Idaho Stop

In a midday open thread earlier this week at dailyKos, I learned about the above video advocating adoption of the Idaho bicycle model, which allows bike riders to treat stop signs as yield signs. The video itself, in addition to being informative and instructive on the topic, is a nice piece of graphic design.

When I first began using my bike for transport in college, I was a fairly rigid follower of traffic laws. The theory being that the only way for cyclists to gain respect on the road was to follow the same laws as automobiles. So at 4-way stops in residential neighborhoods without a car in sight, I would actually come to nearly a complete stop. And that sucked!

A trip to Amsterdam several years ago where I experienced their amazing cycling culture began to change my views. I knew our transportation system was organized around the car, but there I saw how it might be different. The trip was lead by an architecture professor whose research interests included how people negotiate for urban space, and how certain types of negotiation make for a richer urban experience. And what the Idaho stop law does is essentially legalize greater negotiation between cyclists and others.

These days I am much less concerned with following all traffic laws while on my bike, though I still believe there is truth to the theory that drivers would give cyclists more respect if they better followed the rules of the road. Which is why it is so important to have good laws, and the Idaho stop law is one of them.

So I agree with Kos that all states should adopt the Idaho bicyle model. Besides being more efficient for cyclists, it makes for a more interesting city - one that fosters greater interaction and communication among us, even if only in the glance of recognition at a stop sign.



Sharing a page in The Economist with an article on a Prairie in the City of St. Louis is Killing for Respect, concerning crime in Oakland. It is always interesting to see how Oakland is portrayed in the national and international media. And while this article is fairly balanced, also pointing out a "flourishing urbanism", interesting architecture, a beautiful downtown, Lake Merritt and Oakland's amazing diversity, it has me considering canceling my (expensive) subscription, for two main reasons.

The first is the last paragraph, in which the correspondent tries to lay some blame for crime in Oakland at the feet of "liberal politicians" who don't even know how to talk about crime. The example they cite is that Mayor Dellums "had nothing to say at all" at the recent funeral of the four officers killed in the pursuit of Lovelle Mixon. Whatever you think about what happened (me: that Dellums handled it well and the fallen officers and their families demonstrated a lack of respect for the office of the Mayor), that is just not what happened. It may be technically true, but The Economist severely misled its readers in that last paragraph.

The second is that The Economist wrote nearly 2/3 of a page on crime in Oakland without once mentioning the size of the police force. The article simplistically dismisses poverty and racial tensions as factors, while suggesting a theory of a culture of chaos exacerbated by the large numbers of released prisoners, and the inability of our leaders to speak (and thus act) effectively about crime. I happen to think all of these are contributing factors, to a greater or lesser degree. But how can you write a column about crime in Oakland without even mentioning the size of the police force?


Design Lectures 20090406

Although I haven't yet made it to one as a result, I have really appreciated Becks putting together a weekly list of upcoming political and community events at Living in the O. In that spirit, I thought I'd point you to several interesting design lectures this week.

On Monday night, as part of the UC-Berkeley Department of Landscape Architecture lecture series, Kevin Congers of CMG Landscape Architecture will present a lecture entitled LOCALS: A Regional Practice Engages Communities in Conceptually-based Projects. Congers was project manager with Hargreaves Associates on Crissy Field (image above) in San Francisco. The lecture is at 7:00 pm in 112 Wurster Hall on campus.

At the same time and place on Wednesday night, another local landscape architect, Walter Hood, will speak as part of the UC-B Department of Architecture lecture series. Oakland residents may know his work on Splash Pad Park or Lafayette Square. If you haven't experienced his work, don't be too put off by the clunky website, his landscape work has much more finesse than is exhibited there, and the lecture is sure to be interesting and illuminating.

Finally on Thursday night, the Oakland Heritage Alliance continues its second Thursday lecture series with Chandler McCoy who is Associate Director of Planning at the Presidio Trust. McCoy will lecture on "Moderism Inside and Out," providing examples in and around Oakland that break down barries between architecture and landscape, inside and out. Note this is a change from the orignially scheduled lecture by Pierluigi Serraino, author of NorCal Mod: Icons of Northern California Modern Architecture, which has been rescheduled for June 11. The McCoy lecture is $8 for OHA members and $10 for the general public, and will be at 7:30 at the Julia Morgan-designed Chapel of the Chimes at 4499 Piedmont Avenue in Oakland.


Assume Good Faith

In an interesting essay from last Sunday's NY Times writer Noam Cohen compares Wikipedia to cities, claiming it mimics their basic civility, trust, and capacity for self-organization. I especially liked his comparison of the dangers in more lightly tread neighborhoods and industrial districts to those Wiki entries with fewer readers where errors and ulterior motives take longer to root out. Cohen also points too one of the founding principles of Wikipedia, which I think is important for all urban dwellers to remember, "assume good faith."