Tag Archives: aging in place

Punk Rock and the New Urbanism: Getting back to basics

By the early to mid 1970s, something was wrong with rock and roll.

It no longer fought the system. Worse than that, it had become the system. Bloated. Detached. Pretentious.

Performer and audience, once fused in a mutual quest to stick it to the man, now existed on separate planes —  an increasingly complacent generation sucked into the service of pomp and circumstance. And the shared experience of joyful rebellion? Replaced by pompous, weed-soaked, middle-earth mysticism.

Rock and roll needed to get back to basics. What country pioneer Harlan Howard characterized as “three chords and the truth.” Enter punk rock.

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Filed under Development, Planning and Design, Public Policy, Resilience

So Much to Do: Sadly, so much time

Time is not on our side. And that earth-shattering insight works in two directions.

The most obvious is the situation most of us face each day, with ever-expanding to-do lists colliding with obstinate time frames. Same old days, with the same old number of hours in them.

But here’s the deal with a to-do list: What makes it useful is the degree to which it ranks tasks. And the way you decide what rises to the top of the list is to have a pretty good idea what will happen, in what sort of time frame, as a result of you choosing one thing over another. The problem is, your confidence about what will result from choices depends on how quickly the consequences of the choices unfold.

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Zoning as Spiritual Practice: From me to we to Thee

Get right with God. Fix your zoning.

That’s not something you hear regularly from the pulpit, maybe. But it’s gospel nonetheless. Here’s why:

If there’s one common thread woven through the world’s most enduring religions, it’s the call to connectivity: Self to others to everything. Continue reading

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Confessions of a Former Sprawl Addict: Speed Humps on the Road to Recovery

Hi. I’m Hazel and I was a Sprawlaholic.

If you’ve been reading awhile you may recall that, with the loving help of my friends and family, I went cold turkey, dumping life in a Florida subdivision for the intense urban charms of downtown Winnipeg. It was a life-changing move with no regrets. Yet, as good as it’s been, I’m finding that puritanical denial of guilty pleasures is sometimes out of sync with life’s reality.

And by reality, I mean kids.

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Zoning: No Longer Just for Nerds

Remember when you could empty a room by trying to work zoning philosophy into a conversation? Okay, you can still do that in most places. But the coolness quotient is on the rise, we swear.

Consider the adoption late last year of a form-based code in Miami, surely one of the most exotic political environments in North America. Very high hipness factor. Continue reading

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Innovation on the Road to Oblivion?

Context is everything.

The New York Times reports with unease that the FDA has approved statin drug Crestor’s use in a preventive capacity for those not currently diagnosed with cholesterol problems.

The degree to which this represents innovation in medicine is a topic to be debated elsewhere. What matters to me is that such use of pharmaceuticals is indicative of something larger. Something fundamental to our future: An ever-growing commitment to the path we’re presently on. Continue reading

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Confessions of a Former Sprawl Addict

Hi, my name is Hazel, and I’m an addict.

For the last 25 years, I’ve been addicted to a string of takers. Time-draining, money-grubbing, fat-building, resource-depleting, toxic machines. For the last 18 months, I’ve been clean. Ever since our move to Canada. And this last weekend, I realized I may be cured.

That’s right, when we moved here 18 months ago, I decided to get rid of my car. This past weekend, my in-laws offered me their sweet little Audi on loan as they fled the cold for the winter. But living without a car for the first time since I was 16, I realize it’s a much better way. I just said, “No.”

Living in the heart of Winnipeg, I’m surrounded by walkable neighbourhoods on every side. Going from a golf course community in Florida — let’s call it an experiment, shall we? — with a Walk Score of 9 to Winnipeg’s Exchange District with a Walk Score of 88 quickly ended my auto addiction. And the score should actually be more like 98, but Canadian transit is not yet reflected, nor are the new Exchange retail establishments that have been opening one per month ever since I’ve lived here. It’s rich.

So I’d call this a lifestyle within sustainable urbanism — walkable, transit-served urbanism integrated with high-performance buildings and infrastructure, that balances environmental, social, and economic requirements — and it also makes extreme climates livable.

The principal barrier to greening where we live is how we live. Misguided transportation planning, home and infrastructure financing systems, and zoning practices incentivize sprawling, disconnected lifestyles, and are increasingly unaffordable, unfulfilling, and unhealthy. To reverse sprawl’s unintended consequences we should incentivize compact, diverse, transit-oriented development. The foundation of Real Green is neighborhood, district, corridor, and regional design, with high-performance infrastructure and green architecture layered upon that base. It’s cost-effective, since even $1 million invested in planning a city is less than gadget-greening a handful of buildings to which everyone drives.

So what does this mean to me personally to have kicked the habit?

My family’s average car miles per month decreased by 90%, going from a 3 car family driving 530 miles per week, to a 1 car family driving 55 miles per week. The AAA Your Driving Costs 2009 lists our combination of three cars costing $0.702/mile. Walkable, transit rich urbanism got us a 90% emissions reduction and saved us $17,206 per year. It also freed up 700 hours per year, which are entirely more fulfilling to spend in other ways than on my addiction. Oh, and all that walking has started dispensing with the weight gain that averages 10 pounds per person living in sprawl. Last Saturday’s New York Times article and CEOs for Cities study intone that my new house, with it’s above-average Walk Score will likely commanded a premium, as much as $30,000. Judging by local real estate prices, they’ve more or less pegged it.

Yearly savings tally:
– 90% less carbon emissions
– $17,206 car savings
– $30,000 house savings
– 700 hours
– 10 pounds
– Real community — priceless

Walkability isn’t about doing your duty for others. It’s about a better life for you. Or as Ken Groves put it last week, “I dwell small and live large.”

It feels great to come clean.

–Hazel Borys

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