suburbs” that abut and/or surround them. Granted, not all aspects of these islands of sensible planning are perfect – for instance Main Street in Royal Oak is still too auto-oriented for this planner at five lanes plus curbside parking. But, each are certainly welcome respites from the tiresome seas of suburban sprawl schlock that mar so much of the landscape.

Many kudos go out to Berkley, Birmingham, Ferndale, and Royal Oak, Michigan for their successful planning efforts to date. As promising beacons, it is hoped that these endearing islands of human-centric planning will stand tall as useful templates for future development patterns…patterns which forever forsake the mind-numbing sprawl schlock of the past.