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News & Notes

Christmas Tree & Ice Rink

Campus Martius in Detroit – Photo (cc) Per Verdonk

→ The New York Times: Small-Scale Developers, Big Dreams

These activist microdevelopers are different from the slumlords and absentee owners who buy properties in bulk, rent them to vulnerable communities and spend nothing on refurbishment or services, compounding Buffalo’s woes.

Recently, Mr. Abell, who grew up in Buffalo but left after high school, recalled what brought him home a few years ago and has kept him enthralled. “What’s drawn me in deeper,” he said, “is the D.I.Y., roll-up-your-sleeves community-building ethos that has taken over the entire city. Everyone has three charities they’re working on. I’ve never seen a group of people who give more of themselves.”


→ Project for Public Spaces: Detroiters Work: The Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper Regeneration of a Great American City

Detroiters aren’t taking their city’s decline lying down—and a determinedly “can-do” attitude is driving everyone from individual activists to the community development groups, private investors, and philanthropic organizations that are reshaping the city. “Detroit is the type of city where you have to jump in and roll up your sleeves and do work,” says Community Development Advocates of Detroit Director Sarida Scott-Montgomery, a lifelong resident who will proudly tell you that she and her family chose to stay. “This is not an ‘easy’ city. But that, to me, has almost become an inherent part of being a Detroiter. Detroiters work. We are resilient.”


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Megan Andelloux: The Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health before Pawtucket Zoning Board of Review

This post was submitted by friend of GC:PVD Megan Andelloux (A.A.S.E.C.T Certified Sexuality Educator, A.A.S.E.C.T Mentor, A.C.S Board Certified Sexologist). Monday night (11/30/09), she will be going before the Pawtucket Zoning Board of Review to defend her right to educate adults about the topics of sexual health and pleasure. Find out more info on upcoming workshops & sexuality questions at OhMegan.com.

csphYou may have heard about it in the news, The Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health. It’s the name on many individuals lips. The CSPH has been called a sexual pleasure center, a sex clinic, a sexual health center, a brothel, an abortion clinic, a sex toy store and a havenhouse for sex trafficking. Let me clear rumors folks, The CSPH is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing accurate information to adults about sexuality that is seeking to open in The Grant Building on Main Street in Pawtucket. Nothing more, nothing less.

When put that way, it seems pretty fantastic right? A place where adults can go to access information about sexuality without having to buy anything? Like a library? Or a resource center? That’s the plan, but some city officials in Pawtucket (and other individuals) appear to oppose adults being able access sex information. They have taken some serious steps to prevent it from opening.

At first glance, the blatant censorship shines through loud and clear and gives people more than enough to be angry about. But look a little deeper. The issue that lies beneath most censorship issues surface is fear. In this case, it’s a fear of sexuality. People who are opposing The CSPH say it has to do with “the elderly“ not liking that type of talk, that the center doesn’t fit into the town’s image, that it’s not the kind of thing they like OR that they may be teaching immoral things. It’s interesting to me, as the founder of The CSPH, that those who are most vocal about preventing it from opening have never spoken to me, taken me up on offers of visiting The CSPH, or asked me my plans regarding it. They have just become talking heads, ready to attack without knowing the facts.

If we are really invested in growing Rhode Island cities by bringing in tourists, getting people to move into the area, revitalizing our downtown’s, it seems that setting up invisible hoops, only to be used if city officials want to flex their muscles, is not the way to welcome small businesses.

On Monday night (at 6:30pm), I will go before the town of Pawtucket’s zoning appeal board at Pawtucket City Hall, ready to stand firm on my belief that people have the right to access information if they so choose. I hope that you will stand with me.

- Megan Andelloux

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Paris: You are responsible for all users who are lighter than you are

Streetfilms takes a look at how Paris is rethinking their streets. A big part of it is changing the equation from moving traffic, to moving people. The rules of the road are that you are responsible for all users who are lighter than you are; trucks responsible for cars, cars for bikes, bikes for pedestrians… As in other parts of Europe, Paris is looking to slow traffic and make streets more livable. This includes streets with 30km (18mph) and 15km (9mph) speed zones. For contrast, the speed limit in Providence is 25mph.

Paris is also utilizing shared space zones, what the Dutch refer to as a Woonerf.

Woonerfs were popularized in the Netherlands in the 1970′s as a reaction to the growing dominance of the automobile over bicycles. During the first few years after World War II, Dutch transportation engineers began to emphasize relocating bicycles onto separate paths to accommodate the growing number of vehicles on the streets. This created a backlash, and the country soon moved in the opposite direction. Motorists were now forced to make accommodations for everyone else. The intent of this new approach was not to make cars disappear, but rather to integrate motorists and other users of the street into a shared space.

While the Woonerf was originally designed for residential areas, Paris is utilizing shared spaces in the city center, including areas that are designed to mix pedestrians, bikes, and buses. And StreetsWiki lists Commercial Street in Provincetown as an example of a Woonerf.

provincetown
Commercial Street in Provincetown is open to all modes, yet pedestrians and bikes dominate | Photo (cc) muckster

Here in Providence our streets came together in the age of pedestrians and horses. Autos are late to the scene, but we’ve embraced a culture where our roads are for cars, and other modes are secondary. In Paris they are moving back to moving people, making consideration for modes, and valuing the safety of the most vulnerable modes, in the process making a more livable city.

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“Dangerous by Design” Pedestrians in America

pedestrian_brown
Photo (cc) Brian’sLens

Transportation For America released a report today on pedestrian fatalities in the U.S. ranking the top 52 metro areas over 1 million (Providence ranked 11th best). The results are not pretty:

In the last 15 years, more than 76,000 Americans have been killed while crossing or walking along a street in their community. More than 43,000 Americans – including 3,906 children under 16 – have been killed this decade alone. This is the equivalent of a jumbo jet going down roughly every month, yet it receives nothing like the kind of attention that would surely follow such a disaster.

While our automobile-centric post-war environment is highly dangerous to people on foot or bikes, doctors are telling us that we need to get out of our cars and ambulate more, or our sedentary lifestyle will kill us. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

The rankings are based on the Pedestrian Danger Index (PDI) which takes into account the number of pedestrians so that cities with a high number of people who walk, are not automatically weighed higher; more pedestrians equals more pedestrian deaths does not equate to a higher pedestrian risk ranking.

Orlando tops the list because of its high pedestrian fatality rate of 2.9 pedestrian deaths per 100,000 residents, despite a very low proportion of residents walking to work, only 1.3 percent. In other words, the few people who do walk in Orlando face a relatively high risk of being killed by traffic.

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Providence Children’s Museum workshops about placemaking and play

childrensmuseum
Photo (cc) Mikenan1

Children’s Museum Hosts Community Conversations About Play

PROVIDENCE, RI – Providence Children’s Museum is hosting two community conversations this fall to unite individuals and organizations from across the state to discuss the issues affecting children’s opportunities for unstructured, self-directed play. The conversations will be held at Providence Children’s Museum (100 South Street in Providence) and are free and open to the public.

Making Places for Play
Thursday, November 5 | 7:00-8:30pm
Join a discussion about how to build community, engage families and inspire child-directed play through placemaking. Hear from local people who have strengthened their communities by creating playgrounds, parks and gardens – including representatives from Brown Street Park in Providence, the Children’s Garden Network, Learning Community Charter School in Central Falls, and Ponaganset Middle School in North Scituate – and share your ideas.

Building Community
Wednesday, December 2 | 7:00-8:30pm
By fostering strong communities, together we can give children more freedom to play. Hear from individuals who have built and sustained community in their neighborhoods and beyond – by organizing a neighborhood block party in Barrington, community events and gardens through Southside Community Land Trust in Providence, and monthly hikes with Rhode Island Families in Nature – and share your thoughts and strategies.

The conversations were inspired by topics on the Museum’s new discussion listserv, “PlayWatch: Connecting the Community to Promote Children’s Play,” and will be moderated by Museum director Janice O’Donnell.

Contact Megan Fischer for more information and to RSVP. To read the PlayWatch listserv archives or to join the list, visit PlayWatch.org.

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We’re #12!

route95
Photo (cc) Practise

The twelfth highest rate of single occupancy automobile commuters, doh!

According to a new Census Report more than 80% of Rhode Island workers commuted to work in single occupant vehicles (in 2007 and 2008). Chris O’Leary at the On Transport blog asks why, and it is a good question. The survey is based on Rhode Island residents, not people who work in Rhode Island. Our small size and the fact that our metro straddles the state line and interstate public transportation is anemic to non-existant could be part of the reason. Even where pubic transit exists, Rhode Islanders seem to view it poorly (deserved or not).

drive_alone

Of course it is not just buses and trains that Rhode Islanders are eschewing, we could be walking and biking more. But even if you live and work in Providence, walking can be a hassle, especially when it snows. Our roads are often covered with sand, broken glass, and other debris (when they aren’t simply just one giant pothole). The suburban bike paths don’t reach into the center of the city and bike lanes are hard to find. If you live and/or work outside of Providence, well then biking and walking is verging on the impossible.

Maybe our commutes are just too short to make people consider other means than to drive by themselves. When your commute is round about 15 minutes, it really doesn’t seem too onerous.

But as Chris states in his post, it shouldn’t be too hard to fix the physical barriers that are keeping Rhode Islanders in their cars (by themselves):

It may not be that density and transit use are always correlated (see: Los Angeles), but such a dense state would require a significantly smaller per capita investment in mass transit than, say, a sprawling state like Kansas (driving alone accounts for practically the same share of commuting in both Kansas and Rhode Island). Shifting mode share in Rhode Island could be much easier than in places.

What do you think is keeping Rhode Islanders driving by themselves, and what would help to change their habits?

Related:
What’s the matter with Rhode Island? [On Transport]
Fun With Data: How Workers Commute StreetsBlog]
Driving Alone: D.C. Is Greenest [NYT | Economix Blog]

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Mandatory recycling coming to Providence

Recycling is Beautiful

Photo (cc) Scott Ableman

ProJo reports today on a new recycling effort for the city of Providence.

Starting Nov. 2, any resident who doesn’t separate paper, glass and cans will not have their trash picked up, Cicilline said. Residents have an option, however: they can purchase the bins for $5 apiece, or they can label their own trash cans with recycling stickers.

The city plans to embark on a comprehensive recycling publicity campaign, called Green Up Providence, through mass mailings, informational stickers attached to garbage cans, public service announcements and outreach through the public schools.

Excuse me, the city plans to launch a publicity campaign about the fact that your trash will not be picked up starting November 2nd? November 2, 2009? Plans? Launch? Really?

Oh Oh! The other part, the goal is to get the recycling rate to 20%. Really? So, if I don’t separate my trash, you won’t pick it up, but your goal is to only get 20% compliance? What happens to the other 80%?

Oh oh!! I have another idea! How about you pick up the recycling people already put out today. My recycling sits out for weeks at a time until I finally give up and throw it all in the trash bins to get it off my sidewalk.

TWENTY PERCENT? As the ProJo reports, state law requires municipalities to be at 35% by 2012, which is like, not that far away.

Can you tell that I am just so annoyed that it is 2009 already, and this city can’t seem to suss out simple city things like recycling and overnight parking? If you’re going to launch a recycling campaign, your goal should be 100% compliance. How in creation can you say that your trash will not be picked up, but then have a 20% compliance goal? Your publicity campaign should be well launched before you hold press conferences on the matter. Go ahead, Google “Green Up Providence.”

/rant

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Bike Sharing is coming to Boston

bike share in Barcelona

Boston.com reports that a bike sharing program is coming to Boston with plans of expanding to Cambridge, Somerville, and Brookline.

According to Inhabitat

The new system will be very similar to infrastructure already in place in cities like Montreal and Paris. Riders can pick up bikes at one of the 290 stations with a swipe of a credit card, ride it wherever they need to go, and dock it at the station closest to their destination – no heavy locks and chains necessary. In Montreal, people can pay abut $78 per year or $5 per day to participate, which is quite a bit more economical than owning a car.

This sounds pretty awesome. I can think of several times when I’ve gotten off the commuter rail in Boston and thought, “If I only had a bike…” Although, then I usually come to my senses and think, “…I’d get killed by a car.” I hope that in addition to adding more convenient bicycles to the street, more bike lanes and signage are added as well. Simply adding bikes to the mix of crazy Boston traffic doesn’t seem like a complete answer to me.

However, in my opinion, adding more bike sharing programs to cities and towns across the country may be just what we need in order to improve the way bikes are accepted as a form of transit in our auto-centric society. Too often I hear horror stories about people getting practically run off the road by angry/distracted/ignorant drivers. That’s not to say all drivers are bad, but enough people seem to think that roads are only for cars, and bikes are only for recreation (just see some of the comments on the boston.com article).

I applaud Boston for trying this program, and I hope more cities, Providence included, are soon to follow.

Do you think a bike sharing program like this one could work here?

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Zoo!

Roger Williams Park Zoo

I went to Roger Williams Park Zoo with some of my family from the Cape, including my nieces (1 and 2 years old, their first visit). We had a great day, only had to duck under a roof for about 10 minutes to avoid some rain. We saw lots of animals and the girls were wonderful, only two bouts of crying (once for a banged head, and once for a skinned knee, valid crying reasons). I haven’t been to the zoo in years, what a great resource for us to have though.

Roger Williams Park Zoo

Roger Williams Park Zoo

Roger Williams Park Zoo

Roger Williams Park Zoo

Photos by Jef Nickerson

The anteaters would not come out of their enclosure, boo! But we still got to see them through the glass.

The first Saturday of the month, which happens to be tomorrow, the zoo is FREE for Providence residents, so if you were looking for something to do tomorrow, there you go.

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