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Archive for the ‘Kids’ 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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This post is a bit long in coming, but check out the pics of the 2011 Sarasota Chalk Art Festival below. For those of us who were there, it’s a nice reminder of how quickly the event has grown. For those of you who weren’t…well, don’t miss it in 2012! Sarasota has a long history as a haven for artists, and the Chalk Festival is part of downtown Sarasota’s burgeoning street art scene (more on that in upcoming posts). More photos can be found here. The festival home page is chalkfestival.com

2012 Sarasota Chalk Festival Announces Circus City Theme!!

The 2012 Sarasota Chalk Festival theme will bring us back to the 1920′s when the serene seaside shores of Sarasota became Ringling Bros.-Barnum & Bailey’s Circus winter home and became known as “Circus City, USA”.

A time when residents would glow with anticipation as the trains rolled into town carrying circus families from around the world along with their elaborate costumes, massive tents and exotic animals to practice their fearless acts.

The Sarasota Chalk Festival hosted the most important contemporary street painting venue in the world last year (2011 Pavement Art Through the Ages) with over 250 of the most renowned artists participating for the first time in one location and 200,000 visitors attending. Local artists were joined by artists from all over America as well as international artists from Australia, Italy, Canada, Spain, Netherlands, Mexico, Japan, Peru, France, Brazil and Germany. (more info at the official website)

Juandres Vera, of Mexico, finishes his submission for the 3D Pavement Art category at the 2011 Sarasota international Chalk Festival.

A chalk mosaic pays homage to modern collages made from hundreds of digital photos. (Apt. 46/Flickr)

One artist blends past and future with an homage to apples and Apple products. Sarasota, Fla. officials estimate over 100,000 visitors attended the free festival. (Apt. 46/Flickr)

Wide-pan view of the 2011 Sarasota Chalk Festival. The festival’s end on Nov. 7 saw a high-pressure street washer wipe all the art away, leaving only photos through which to remember the gallery. (Apt. 46/Flickr)

This LEGO terracotta army was inspired by the giant LEGO man found on a Sarasota beach, as well as the Terracotta warriors of ancient China. (Zinnia Jones/Flickr)

The finished LEGO terracota army by Planet Streetpainting of the Netehrlands. (Zinnia Jones/Flickr)

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The holidays they are approachin’, so we at Laurel Park Management thought we’d pass along info on this weekend’s appropriately themed events and to-do options in case the spirit moves you. Enjoy!

Atomic Holiday Bazaar: December 10-11

Atomic Holiday Bazaar, Sarasota’s original annual Indie Craft Show returns for its 6th year. Shop local with unusual creators of hand made arts and crafts from Florida, the U.S. and as far as Central America! This is a craft show that won’t make you yawn or cringe!

click for more info

Gingerbread Festival: through December 11

Community Youth Development presents the Gingerbread Festival at Westfield Sarasota mall (Macy’s wing), where more than 125 houses created by youth groups, businesses and community organizations will be featured. This year there will also be gingerbread versions of iconic Sarasota landmarks as well as a Iron Chef-style gingerbread house decorating contest performed by professional and youth chefs.

click for more info

3rd Annual SRQ Santa Paws: December 10, 10am-1pm, Five Points Park

Bring your friends, family and four-legged friends to this must-see holiday pet extravaganza. Santa Paws will be available for kitty and canine consultation on Dec. 10 from 10 to 1 at Five Points Park and Santa’s little helpers will be capturing photos of the cutest pets to feature in SRQ: The Best Overall Magazine on Florida’s West Coast.

click for more info

Holiday Splendor at the Payne Mansion, Selby Gardens: through January 2

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens Presents “Holiday Splendor at the Payne Mansion.” The Florida West Coast Chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) will expand the scope of its popular Holiday Showhouse in the Mansion for 2011, decking the entire first floor with stunning holiday décor. Talented designers will transform Selby Gardens’ Museum of Botany & the Arts into a glittering Holiday Showhouse, even creating a kitchen on the sun porch.

click for more info

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There are a million different definitions of what makes a good neighborhood, but perhaps the best ones are also the simplest. Gil Penalosa and the nonprofit organization 8-80 Cities posit that if cities are safe, accessible, and enjoyable for their youngest and oldest residents then everyone in between will also benefit. Kaid Benfield, in a post on switchboard.nrdc.org, discusses a couple of other litmus tests for a neighborhood’s (or a city’s) quality of design: the popsicle test and the halloween test. More on those below…

I had a conversation with Lars Gemzøe yesterday. He’s a senior partner at Gehl Architects, which is arguably the most influential architecture + urban planning consultancy in the world right now. The funny thing, he told me, is that an enormous gap has developed between the types of places people enjoy and the types of places that get built. Gehl Architects has become successful, in a nutshell, by simply steering developers and politicians and other decision-makers back toward urban characteristics that have proven to be livable and lovable. Characteristics such as walkability, human scale, mixed-use, etc.

In many ways, Laurel Park exemplifies these sorts of places. Sure, it could probably stand to loosen up some of its regulations in order to encourage greater diversity in terms of both demographics and functions (really, why aren’t home-based businesses allowed?), but it passes both the popsicle and the halloween tests. Kids can roam safely, elderly folks can cross the street without fear of being run down by speeding cars. Dogs are walked, cats dart from yard to yard, birds chirp, trees grow, the occasional cyclist dismounts to chat with neighbors on their front porch.

It’s not a perfect neighborhood, of course—there’s no such thing—but we enjoy many idyllic moments, and Laurel Park’s urban design has a lot to do with that. Relatively narrow streets, short blocks, some brick paving, small plots with houses built close to the sidewalk, street trees, etc. The design of the built environment has a big influence on the ways people move and interact. The basic form of traditional villages is a tough one to beat, and our little urban village, situated as it is next to downtown, is a fine place to live for the young, the old, and everyone between. It’s a fine place to stroll with a popsicle in hand, and a fine place to trick-or-treat.

The following excerpt is from a post on switchboard.nrdc.org by Kaid Benfield

In a recent post on his firm’s excellent blog, PlacesShakers and NewsMakers, Scott Doyon reminds us of the “popsicle test” of a well-designed neighborhood:  she likes the popsicle test (by: Katia Strieck, creative commons license)if an 8-year-old kid can safely go somewhere to buy a popsicle, and get back home before it melts, chances are it’s a neighborhood that works.  Note that there’s no planning jargon in there:  nothing explicitly about mixed uses, or connected streets, or sidewalks, or traffic calming, or enough density to put eyes on the street.  But, if you think about it, it’s all there.

I’m also fond of the “Halloween test”: if it’s a good neighborhood for trick-or-treating, then it’s likely to be compact and walkable.  My brother-in-law, who lives in a place that is anything but, drives his kids to the nearest traditional town center on Halloween.  Quite a few parents seem to do the same thing by driving to my neighborhood.

Scott puts it this way:

“For a child, having increasing opportunities to navigate the world around them, explore, invent, fall down, scrape knees, make decisions, screw up, get into — and solve — conflicts and, ultimately, achieve a sense of personal identity and self-sufficiency is a good thing. The right thing.

Lake Oswego, OR (by: Dan Burden, pedbikeimages.com)“But you can’t do it easily just anywhere. Place matters. It matters in the design of the streets and the things they connect to. It matters in the variety of uses, opportunities and activities. It even matters in the diversity of housing types. After all, smaller homes or accessory units end up housing people who appreciate, and want to be able to afford, the prospect of being a stay-at-home parent. Or seniors offering options for drop-off babysitting. Not because it’s their corporate value proposition and you’re paying them a thousand bucks a month but because they’re your neighbors and they care about you . . .

“Talk of how it takes a village to raise a child sounds — and feels — good but, to make it work, you need a village to start with. Which means you need politicos willing to push it, and developers willing to build it.”

Pretty good observation, that one.  If the place works for kids, chances are it works for everyone else, too (and, not coincidentally, it also works for the environment) – but as we build new places, or rebuild old ones, we need to be purposeful about it. keep reading at switchboard.nrdc.org

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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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It always feels a little strange to say Happy Memorial Day, since it is, after all, a day of remembrance of those who gave their lives. But even with such somber undertones it is certainly a day of celebration. Whatever your politics, the men and women who put their lives on the line (and sometimes lose them) deserve respect, support, and admiration. We can’t bring back those we’ve lost, but we can honor their sacrifice and let their families know how much their service means to us!

So, come out today for the Memorial Day Parade on Main Street (starts at Osprey) from 10am until noon!! The Laurel Park Management team will be there, as will many of our neighbors. There will be food, drink, and fun aplenty. See you there!

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