Full skyscrapers, looming over empty streets.

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Those of us who identify as urbanophilic—to which I include myself a great deal of the time—have long bemoaned the lack of density afflicting many of our American urban centers, which impedes these places from achieving not just the level of on-the-street liveliness heralded by Jane Jacobs—the first great autodidact urbanophile—but their basic capacity to …Read more…

Drive-by wifi?

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If we’re seriously looking—and you know I am—rarely a day goes by where we can’t spot some new sign of desperation in the retail sector. We can visit the stores themselves, and witness not just the deep sales (“By one dress shirt! Get another for a Penney!”). In the most incorrigibly floundering businesses, the thin …Read more…

Alpha, New Jersey: The town the freeway DIDN’T destroy.

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Stretching 144 miles from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania to the Holland Tunnel just outside Manhattan, Interstate 78 is hardly among the longer limited-access highways in the country. And, while certainly busy, I’d imagine plenty other freeways out there link a greater number of major population centers than I-78. Elsewhere in New Jersey, the Turnpike unquestionably carries a …Read more…

Safety with a sneer.

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Instructional signage may seem like a pretty dry subject, but scattershot evidence across the country suggests that creativity and even whimsy isn’t completely verboten. Just check this roadside admonition along Lake Avenue in Manchester, New Hampshire: It’s not the only one. A bit further down, we get this: Another block or so to the west, …Read more…

When your domain is compromised, how do you take the high road?

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The impacts of government policies can be subtle, far-reaching and antithetical to their original good intentions. Identifying examples of this is part of my duty as a blogger. Sometimes, though, the evidence of a policy is right there in your face…called out by the person most affected.   This former home in Greenfield, Indiana (about 20 miles …Read more…

Parsimonious (but potent) pedestrian provisions.

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If you don’t have the money to make it aesthetic, at least you can make it functional. This seems to be mentality that Hoboken, New Jersey, America’s most walkable city, endorses in some of its streetscape improvements. Considering the high median incomes of this city of over 40,000 people per square mile, it’s a bit …Read more…

Getting back from the groove.

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Sometimes the most well-intentioned and carefully planned initiatives still yield unexpected and undesirable results. I deliberately didn’t put too much thought into the above sentence; I wanted it to emerge as spontaneously and organically as possible, then to judge it afterward. In hindsight, I would only change one word: sometimes. Replace it with “usually”. (But …Read more…

Because public art can tow the party line.

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In many American cities, the most prominent murals emerge on the blank sidewalls of old buildings, often through months (if not years) of well-calibrated civic collaboration. Philadelphia, the national—and perhaps the global—leader in this art form has its own long-established Mural Arts Program, a well-staffed organization that not only vets the content and creators of …Read more…

Shipwreck Island without the water.

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At long last, a significant number of older urban centers in the country seem to be recognizing that it’s a good idea to build infrastructure that accommodates pedestrians. While we are far from perfecting the design of crosswalks or vehicular turn lanes, the trajectory clearly manifests improvement with each passing year. Finally. But even the …Read more…

Students or cyborgs?

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It goes without saying that college campuses are usually hubs of pedestrianism. Even the most car-oriented, pavement-saturated, commuter-dependent academic environments will still harbor more bipeds than one would typically see in just about any other workplace. It’s unavoidable. This association owes much to the etymology of the word “campus”: a derived from the Latin word …Read more…