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Reading: Urban Street Stormwater Guide by the National Association of City Transportation Officials

July 28, 2017 Books, Featured, Planning & Design Comments Off on Reading: Urban Street Stormwater Guide by the National Association of City Transportation Officials

Though I receive a lot of new books, it’s rare to see a technical best practices manual — plus hardcover with tons of full-color photos and illustrations. But last month I received just such a book.

Though not a compelling novel for the nightstand, Urban Street Stormwater Guide is very intriguing nonetheless. It’s from the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) and published by Island Press.

Overview

The Urban Street Stormwater Guide illustrates a vision of how cities can utilize one of their best assets—streets—to address resiliency and climate change while creating public spaces that are truly public, and nurturing streets that deliver social and economic value while protecting resources and reconnecting natural ecological processes.

About The Guide

The Urban Street Stormwater Guide is a first-of-its-kind collaboration between city transportation, public works, and water departments to advance the discussion about how to design and construct sustainable streets. The Urban Street Stormwater Guide provides cities with national best practices for sustainable stormwater management in the public right-of-way, including core principles about the purpose of streets, strategies for building inter-departmental partnerships around sustainable infrastructure, technical design details for siting and building bioretention facilities, and a visual language for communicating the benefits of such projects. The guide sheds light on effective policy and programmatic approaches to starting and scaling up green infrastructure, provides insight on innovative street design strategies, and proposes a framework for measuring performance of streets comprehensively. (NACTO)

Even though it’s interesting, I don’t think many of you are ready to pay $44,99 for either the hardcover or electronic version. Good news — you don’t have to! The entire guide is online for free. Yes, free. This means everyone who’s interested can learn about best practices for managing stormwater on urban streets, I suggest emailing links of sections you think we need do consider to elected officials.

The following image is the main sections of the book & website:

Click image to view the guide online.

They are:

  1. Streets are Ecosystems
  2. Planning for Stormwater
  3. Stormwater Streets
  4. Stormwater Elements
  5. Partnerships & Performance

Each has many subsections. Everything is very technical, but presented in a way those of us who don’t deal with this on a daily basis can still find accessible and understandable.  I like how many hypothetical & real case study examples are used throughout.

Other guides from NACTO are:

Not surprising, St. Louis and the many municipalities in our region are not member cities of  the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO).

— Steve Patterson

 

 

Reading: Bike Boom: The Unexpected Resurgence of Cycling by Carlton Reid

July 21, 2017 Books, Featured Comments Off on Reading: Bike Boom: The Unexpected Resurgence of Cycling by Carlton Reid

As I said Wednesday, I’d participate in the annual World Naked Bike Ride if I could still ride a bike.  However, the current bike boom is doing fine without me.

Bicycling advocates envision a future in which bikes are a widespread daily form of transportation. While many global cities are seeing the number of bike commuters increase, this future is still far away; at times, urban cycling seems to be fighting for its very survival. Will we ever witness a true “bike boom” in cities? What can we learn from past successes and failures to make cycling safer, easier, and more accessible? Use of bicycles in America and Britain fell off a cliff in the 1950s and 1960s thanks to the rapid rise in car ownership. Urban planners and politicians predicted that cycling would wither to nothing, and they did their level best to bring about this extinction by catering to only motorists. But in the 1970s, something strange happened—bicycling bounced back, first in America and then in Britain.

In Bike Boom, journalist Carlton Reid uses history to shine a spotlight on the present and demonstrates how bicycling has the potential to grow even further, if the right measures are put in place by the politicians and planners of today and tomorrow. He explores the benefits and challenges of cycling, the roles of infrastructure and advocacy, and what we can learn from cities that have successfully supported and encouraged bike booms, including London; Davis, California; Montreal; Stevenage; Amsterdam; New York; and Copenhagen.

Given that today’s global bicycling “boom” has its roots in the early 1970s, Reid draws lessons from that period. At that time, the Dutch were investing in bike infrastructure and advocacy— the US and the UK had the choice to follow the Dutch example, but didn’t. Reid sets out to discover what we can learn from the history of bike “booms” in this entertaining and thought-provoking book. (Island Press)

In 2015 I looked at another book by Reid: Roads Were Not Built for Cars: How Cyclists were the First to Push for Good Roads & Became the Pioneers of Motoring. His new book is very timely, as I’m one of many serving on a Trailnet committee working on buildings a protected sidewalk/bikeway network here.

The book has 8 chapters:

1. How Cyclists Became Invisible
2. From Victory Bikes to Rail Trails
3. Davis, The Bicycle Capital of America
4. Cycling in Britain—From Swarms to Sustrans
5. The Great American Bicycle Boom
6. The Rise and Fall of Vehicular Cycling
7. Where It’s Easy to Bike and Drive, Brits and Americans Drive
8. How the Dutch Really Got Their Cycleways

I’m starting on chapter 8. Bike Boom: is available locally through Left Bank Books, through the publisher, and other sites such as Amazon.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

 

Reading: Within Walking Distance: Creating Livable Communities For All by Philip Langdon

April 24, 2017 Books, Featured, Walkability Comments Off on Reading: Within Walking Distance: Creating Livable Communities For All by Philip Langdon

Last week I received a new book that immediately caught my attention. Within Walking Distance: Creating Livable Communities For All speaks to a core personal issue for me — walkability. Before the personal automobile displaced public transit, most everything in American cities was within walking distance. For nearly a century now Euclidean, AKA single-use, zoning has actively created places that are well beyond walking distance.

I’m not alone in seeking out walkable places:

For five thousand years, human settlements were nearly always compact places. Everything a person needed on a regular basis lay within walking distance. But then the great project of the twentieth century—sorting people, businesses, and activities into separate zones, scattered across vast metropolises—took hold, exacting its toll on human health, natural resources, and the climate. Living where things were beyond walking distance ultimately became, for many people, a recipe for frustration. As a result, many Americans have begun seeking compact, walkable communities or looking for ways to make their current neighborhood better connected, more self-sufficient, and more pleasurable.

In Within Walking Distance, journalist and urban critic Philip Langdon looks at why and how Americans are shifting toward a more human-scale way of building and living. He shows how people are creating, improving, and caring for walkable communities. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. Starting conditions differ radically, as do the attitudes and interests of residents. To draw the most important lessons, Langdon spent time in six communities that differ in size, history, wealth, diversity, and education, yet share crucial traits: compactness, a mix of uses and activities, and human scale. The six are Center City Philadelphia; the East Rock section of New Haven, Connecticut; Brattleboro, Vermont; the Little Village section of Chicago; the Pearl District in Portland, Oregon; and the Cotton District in Starkville, Mississippi. In these communities, Langdon examines safe, comfortable streets; sociable sidewalks; how buildings connect to the public realm; bicycling; public transportation; and incorporation of nature and parks into city or town life. In all these varied settings, he pays special attention to a vital ingredient: local commitment.

To improve conditions and opportunities for everyone, Langdon argues that places where the best of life is within walking distance ought to be at the core of our thinking. This book is for anyone who wants to understand what can be done to build, rebuild, or improve a community while retaining the things that make it distinctive. (Island Press)

I’ve visited Portland’s Perl District and Philadelphia’s Center City, in July we’ll go to Chicago’s Little Village. Learning from other places is one of the smartest ways to get the inspiration to tackle neighborhoods that have great potential.

Within Walking Distance: Creating Livable Communities For All by Philip Langdon, releasing next month, is available via Island Press, Left Bank Books, and Amazon.

— Steve Patterson

 

Reading: Seeing the Better City: How to Explore, Observe, and Improve Urban Space by Charles R. Wolfe

March 3, 2017 Books, Featured Comments Off on Reading: Seeing the Better City: How to Explore, Observe, and Improve Urban Space by Charles R. Wolfe

The latest book I have really speaks to my philosophy about personal observation, I generally don’t write about something until I experience it in person.

From the publisher:

In order to understand and improve cities today, personal observation remains as important as ever. While big data, digital mapping, and simulated cityscapes are valuable tools for understanding urban space, using them without on-the-ground, human impressions risks creating places that do not reflect authentic local context. Seeing the Better City brings our attention back to the real world right in front of us, focusing it once more on the sights, sounds, and experiences of place in order to craft policies, plans, and regulations to shape better urban environments.

Through clear prose and vibrant photographs, Charles Wolfe shows those who experience cities how they might catalog the influences of urban form, neighborhood dynamics, public transportation, and myriad other basic city elements that impact their daily lives. He then shares insights into how they can use those observations to contribute to better planning and design decisions. Wolfe calls this the “urban diary” approach, and highlights how the perspective of the observer is key to understanding the dynamics of urban space. He concludes by offering contemporary examples and guidance on how to use carefully recorded and organized observations as a tool to create change in urban planning conversations and practice.

From city-dwellers to elected officials involved in local planning and design issues, this book is an invaluable tool for constructive, creative discourse about improving urban space.

As always, I look first at the contexts. In this case, short and to the point:

Introduction: Why Urban Observation Matters and Tools for Seeing the Better City

Chapter 1: How to See City Basics and Universtal Patterns
Chapter 2: Observation Approaches
Chapter 3: Seeing the City through Urban Diaries
Chapter 4: Envisioning our Personal Cities
Chapter 5: From Urban Diaries to Policies, Plans, and Politics

Conclusion: What the Better City Can Be

You can see a preview here. We need more policy based on experience and observation.

— Steve Patterson

 

Reading: Handbook of Biophilic City Planning & Design by Timothy Beatley

February 6, 2017 Books, Featured Comments Off on Reading: Handbook of Biophilic City Planning & Design by Timothy Beatley

Several book publishers contact me regularly to see if I’m interested in a review copy of new books, some know my interests and just send the book — like today’s.

I usually understand at least the title of the books, but today’s required a quick search to understand one word: Biophilic.

The biophilia hypothesis suggests that humans possess an innate tendency to seek connections with nature and other forms of life. Edward O. Wilson introduced and popularized the hypothesis in his book, Biophilia (1984). He defines biophilia as “the urge to affiliate with other forms of life”. (Wikipedia)

Ah…makes sense. People have since applied this hypothesis to the built environment. Here’s a trailer for a documentary on the subject:

Twice before I’ve posted about books by Timothy Beatley, in March 2005 I included his book  Green Urbanism: Learning from European Cities in a post on my favorite urban books, in November 2013 I included a book he edited called Green Cities of Europe: Global Lessons on Green Urbanism in a post on new books on urban planning.

In his latest book Beatley continues the green theme by applying Wilson’s biophilia hypothesis to cities.

What if, even in the heart of a densely developed city, people could have meaningful encounters with nature? While parks, street trees, and green roofs are increasingly appreciated for their technical services like stormwater reduction, from a biophilic viewpoint, they also facilitate experiences that contribute to better physical and mental health: natural elements in play areas can lessen children’s symptoms of ADHD, and adults who exercise in natural spaces can experience greater reductions in anxiety and blood pressure.

The Handbook of Biophilic City Planning & Design offers practical advice and inspiration for ensuring that nature in the city is more than infrastructure—that it also promotes well-being and creates an emotional connection to the earth among urban residents. Divided into six parts, the Handbook begins by introducing key ideas, literature, and theory about biophilic urbanism. Chapters highlight urban biophilic innovations in more than a dozen global cities. The final part concludes with lessons on how to advance an agenda for urban biophilia and an extensive list of resources.

As the most comprehensive reference on the emerging field of biophilic urbanism, the Handbook is essential reading for students and practitioners looking to place nature at the core of their planning and design ideas and encourage what preeminent biologist E.O. Wilson described as “the innate emotional connection of humans to all living things.” (Island Press)

One of the best ways to initially size up a new book is to review the table of contents:

Part I. The Power and Promise of Biophilic Cities

Chapter 1. The Power of Urban Nature: The Essential Benefits of a Biophilic Urbanism
Chapter 2. Placing Biophilic Cities: Planning History, Theory and the New Sustainability
Chapter 3. Urban Trends and Nature Trends: Can the Two Intersect?
Chapter 4. Biophilic Cities: Examining the Metrics and Theory

Part II. The Practice of Biophilic Urbanism: Cities Leading the Way
Chapter 5. Singapore: City in a Garden
Chapter 6. Wellington, NZ: Nature on the Edge
Chapter 7. Milwaukee: Greening the Rust Belt
Chapter 8. Birmingham: Health, Nature and Urban Regeneration
Chapter 9. Phoenix: The Promise of Biophilia in the Desert
Chapter 10. Portland: Nature in the Compact City
Chapter 11. San Francisco: From Park City to Wild City
Chapter 12. Oslo: The City of Forest and Fjord
Chapter 13. Vitoria-Gasteiz
Chapter 14. Global Survey of Cities: Shorter City Cases and Exemplars

Part III. Exemplary Tools, Policy Practices
Chapter 15. Detailed Profiles of Biophilic Design Tools Techniques, Design Ideas

Part IV. Successes and Future Directions
Chapter 16. Biophilic Cities in the Age of Climate Change: Mitigation, Resilience Through Nature
Chapter 17. What Can Be Learned From the Best Biophilic Cities?
Chapter 18. Key Obstacles to Biophilic Cities (And Ways To Overcome Them)
Chapter 19. Conclusions and Future Directions

The publisher also provides a link to a Google Books preview.  It’s available in hardcover, softcover, and E-book formats.

— Steve Patterson

 

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