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Posts from the David Byrne Category


NY’s Sadik-Khan Joins Blumenauer, Byrne for “Cities for Cycling” Launch

Addressing a packed house in Washington last night, Rep. Earl Blumenauer, founder of the Congressional Bike Caucus, posed a Zen-like ‘universalist cyclist question’.

"How many people, right now," he asked, "are stuck in traffic on their way to ride a stationary bike in a health club?"

The quip got a big laugh. But at yesterday’s launch of Cities for Cycling,
a new project spearheaded by the National Association of City
Transportation Officials (NACTO), Blumenauer urged fellow cyclists to
consider their cause "serious business."

The mission of C4C,
as outlined by NACTO President Janette Sadik-Khan, is to collect and
share best practices for the introduction of local bike lanes and other
cycling infrastructure — the type of strategies that have succeeded in
cities but not yet been added to the Federal Highway Administration’s
traffic control manual, also known as the MUTCD.

of the most celebrated and popular [bike] improvements are not even in
the national guidelines," Sadik-Khan explained, adding that C4C
ultimately aims to help develop "a new MUTCD, designed for cities, not

The C4C kickoff,
held in the shadow of the Capitol and sponsored by the Brookings
Institution, was imbued with a sense of hope for future federal and
local policies to encourage bicycling expansion. The Obama
administration had a strong presence in the room, including Federal
Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff, befitting its public push for more sustainable community development.

Blumenauer and Sadik-Khan emphasized that bolstering the uneven federal
commitment to bicycling, and its urban benefits in particular, would
require hard work and political organizing on the part of bike

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Gentrification, Livable Streets and Community Stability

mission_east_w_planter_and_busstop_in_distance_1670.jpgPlanters and a tree on Mission between 9th and 10th... Planktown Neighbors effort to beautify this central city area.

Cities don't stand still. Going back at least to WWII, U.S. cities have been radically altered again and again. Economic restructuring has been part of it, as urban areas have shed manufacturing in favor of the so-called service sector: FIRE (Finance, Insurance, Real Estate) and Tourism (restaurants and hotels plus retail and entertainment). Transportation changes have played a big part too, with the suburbanization of the 1950s-60s fueled (literally) by the interstate highway system and intraurban freeways, and the inexorable expansion of private cars at the expense of public transit. The populations that occupy various neighborhoods in cities, once relatively stable for generations, have moved away, leaving behind spaces whose character has changed with the arrival of new city dwellers, whether from other countries or just elsewhere in the U.S.

It's a long story, and every neighborhood in every city has its own tale to tell. During the past generation a populist opposition to urban gentrification has emerged. It probably starts with the bitter struggles to prevent the 1960s "urban renewal" programs from displacing whole populations (in San Francisco's Fillmore it became known as "negro removal," a precedent well-remembered by those now opposing the Redevelopment Agency in Bayview/Hunter's Point). But during the real estate booms of the 1980s and again during the dotcom boom at the end of the 1990s, right through the historically unprecedented housing bubble that finally popped in 2008, many progressives have worked to confront the forces of gentrification.

Gentrification as a term tends to conflate different "facts on the ground" though. Sometimes it defines a process of social displacement, usually class- or race-based, wherein a poorer population is forced out by rising prices and the steady influx of new residents who can pay those prices. To acolytes of the market, this all seems perfectly reasonable and fair, and the idea that there should be some kind of social restraint on such "efficient" "self-organizing" market mechanisms is anathema. To leftists and housing activists committed to defending the downtrodden and the poor, this system is a thinly disguised process of ethnic cleansing most of the time, and when the outcome isn't blatantly racist, it's still another chapter in a long saga of the rich screwing the rest of us.