Cycling in the US from a Dutch perspective


Just a quick video I came across. In this video, a Dutch cyclist comments on some of the good, the bad, and the peculiar about biking in the United States. One thing many foreigners think is strange about the US is how many of our bikers are the speedy, Lycra-wearing types, rather than average citizens who go at a more leisurely pace. I think his perspective on the bike helmet is interesting. This also doubles as a good primer on the type of bicycle infrastructure you are likely to see popping up in more progressive cities, as well as an assessment of how useful that infrastructure actually is.

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Chicago releases 1st pedestrian safety plan – chicagotribune.com


Pedestrian infrastructure/public art. From chicagotribune.com.

Bridget Doyle reports on Chicago’s first pedestrian plan which went into effect on Wednesday. Like San Francisco’s Better Streets Plan, Chicago’s plan includes making sure city projects optimize pedestrian travel. Interventions include wider sidewalks, high-visibility crosswalks, and mid-block bulb-outs in certain areas. I find it really encouraging to see another major American city making pedestrian access and comfort a priority. Everybody walks, but as John Dales recently pointed out, we rarely clamor for our “rights” the way motorists and increasingly cyclists do. Hopefully as Chicago and San Francisco make pedestrians a priority, other cities will take notice, and make their own pedestrian plans.

Feature – Can the Centers Hold? – The Architect’s Newspaper


Cincinnati’s Mercer Commons. From archpaper.com.

Christopher Bentley seems to think, according to this post, that “Rust Belt” cities are on the rebound. While he doesn’t seem to consider any cities outside of Ohio, the developments he cites in Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati are striking. New stadiums, “eds and meds,” universities and growing residential rental demand have led to new private sector growth and development. Yet of these three cities, two of them are still in population decline. The same is true of my hometown of Pittsburgh, which continued to lose population between 2000 and 2010. However, when you go to downtown Pittsburgh, it doesn’t look like a city on the decline, but one that is on the rise. Part of the population adjustment is generational: boomers and X-ers with families are leaving cities, while younger Gen-Y-ers are moving in. Also, as families shrink, it is entirely possible to have the same number of households while having fewer people. But the real issue seems to be that, in Rust Belt cities as well as others, that the decline is not universal; in fact, while a city as a whole may be shrinking, certain neighborhoods are actually growing. I went to PolicyMap to find the data on this, and sure enough, in the Rust Belt cities that have shown general decline, their centers have actually grown over the last decade (all the following maps are from PolicyMap).

Pittsburgh.

Cleveland.

Cincinnati.

Detroit.

Chicago.

St. Louis.

These cities have done a great job of attracting young professionals to their central neighborhoods, but if they want to keep them within the city limits as they start families, they need to move on from focusing on entertainment and rental housing and address issues that concern families – principally crime and schools. Only then will these cities see sustained growth.

What climate is right for you?


I grew up principally in western Massachusetts and Pittsburgh. I honestly enjoy chilly temperatures, snow, rain, and clouds. Though I don’t like humidity, I’m used to it, and consider it somewhat of a fact of life, but I hate heat. Holly, my wife, grew up in the mild Sacramento Valley, and our current home of Philadelphia is sometimes too hot, cold, humid, and wet for Holly’s tastes.With this in mind, I wanted to find out what climates are the best fit for Holly and me.

I can stand Philly’s summers, but they are about as hot as I can handle, so it is important for me to live in a place that is cooler than Philadelphia in summer. Holly, on the other hand, is more concerned about being cold. When I asked her, she said that the coldest place she would be comfortable living in is probably Chicago. I turned to this site to compare climates.

This is the average temperature range we’re looking for.

Let’s start by comparing the top ten cities in America by population: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Antonio, San Diego, Dallas, and San Jose (as it turns out, the website didn’t include San Jose, so I substituted San Francisco). This is how their average temperatures compare.

All ten cities with the same range as shown in the last image.

As we can see, while Los Angeles, San Diego and the Bay Area would probably be comfortable for both Holly and I, Houston, Phoenix, San Antonio and Dallas would probably all be hotter in summer than I would prefer.

I took every city available on this website and compared them to Philadelphia and Chicago, and then mapped them to try and find patterns. Here is the map:

Cities that are warmer than Chicago in winter, but cooler than Philadelphia in summer.

Although all of these cities match the simple criteria outlined, they may not all be the best in reality. For an example, let’s look at two extremes: Hilo, Hawaii and St. Paul Island, Alaska.

Technically within the range, but…

While Hilo is slightly cooler than Philadelphia during the summer, it’s pretty much that same temperature all year round. There are many people who would love this, I don’t think it would be best for me. And while St. Paul Island is technically warmer than Chicago in winter, average temperatures never even top fifty degrees. Holly puts on a sweatshirt when it’s less than seventy.

These outliers aside, you can definitely see some significant patterns. Most of the south and southwest are off limits, except particularly high elevations such as Flagstaff. The northern plains states are also off limits, since they would be too cold for Holly. The West Coast, even up to parts of Alaska, is fair game, and the East Coast from Virginia up to about Portland, Maine is also up for grabs.

The problem with the information available is that it only covers the United States. How could I know if some other part of the world would also be a perfect fit for us? To compare these results to a world scale, I matched it up with a map of the Köppen Climate Classification system.

From Wikipedia.org.

I took the various classifications and reorganized them into three groups: Most Appropriate, which includes classifications where Holly and I would be comfortable within virtually the entire area covered by the classification; Somewhat appropriate, where we would be comfortable in at least one city within the classification area; and Least Appropriate, where at least one of us would not be comfortable. When broken down into these categories, the map now looks like this:

Climate classifications by Munson comfort.

And now with only the Most Appropriate classifications teased out:

The most Munson-appropriate climates.

These areas certainly aren’t the only ones where we would be comfortable, but they do help to give an idea of what places throughout the world might work for us. This isn’t the only criteria, of course. I’m not packing my bags for the coast of Algeria after this assessment. But it has been a fun exercise to help stretch my view and see what places in the world fit our needs. What sort of climates could you be comfortable in? What other criteria are needed to assess if a place is right for you?

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