London Underground - reimagined!

Alternates to the London Underground map

The Death and Life of...

Planning for our future (figuratively speaking)...

Urban greening in high density environments

Creating 'Vertical Forests' in high density residential developments

Pop-Up Playgrounds to Combat Youth Obesity

Courtesy NYT

Obesity is a growing world-wide problem and the USA is widely considered the cholesterol-filled heartland of the issue (3 puns, 1 sentence!). Unfortunately, like so many issues that we face it seems to be the poorer areas that suffer the most. In NYC, pop-up parks are being trialed to help get the youngens interested in exercise. The NYT’s reports:

During a two-month period last year, seven civic coalitions in New York neighborhoods like East Harlem and the South Bronx got permits from the city to close certain local streets to traffic for designated periods of time — say, between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. on a summer weekday. Working with the police and other city agencies, they re-designated the areas as temporary “play streets,” encouraging neighborhood children to use them forexercise and offering a range of free games, athletic activities and coaching.

The article notes that’s a key challenge when combating obesity in  low-income neighbourhoods is that the urban environment itself often discourages activity. NYC is hoping pop-up parks will go some way to changing that. Could we see such a thing over here? Do such things happen here already? Let us know in the comments.

Solar Powered Boat Sails the World Using Only Renewable Energy - Wait...Hold On...We've Been Doing That for Hundreds of Years

Given that the shipping industry alone is apparently responsible for 4.5% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions (that seems high to me), it’s a good thing someone is looking into alternatives. Much like the Solar Roadways idea, this is a working concept that is not yet commercially viable. From inhabitat:

The solar sucking ship cost around $26 million. This may seem hefty, but its reliance on solar power alone saves the vessel exponentially. The solar panels on PlanetSolar power two electric motors, which can reach 15 miles per hour. Combined with other renewable sources (wind) it could move even faster. The panels can also soak up enough stored energy to power the boat in cloudy weather for three whole days. The excess energy is stored in a giant lithium-ion battery.


Solar Roadways Gets More Funding – Keeps on Designing Our Future Transport Network

I've reported on these fine folks efforts before, and it seems as if they are still alive and kicking.  The company, Solar Roadways, are developing…well… solar roadways. The idea is:

The panels, designed by Solar Roadways founder Scott Brusaw, contain embedded LED lights that might eventually act as a “smart” system that illuminates lanes while displaying timely warnings to drivers about roadblocks and wildlife up ahead. At the same time, embedded heating elements in the panels could prevent snow and ice from building up on the road.

Further to that, and more importantly, the panels are constantly producing clean solar energy and feeding it directly back into the grid. Or, in the ideal scenario – the roads ARE the grid. Deep, huh? The concept is still in early development, though they do have working prototypes. The team has just received a boost from the US Federal Government to the tune of $750k, which will no doubt see them continuing their efforts for a while longer. The primary issue to overcome is of course cost. The panels are currently prohibitively expensive – which no doubt causes many skeptics to pass off this idea as fanciful. But, like with any epic infrastructure project, the more you build the cheaper it would get.

Bid to Boost Bikes in Melbourne Fails

The 2009 Victorian Cycling Strategy has failed according to the auditor general. The project was apparently "hastily developed without a proper understanding of current cycling trends or what was required to make it mainstream". While cycling accounts for roughly 1.6% of trips on a weekday in Victoria, Germany, Denamrk and the Netherlands are apparently averaging between 10-27%. The Age reports:

Dr Pearson said cycling had grown in those countries due to extensive infrastructure and promotion and measures to make driving more expensive and less convenient.
My impression is that bicycle growth in Melbourne has been fairly strong of late, though perhaps not due to government actions.

Read on. 

Sustainable Star Trek Theme Park to be Built by Jordanian King

It seems oil money can buy happiness! From
When envisioning theme parks many images come to mind. From an industry view point an emphasis is made on the structures, huge engineering feats that leave many wondering at their possibility. Whether fans of the noise, crowds and frivolity or otherwise, energy efficient is not stereotypically the first adjective that appear in relation to theme parks. 
Breaking tradition is King Abdullah of Jordan in his creation of the Red Sea Astrarium in the country’s port of Aqaba. The news has come to the delight of Star Trek fans (or “Trekkies”) as well as environmentalists, as the $1.5 billion theme park will be both Star Trek themed, as well as completely powered by alternative energy systems.
I...have no words. At least it proves that sustainability is so ingrained in our design culture that building something outrageous (like a Star Trek Theme Park in the desert) is only really going to happen if you spin it as 'sustainable'.

Read more. 

Narrowing Streets - Creating a Different Urban Reality

This blog is based upon a simple idea. What if the streets of L.A. weren’t so wide? How would that look, what would the place feel like, would it be different? The photographer goes out to streets people recommend could look good without so many lanes, and then shoots and photoshops. With amazing results. Check out this map of all the streets that have been narrowed: Click on them and view post to see in full glory (often you need to click the photo itself). The resulting narrowed streets create such a radically different feel than the wider existing streets. I certainly found it illuminating just how much impact street width has on the feel of the street.

Moscow to Double in Size to Solve Congestion Problems

I love that soviet architecture!

Russian officials have announced plans to more than double Moscow's territory in a bid to alleviate the city's crippling traffic and overcrowding, but critics worry the move could prove to be an environmental fiasco and leave thousands displaced.

It seems nobody gave Russia the memo that sprawl is out and density is in. They are moving all the government buildings and offices into the new expanded region to kick start it. It would seem that while Russia’s population declines, Moscow’s grows. I wonder how long their oil supplies will last.

Copenhageners Taking Bikes on Trains Designed for Taking Bikes

How sweet does that look. Bicycle Victoria has the word:

Ten S-Trains are being remodelled with the new compartments, which are in the middle of the train so that there is more space for bikes on the platform.

The train system in the Danish capital is being gradually improved for travellers with bikes as increasing numbers of passengers are combining bike and train for their commute.

The railway is installing bicycle pumps at a number of stations, making bicycle ramps, more and building more bicycle parking.

Hey Metro – do this. Read on.

Google (Finally) Updates Streetview in Australia

For a good chunk of last year, Google-cars were driving around Australia taking high resolution streetview imagery of every street in the country. For some reason it took them ages to get them online, but they have finally arrived.  Check it out!

Put Your Budget Where Your Bike Is

Description: While Melbourne is not yet a bike city, it does have the ingredients to become the cycling capital of the world.

There’s been bikes all over the news in Australia of late, thanks largely to a certain local with an uncanny ability to ride around France very quickly. A few days before Cadel’s victory, the Victorian government jumped on a report calling Melbourne a ‘bike city’, which drew laughter from those who actually ride around Melbourne.  Copenhagen is a bike city because they’ve had years of serious government investment in bike infrastructure. Melbourne is built for cars, by car drivers. Until the funding emphasis shifts, we are a ‘car city’. Vacuous statements from politicians about how much they love cycling and think its super dandy and fun doesn’t impress those who actually ride this city.

How Many Properties are ACTUALLY Available in Melbourne

Description: According to Earthsharing Australia, 4.95 per cent of the city's potential housing stock is unoccupied.
Earthsharing Australia has done their own investigation of vacancy rates in Melbourne and found that 4.95% of all potential housing stock is vacant, double the rental vacancy according to Real Estate Institute of Victoria. Earthsharing have done it using water usage data, and gathered some interesting results.

The group's Speculative Vacancy Report says that in Docklands, almost a quarter of residential properties there, 23.32 per cent, are vacant. The official vacancy rate for Docklands is 3.62 per cent.

Other established suburbs with many empty homes, according to the report, include East Melbourne (18.64 per cent), Carlton (11.51 per cent) and Essendon North (13.07 per cent).

Either there is a drastic problem with Earthsharings methodology, or something is stuffed with the ‘official’ vacancy rates. Earthsharing are releasing a documentary on the topic titled Real Estate 4 Ransom, it should make for some interesting viewing.