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Streets are for People, Not Cars? Bringing Joy & Humanity to Your Neighborhood with Blaine Merker (Episode #103)

If you wish your neighborhood brought more opportunities for delight and connection close to home, you will love our conversation with guest, Blaine Merker. His work with one of the most important Urban Design companies in the world is aiming at unique, inspiring “street cultures” in the future for us all. Blaine has some amazing stories of how our streets are being transformed from places for our cars, to places for people! If ever the future felt bright, this episode will fill you with a sense of possibility.

About Our Guest

Turns out, through most of the last century, cities have been designed, not for people, but for cars! 

Sounds depressingly obvious and also like awakening to a better way. And it is!

I suspect most of us have never considered how much wasted space we have created in our world when it comes to 10 lanes of traffic, parking lots that go on for endless acres, and neighborhood streets choked cars? 

Think about cities like Chicago, where nothing but a sliver of the Lake Michigan shore is accessible to people because Lake Shore Drive, and its 10 lanes of traffic stand between the city and the water. 

Think about the big dig.. .and planners realizing that it wasn’t a great idea to have a huge roadway cutting through the heart of Boston. 

In the United states, alone, we have more area paved for parking in this country than the entire state of Georgia.

Show Notes

[00:00- 02:18] Opening

[02:18- 08:08]

  • Blaine’s Bio
  • Jan Gehl
  • Making cities for people
  • Flip cities back to human focus rather that machine focus
  • Historically, streets functioned as a place… The primary public space of a city

[08:09 – 12:45]

  • People’s attitude towards strangers
  • Jane Jacobs
  • Robert Moses
  • City- biggest object designed that we have
  • Dawn of modern age
  • Single family zoning

[12:46- 17:07]

  • White flight
  • Zoning and transportation design
  • Cars become the primary or default system of transportation
  • Open road
  • Research in Scandinivia
  • Moments of frustration and boredom for most of us is in our cars

[17:08- 20:51]

  • Nourishing mobility is to be on foot
  • We have pushed things that we need farther apart from each other
  • Every generation has a great big idea about what a city should be
  • What is it that we can be doing now that will make the planet for them that they need

[20:52- 26:55]

  • We spend more of our income on getting around that anything else and we spend more that other countries do
  • Who the system’s working for and who its not
  • Founded Rebar on 2005 and started the experiment on a metered parking spot
  • “Parking Day”

[26:56- 29:54]

  • Parklets where develop out of “Parking Days”
  • Learn the value of space

[29:55- 32:46] BREAK

[32:47- 36:24]

  • Effervescent human activity
  • We look at how the way people behave in streets
  • Jan Gehl and Ingrid Mundt
  • Method taught by Ingrid Mundt using quantitative acknography
  • Italy
  • The more chairs there are, the more people there are sitting on them
  • Nordic, Copenhagen
  • The city embark on the experiment over the next 40 years
  • There was a direct relationship to the amount of space the people were given and the amount of time that they would spend enjoying it
  • Scandinavia

[36:25- 40:21]

  • The things that bring us joy is carbon neutral
  • Alignment between climate action and happiness
  • Public spaces work when they are activated by people living near them
  • Sustainable form of urbanism
  • Research from CoolClimate Netwok Berkely
  • Infill Urban Development
  • Invite more neighbors into your neighborhood

[40:22- 48:45]

  • Project started in Portland, Oregon called Intersection Repair
  • City of Barcelona-  Super Manzanos
  • There’s all kind of ways that we can create shared stewardship on purpose 
  • Gorilla Gardener
  • Times Square, New York City
  • Monon Trail, Carmel Indiana
  • Mountain View
  • Making the experience the rule rather than the exemption

[48:46- 52:27]

  • Segregated societies
  • The more diversity… the more tolerance
  • We need to strive to have cities that create environments where we get to see each other
  • Raj Chetty Research

[52:28- 56:12]

  • Pride in place
  • Spaces are devoid of other people
  • What are streets for?
  • Change is definitely tricky
  • Single best way that we have for fixing climate change and other problems

[56:13- 57:27]

[57:28- 57:46] CLOSING

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