Walking & Biking: High tech understanding of low tech solutions
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Sometimes smart cities have simple solutions at their disposal – if they just view their data slightly differently. Walk Score recently released their updated rankings of bikeable, walkable, and transit-oriented cities:
- 10 most bikeable large U.S. & Canadian cities (>200,000 people). The data on bike lanes, hilliness, and connectivity are all easily shown with elegant “heat maps”. An interesting inclusion in their scoring methodology is a “bicycle mode share” metric, which tries to capture the social network effect of biking. Rather than relying only on data about the built environment, the metric also attempts to measure actual cycling activity, often showing that there are “hot spots” in certain neighborhoods of cities aside from where the bike lane networks are.
- 50 most walkable largest U.S cities, as well as Canada and Australia. This ranking relies on an algorithm that gives higher weighting to proximity to amenities within .25 miles and zero weighting to amenities further than one mile. This metric is used by the real estate industry in promoting walkable, livable neighborhoods.
- 25 top-ranked public transit systems in the largest U.S. cities, measured based on “usefulness” of routes nearby, such as distance to the nearest stop, frequency, and type. Unlike the bike score, they don’t take into consideration riders’ satisfaction or effectiveness of the transit.
It’s hard to argue with Walk Score’s main conclusions on the benefits of walkability: residents average 6-10 pounds lighter in a walkable neighborhood, property values can be $600-$3,000 higher with each Walk Score point (and reduce the second largest household expense, your car), as well as the study that for every 10 minutes spent in a daily car commute, time spent in community activities falls by 10%. You can now even search hotels by proximity and travel time to the locations you’re planning on visiting.
Walk Score data is even being used now in urban planning using such metrics as average block length and intersection density. This is probably an improvement considering that the Project for Public Spaces calculated the Walkscore for every state’s Department of Transportation headquarters, and came up with an average 67 on a scale of 0-100. See the PDF list here.
Another clever use of data is the City of Hoboken, NJ, announcing a combined bike rental-and-sharing program that will greatly reduce costs of operating the system. Social Bicycles puts a lock and GPS on the bike so it can be locked to traditional bike racks and while serving to track where bikes travel at what time, thus gathering large amounts of data data to help guide investments in improving effectiveness and safety of the system. Now they just need an integrated payment system like the transit pass proposed in Sao Paulo’s 150,000 bike-sharing system.
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This article was originally published on September 8, 2020.
Update for April 20, 2021:
After the murder of George Floyd we wrote this article as a kind of blueprint, a beginning to a new way of working with equitable resilience in our cities and beyond. Now, as the trial of Derek Chauvin comes to a guilty verdict in Minneapolis and the whole country reflects on the legacy of that verdict, we have to remember another senseless murder – another young Black man, Daunte Wright, at the hands of law enforcement, just miles from the courthouse. Again, Minneapolis is all of us. We have protested, we have voted. We stood up, we spoke out, we have raged about the anti-Black racism. We have seen people come together, we can feel a shift in this country. But there is so much more to do. No equity, no resilience.
-Ron & Stewart
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Since the Great Recession of 2008, the housing wealth gap has expanded to include not just Black and Brown Americans, but younger White Americans as well. Millennials and Generation Z Whites are now joining their Black and Brown peers in facing untenable housing precarity and blocked access to wealth. With wages stuck at 1980 levels and housing prices at least double (in inflation adjusted terms) what they were 40 years ago, many younger Americans, most with college degrees, are giving up on buying a home and even struggle to rent apartments suitable for raising a family.
What makes it hard for policy people and citizens to accept this truth is that we have not seen this problem in a very long time. Back in the 1920s of course, but not really since then. But this is actually an old problem that has come back to haunt us; a problem first articulated by Adam Smith in the 1700s.