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Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

Bike racks in Long Beach

Bike racks in Long Beach help attract customers to local businesses.

One of the truly encouraging trends we’ve seen the past few years is the gradual uptick in urban cycling around Sarasota. Many new bicycle parking racks have been installed and people are slowly catching on to the fact that the bike may just be the best way to get around the downtown area. Plus, the sight, smell, and sound of people riding bikes and walking is just so much more pleasant than those of cars, especially on Main Street. Even during a severe economic downtown, life in the heart of our fair city has become more vibrant, not less.

An article crossposted on Grist and The Nation took a look at Long Beach, California, as it works to better integrate the bicycle as a regular means of transport. Like Sarasota, Long Beach has a climate that accommodates year-round cycling (the only thing required in SRQ during the worst heat of summer is more shade from street trees), a high number of older and retired residents, and way too much traffic. That is changing, slowly but surely, in Long Beach and perhaps in Sarasota as well. Why? Well, besides being good for quality of life, bikes are good for business.

Of course, there are still plenty of cars in Long Beach…but bicycles are getting more respect, not to mention resources, than ever before. With help from state and federal grants and pressure from local cycling enthusiasts, the city government has installed 130 miles of bike trails, established protected bike lanes (that is, lanes separated from vehicular traffic by physical barriers) on major commuter thoroughfares, created bike boulevards that enable kids and parents to bike or walk safely to and from school, and installed 1,200 new bike racks.

Perhaps most innovative has been the city’s effort to establish bike-friendly shopping districts — the first in the country, officials say — engaging local merchants by showing them how, contrary to common belief, biking can actually bring more customers and vitality to shopping districts.

“The math is pretty simple,” says April Economides, the principal of Green Octopus Consulting and the leader of the city’s outreach to local businesses. “You can park 12 bikes in the amount of space it takes to park one car. And someone who shifts from owning a car to a bicycle tends to have more discretionary income, because, for a commuter, the typical cost of a bicycle is $300 a year, compared to $7,000 a year for a car.”

Separated bike lane in Stockholm, Sweden. Where the weather isn't nearly so favorable for cycling.

Besides putting extra money in your pocket, pedaling more and driving less makes it easier to remember why you chose to live in paradise in the first place.

“I like a line by Aristotle, ‘Beware the barrenness of a busy life,’” Long Beach mayor Bob Foster says. “Sometimes I can’t remember at the end of a day what I did the past eight hours. That’s moving too fast. A bit slower pace in life is a good thing.”
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Okay, so—in a follow up to our last post—here are some critics’ choices for the US of A’s best public spaces. The article quoted is from Planetizen, a wonderful clearinghouse-style site of urban-themed articles. Do you agree with the critics? Disagree? Any nominees for notable snubs? Could any of their picks offer inspiration that might take root in Sarasota?

For the past few weeks, we’ve been asking you to help us crowdsource the Top 100 Public Spaces in the U.S. and Canada, in collaboration with Project for Public Spaces. For a different perspective, we asked some top architecture critics and practitioners to give us their favorites.

If you still haven’t voted, head on over to IdeaScale and give us your suggestions. Voting is getting competitive, with Seattle’s Cal Anderson Park currently topping the list.

It has been a fascinating experiment so far, attracting some of the expected responses (The High Line, Millennium Park, Bryant Park) and some less so (The Circle in Normal, Illinois). For me, it’s been a revelation to read about the many beloved plazas and parks I’ve yet to visit.

While crowdsourcing has its benefits, it is also useful to talk to people who’s business is to think about cities and architecture. I asked a handful of architecture critics, urban designers and architects to give us their bests.

James S. Russell, architecture critic for Bloomberg News and recently the author of The Agile City: Building Well-being and Wealth in an Era of Climate Change, was kind enough to send us his Top 10:

James S. Russell’s Top 10

  • High Line Park, NYC
  • Central Park, NYC
  • Olympic Sculpture Park, Seattle
  • University of Washington campus, Seattle
  • Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia
  • Millennium Park, Chicago
  • Stanley Park, Vancouver BC
  • Moore Sculpture Garden (Nelson Atkins Museum), Kansas City
  • Back Bay Fens, Boston
  • Times Square, NYC

John King is urban design critic for the San Francisco Chronicle, and he also has a new book out,Cityscapes: San Francisco and its Buildings. Rather than a top 10 list, John sent us this reflection on his favorite places:

For San Francisco, the one I thought of instantly is one that outsiders don’t known: Grand View Park. It’s on the west side of the city, a steep bare hillock surrounded by prim single-family homes, and it delivers exactly what it promises: a grand perspective on the remarkable setting that is essential to San Francisco’s sense of place.In Boston, where I lived seven years, what comes to mind is Boston Public Garden. You enter and you have stepped out of time, a sensation felt often in The Hub. And yet it’s centrally located, very much part of the daily ebb and flow, timeless yet integral to the city of today.

New York? What else but the High Line. Deride it as monied or mannered or a developers’ boon in hip veneer, it is mesmerizing and exhilarating at once — a reminder that the principles of urban design should never be considered set. Because new layers and the unexpected are part of the change that cities are all about.

Finally, in Portland, Tanner Springs Park. Again, people I respect consider the Atelier Dreiseitl design to be mannered. I love how it embodies the uniquely sustainable ethos that shapes this Northwest city more and more, year after after year.

Inga Saffron is the Philadelphia Inquirer’s architecture critic, and currently a Loeb Fellow at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, provided us with this list of her picks:

Inga Saffron’s Top 10

  • Rittenhouse Square, Philadelphia
  • Central Park, New York
  • High Line, New York
  • Emerald Necklace, Boston
  • Millennium Park, Chicago
  • Olympic Sculpture Park, Seattle
  • Bryant Park, New York
  • Stanley Park, Vancouver
  • The Lachine Canal Bike Path, Montreal
  • National Mall, Washington D.C.

For pictures, more lists, and more discussion check out the original article at planetizen.

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The Circle in Uptown Normal, Illinois {pic by Hoerr Shaudt landscape architects}

…and Sarasota’s nowhere on the list! What about Island Park? No Arlington Park? Payne Park got snubbed? Well, it should probably be noted that this ranking was assembled by Planetizen and Project for Public Spaces largely through crowdsourcing, meaning that the results are as much a measure of how vocal a handful of passionate, supportive communities are. Not that there aren’t some great public spaces on the list, starting with the surprise top spot: a traffic circle in Normal, Illinois. Traffic circles, even if they successfully calm and smooth the flow of traffic, are usually dead space. But Normal took on the challenge of bringing dead space to life, and they are justifiably proud of the results.

The Circle is a multi-functional public space located in a roundabout that provides community green space, re-circulates storm water into a public fountain and improves traffic circulation. Designed by Hoerr Schaudt landscape architects, the circle creates an energy that draws people together. Located next to the Children’s Discovery Museum, bustling Amtrak station and planned multi-modal transportation center and within walking distance of Illinois State University, the circle creates a micro-community of travelers, patrons, students, professors, families and children as they gather and congregate on their daily journeys.

During the day, the circle is vibrant and alive with children playing in the grassy areas, visitors coming for a place to sit and enjoy an ice cream or friendly picnic back dropped by the charming tree lined streets home to local businesses and shops. It is also the location of many community events, including the annual Sugar Creek Arts and Sweet Corn Blues Festivals, and a farmers market.”

Sarasota has more than its fair share of public spaces, mostly in the form of parks. The three mentioned at the top of this post are standouts, but so are Pioneer Park, Whitaker Gateway, the little pocket park where Mietaw Drive joins Osprey at Hyde Park, and our very own beloved Laurel Park. Streets are also public spaces, and Sarasota has some gems here as well, among them Main Street, Lemon, Cherry Lane, and Hawkins Court. There are also the multi-use recreational paths, or MURPs: one at Island Park and another east of the Trail between Siesta Drive and Webber.

What is your favorite public space in Sarasota? Which local public space needs the most improvement? Which is most ripe for an innovative makeover?

http://www.planetizen.com/toppublicspaces

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The morning sun wakes me. It is warm but no longer carries the burn of summer; the orange light is pleasant, inviting. I wake gradually, as does the dog. The cat is stretched out on the wood floor in a bath of warm light. He half opens a single eye to watch me walk across the apartment and out to the porch, the dog following, but he soon grows bored and returns to his sleep.

I brew a pot of coffee and sit on the front stoop, the front door left open. The dog noses through the garden and along the sidewalk and I find the morning news on the radio. It is still early, the slightest chill in the air, and the sun on my face is lovely. I lie back on the wide top step of the front stoop and soon the dog and the cat both join me. My wife is awake now. She pours herself coffee and watches us. She smiles and begins her own morning ritual, watering the plants, reading over a piece she wrote the day before. The dog watches, sees when she has finished, and licks my face.

We walk through Laurel Park. Down Hawkins Court, slowly to enjoy the wonderfully car-free brick lane. We see the brick paving revealed on Madison where the blacktop has worn away and talk of how wonderful it would be if all of Laurel Park was again paved in brick. I would get rid of the sidewalks and invite everyone to enjoy the street. There is a stretch on Oak where several houses, instead of being set back, are built to the sidewalk edge. The effect is friendly, cozy. I find myself walking there intuitively, whether it is the direct way or not.

On Main Street we stop at C’est la Vie for croissants and a second cup of coffee. We both studied French in high school, and even if I can’t find the courage to speak it I enjoy its music as the waiters and waitresses banter, sometimes with francophone patrons. Several people, tourists and residents, stop us to say hello to the dog as we walk down Main Street toward Island Park and the bayfront. She ignores them good-naturedly. Sometimes she looks up at us and smiles, in her way.

Passing Media on Main we reminisce about Sarasota News & Books, much as the old-timers did about Charlie’s. We speak of the characters we’ve known there. Of the memories that have yet to fade.

The dog knows we are nearing Island Park. She loves it there, as do we. Other dogs greet her and us, other dog owners do as well. She and I trace the seawall and look to the water for passing fish. On the west side of the park we wade into the shallows and the dog barks at seabirds, bites gently at seaweed on the rocks. We can see Bird Key, Lido Key, Siesta Key. Longboat Key to the north. Cars and bicyclists and pedestrians are crossing the bridge to St. Armand’s Circle.

As we near O’Leary’s we find an empty bench and eat our pastries. We sip our coffee. We watch people and smile when they look our way. We again raise our faces to the sun. The dog busies herself at the water’s edge and we listen with our eyes closed to her snuffling and the lapping of tiny waves. It is a beautiful day.

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A couple weeks ago I posted about merits of replacing a second car (or even a first car) with a bicycle. Bicycles are big right now in the worlds of urban planning and placemaking, for many good reasons. As mentioned before: bikes are affordable, they don’t add to noise and air pollution, they don’t require any fuel beyond the food consumed by their operator, they take up very little space, and they increase the average health and happiness of communities that embrace them. Bicycles are also incredibly functional, especially if one thinks a bit outside the box. To prove this last point, I’ve included a collection of photos of bikes at work (below, click on images for source).

It’s strange and a bit saddening that bikes have become politicized symbols of environmentalists, liberals, communists, hippies, hipsters, or whatever other group. The fact is that an increase in cycling benefits everyone and hurts no one; intelligent, universally beneficial activities are nonpartisan, and should be allowed to remain as such. So many towns and cities in the US could become vastly better places to live simply by recognizing bicycles as a valid and viable means of transportation.

The next time you happen to be stuck in traffic on 41, just imagine if half the cars were replaced by bicycles. Imagine how much nicer the bayfront would be without the endless lines of traffic. How much more accessible Main Street would be if you never had to look for a parking spot. Imagine how much more freedom children and elderly people would have. Imagine how much space would become available for homes, shops, offices, or parks if the vast parking lots at shopping centers were no longer needed.

Loving the bicycle doesn’t mean hating the car. It’s about making smart decisions that improve the lives of individuals and communities alike.

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Anyone who’s read this blog from its inception knows that we at Laurel Park Management are big supporters of bicycles and the folks who ride them. To clear up a quick issue of nomenclature, I tend to use cycling when I mean higher speeds, longer distances, stretchier clothes, and bicycling when I mean cruising around, running errands, dressing normally. I’ve written here before about how ideally suited Sarasota is to both cycling and bicycling—bicycling being the subject at hand—but I’ll repeat the key points quickly before moving on to the point of this post…that, for many of us, replacing a car with a bike is not only viable but really pretty smart (if you’re scoffing at me right now or labeling me as one of those enviro-wackos trying to destroy America, please reserve judgment until the end).

When my then-girlfriend and I moved to Sarasota several years ago from Los Angeles we sold one of our two cars and used the money to pay for the move across country. We had enough left over to buy a bicycle for each of us, pay off a credit card, and rent an apartment here in Laurel Park. My girlfriend usually took the remaining car to work up the trail, which left me with a bicycle to use for all my daily needs. It was one of the best things that ever happened to me.

Sarasota is flat, the climate is spectacular, most roads have relatively low auto-traffic loads and speeds, and shopping and services tend to be clustered compactly enough to allow bicyclists to cross off several to-do items in quick succession. But it’s too hot during summer, you say? I bicycle year round and find that shade from trees keeps things sufficiently moderate even on the worst days. What about rain? Thankfully, our rain tends to be pretty predictable. I simply pay more attention to the forecast than I used to. Cars can be an issue, partly because the prevailing mentality of drivers here is, let’s say, Darwinian, and partly because most drivers just aren’t used to looking out for bicyclists. And despite the compact clusters sprawl can also be something to overcome. BUT…by and large, SRQ is a fine place to ride a bike, and it could become a spectacular place to ride a bike if we plant more shade trees, paint more (and wider) bike lanes, and take some simple steps to protect current bicyclists while encouraging new ones to join. Why would we want to do such a thing? Isn’t the car the American way (to get around)?

The honest answer is, sometimes. Cars are great for driving relatively long distances, for rural areas, and for a host of other situations. But in an urban context cars can be more trouble than they’re worth. Using a bicycle as a primary mode of transportation has changed how I interact with the city. I see more, hear more. My senses come alive. The world slows to a human speed. Errands have become enjoyable. And, perhaps surprisingly, I can usually accomplish them faster with a bike than I can by car. This is also due to the advantages of proximity that residents of Laurel Park benefit from, of course, but it still caught me by surprise.

Parking a bike is faster and easier than parking a car. It’s also free. Riding a bike improves one’s health, makes no noise, emits nothing smelly or toxic. Bikes take up roughly 1/10th the space of cars while driving, and as little as 1/15th when parked. Then there are the economic benefits: cars cost a lot to buy, and you still have to insure them, maintain and repair them, and fill them with gas. Bikes are cheap, repairs are simple, maintenance is minimal, and fuel costs are already included in your grocery bill. On the rare occasions when I need a second car I rent one. The cost and hassle are both substantially less than with ownership.

Since becoming a daily bicyclist I’m healthier, happier, and my income goes further than it used to. I’m not saying that everyone should get rid of their cars, but most households with multiple cars can probably get by just fine with one car and a new bike. Heck, a few new bikes. People in Copenhagen, for example, use their bikes not only to commute and shop but also to drive their kids to school (see the picture above) and do a million other things we don’t associate with bicycles.

People who haven’t lived there might be surprised to know that Copenhagen has a lot of cars and that the roads are, at times, filled with car traffic just like they are in Sarasota. The difference is mostly one of options…many people there recognize that certain trips are faster, cheaper, and easier to make by bike. The point of all of this is that there are options, there are solutions to every problem, some of which are so simple they escape our view. If you are looking to cut your expenses, improve your health, get more fresh air, and take better advantage of all that our beautiful city has to offer, I highly recommend selling your car (especially if you have more than one) and getting a bike. Or, if that just isn’t feasible, using a bike for as many trips as possible. You won’t regret it.

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We at Laurel Park Management aren’t out to save the world. We know that task is a little tall for a rental management company. Like most of you, we’re trying to do our jobs well and support our families. But that doesn’t mean we can’t be conscious of our actions, of their consequences. It doesn’t mean we can’t act responsibly and do our part to lessen our impact on this beautiful part of the world that we are so fortunate to inhabit.

Last week’s post was obviously tongue-in-cheek…The Onion is, after all, a satirical publication. But all good satire is rooted in truth, and the truth is that even as busy as our live sometimes get, there is always time to stop, think, and decide whether the action we are about to take is truly the right one.

LPM does what it can to support green living. We use long life CFLs, energy-efficient appliances, low-VOC paints, and low-flow faucets. We offer a recycling program with incentives. We reuse historic buildings rather than knocking them down to build new ones. We support a bikeable, walkable, urban village style of living. None of these things are terribly difficult, and all make a difference. What we’ve found is that green living is really just about consciousness. If we choose to pay a bit more attention and to educate ourselves, even a little, our lives become a bit greener.

So, to remind ourselves and to help those newer to the green movement, here are some easy ways to Go Green (borrowed from Treehugger):

Top Back to Basics Tips

 

 

  • Transport Having got a little reading under your belt, you’re probably itching to get started. One of the biggest impacts we have on the planet is a direct result of the way we move ourselves around. Fortunately, for many of us, this is also easy to do something about. You might consider walking, biking or using mass transit, at least a few days a week. Maybe you can convince your boss to let you work from home? Maybe you can carpool with a friend? If nothing else, you should certainly consider fuel consumption as a major factor in your choice of next vehicle. And when it comes to longer trips, flying is notoriously carbon intensive – so let the train take the strain wherever possible. Find a greener route from A to B with How to Green Your Car, and our Cars and Transportation section.
  • Energy With all the talk of solar panels, fuel cells, building-integrated wind turbines, and flux capacitors, it can be easy to think you need a million bucks to go green at home. Not so. Many of the most effective ways to cut carbon emissions are also the cheapest. Turn lights off when you go out, install energy efficient bulbs and appliances, insulate your home, and keep an eye on consumption. Once you’ve done all that, why not investigate if you can buy green energy from your local utility? Check out our guides on How to Green Your Heating and How to Green Your Electricity for a more detailed plunge.
  • Water This is where the folks in Seattle or the UK start switching off, but stay with us, please! Even if you live in areas of abundant rainfall, water is still a major ecological issue. Clean, drinkable water is precious and needs to be used most efficiently. Every drop of tap water we use also requires energy to filter, purify and transport, and that means fossil fuel emissions. And for those of you in dryer areas, you know only too well that water is becoming an ever-scarcer resource. Fortunately it’s pretty easy to do something about–install water-saving shower heads and aerators, turn the tap off when you’re brushing your teeth, switch to more efficient appliances, or collect rainwater for use in the garden. All this and more can be found in our guide, How to Green Your Water. For those wanting to go a little more hardcore, the Navy Shower, or the “selective flush” are worth a try–if the comments on these posts are anything to go by, you’ll be in good company!
  • Food We’ve all got to eat, and most of us do it every day. It stands to reason that our collective food choices have a huge impact on the planet, and with the global food industry shipping products further and further around the world, and with farming becoming ever more intensive, this impact is only getting bigger. Fortunately, there is a resistance underway. More and more people are getting interested in sustainable food systems. To bring it back to basics, there are four principles that can help guide you to greener meals: eat local, eat seasonal, eat organic, and finally, eat less meat. For a comprehensive guide to a more sustainable diet, check out How to Green Your Meals and the Food and Health category.

Want to read more? Check out the whole article at treehugger.com!

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