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.

Moeggesukkel informal settlement | self initiated re-blocking | South African SDI Alliance


Residents of Moeggesukkel platting their neighborhood. From sasdialliance.org.za.

This post from Olwethu Jack and Slum Dwellers International South African Alliance tells the story of the residents of Moeggesukkel, an informal community near Port Elizabeth, South Africa, are formalizing their neighborhood, mapping paths and property lines so that their local municipality can begin to upgrade the slum. It’s really interesting to look at an aerial of the neighborhood. It exists on the edge of what looks like an American suburb, but due to higher housing demand than the zoning allowed for, as well as lax police enforcement of trespass laws, people settled on the edges in what was probably planned as public space. Dirt footpaths crisscross the suburban roads following the true desire lines of the residents. The people who live here have saved up and are planning to contribute funding towards the implementation plans they are drafting in accord with the municipality. Residents are re-blocking the neighborhood to better serve them. This is the sort of organic development and upgrading over time that led to places we Americans pay to visit in Europe. I feel very strongly that in a century or so, the slums of today will be the tourist destinations of tomorrow.

The Urban Challenge of Dividing Jerusalem – The Atlantic


Diagram of the borders of the states of Israel and Palestine. From theatlantic.com.

I can’t say no to a good diagram. This article from Karen Lee Bar-Sinai, Yehuda Greenfield-Gilat, and Chen Farkas of SAYA/Design for Change, discusses their proposal for how to divide Jerusalem to serve both the states of Israel and Palestine.

The borders of the city of Jerusalem. From theatlantic.com.

Although the majority of Israelis live on the west of the city, and Palestinians on the east, there are overlaps, mostly from smaller Israeli communities that are on the east side of the city. So, if there is to be a two-state solution, how do you connect these communities?

Infrastructure can be a part of the solution. From theatlantic.com.

These communities could be connected via bridges and tunnels. This is certainly an elegant proposal, but there are a lot of questions for implementation. Since land ownership usually includes air and underground rights, would the state building the infrastructure have to buy or lease it from the other? That would be a precarious situation if hostilities renewed between the states. How would they be maintained? Would there have to be some sort of complex treaty agreement between the states? It’s an interesting proposal, with a lot of complicated questions to answer.

Vote, and vote Sestak


You ever do something dumb?  Well, I did.  I mailed in my voter registration form the day before it was due, and just got it back because after filling the whole thing out, I forget to sign it before I mailed it, so now I can’t vote in Pennsylvania’s second district.  As far as national politics goes, I’m not worried about The House; I think Chakah Fattah‘s position is safe until he dies or gets bored, whichever comes first.  But I am worried about the open senate seat in Pennsylvania, and since I can’t vote, I’m going to try and encourage some of you to vote the way I would have.

The two candidates are Joe Sestak (D) and Pat Toomey (R).  If you go on the internet and are from Pennsylvania, you’ve probably seen a few Toomey ads, since he has been a lot more aggressive in internet advertising at least (I don’t have cable so I haven’t seen any of the attack ads that I’ve been hearing about).  I think the web pages of both candidates are sort of funny.  Here’s Sestak:

 

 

And here’s Toomey:

 

 

Notice anything?  That’s right, they’re both about Sestak!  Toomey would rather demonize Sestak than talk about what he actually believes.  And the sad thing is that might work better for him.  Republicans generally respond better to attack adds than Democrats, which is probably why I think Toomey is being stupid and evasive, while someone form the Alabama part of Pennsylvania would think that Sestak is a socialist and probably Kenyan.

A little bit about backgrounds.  Sestak served in the Navy for 31 years and reached the rank of three-star general before being elected to the House of Representatives.  He has served our country and has been given a distinguished rank for his service.  Toomey was in the financial sector when he finished college at Harvard (where Sestak also went), and after doing a short stint in the House switched to the more lucrative position of being a small-government, free-enterprise lobbyist.  He’s basically been a money-grubbing, selfish jerk his entire life.

The most important issue to the nation right now, as almost anyone can tell you, is jobs.  Sestak, who has worked on the Small Business and Education and Labor Committees in The House, focuses on stabilizing volatile institutions, investing in small business and working families, support new industries and public-private partnerships, and enforce fiscal discipline.  Toomey is a broken Republican record, saying cut taxes and decrease regulation.  That’s what got us here in the first place, and the last time we were in a crisis like this we got out of it by Keynesian pump priming.  We need to spend federal dollars so that we can actually get some dollars into the economy, not pull back.

Of course, the most important issues to me are urban issues.  Toomey doesn’t even mention them.  Sestak specifically addresses our failing infrastructure and how we need a major overhaul.  In congress, he actually was able to get money to support SEPTA, and in the senate, he could do more to help public transportation elsewhere.  Failing infrastructure is one of America’s greatest problems, a problem that could be addressed by creating a WPA-like body that could put thousands of Americans to work, and give them the money they need to spend in the private economy.  This is crucial, and Toomey doesn’t even address it.

For me, the choice is easy.  Toomey is the type of person that we can blame for most of the problems in America – a financial goon, a government lobbyist, and someone that doesn’t care at all about cities.  Sestak is someone who has been a public servant his entire life, who addresses real issues with intellect, and who should be the next senator from Pennsylvania.

It’s always more with these people


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