The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)

April 30, 2012 at 8:55 am | In links | Comments Off on The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)
  • +1 on more urban trees. Few things improve a streetscape more. It seems that higher urban temperatures help trees grow, and then of course more trees also mitigate the urban heat island effect.
    Despite other conditions that might have influenced this faster growth, the researchers have determined that the hyper-growth speeds are largely attributable to the higher temperatures in the city. They confirmed this hypothesis with seedlings grown in a lab under similar temperatures and conditions.

    Trees can provide a number of benefits to urban areas. Their positive impact on property values has been documented extensively. Urban trees have also been found to provide a significant economic benefit to cities due to their role in stormwater treatment, energy use reduction, air quality improvement and carbon sequestration.

    Trees have also been found to help counter the urban heat island effect that is apparently helping them grow much faster – a negative feedback loop that suggests planting more trees in the city makes a lot of environmental sense. The warmer temperatures caused by the urban heat island effect are certainly causing problems in cities, but they’re also creating what have turns out to be ideal conditions for tree planting.

    tags: trees urban_forest cities amenities atlantic_cities

  • Great article about how we went from this:
    Browse through New York Times accounts of pedestrians dying after being struck by automobiles prior to 1930, and you’ll see that in nearly every case, the driver is charged with something like “technical manslaughter.” And it wasn’t just New York. Across the country, drivers were held criminally responsible when they killed or injured people with their vehicles.
    to this: “‘If you ask people today what a street is for, they will say cars,’ says [Peter] Norton. ‘That’s practically the opposite of what they would have said 100 years ago.'”

    tags: jaywalking cars cities automobile atlantic_cities

  • I’ve seen some of these films; might want to watch the others. It’s definitely worth watching for Place in films, always.
    When you’re watching a movie, how much attention do you pay to the setting? While the best way to learn about what makes a great place is often to get out and observe how public spaces work first-hand, there are films that illustrate Placemaking principles quite beautifully. We’ve collected ten of our favorites here, with explanations of why we think they tell great stories about place.

    tags: placemaking movies project_for_public_spaces

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Unfinished business on North Williams

April 24, 2012 at 11:16 pm | In just_so, Portland | 2 Comments

An evening walk on North Williams in Portland

It’s 10pm, I leave the building I currently reside in to take my dog Jigger outside. We walk down two flights of stairs and arrive on the street – North Williams, of which 3 or so blocks are now considered trendy. I walk past Che’s food cart and Soundroots School of Music toward the next intersection.

Across the street I hear conversation and laughter coming from the sidewalk tables at Pix Patisserie (the site of yesterday’s carnage).

Why grass?

As Jigger dawdles along, sniffing for edible morsels (road sushi, we call it), I look down at the sidewalk and see the almost knee-high grass growing ragged in the muddy strips along sides of buildings and in the sad little space between paved sidewalk and paved road. It’s nearly knee-high because this is the kind of neighborhood where almost no one does any upkeep.

And suddenly, as I wonder why in hell grass is even growing here (and why does it have to look so scraggly), I’m reminded of my many midnight visits to coffeehouses in Schwabing, a neighborhood in Munich.

No matter what time I visited, the cafes were always filled with people – posers, models, artists, writers, film-makers, business jocks – you name it. At 2 in the morning, skinny city girls with high fashion allure ate luscious tortes, perhaps the only meal they consumed all day. They made a show of it, and it was worth seeing them eat.

For those beautiful girls, a song:

(And for those who don’t get the reference, The Cure set to music a Baudelaire poem about street people looking at rich people feasting in cafés, and a painter named Manet may have been inspired by that poem.)

Meanwhile, back on the sidewalk I’m standing on…

There simply wasn’t any grass, nearly knee-high or not, growing out of place on those Munich boulevards, which were sealed against the elements and designed for city shoes.

Class or race? Class and race.

Looking at North Williams, with its odd mixture of poverty, sad suburbanism, unfinished urbanism and vaguely emerging urban vibe-ness (but still trapped in all the outward signs of decrepitude and a deep and troubling history of racial strife – read, white oppression), I suddenly had to think of that bastard Édouard Manet and his paintings of the Parisian banlieues (suburbs).

The art historian T.J. Clark made a big deal of those unfinished edges of Paris in his book, The Painting of Modern Life, and rightly so. As I walked, taking in that godawful grass, the horrible admixture of muck and vegetation, rotting clapboard on an old house, bits of trash, and the “emerging” hipster vibe emanating from Pix or from The Box Social across the street, I suddenly felt like some displaced Parisian in …oh, Batignolles perhaps, strolling along the Avenue de Clichy when it was quiet – before, you know, that American got there and caused a ruckus. No doubt there was near-knee-high grass on the roadsides there, too, and, mixed in with a sparse sampling of interesting cafes, a bunch of ugly, half-falling apart buildings of relatively recent vintage. Because in neighborhoods like that, nothing is built to last – and it shows.

It’s official: I hate Portland Oregon

April 23, 2012 at 4:43 pm | In just_so, local_not_global, notes | 4 Comments

As I write this, I’m shaking – with shock and with indignation.

I have a Cairn Terrier named Jigger. He’s 14 years old, he’s deaf, he’s very very mellow, and he prefers to spend his time nosing around for food. He’s not territorial or bad-tempered, and is in fact one of the happiest, “jiggiest” dogs you’ll ever meet.

He grew up socialized around other dogs and has never picked a fight with another mammal, excepting the raccoons that live in the back garden of the house we used to own in Victoria British Columbia. He’s never been in a fight with another dog, not even a cat (once, in Rockport Massachusetts, a shop cat swiped him across the nose, but he just wanted to run away, not fight).

But in Portland in the past few months, I have met more neurotic, unsocialized dogs than I can count. It’s the norm for owners here to forbid their dogs from interacting with other dogs on the sidewalks or even in the parks. The one exception to this is that some dog owners take their pets to the “off leash” areas in parks, but even those areas are not frequented much. Eight times out of ten, when you pass one, it’s empty. Of course that might be on account of all the shitty weather you get in Portland.

Anyway, we finally got some warmth and sun in the last few days. Jigger is older and less likely to want long walks anyway, so this afternoon the spouse and I just went around the block with him and then sat at the shady chairs and table set out by Pix Patisserie across the street to have some coffee, and to let Jigger enjoy some more “outdoor” time without forcing him to walk in the afternoon heat.

I’ve mentioned before (on Facebook) that I think Portlanders don’t know how to keep dogs or socialize them properly (our neighbors seem to think their Fox Terrier is a cat that can be left alone at home for hours upon hours on end, for example), but this afternoon’s experience took the prize.

I’m still shaking.

We’re sitting at a table, Jigger is resting under my chair. He has his back turned to the rest of the sidewalk. He’s deaf, and therefore is oblivious to approaching noises. An older woman who looked, frankly, like a demented bat out of hell, approaches with four (4!!!) Scottish Terriers – one of which is wearing a muzzle. That should have been our warning, I suppose.

As they approach, her dogs see Jigger (who hasn’t seen them, nor heard them), and before I know what’s happening, one of them has set upon him and is biting the hell out of him, dragging him into the middle of the Scotty pack. Then the others have at him. I jumped up and started pulling dogs off my dog, but the stupid asshole of a dog owner just fucking stood there instead of moving on! They were biting his side, his ears, anything they could get a hold of. Every time I got one dog off, another would lunge. The spouse got into the act, and I managed to pick my dog up. Another Scotty got a hold of his tail and bit it, literally hanging on my dog’s tail with his teeth, and I nearly dropped my dog – who was by now in a total panic. I’ve never seen him so panicked.

I picked my dog up again, my husband is trying to pull these shitty, vicious creatures away, and the emotionally retarded excuse of a dog owner is just fucking standing there, mouth open, instead of helping to pull her dogs away and fucking move on! I was wishing for an extra pair of legs with which to kick her dogs at this point.

Then the waiter from Pix comes running out and for some reason assumes that the dog I’m holding and cradling, the dog I’m trying to pull away from his attackers, is attacking me! What an idiot. It must be the typically endless rain that softens their brains. So he’s pulling Jigger off me and nearly strangling him in the process (Jigger was of course on the leash, which by now is wrapped 15 times around me and god knows what else – the poor dog is choking by now).

Finally the asshole woman has moved away a few paces and I grab my dog again, trying to calm him (he is freaking out and crying), and I ream her out. She then actually tried to accuse us of being responsible for not telling her that we had a dog with us (can you believe this???), and I remind her with as many expletives as I can that my dog was resting under my chair, minding his own business, and that she’s parading down a fucking PUBLIC sidewalk with a team of neurotic, vicious, ill-socialized terriers.

Meanwhile, my chin is bleeding from where Jigger’s claw strafed it in his struggles, and my legs are cut up from the other dogs (I was wearing a skirt since it was warm).

Like I said, I have never met so many badly socialized dogs as in Portland, and it is due, every single time, to the owners not having a fucking clue. These people should not be allowed to have dogs – they clearly do not understand dog psychology nor understand that dogs need to be socialized with other dogs.

For example, one afternoon, at Jamieson Park in the Pearl, a guy apologized because his dog came up to mine and was friendly, wagging his tail, wanting to play. He said, “Oh, I’m sorry, he hasn’t learned yet not to go up to other dogs.” And I thought, “right, you nutcase – you’re going to socialize your dog right out of being friendly with other dogs, aren’t you, you moron?” I mean, he actually apologized for the fact that his dog did something totally friendly and natural. In a park. On a stroll. On a Sunday afternoon.

No shit, Sherlock, you’re gonna make a great dog daddy. Not.

This afternoon’s incident is just the icing on the cake. Four dogs attacking my dog (at least one of them was muzzled), and the asshole of an owner just standing there, dumbfounded. I don’t want to live in a neurotic, anti-social town like this.

I would say Portland is for the dogs, but that would be an insult to dogs.

Jigger last year, at Gonzales Hill in Victoria BC


The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)

April 22, 2012 at 10:55 am | In links | Comments Off on The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)
  • Some amazing captures by Brandon Stanton (see the video). So much diversity, yet the people seem somehow rooted in and belonging to NYC: they’re unified as New Yorkers, even though they’re often so different. It struck me how often the sitters blended into the background the were posing in front of, as though ingested by the place, literally incorporated, and belonging to it entirely.
    Stanton, who has no formal training in photography, told me that the real barrier to taking street portraits is the very normal human fear of rejection. “Especially when you start, a lot of people are going to say no,” he says. At first, the rejections sting. But he says that after all the thousands of interactions he’s had, he doesn’t really register them any more.

    tags: street_photography nyc brandon_stanton photography cities diversity

  • Do they have a lasting impact? That is the question…
    Which raises the question: Are cash mobs anything more than a well-meaning gesture that generates nice media coverage? (It seemed like half the people at By Brooklyn had notebooks and cameras.)

    For By Brooklyn’s owner, Gaia DiLoreto, the answer is yes. “It was very uplifting,” says DiLoreto, a self-described “recovering finance robot” who left corporate life at the height of the economic crisis to start her own business. “It’s an incredible affirmation of what I’m doing, that so many people believe in what I believe in.”

    DiLoreto estimated that the cash mob just about doubled the business she would have gotten on a typical Saturday. More importantly, “people walked into the store who have never been in my store before.”

    For her, the cash mob is emblematic of a new type of business model that she sees taking root everywhere around her. Starting something new in this economy has been tough, but DiLoreto says the support from like-minded people has been “overwhelming.” Ideas like “locavesting” may not conform to traditional economic thinking, but that doesn’t bother her. “It’s happening,” she says. “Whether it works out on economists’ worksheets or not. I see it everywhere.” If she’s right, maybe you’ll see the effects on a neighborhood near you.

    tags: cash_mobs economic_development locavesting atlantic_cities

  • This sounds like a great idea, except (as a commenter already points out) the bit about replacing windows. No, don’t do it, especially not with vinyl window garbage!
    Living City Block’s basic concept is simple. Small buildings rarely have the resources to do a serious retrofit. For most of them, the idea is cost-prohibitive. But what if you combined a small building with 10 more like it? If all of those building owners got together to order high-efficiency water heaters in bulk, or to collectively replace one-thousand windows, could they achieve the kind of economies of scale that the Empire State Building gets?

    This sounds feasible, and Riley is sure the idea will work. But he’s talking about creating a kind of building owners’ association that has never been modeled before, one in which neighbors who otherwise have very little in common might make common decisions about pooling their trash pick-up, paying their utility bills, and renovating their properties.

    tags: green_buildings green_strategies urban_energy atlantic_cities retrofit

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The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)

April 15, 2012 at 12:30 pm | In links | Comments Off on The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)
  • Great article about restaurants/ dining out in the US. The point about food trucks, so apposite to the question of costs of leasing a “real” restaurant, is thought-provoking.
    Corollary: The food truck is your friend.

    The ultimate low-rent venue is the food truck. The wide presence of food trucks in New York City, Austin, and Portland, Oregon, has greatly improved the food in those cities. No longer is street food a bad pretzel or fatty hot dog; food trucks offer diners authentic Mexican tacos, homemade sausages, dim sum, Vietnamese bánh mi (sandwiches), and hundreds of other delicacies. One of the most famous food trucks, Kogi, in Los Angeles (@kogibbq on Twitter, if you want to track it), specializes in Korean-Latin fusion food, such as its Kogi Kimchi Quesadilla, which mixes spicy, garlicky Korean cabbage with cheese in a flour tortilla.

    If we want to improve American food, and make it much cheaper, we should deregulate the food trucks and the other street vendors, provided they meet certain sanitation standards. Many cities have already moved down this path, and people are not keeling over with salmonella. The next food revolution in the United States is likely to be a mobile one, and it will be advertised on Google and Twitter, not through more traditional (and expensive) ads or commercials. That’s how the low-rent food of the future is going to work.

    tags: food restaurants food_carts rents

  • “State of the art integrated food production”: so cool!
    The Plant is a three-story aquaponic farm in Chicago’s Back of the Yards Park, a neighborhood that inspired Upton Sinclair’s critical look at the meat-packing industry (among other things) in The Jungle. But this story’s far from dystopian, as an exciting new project is transforming a former meat-packing plant into a producer of fresh produce and new businesses.

    tags: urban_agriculture aquaponics green_buildings chicago smartplanet

  • Intriguing. The abuse directed at Samantha Brick is quite an example of group-think, and a study of how bullying shapes up.
    What Samantha Brick does have that other women lack is confidence, a belief she is in fact attractive. There is nothing wrong with a woman who openly admits to the world that she thinks she’s attractive and is not afraid to flaunt it. But what has really ruffled feathers is that it seems to go against this tacit sisterhood code of modesty of “you’re not meant to say you’re good looking until another female friend says you are.”

    tags: bullying samantha_brick women self_esteem beauty socialmedia

  • Great interview. (I had no idea urbanists were supposed to ‘hate’ Joel Kotkin.)
    Meet Joel Kotkin, a guy who is reviled by smart growth advocates and new urbanists everywhere. Kotkin, an author and trend-watcher, is fond of dashing urban dreams with cold, hard numbers. Talk about the “triumph of the city,” and he’ll parade out a long line of Census figures that show that, sorry, the suburbs are still kicking demographic ass in this country.

    tags: joel_kotkin grist urbanism cities interview

    …sustainability is about more than new technologies. At its most basic, “sustainable” means enduring. A sustainable community is a place of enduring value. Doug Kelbaugh, the dean of the University of Michigan School of Architecture, put it this way, “If a building, a landscape or a city is not beautiful, it will not be loved; if it is not loved, it won’t be maintained and improved. In short, it won’t be sustained.”

    Distinctiveness involves streetscapes, architecture, and historic preservation but as Cortright points out, it also involves cultural events and facilities, restaurants and food, parks and open space and many other factors. “Keep Austin Weird” is more than a slogan; it is a recipe for economic success. A distinctive city is a city that the young and well-educated want to live in, that boomers want to retire to, and most certainly a city that people want to visit.
    I have mixed feelings reading this. Victoria BC fulfills some of these criteria, yet Victorians have let their downtown become ugly and empty (they have done everything BUT sustain it), and they neglected the historic preservation of a key piece of industrial archaeology, thereby failing to sustain it (the historic Johnson Street Bridge). Natural beauty is great (and Victoria has plenty of it), but natural beauty has to be enhanced by built beauty, and in that department, some cities fall down, badly. Meanwhile, there are other cities, with far fewer natural beauty resources, that manage to build up beautifully.

    tags: beauty sustainability endurance cities atlantic_cities uli tourism

  • Fabulous…
    In Moscow, it’s common for two buildings to have blind walls facing each other over a wide alley. This setup provides the perfect space for a lithe, little office to build itself a perch. The structure fuses onto the neighboring buildings with steel clamps, hovering off the ground so pedestrians can stroll under it. It also glows at night, thanks to a translucent plastic shell, looking like a wasps’ nest from hell.

    tags: architecture atlantic_cities russia

  • Hurrah for urban forests (even if the statistics here may turn out to need a grain of salt before taking…).
    Every tree in urban Tennessee provides an estimated $2.25 worth of measurable economic benefits every year. Might not seem like a lot, but with 284 million urban trees in the state, the payoff’s pretty big.

    tags: trees urban_forest atlantic_cities

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The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)

April 8, 2012 at 12:40 pm | In links | Comments Off on The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)
  • Sure, ok, there’s starchitecture that *is* obnoxious. But you know what’s wrong with entirely “community-driven” design? It can suffer from Tall Poppy Syndrome (TPS) and end up celebrating the merely subpar. TPS is when you cut everything down to the same size. There are plenty of supposedly pro-community/ pro-people spaces that were built by starchitects (Italian Renaissance, anyone?), and they wouldn’t stand a chance under the regime proposed by this article:
    We need to be very strong in our criticism. Both architects and landscape designers (many of whom are trying to outdo the architecture profession with shapes and forms and a “greenwash”) need to be challenged. Only then will they be pushed to support communities in their quest to create places that are comfortable – places where community members can have a sense of real ownership and the ability to adapt public streets and places to their unique aspirations and identity.
    Places that are “comfortable”? What does that mean?
    (File s.v. “love hurts.”)

    tags: architecture starchitecture urban_design community sustainable_cities

  • Feed bees high fructose corn syrup (and the corn was treated with neonicotinoid pesticide) and you kill off the bee colony.

    Doesn’t high fructose corn syrup also kill humans? Why do we use this stuff at all?
    It has taken a long time to understand the link between Colony Collapse Disorder and neonicotinoid pesticides, because scientists were looking for an instant-killer, and not something that caused slow deaths over several months, says Lu. In addition he adds that scientists ignored “the fact that the timeline of increasing use of neonicotinoids coincides with the decline of bee populations.”

    Lu says policy makers “need to examine the effect of sub-lethal doses of pesticides throughout the life cycle of the test model (in this case honey bees).” He further notes the depending on LD50 findings (i.e. a lethal dose that results in the death of half of the specimens tested) “is not relevant to the modern day chemical toxicity testing.” In other words, regulators need to start testing the long-term impacts of chemicals in the environment, and not simply focused on whether or not they instantly kill test subjects.

    tags: pesticides bees environment

  • Fascinating article. Not entirely sure I buy into all the connections between, say, British Colonialism and modern yoga (with stops in Iraq inbetween), but it’s a good critique. The embedded videos are priceless, too.

    tags: new_age hokum bbc adam_curtis body_image england colonialism iraq yoga

  • Words of wisdom from David Rothkopf. He is so right:
    I love it when Ron Paul says, “If we get rid of government, freedom will sweep right in.” That’s just not what happens. What happens is that a bunch of elephants stampede in because they’re in a position to take advantage of it. Meanwhile, if you get government out of the way, the people who need government, they don’t have it.

    There’s this myth that government doesn’t belong in the marketplace. If that were true, there would be no canals, no railroads, no highways, no internet. The government was a critical partner in many of the biggest innovations in U.S. history.

    But if you buy into that for 20 or 30 years, and you say, “smaller government, smaller government programs,” who gets squeezed by that? It’s the cities. And the problem is that, as that happens, it accelerates. Kids drop out of school. Neighborhoods decay. Businesses leave. The tax base goes down. Cops get fired. Teachers get fired. It’s a cycle of pain.

    tags: cities grist david_rothkopf economy politics

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The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)

April 1, 2012 at 2:30 am | In links | Comments Off on The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)
  • Can bike lanes create new jobs?
    The answer seems to be yes — at least in the case of Long Beach, California. More than 20 new bicycle-related or bicycle-inspired businesses have opened at last count. I toured some of these business with Charlie Gandy and Melissa Balmer during a recent trip to Long Beach to meet these entrepreneurs, and prospect for locally-sourced goods and services for our conference. Twenty new businesses is a lot, especially in this economy, so you may be skeptical of these numbers (I was); but after meeting some impressive young people, I can assure you that it’s all real.
    There follows a review of the businesses.
    I’d say that my observations in Portland confirm the article. Cycling is another way of bringing “life at 10km per hour” (or slightly more) into streets (vs cars at 50km per hour), which contributes to capturing interest *in* the street.

    tags: jobs economy bicycles cities

  • Yes, much more productive to see both cities and small towns through an economic lens, and to encourage resilience in place and civic engagement.
    “To me, it seemed a little preachy,” he says. “These people who lived in urban areas would come out and tell me how to live, tell me that you shouldn’t enjoy living where you do, you shouldn’t like your job, you shouldn’t feel good about the lifestyle that you’re living because it’s bad, and what we’re doing is good. What you’re doing is dumb and what we’re doing is smart. What you’re doing is sprawl, and what we’re doing is smart growth.”

    (It’s interesting here to pause and ponder if “sprawl” is one of those words that naturally sounds odious – like “phlegm” or “yuck” – or if it has just taken on that connotation as a result of so much sneering).

    Marohn says he has realized over the past decade that he and the New Urbanists are actually often talking about the same thing. The urban experience and the small-town experience have more in common than people think. And they’ve both been distorted by the suburban experiment. The picture looks different. In cities, it looks like an army of surface parking lots has devoured our downtowns. Small towns have also been hallowed out at the core and nipped at their edges by encroaching subdivisions.

    But the effect is the same, Marohn says: an erosion of civic space, which has led to an erosion of the financial viability of communities. And this is the language he uses to talk about planning – the language of economics, of debt and prosperity and gas prices.

    tags: cities atlantic_cities sprawl density

  • Sounds [ahem!] good to me…
    The whole idea here is that we don’t have to accept cities as noisy places, that apartments can be private and roads can be calmer and whole neighborhoods can sound, if not like the countryside, then something more humane.

    “To just accept the status quo is turning our back on innovation and design,” Antonio says, “and why we’re doing this in the first place.”

    tags: cities atlantic_cities noise urban_design

  • Interesting. Co-working working hand-in-hand with disruption?
    It takes more than a few couches, high-speed internet and the espresso maker to compete in coworking.

    For architects, it’s a huge opportunity to bring novel workplace technologies and a livable aesthetic to these dynamic, changeable and often very messy environments. The winner of the Unconference video contest suggests the overarching vibe — energetic community — while tenant needs are listed in articles like PC Magazine’s “10 best” list, which at least shows what geeks favor in coworking.

    tags: architecture coworking

  • This quote/observation is just crazy. My observations of Portland drivers are that (compared to other cities) they are overwhelmingly deferential to bicyclists, and to call Williams “too dangerous” for cyclists strikes me as just plain weird. (Full disclosure: I’m currently living in an apartment that overlooks this bike corridor.) It makes me wonder what people actually want. I’ve noticed that many people here (including younger ones) really fear density (Portland overall is very low density, population-wise), and resist development changes that would “densify” the city. They like the suburban-y feel of these eastside neighborhoods, but want all the goodies that gentrification also would bring. Meanwhile, the racial question in Portland is IMNSHO huge. Every time I’m out and just chat casually with strangers who happen to be African-American, I get the impression they think it’s weird that a white person (female) is talking to them. Why would that be the case, if not for the fact that is *is* unusual? And how sad it is that it’s unusual… Neighborhood sports games (at Unthank Park, of all places) are observably segregated, as I’ve seen: white adults playing some version of softball, while black kids hang out dribbling a basketball in a separate play lot a few yards away. It’s a strange town. So much bs. For example, this:
    “I’m not selling my property, so I don’t give a shit,” says Goldsmith. But while the city help for new businesses has been great, in the hubbub of bikes, cars, and buses, Goldsmith no longer feels safe biking down its main business street. “I love living here, I love being here… but I don’t bike with my kids on Williams anymore—it’s too dangerous.”

    tags: portland race bicycles cities density gentrification

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