31 October 2011

Slow Cars When Near People

It’s a sad fact that you have to get out of your car, occasionally, and at those times you’re vulnerable if you’re anywhere near a street. -Michael van Baker

Popsicle Test and Halloween in OTR

"A neighborhood works if it is possible for an 8-year-old kid to get a Popsicle on his or her own and return before it has completely melted." - Scott Doyon, more here

There has been some discussion on urban parenting blogs about the above described popsicle test. I have to admit that we thought 8 was too young for our son, at least in OTR, to walk to the corner store. One of the bloggers also brought up the issue of Halloween. It seems to me that a good neighborhood for Halloween is a neighborhood with mostly single family houses relatively close together, with sidewalks, lampposts and trees with freshly fallen leaves etc.

I was talking today to a friend who grew up on Republic Street in the 50s. He said back then there were a lot more small shops on Vine Street and that they would dress up and walk around to all the different stores. He said the church/school organized a kind of parade too in the daytime. In the 90s, before we had kids, when we lived on Elm Street, my wife used to sit out on the front stoop and hand out raisins and peanuts to kids. There were more kids than you might think venturing up and down OTR streets. But many of the buildings are apartment buildings without easy access, and there are fewer stores than there were 50 years ago. That combined with the abundance of vacant buildings, this is not a great place for Halloween. Tonight, we are headed up the hill to Fairview Avenue. We have friends there and it was a lot of fun last year. But next year we may try to stick it out here. 

This blurry photo is from Halloween last year on Fairview Avenue. Some people in that neighborhood really make an effort to give the kids a treat.

30 October 2011

Looking in Junky Store

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26 October 2011

Building Types That Caused the Recession

“We built the wrong product in the wrong location, and nobody wants it any more, that’s the reason for the housing crisis, and therefore the mortgage crisis, and therefore the Great Recession.”

“A number of things are positive about recessions – and this is for all recessions – and one is that it gives businesses a chance to rethink their strategy, they’re forced to rethink their strategy,” he says. “That’s a very positive thing. Now will those old dogs learn new tricks? Some have, some won’t. And those that don’t will go bankrupt after their federal stimulus money runs out.”

- The Atlantic Cities

25 October 2011

36 Years Ago

On October 25, 1975, Evel Knievel successfully jumped fourteen Greyhound buses at the Kings Island theme park in Ohio. Although Knievel landed on the safety deck above the 14th bus, his landing was successful and he held the record for jumping the most buses on a Harley-Davidson for 24 years. The Kings Island event scored the highest viewer ratings in the history of ABC's Wide World of Sports and would serve as Knievel's longest successful jump at 133 feet (although the Caesars Palace jump was longer, it ended in a crash). After the Kings Island jump, Knievel again announced his retirement. -Wikipedia

In 1975, I was the age my son is now. Back then it seems like we were immersed in a burst of cultural consumerism. I'm not sure if it is gone in general, or just from our family because of our lack of TV, but I wonder what references will remind them of 2011. Will it be anything like Mork and Mindy, Idi Amin, Love American Style, Dean Martin roasts, streaking, dead baby jokes, wacky packages, the Ohio Players? Or will it be more wholesome and serious pursuits like protests in Piatt Park, the Choir Games and Middle Eastern revolts on YouTube?

19 October 2011

Occupy to Rebuild Downtown

....In recent years, complete idiots became respected developers overnight and were making millions doing, mindless assembly line development. It was not hard for some of the brightest among us to be caught up in this....

That's not where the future lies.... the city can be built starting with the building and the street, assembling into blocks, growing into neighborhoods and then connecting into an ecosystem of a city.

... a DoTank, which is like a think tank except, instead of wasting time talking about what should be done, they get out and do it. Every city -- every neighborhood -- needs a DoTank.

... Something's not working on your block? Fix it. Need to make change in your neighborhood? Do it. The fractal nature of it means that we don't need to wait for the government or for some well-funded developer to come in and transform everything...

This was the approach we used when we were a much poorer country. It is an approach that allowed us to build some of the most beautiful places the United States has ever seen, places we destroyed with the heavy-handed approach we've used in the auto era. And it was a financially-resilient system...

"It used to be build it and they will come. Now it is occupy it and it will be rebuilt."

We have a lot to rebuild. If we embrace the financial implications of this transition, it will no doubt be scary, but we can put ourselves in position -- nationwide with a loose coalition of doers -- to start repairing the individual lots, buildings, streets and blocks that will ultimately form the neighborhoods that will make this country truly strong... -Charles Marohn, Engineer

17 October 2011

Obesogenic Motorgenic Cincinnati

I want to do what is good, but I don't. I don't want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. - Romans 7:19

I believe this newly invented word obesogenic is helpful in thinking about how our environment and culture affect our individual bodies. I have had times in my life in which my environment was much healthier, and as a result I was physically much healthier.

For example, in 1986 (I think), I lived for a few months in Spain. While I was there, I had no access to fast food, junk food or even any dairy products. However, I ate whenever I wanted and drank whatever I wanted. I found when I returned home that my clothes were all loose and I felt fantastic. My tastes in food had even changed. Since then, I have tried to recreate that diet, but it is difficult because diet is so integrated into our culture and lifestyle.

I find more and more that the idea that we are all independent and that we are each as individuals totally responsible for our well-being to be false. Yes of course I am responsible for my own actions, but it is an acutely American way of thinking that disallows common action for improvement.

For example, I hate bike riding,... at least in Cincinnati. Yes the hills are one reason, but mostly I ride in the basin, so that is not the main reason. It is just way too dangerous, especially with children. And to take two kids with me on bikes is a huge ordeal. Just getting 3 bikes out the door with 3 helmets and bike locks and lights if it is dark, is just ridiculous. And downtown is not much different than many suburban areas (except that you have a garage to keep all the bikes). I really don't see that many suburban kids out riding beyond their cul-de-sac... because cars rule and it is too dangerous. Nothing like this.

I saw an item a few weeks ago a woman was prosecuted after her son was killed by a car while jaywalking. Frankly, I don't think jaywalking should even be a crime on any residential street. The prosecution of this poor woman is just an indication of how backwards American thinking is about walking vs cars. Cars rule, period.

We live in a motorgenic environment. Motorized vehicles rule our public streets and pedestrians and bicyclists are scared and pushed to the fringes. This attitude ruins cities. It destroys shopping streets, public spaces, streets and sidewalks.

Cars and walkers can only successfully mix if the actions of the car are restrained and the actions of the walkers and bikers are liberated.

We need to change from a motorgenic environment to a muscle-powered, socially oriented, pedestrian friendly environment.

‘We live in an obesogenic environment – a plethora of fast food outlets, reliance on cars, and offers enticing us to eat larger portions …’Professor Mike Kelly – as quoted in the Telegraph 8th October 2003

Join the movement to move your feet

16 October 2011

Mr Rogers at Congress

Fascinating clip

15 October 2011

Jaques Tati

Never saw any of Jaques Tati's movies, but he was referenced in some article I was reading, and found some youtube clips interesting. One of his themes seems to be disorientation in buildings, especially modern buildings:

modern buildings



Play Time (1967), shot in 70mm, was the most risky and expensive work of Tati's career, and it bankrupted him. It took nine years to make and he had to borrow heavily from his own resources to complete the picture. ForPlaytime, Tati fabricated a set (dubbed "Tativille") on the outskirts of Paris that emulated an entire modern city. In the film, Tati and a group of American tourists lose themselves in the futuristic glass-and-steel of the Parisian suburbs, where only human nature and a few views of the city of Paris itself still emerge to breathe life into the city. Playtime had even less of a plot than his earlier films, and Tati endeavored to make his characters, including Hulot, almost incidental to his portrayal of a modernist and robotic Paris - Notes for Class Discussion

14 October 2011

Keller's IGA Reconstruction

In Progress

The floor plans posted outside had a couple interesting features: a beer cave in the back and a cafe type sitting area at the front entry.

Will Sprawl Recommence?

“What were seeing right now is an inability to look at how we live and how it relates to our problems, and financial problems,” said Kunstler Tuesday during a speaking engagement with the Congress for the New Urbanism. “Production homebuilders, mortgage lenders, real estate agents, they are all sitting back now waiting for the, quote, bottom of the housing market to come with the expectation that things will go back to the way they were in 2005.”

But despite massive government expenditures to restart the old economic engine driven by suburban homebuilding, recovery is elusive, Kunstler said. The author of “The Geography of Nowhere” and “The Long Emergency” argues that suburbanization has been a multi-decade American experiment, and a failed one. - Streetsblog

11 October 2011

Photos from another Walk

Scene on lower Ohio Avenue, in OTR

if you want to buy one of the junkiest buildings in the city, call this number.

[where: 2012 Ohio Avenue, Cincinnati, OH 45202]

Interesting pink building, I think for sale

[1808 Republic Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202]

steps from Ohio, Van Lear to Vine


Anton and George Zimmerman, 1883

Once the corner of Poplar and Buckeye, now the corner of Frintz and E. Clifton

Frintz was Poplar 

short little basement entry

Buck Rogers type lintels

Believe it or not, this beauty is on Peete Street

The lower half

[where: 102 Peete Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202]

09 October 2011

A Conservative on Streetcars

...the ripping up of streetcar lines and their replacement with buses also ripped the urban fabric. Most people like riding streetcars, but almost no one likes riding a bus. The substitution of buses for electric streetcars drove most former streetcar riders to drive.

When people took the streetcar to town — and every American city or town with 5,000 or more people once had streetcars — they also spent a lot of time on Jane Jacobs’ all-important sidewalks. There, they performed multiple functions: eyes on the street, office worker, restaurant diner, shopper, theater-goer and more.

Once they drove into the city, their time on sidewalks dropped and with it shrank the number of roles they filled. They drove as close to their (usually single) destination as they could, parked, and walked only as far as necessary. When their business was done, their car drew them like a magnet and as soon as they could press the starter pedal they were gone. Stores, restaurants, and theaters moved to the suburbs where parking was easier. In time offices followed, and the city’s sidewalks emptied except for the occasional beggar or wino. My home city, Cleveland, lost its streetcars in 1953, and the downtown’s decline began. If Ohio had tumbleweeds, they would now blow down Euclid Avenue.

Cities such as Portland, Oregon and Kenosha, Wisconsin that have brought streetcars back have found the sidewalks come to life again. So have shops, theaters and restaurants. Streetcars are pedestrian facilitators, more so than subways. People walk, take the streetcar, then get off and walk some more.

Cities need streetcars. They are not a cure-all; if people do not feel safe on city sidewalks, nothing will move them to walk there. But if a city can restore order, streetcars are more likely to fill its sidewalks with people than anything else.

- William Lind is director of The American Conservative Center for Public Transportation.

03 October 2011

Social Life of Small Urban Spaces

great little film by urbanist William H. Whyte:

02 October 2011

Up and Down Entry

I love this kind of dual entry. You see them around OTR here and there. This one is on Mulberry


Visualingual thought of the above as a moat. This reminded me of the invention below:
Steven M. Johnson has a few books, and I got one for myself, and the kids have a lot of fun looking through the ideas. Very cool.