How to Make Cities Safe for People On Bikes

 

Here’s an explanation of Dutch-style multi-modal intersections that prioritize cyclists and pedestrians and safety. This video explains how to make cities safe for people on bikes.

The Farmhouse Media is all about living sustainably through

  • green building

  • green cities

  • permaculture

Do the Health Benefits of Bike Sharing Outweigh the Risks?

bike share photo: Health Benefits Bike Sharing Outweigh Risks?

Doctors at Boston Medical Center can now write a prescription for $5 access to Hubway, the city’s bike-share program.

Do the Health Benefits of Bike Sharing Outweigh the Risks?

Bike-sharing programs have grown in popularity in recent years, with schemes now operating more than 643,000 bikes in more than 50 countries.

 A recent innovation comes from Boston, Mass., where doctors at Boston Medical Center can now write a prescription for $5 access to Hubway, the city’s bike-share program. Memberships regularly cost $80.

The full story is here.

The Farmhouse Media is all about living sustainably through

  • green building

  • green cities

  • permaculture

 

What Does Permaculture Offer To Cities and Suburbs?

Maybe it seems obvious, but most of us now live in an urban world. We can’t just walk out the back door and be in the wilderness, or even have a substantial private space. But we can improve the spaces we have with plants, and we’ll be more successful at that by using permaculture. What does permaculture offer to cities and suburbs?

Well, besides the health benefits we get from plants, we can grow plenty of food and repair our cities. The suburbs, with their larger lots, offer a huge opportunity to turn lawns into gardens.

The Permaculture Neighborhood Center

YouTube Preview Image

Mark Lakeman on Urban Permaculture: City Repair, Re-patterning the Grid, Solar Cat Palace

YouTube Preview Image

Cultivating A Suburban Foodshed

YouTube Preview Image

Suburban Permaculture w/ Janet Barocco and Richard Heinberg

YouTube Preview Image

These are hot topics right now, though the concepts are not. City Farmer got rolling in 1978. And Mollison and Holmgren were developing permaculture concepts in the early 1970s.

screen shot of City Farmer News; What Does Permaculture Offer To Cities and Suburbs?

City Farmer News has been a boots-on-the-ground resource for urban farmers since 1978.

The Farmhouse Media is all about living sustainably through

  • green building

  • green cities

  • permaculture

Trees and Parks Make People Happier and Healthier

city park and skyline; Trees and Parks Make People Happier and Healthier

Living near green spaces provides an enduring mental health boost, this article from Smithsonian asserts.

It’s becoming more clear that trees and parks make people happier and healthier.

Moving to An Area With More Green Space Can Improve Your Mental Health for Years

This Smithsonian article presents evidence of enduring mental health benefits based on our proximity to green space.

And here’s more evidence that trees aren’t just beautiful. By removing pollutants from the air, trees give us healthier air to breathe. They also save energy by shading people and buildings, and actually cool the air around them. And they produce oxygen for us to breathe.

Urban Trees Remove Fine Particulate Air Pollution, Save Lives

More evidence here and here.

The Farmhouse Media is all about living sustainably with

  • green building
  • permaculture
  • green cities.

Metrics for Great Cities

The Most-Livable Cities Share Common Traits

I recently noticed, while writing an article about walkability, some overlap among top-performing U.S. cities in positive metrics. I think these are important because they’re all the result of good policies, not mere good fortune. What are the metrics for great cities?

Urban Forests

The urban forest is the collective tree and shrub cover in and around cities, located on both private and public land. According to American Forests, a nonprofit forest-advocacy organization, the urban forest is able to:

  • Remove air pollution
  • Produce oxygen
  • Absorb rainwater and pollutants in rainwater that would otherwise run into streams and groundwater
  • Provide shade
  • Block wind
  • Reduce energy demand
  • Reduce noise levels
  • Store carbon
  • Provide habitat for animals, and
  • Make people happier and more relaxed.

American Forests evaluated the 50 most-populous U.S. cities’ urban forests in regard to:

  • Civic engagement in maintaining the urban forest
  • Urban forest strategies and city greening to address city infrastructure challenges
  • Accessibility of urban forest and greenspaces to the public
  • Overall health and condition of the city’s urban forest
  • Documented knowledge about its urban forests, and
  • Urban forest management plans and management activities.

Why did American Forests undertake the project?

Scott Steen, American Forests CEO and one of the judges for the project, said the group wanted to “showcase the tangible value that urban forests provide to cities and their residents, including economic, aesthetic, social and physical well-being. Various studies have shown a correlation between trees and lower rates of crime, reduced levels of stress and lower body mass.”

Image #1: New York City skyline, Graham Styles

In addition, “No two cities have worked exactly the same way to achieve their place on our top 10 list, but they each serve as a role model for others,” Steen said.

Energy Efficiency

Achieving greater energy efficiency, like living in a healthy urban forest, results in a better quality of life for people. It also saves people and businesses money, and has the potential to obviate the need for more power plants as the country’s population grows.

The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) evaluated 34 major U.S. cities on their efforts to reduce energy use and costs. ACEEE ranked each city based on the following sectors’ successes to reduce energy use:

  • Local government
  • Community initiatives
  • Buildings
  • Utilities
  • Transportation

Boston walkable neighborhood

Walk Score

My previous article looked at Walk Scores in more detail. You can review it here. The walkability rankings were compiled by the group Walk Score. It’s important to remember that different neighborhoods in a city can have hugely disparate scores. Denver’s overall score is 55.7, but the Berkeley neighborhood on Denver’s west side, for example, at 93 is a “Walker’s Paradise.”

Here’s how the data looks when combined:

Urban Forest

Energy Efficiency

Walk Score

New York City

Top 10

69.75 (3rd)

88 (1st)

Seattle

Top 10

65.25 (5th)

71 (8th)

Washington, D.C.

Top 10

56.25 (7th)

74 (7th)

Portland, OR

Top 10

70 (2nd)

63 (15th)

Minneapolis

Top 10

55.25 (8th)

65 (12th)

Denver

Top 10

52.75 (11th)

56 (23rd)

Austin, TX

Top 10

62 (6th)

35 (34th)

Sacramento

Top 10

40.75 (18th)

43 (24th)

Charlotte, NC

Top 10

23.75 (31st)

24 (50th)

Boston

not ranked

76.75 (1st)

80 (3rd)

San Francisco

not ranked

69.75 (3rd)

84 (2nd)

Philadelphia

not ranked

54.5 (10th)

77 (4th)

Chicago

not ranked

54.75 (9th)

75 (6th)

Milwaukee, WI

Top 10

not ranked

59 (20th)

Clearly many other metrics would be useful. These three are interesting, I think, because each confers benefits beyond the individual person. Energy efficiency is good for individuals, businesses, and the environment. Walkable cities are good for people’s health and for property values. The urban forest gives people cleaner air and water, cooler temperatures, and often a sense of peace and well being.

What other metrics would be useful in this sort of comparison?

The Farmhouse Media is all about living sustainably through

  • green building

  • green cities

  • permaculture

 

 

 

Walkable Cities Make for Better Cities

Walkable Cities Make for Better Cities

Click to read my article in Sourceable.net about the benefits of walkable cities.

 

I wrote this article, “Walkable Cities Make for Better Cities,” for Sourceable.net. The site is based in Australia but runs articles for professionals in architecture, construction, design, engineering, and property worldwide.

Check it out and let me know what you think!

The Farmhouse Media is all about living sustainably through

  • green building

  • green cities

  • permaculture

Becoming A Very Green City

Convergence. Synergy. Whatever you call it, many different organizations in my city (the La Crosse, Wisconsin area) are coming together to learn, teach, and practice sustainable living principles. And it appears that momentum is building. La Crosse is becoming a very green city.

So many different projects are interwoven that it can be challenging to remember them all. Some are well under way, such as Gundersen Lutheran’s projects, and some are still in the planning stages. In no particular order…

Creating a community food system

Hillview Urban Agriculture Center is building a community food system. This nonprofit group is working with Western Technical College, Mayo Health System, Organic Valley, the YMCA, and others to grow and distribute food for local people to eat, addressing food insecurity, food deserts, and healthy eating.

Western Technical College will build a new greenhouse system on campus that will provide space for Hillview, as well as for the college’s Landscape Horticulture Program. The college will build three Passive Houses on the former Hillview Greenhouse site. WTC students will help build one home per year, gaining invaluable hands-on experience, integrating the different elements of the Building Innovations program, and adding to knowledge of best practices for sustainable housing. The houses will be sold, adding to the tax base of the city.

This photo shows the old Hillview site, where three Passive Houses will be built by professional contractors and WTC students.

 

Western Sustainability Institute will be a regional resource

WTC is also building the Western Sustainability Institute, which is to be a central resource for the regional sustainability efforts of business, government, nonprofits, and education. The Sustainability Institute will be advised by the Mississippi River Region Sustainable Communities Consortium (MRRSCC), which includes members from regional government, planning, education, and nonprofit entities. The MRRSCC is being developed with funding from a grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Gundersen Lutheran is nearly energy independent

Gundersen Lutheran Medical Center is a national leader in sustainability efforts through their Envision program, and will be energy independent in 2014. They’ve invested in conservation, tapped the county landfill for methane, invested in wind farms, installed a biomass boiler, and more.

And the City of La Crosse and La Crosse County have adopted The Natural Step, which provides a framework for ensuring that human activities are done sustainably. And many more projects are under way.

The Farmhouse Media is all about living sustainably through

  • green building

  • green cities

  • permaculture

Green Cities Make People Happier and Healthier

Live Science reports on a study that people feel enhanced well-being in cities with more green space.  It’s clear that green cities are not just more pleasant; they’re good for us! Green cities make people happier and healthier.

parks make people happier and healthier

Here’s another example. And another from a post I wrote in 2012.

So what do we do to create green cities? Lots of things, but one of the most crucial is improving the urban forest.

 

The Farmhouse Media is all about living sustainably through

  • green building

  • green cities

  • permaculture

The Beauty and Utility of Cargo Bikes

If a normal bike won’t haul all your gear, even with cargo-capacity boosting panniers and baskets and such, there’s a variety of cargo bike options that may be just what you need. It’s incredible the creativity and variety, not to mention the beauty and utility of cargo bikes.

There’s a few different basic approaches:

  • Longjohns, with the load in front, like this Metrofiets. This is a solid approach, and beautifully made. They even made a bike that hauls two beer kegs and a tap tower!
  • Load in back, from Madsen bike. I like this approach to carrying a load; sort of a cross between a longtail and a longjohn.
  • Longtails, such as the Xtracycle. This company makes bikes, longtail kits, and accessories for hauling. The new Edgerunner uses a 20” rear wheel, which sounds great for space utilization and a lower center of gravity.

 

YouTube Preview Image

 

It seems that a bigger bike would require a lot more effort to pedal, but it’s really not the case. If you have a heavy load, it’s tougher to get started, and to stop, and hills seem more daunting, but when you’re rolling the bike seems to keep going without undue effort. Here’s some cargo bike geekness about weight, effort, wind resistance.

I can definitely see the appeal of electric assist if you live in a hilly place.

 

YouTube Preview Image

 

YouTube Preview Image

 

YouTube Preview Image

 

Wow, here’s a lot of info. There are quite a few manufacturers and fabricators, but looks like it’s mostly low-volume fabricators. Some homebrew bikes look pretty good.

 

YouTube Preview Image

 

What a slick machine. You get transportation, fitness, fresh air, and easy maintenance in a low-cost machine that is also good for our cities and emits no pollutants. Now if I can just figure out how to ride more.

The Farmhouse Media is all about living sustainably with

  • green building
  • permaculture
  • green cities