The Washington Alley Project seeks to revitalize D.C.

October 22, 2021 by  
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The Washington Alley Project seeks to transform D.C.’s alleys for modern urban living. In Washington, D.C. , there are 82,397 single-family residential properties with alley frontage. If the Washington Alley model was applied to all of these spaces, it could house 187,900 new residents. Mark Lawrence is the principal and co-founder of EL Studio, the company behind this ambitious project. Lawrence and co-creator Elizabeth Emerson started the Washington Alley Project to show how cities can adapt and change without sacrificing their architectural history, a major concern for many urban centers across the country. EL Studio has organized Alley Hops, self-guided walks in city alleys, which feature viewfinders that show the potential of various alley areas. Images might show a basketball court, mural, performing stage, seating areas, sculptures and even gardens . These images illustrate the project’s vision for transforming the city’s alleys. Related: ODA’s vibrant new complex transforms a conventional DC block The Alley Hops were designed to show that D.C. is full of unused spaces, places that could be teeming with life and activity. Alley Hop participants provide feedback about how they think alley spaces can and should be used and what they’d like to see. Using the Alley Hops, EL Studio did an extensive survey of the alleys and designed ways to turn these spaces into vibrant living and community spaces. There are 3,217 alleys in Washington, D.C. alone. Together, they take up 246 linear miles. That’s a lot of potential space that is largely going unused. Imagine a space full of options instead. Modular dog parks made with Astroturf could create areas for pets to play. Market stalls could offer space for farmers and artisans to display their goods. Safety lights could brighten up the shadowy areas. Rubber surfaces in bright colors could create play areas for children. And perhaps best of all, new housing in these underused areas could provide homes for people. It’s a vision for the future that is already beginning to come true. Prather’s Alley in D.C. will be the project’s starting ground. The improvement plan for the alley will see the addition of safe zones cut off from traffic and resting places for residents and patrons who come to the many nearby businesses. + Washington Alley Project Images courtesy of Liz Gorman and EL Studio

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Mining in Minnesota halts as government considers 20-year ban

October 22, 2021 by  
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The Biden administration is considering a U.S. Forest Service application requesting a 20-year mining ban on national forest land in Minnesota. The agency wants over 200,000 acres of land south of the Boundary Waters in Minnesota to be exempt from all proposed mining activities. If the application is successful, the ban would stop Chilean mining company Antofagasta’s Twin Metals Minnesota subsidiary from constructing a $1.7 billion underground copper-nickel mine in the area.  The Interior Department announced that it will carry out a two-year review to determine the potential impacts of mining on natural and cultural resources in the area. During this period, all mining activities will be halted. If the department is convinced that mining is detrimental to nature , it may recommend a permanent ban on all proposed mining activities. Related: Largest nature reserve in Jordan threatened by copper mining “A place like the Boundary Waters should be enjoyed by and protected for everyone, not only today but for future generations,” Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland said in a statement. “Today the Biden Administration is taking an important and sensible step to ensure that we have all the science and the public input necessary to make informed decisions about how mining activities may impact this special place.” Antofagasta has mining leases on the land that date back to 1966. Operating as Twin Metals Minnesota, Antofagasta has been trying to mine the land for years. Its activities in Minnesota have been a cause for national debate. During President Barack Obama’s tenure, the subsidiary’s leases were revoked due to concerns about mining’s effect on nature. However, the revocation order was abandoned by the Trump administration, and the company was allowed to proceed with its plans for 2019. This push and pull has been caused by personal and collective political interests. Some reports show that the Trump family has ties to Andrónico Luksic, the Chilean billionaire behind Antofagasta. Democrats and environmental groups have applauded the recent announcement, saying that it is a positive step for the environment. Becky Rom, national chair of the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters, said, “You don’t allow America’s most toxic industry next to America’s most popular Wilderness. The Boundary Waters is a paradise of woods and water . It is an ecological marvel, a world-class outdoor destination, and an economic engine for hundreds of businesses and many thousands of people. This is a great first step on the pathway to permanent protection.” Via HuffPost Lead image via Pixabay

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Airbus’ electric flying taxi is on track to soar next year

October 9, 2017 by  
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Vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) vehicle projects are really taking off, and Airbus is on track to start flying their VOTL, the CityAirbus, in 2018. The multi-passenger aerial taxi – that will be designed to one day operate autonomously – will be powered by electric motors. The CityAirbus could allow commuters to escape the traffic below in an affordable, environmentally friendly new mode of travel . Airbus announced they just finished their first full-scale testing for the CityAirbus’ propulsion system, describing the testing phase as successful. This means they’re on track for their first flight, scheduled for the end of next year. Related: Airbus and Italdesign unveil modular urban land and air transport system CityAirbus chief engineer Marius Bebesel said in a statement, “We now have a better understanding of the performance of CityAirbus’ innovative electric propulsion system, which we will continue to mature through rigorous testing while beginning the assembly of the full-scale CityAirbus flight demonstrator.” The CityAirbus boasts what Airbus describes as a four-ducted propeller configuration, which boosts safety and helps yield a low acoustic footprint. 100 kilowatt electric Siemens motors and four batteries help the CityAirbus get from point A to point B. As many as four people will be able to ride in a CityAirbus, which will cruise at a speed of 120 kilometers per hour, or around 75 miles per hour, along fixed routes. In the beginning a pilot will fly the VTOL, but Airbus plans for the vehicle to one day pilot itself. Airbus said there are benefits to adding a third dimension of travel to urban transportation , such as opening up accessibility for underserved or remote areas of a city . Self-piloted vehicles in particular can operate around three times faster than a typical road vehicle, and are energy efficient , running off electricity. Airbus said their VTOL method of travel will be quick and affordable. Via Airbus Images via Airbus ( 1 , 2 )

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Paris banned all cars for a day to highlight pollution issues

October 2, 2017 by  
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Pedestrians and cyclists cheered yesterday as Paris closed all of its streets to cars. The government held a Car Free Day and the streets filled with bikers, walkers, and roller-bladers instead of smog. Paris held a Car Free Day in 2015 and 2016 as well. But this was the first time they extended the boundaries to include the entire city . From 11 AM to 6 PM local time, cars were asked to stay off the streets – with exceptions made for emergency vehicles, taxis, and buses. The Paris City Council hosted Car Free Day, together with collective Paris Sans Voiture , or Paris Without Car, which is behind the city-wide car-free idea. Related: Activists Show What it Would Look Like if Bikes Took Up as Much Room as Cars Pollution from cars is often an issue in France’s capital – the Associated Press said mayor Anne Hidalgo was elected after promising to slash air pollution and cut traffic . The government’s statement on the day said one of the Car Free Day’s objectives was “to show that cities can and must invent concrete solutions to fight against pollution” coming from road traffic. They encouraged people to travel by scooters , skates, bikes , or walking . The symbolic event also brought results. The government said Airparif Association conducted independent measurements during the Car Free Day using sensors and a bicycle outfitted with measuring instruments. They saw “an increased decrease in nitrogen dioxide levels along major roads” and “access roads to the capital.” Meanwhile, the Bruitparif Observatory looked at noise with the help of 11 measurement stations. They saw sound energy decreased 20 percent on average, as compared against a regular Sunday. Via Paris and Associated Press/NBC News Images © Henri Garat – Mairie de Paris

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How Copenhagen handles bike jams

June 2, 2017 by  
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Bikes outnumbered cars in Denmark’s capital of Copenhagen for the first time in 2016 – a huge win for the environment . But all those bikes have led to two-wheel traffic jams that needed fixing. So the city has come up with an innovative solution: electronic information panels that help cyclists chose a clearer route. 265,700 bicycles enter Copenhagen daily, as opposed to 252,600 cars. So the city is planning to set up five electronic panels at strategic points, according to state broadcaster Danmarks Radio. Copenhagen has a 240-mile bike lane network. The five screens could help cyclists reroute to reduce bike congestion . The capital’s city hall is calling this move the first of its kind in the world. Related: Copenhagen now has more bikes than cars Head of Copenhagen’s technology and environment department Morten Kabell said, “There’s a need for improved accessibility for the growing number of cyclists who unfortunately in many places are now having to fight for space on the bike lane. We’re hoping with these new information boards to give cyclists the opportunity to choose the least congested route through the city.” The electronic panels will cost around $633,494. They’ll offer information on special events, roadwork, slow-moving traffic, and the distance to destinations. They’ll also highlight alternative routes. The screens aren’t the only way Copenhagen is looking to slash bike congestion. They’ll improve infrastructure by widening lanes already in place, improving intersection signaling, and constructing more bike-only bridges (the city currently has 17). They already have a route-planning app, ibikecph , which recently saw an update from the city on quieter, greener routes. 41 percent of people in Copenhagen bike to and from school or work. They racked up nearly 870,000 miles a day by bike in 2016. Over the past 20 years, bike traffic has increased by 68 percent in the capital. And if forecasts are correct, daily bike traffic across the city could increase by 25 percent by 2025. Via The Guardian Images via Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 )

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Berlin could build a 6-mile greenery-lined bike path under its U1 subway

June 2, 2017 by  
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A community-led proposal envisions converting the abandoned space beneath Berlin’s elevated U1 subway line into a “grand boulevard for bike traffic” that would stretch almost 6 miles throughout the city. The proposal, Radbahn Berlin, is led by a team of local specialists and community leaders who would like to put the forgotten area to use as a covered bike path lined with vibrant green spaces, bike service stations, and recreational areas for cafes and food trucks. Although still in the early stages, the Radbahn vision is supported by many – especially those who think the city is lacking in bike infrastructure. The proposed cycle path would run almost 6 miles underneath the elevated rail line , which stretches along one of Berlin’s main roads connecting three districts and various neighborhoods. Currently, the space beneath the rail line is completely idle, with the exception of a few illegally parked cars. Related: German community bands together to convert old WWII bunker into a ‘green mountain’ According to the plan, the location would be perfect for a well-organized bike boulevard considering that the area around the station is already rife with cyclists. However, the current bike path in the area is fairly short and split in various areas by protruding tree roots. For local bicyclists, the obvious solution would be to install a better bike path under the rail line, creating a safe route for bike traffic without having to disturb car traffic. There would be more than enough space for a two-way cycle path bordered by swaths of green vegetation. Radbahn Berlin is the brainchild of architect Matthias Heskamp, and the team is comprised of a group of professionals from five countries and various backgrounds whose common objective is to improve cycling conditions in the German capital. According to Bike Citizen , the project has received support from the Berlin Senate, and the team will be making a presentation to the city in early summer. As stated in the team’s urban design proposal, the main goal is to “revitalize the former space along the iconic U1 line to a pulsating urban artery. It thereby acts as a playground for modern mobility, innovation and leisure activities.” + Radbahn Berlin Images via Radbahn Berlin

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San Francisco bike shop lets you trade in car for e-bike

April 17, 2017 by  
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A new bike store in the Bay Area of San Francisco has come up with an interesting way to get people to reduce their transportation footprint. Electric bikes make a great alternative for commutes in cities like San Francisco , but many people find the hefty price tag of an e-bike prohibitive. The New Wheel solves that by allowing patrons to trade in their old vehicles for an e-bike – and a healthier lifestyle. San Francisco’s 74 hills don’t make for pleasant bike commutes – unless you’ve got an e-bike to help you. The New Wheel is making it easier for people to obtain e-bikes. Patrons can bring in their old cars, and the bike shop will take notes on the car’s condition and mileage, and send the information to Roadster.com . 48 hours later they make patrons an offer, and will even come pick up the old car and deliver a check. Ideally patrons will spend some of that money on an e-bike at The New Wheel, but aren’t required to do so. Related: Propella’s lightweight electric bike rides like a regular bike Shop co-founder Brett Thurber told Fast Company, “We’ve always been in the business of trying to figure out ways to get people out of cars and onto bikes. With all the traffic and even parking, it’s not convenient anymore, in many instances, to own a car. I think the thing we’re up against is just habit.” The New Wheel has adopted other ideas from the car industry to help people get used to the idea of owning a bike as their main vehicle. They offer financing for e-bikes and allow people to trade in their old e-bikes. They even offer roadside assistance; if bikers get a flat tire The New Wheel will pick them up twice a year and give them a free ride up to 30 miles. + The New Wheel Via Fast Company Images via Pixabay and Tom Lowenthal on Flickr

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Elon Musk says new company will start drilling under LA next month

January 26, 2017 by  
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Never one to dally, Elon Musk has announced he’s about to dig into his ambitious project to build a tunnel under Los Angeles. The new tunnel is expected to tame the city’s massive traffic congestion problem . According to Motherboard , the mogul announced the news via Twitter on Wednesday morning with a tweet that said: “Exciting news on the tunnel front. Plan to start digging in a month or so.” It’s clear that Musk is not one to let an idea languish, as he only stated his goal to build a tunnel in mid-December 2016 while publicly complaining on Twitter about the traffic problems in Los Angeles. “Traffic is driving me nuts. Am going to build a tunnel boring machine and just start digging…” he wrote on Twitter in December. Related: Elon Musk says Trump administration may be “positive on renewables” “It shall be called ‘The Boring Company,’” he wrote, according to Motherboard . “Borings, it’s what we do.” And, a month later, after a meeting with then-President-Elect Trump , voila – it’s happening. Musk confirmed he’s soon going to begin work on a tunnel carved out by Tunnel Boring Machines that will start at some point next month. According to Motherboard, the tunnel will start across the road from the SpaceX office in Los Angeles, located in Crenshaw, near the 105 Freeway. Musk stated his interest in tunnels that would “alleviate congestion completely” as far back as 2015 in an interview with scientist Neil DeGrasse Tyson . Via Motherboard Images via Maurizio Pesce and Minesweeper ,

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Elon Musk says new company will start drilling under LA next month

New law requires all electric and hybrid vehicles to make noise by 2019

November 16, 2016 by  
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The days of having an electric car suddenly appear out of nowhere next to you will soon be gone, as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA) just finalized its “Quiet Car” rule – a law designed to make sure pedestrians don’t get hurt by near-silent electric cars they can’t hear coming. As of 2019, electric vehicles will have to make enough noise at low speeds to let you know they’re coming.

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Nicolas Sarkozy calls for a carbon tax on the US if Trump pulls out of the Paris climate agreement

November 16, 2016 by  
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President-elect Trump has made no secret of his plans to pull out of the Paris climate agreement – a move that would have devastating environmental implications. But former French President Nicolas Sarkozy isn’t going to take this sort of climate change-repudiating nonsense lying down. He is calling for a carbon tax on the United States should the country decide to back out of its promises under the new Trump administration. Trump has repeatedly denied that global warming is a threat to the environment, even while quietly fortifying his real estate holdings against rising sea levels . Still, during his campaign, he promised to pull out of the Paris agreement that the US and over 100 other countries enacted to combat manmade warming. President Obama has championed the agreement, defending the pact on Monday during a press conference . Related: Trump advisers seek loopholes to allow ASAP withdrawal from Paris climate deal If Trump finds a way to scrap the agreement – and it is increasingly looking like he will – Sarkozy thinks Europe should impose a carbon tax on the US – sort of like an economic wall against poor policy decisions. “Well, I will demand that Europe put in place a carbon tax at its border, a tax of 1-3 per cent, for all products coming from the United States, if the United States doesn’t apply environmental rules that we are imposing on our companies,” he said. It is particularly important for the US to stick to the agreement, which aims at keeping temperatures from rising beyond the 2 degree point that most scientists agree is the point of no return for the planet. The US is one of the biggest carbon emitters on Earth, and it is hard to make a real global impact if the country isn’t on board. It is also difficult to convince other countries to comply if the US isn’t willing to take steps to reduce its emissions. Speaking about the agreement, President Obama stated “It says to China and India and other counties that are potentially polluting: come on board.” Via ZME Science Images via Wikimedia and Gage Skidmore

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