National Links: Cardboard Boxes and a Biking Jane Jacobs

Every day, The Overhead Wire collects news about cities and sends the links to their email list. At the end of the week they take some of the most popular stories and post them to Greater Greater Washington, a group blog similar to that focuses on urban issues in the D.C. region. They are national and international links, sometimes entertaining or absurd but often useful.

A cardboard box is more: One of my favorite writers, Shannon Mattern of the University of Pennsylvania, takes a deep look into the history of cardboard boxes and how they connect us with a world of global commerce. Mattern examines how they are made, their place as an advertising medium, and where they sit now in a time of climate change and environmental stewardship. (Shannon Mattern | Places Journal)

Jane Jacobs, cyclist: Urbanist and activist Jane Jacobs, best known for the 1961 book “The Death and Life of Great American Cities,” once said the United States was becoming a “nation of centaurs,” alluding to the disconnect people had from humanity when driving vehicles and getting road rage. She believed that cars had a negative impact on cities and design. While her father was an early adopter of the automobile in 1910, Jane never got a driver’s license and decided instead to use a bike. Although sometimes cited in cycling literature, her influence on cycling is underappreciated. (Peter L. Laurence | Common Edge)

An updated BRT standard: More and more bus projects are touted as bus rapid transit when many of the features of a full implementation are missing. To be able to maximize projects for riders, the Institute for Transportation Development and Policy has released its latest version of the BRT Standard, a system for rating and ranking projects. In order to qualify for a ranking, systems must meet minimum requirements which many so called BRT lines in the United States don’t possess, such as level boarding and off-board fare collection. (Kea Wilson | Streetsblog USA)

Home builders going smaller: To make new homes less expensive, home builders are building smaller, including some structures sized at 661 square feet. Large builders like Lennar believe there’s a strong demand amid the housing shortage and are trying to build for price points, but that often means smaller homes outside of the city. The lowest priced homes at $159,000 are aimed at entry-level buyers or those looking to downsize. (Lance Lambert | Fast Company)

Downtown recoveries at night: Recently collected cell phone data by the University of Toronto is painting a different picture of urban recovery as the height of the pandemic wanes. Many cities that have seen painful office recoveries are now finding that more people are visiting downtowns in the evenings than before the pandemic. Some are calling this the you-only-live-once (YOLO) economy as more people seek out experiences they can’t get at home. (Heather Long | Washington Post)

Asthma rates down for children in low-traffic neighborhoods: New research from Germany has found that children born in a low emission zone that restricts certain polluting vehicles have a 13% reduction in the likelihood of needing an asthma prescription by their fifth birthday. The researchers took air-quality data and anonymized patient data from a health insurance company that covers one-third of Germany. More than 200 cities around Europe have adopted low emission zones. (Ulrich von Lampe | Medicalxpress)

This week on the podcast, we’re joined by Megan Kimble to talk about her book City Limits: Infrastructure, Inequality, and the Future of America’s Highways.

Quote of the Week

“The 57% reduction (in crashes) is not because we’re reducing traffic volumes (on Drew Street), that’s because we’re improving the geometrics of the roadway.”

— Traffic engineer Rich Wilson quoted in the Tampa Bay Times responding to Clearwater city council members that didn’t understand how a lane reduction could improve safety.

Photo at top by boris misevic on Unsplash

Jeff Wood

About Jeff Wood

Jeff Wood is an urban planner focused on transportation and land use issues living and working in the San Francisco Bay Area. Jeff blogs at The Overhead Wire and tweets @theoverheadwire. He also shares news links daily from around the country on issues related to cities at The Direct Transfer