The top 10 Urban Design stories of 2015

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In his book How Cities Work, Alex Marshall writes that “how we get around determines how we live. But it’s a rule we still haven’t grasped. Transportation determines the form of our places.” That’s why so many of the posts in the urban design section re actually about bikes and transportation; It is what drives the shape of our cities. And finally, people are beginning to recognize the role that bikes can play in all of this. But looking at the top ten posts by number of pageviews, in retrospect I wonder if many of these should not be in other categories. I also screwed up and put in eleven.

11. How can we get more people on to bikes?

harbord bike laneHarbord Street, Toronto/ Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0 Definitely shoulda been in bikes.
In London, which is not a cyclist's paradise by any means, it is now official policy that Cycling is now mass transport and must be treated as such. In most of America, cycling is recreational, preferably done as far from transportation networks as possible. Here's how we might change this
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10. How a dead raccoon touched the heart of a city

raccoon shrinetwitter/ shrine to a dead raccoon./Screen capture

Hmm, not so sure this should be in Urban Design either, maybe I should just pick my favorites instead of the top ten.

Over the past few years I have not had much good to say about Toronto's governance or management. Lots of people feel the same way; it's hard to know what to do about it. You can get mad, or you can have some fun with it, which yesterday a lot of people did.
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9. New studies measure the true cost of sprawl, and it's more than you think

sprawl© Sustainable Prosperity

This one fits.

Two new studies demonstrate the true costs of sprawl, and attempt to show that if new development was built at higher densities and with proper public transit, billions of dollars could be saved. Yet people still find it cheaper to buy a house in the suburbs, because the road system is so subsidized
. More in TreeHugger.

8. On distracted driving, headphones, helmets and blaming the victim

distracted drivingTwitter/via

Definitely, transportation and not Urban Design. Or maybe it should be renamed Urban Life.

Angie Schmitt of Streetsblog points to a bizarre story in Philadelphia where a pedestrian was killed by a hit and run driver while crossing the street, the question being debated is whether he was at fault for wearing headphones.

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7. Micro-apartments are going up in some unlikely places

Turntable Studios© Turntable Studios

If I had written this instead of David Friedlander, I probably would have put it in Tiny Houses.

The real micro-housing news is not happening in dense cities with housing shortages and astronomical property values. It's happening in the medium-to-low density cities like Chicago, Spokane and Edmonton, places with bounties of big, affordable housing to choose from. The growth of micro-housing in these cities represents a real sea-change. It shows that people are willing to trade proximity to work and amenities for size; that people are seeing bikes and public transit as viable alternatives to cars; that people want to stop leveraging themselves to own a vessel to hold all their stuff.

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6. It's time to stop blaming cyclists; instead make our roads work for everyone

Yehuda Moon© Yehuda Moon

Definitely, bikes.

Yehuda Moon is a comic strip about "a guy who lives on a bicycle and works at the Kickstand Cyclery", by Rick Smith & Brian Griggs. It recently picked up a theme that we go on about: the fact that traffic regulations that were designed to control cars don't always make a lot of sense for bicycles.

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5. A tale of two stadia: 19,000 parking spaces vs a city full of people
Stadiums© Google Earth/ Kauffman stadium and Rogers Centre

While watching the Blue Jays get trounced by the Kansas City Royals in the playoffs, I was amazed by the parking lot at Kauffman stadium. You could fit half of Toronto's downtown in it. "Back in Kansas City, the announcers tell us that it's a great stadium with wonderful tailgate parties. But it's no way to build a city." Don't read the comments; people in Kansas City were not amused: "Sorry Mr. Alter, you should first experience tailgating at one of our stadiums before you open your mouth and insert your foot." More in TreeHugger

4. Riding the new bike and pedestrian bridges of Copenhagen (Slideshow)

bike snake© Dissing + Weitling

This demonstrates why these are urban design posts, and not bike posts. This is what makes the city work, how people live, consciously planned and implemented. Also the most fun I ever had doing a story, cycling all these beautiful bridges in such a wonderful bike friendly city. This one is the most fun of all. More in TreeHugger

3. Architect's future 'Vegetal Cities' merge nature with the man-made (Video)

Luc Schuiten© Luc Schuiten
For more than 30 years, Belgian architect Luc Schuiten has taken a visionary approach to rethinking cities, in a biomimetic fashion. In his lush and fantastical renderings of what he calls "vegetal cities," urban centers are transformed into living, responsive architectures that merge nature with the man-made.
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2. What will happen to the Edith Macefield house?

Edith Macefields house before it fell apartWikipedia/CC BY 2.0

This is still in the news. At the time of this post in February it was going up for auction. In July it was sold to people who were going to build a cafe but couldn't make it work, so it was then going to be moved. Fitting for what has been called the Up House after the movie, it's fate is still up in the air. More in TreeHugger

1. Forget bikes; In the UK even the ducks get their own lanes

Ducks in path © Getty Images

Really, I have to admit that there is something weird in the Urban Design category when the most popular post of the year is about a duck path. Wonderful story, but Urban Design it ain't. But it is about a design problem:

The lanes are also meant to highlight the paths' narrowness: cyclists and pedestrians can't be properly segregated along these routes due to their width, so it's everyone's responsibility to stay alert and watch out for walkers or bikes coming in the opposite direction.

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