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Congratulations to Julie Anne Genter, New Zealand’s minister for women and associate minister for health and transport, who made global headlines this weekend for riding a bike and having a baby.
Specifically, Genter biked to Auckland City Hospital on Sunday, where she gave birth through induced labor. In an Instagram post, she wrote, “My partner and I cycled because there wasn’t enough room in the car for the support crew… but it also put me in the best possible mood!” she wrote.
Beautiful Sunday morning for a bike ride, to the hospital, for an induction to finally have this baby. This is it, wish us luck! (My partner and I cycled because there wasn’t enough room in the car for the support crew… but it also put me in the best possible mood!) #42weekspregnant #cycling #bicyclesarethebest
New Zealand’s Green Party, of which Ms. Genter is a member, tweeted that her ride to the hospital was “the most #onbrand thing ever.” The New York Times, Buzzfeed, ABC, and other international publications swiftly picked up the story. “Pregnant Woman In New Zealand Rides Her Bike To The Hospital,” was NPR’s headline.
But why did Ms. Genter’s Sunday ride cause such a stir? Sure, it was ballsy. But she’s hardly the world’s first woman to make news by taking an unexpected bicycle ride. In fact, this is a very old media trope. “The woman on the wheel is altogether a novelty, and is essentially a product of the last decade of the century,” wrote Pennsylvania’s The Columbian newspaper in 1895. “She is riding to greater freedom, to a nearer equality with man, to the habit of taking care of herself, and to new views on the subject of clothes philosophy.”
Indeed, when the first chain-drive “safety bikes” hit cities in the 1880s, women seized on an unprecedented chance to move at will. Bikes quite literally loosened up restrictive skirts and corsets, and became symbols of women’s rights movements gaining steam in the U.S. and Europe. Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton are both credited with proclaiming that “woman is riding to suffrage on the bicycle,” a line that was printed again and again in turn-of-the-century media. Bikes could take you anywhere in a era when the front yard was the limit of respectable independent travel.
Newspapers were horrified by the sight of gender liberation. “I think the most vicious thing I saw in all my life is a woman on a bicycle,” wrote one writer in an 1891 edition of Washington, D.C.’s Sunday Herald. Doctors worried that too much brow-furrowing while riding—“bike face”!—would mar female beauty. Bikes rattled women’s innards, they said, and threatened their chastity by awakening sexual impulses. But the ladies rode on—and not just rich, white ladies riding to prim luncheons, either, but women of color and working-class women too, competing in races, commuting to jobs, tending to family members, holding rallies. Women rode not to cause a stir, generally speaking, but because riding served their purposes.
That seems to be why Genter took her bike to the hospital on Sunday, too—and the ride wasn’t all that daring. The brief one-kilometer trip was “mostly downhill,” according to her Instagram post, and she made clear that she was not actually in labor while en route. (The bike involved was also a battery-boosted e-bike.) But the world still stood to attention, as if this constituted a feat of supermom-ish strength. There’s often shock at seeing pregnant women doing just about anything other than being pregnant; even in highly educated, rich countries, the myth persists that women should refrain from physical activity while carrying children. And it’s still a big deal for any national leader to be female, let alone have a kid while in office. Only two sitting world leaders have ever given birth; New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, became the second in June, after Pakistan’s then-Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in 1990.
Pregnant or not, urban cycling is widely perceived as dangerous in many North American cities, due to the lack of safe infrastructure and critical cycling mass, but that’s less true in Auckland, where years of dedicated bike lane expansions have won over a rising share of commuters.
The fact that so many of us marveled at Genter’s ride says as much about the gaps society has yet to bridge related to both women and bicycling as it does about her particular gutsiness. If the right supports are in place—as they often are for men—having a child does not need to diminish a woman’s ability to steward a country, a company, or her chosen life path. Nor does it mean she needs to give up the tools and activities that get her there. Not every mother who could ride a bike to their delivery would choose to, and that’s perfectly fine. But what stands out more about Genter’s story is how outlandish her choices appear to the world, nearly a century and a half after women first rode for change.
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What We’re Following
Take the e-bike: Docked bikeshare systems are finally getting a boost, thanks to e-bikes. New York’s Citi Bike added 200 of the pedal-assist two-wheelers on Monday, signaling a ramp-up to 1,000 e-bikes total by the time the L train shuts down in April (AM New York). Elsewhere, e-bikes have zipped in via dockless companies like Jump and Lime, but docked bikeshare has been slower to catch up. San Francisco’s Ford GoBike added e-bikes this spring, and D.C.’s Capital Bikeshare tweeted last week about potentially adding some of its own.
But the booming industry faces a potential roadblock: tariffs. On Thursday, the U.S. government will begin collecting a 25 percent tariff on Chinese-made goods, including electric bicycles and e-bike motors (Bicycling). While it isn’t clear which companies source parts from China, the North American Bikeshare Association, which lobbies for the industry, says the tariffs will “significantly increase the cost to implement and operate bikeshare for cities” and will “undoubtedly harm the bikeshare industry” even as it begins picking up in a big way.
More on CityLab
What We’re Reading
A New Orleans neighborhood comes together under an elevated expressway (Next City)
Fewer Americans uproot themselves for a job (Wall Street Journal)
Harlem’s trash bins were overflowing. So the city took 223 away (New York Times)
In Baltimore, Ben Carson’s fall from grace (AP)
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With housing affordability reaching crisis levels in America’s deep blue coastal cities, zoning reform is having a moment. YIMBYs in high-cost coastal cities like Los Angeles, Seattle, and San Francisco are calling for the construction of multi-family housing in the vast tracts of those cities zoned for single-family homes. What many may not realize is that there’s a rich bipartisan tradition behind these contemporary efforts.
Back in the summer of 1991, the Advisory Commission on Regulatory Barriers to Affordable Housing under George H. W. Bush, headed by then-Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Jack Kemp, decided to take on local exclusionary zoning—land-use regulations that primarily serve to prevent the construction of affordable housing.
Unlike today’s land-use reform advocates, Kemp, a moderate Republican and former congressman who represented suburban Buffalo, was primarily motivated by the problem of rising costs of suburbs rather than cities. In its final report, the commission called for agencies like HUD to condition their support for local governments on the removal of unnecessary barriers to housing construction, including high impact fees and large minimum floor area requirements. In addition to these federal efforts, the commission also called on states to set clear guidelines for how cities could and couldn’t regulate new housing development, with an eye toward allowing more housing at all price levels to be built.
Most of the commission’s recommendations went nowhere, thanks to Bush 41’s aversion to domestic issues and Kemp’s need to pivot to economic development following the L.A. riots in 1992. But echoes of 1991 can be heard in two new initiatives by Democratic Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey and HUD Secretary Ben Carson. On August 2, Booker introduced legislation designed to rein in exclusionary zoning, which many argue has played a key role in driving the housing affordability crisis. As Richard Kahlenberg explains in The American Prospect, the Housing, Opportunity, Mobility, and Equity (HOME) Act would require that states and municipalities receiving Community Development Block Grant (CBDG) funds develop strategies to ease regulatory barriers to new housing construction.
The recent Carson proposal, unveiled on August 13, aims to similarly bundle into HUD grants an expectation that cities will ease up on overly restrictive zoning. While HUD is commonly associated with housing, the department’s grants are a major source of funding for local infrastructure projects, such as streets, water, and sewers. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Carson pointed to policies such as zoning exclusively for single-family housing in cities like Los Angeles. “I want to encourage the development of mixed-income multifamily dwellings all over the place,” Carson said—language rarely associated with members of the GOP.
So what can Booker—a reported Kemp fan—and Carson learn from their predecessor in attempting zoning reform? The key in the coming months will be for them to remain vocal champions of their respective initiatives. Zoning is too wonky of an issue to gin up its own interest, even among housing affordability activists. In the aftermath of the 1991 report, members of the commission expected support for their proposals to be forthcoming from housing activists, home builders, and civil rights groups. That support didn’t materialize. To head off this issue, Booker and Carson will have to undertake the task of building a bipartisan national coalition around zoning reform—one strong and diverse enough to withstand the dispersed and disorganized forces of local NIMBYism.
There’s also another Democratic presidential hopeful releasing a plan to address the affordable housing crisis: In late July, California Senator Kamala Harris unveiled legislation that would offer a refundable tax credit to renters spending more than 30 percent of their income on rent and utilities. The problem with that approach, critics like writer Jibran Khan at the National Review have pointed out, is that it does nothing to address the long-term constraints on housing supply that are driving up costs, though it may help to ease the burden for renters in the short term. Worse, by juicing demand, such a tax credit might actually allow landlords to raise rents.
In contrast, the Booker and Carson proposals focus squarely on the lowest of the low-hanging fruit when it comes to supply constraints: exclusionary zoning. These are precisely the kinds of barriers that worried Kemp back in 1991. As Harvard economist Edward Glaeser and others have pointed out, exclusionary zoning policies—such as minimum parking requirements, prohibitions on accessory dwelling units in attics and garages, and large minimum lot sizes—are a key reason why housing costs have rapidly outpaced increases in land and construction costs. Beyond affordability, the downstream effects of exclusionary zoning often include racial and economic segregation, with low-income residents blocked from areas with better schools and job opportunities. The Booker and Carson plans hold that if the federal government is going to hand out billions of dollars to states, counties, and cities, the least they can do is seriously reconsider these failing policies.
While Carson enjoys wide latitude to implement changes at HUD, Senator Booker’s proposal ultimately rests in the hand of the Senate’s Republican leadership. With any luck, they will recognize both the urgency of the affordability crisis and the bipartisan pedigree of Booker’s legislation and give it its due consideration. Housing affordability may vary widely locally, but it is a national crisis and it deserves a national response. Nearly 27 years after the Kemp Commission, conditioning valuable federal dollars on an end to exclusionary zoning is an idea whose time has come.
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Four years ago, after recognizing this expansive definition of health, we began to explore the research connecting design with social and civic life. Fresh off the press, CfAD has just published the Assembly: Civic Design Guidelines as a practical and inspiring playbook to empower a diverse cross-section of implementers to use design to support civic life.
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Finding shade isn’t always easy in Dallas, Texas. Though home to one of the nation’s largest urban forests—the 6,000-acre Great Trinity Forest—there’s a dearth of trees in the rest of the city. At the same time, the urban heat island effect has made Dallas one of the fastest-warming cities in the United States.
“If we continue to add impervious surfaces and remove trees, we could have an urban heat island that covers almost half the city,” said Matt Grubisich, director of operations and urban forestry at the local Texas Trees Foundation.
That’s why earlier this year, volunteers spread out across the barren sidewalks of Oak Cliff, one of the city’s most vulnerable neighborhoods. With shovels and pick axes in hand, they began digging. The goal is to eventually plant 1,000 trees; so far, some 500 saplings are in the ground as part of a project called Cool and Connected Oak Cliff. Planting trees is a common low-tech solution to battle the heat island, but high temperatures are just one target of this ambitious project. Using sophisticated data and GIS technology, it also aims to harness the many other benefits of trees, from improving public health to taming traffic on the streets.
In 2015, the Texas Trees Foundation laid the groundwork for the project by mapping the tree cover throughout Dallas. They used aerial imagery to capture the overall canopy, and then physically counted the species of trees in a sample of more than 600 plots. On average, they found, Dallas has 29 percent canopy coverage. Some pockets of neighborhoods have less than 10 percent.
A sliver of good news came in the foundation’s 2017 report on urban heat management in the city, which suggested that trees could help curb temperatures by as much as 15 degrees on hot days. Grubisich and his team had collected and analyzed the city’s impervious surfaces, and looked at air temperature readings to identify areas that experience higher than expected temperatures.
For Robert Kent at the Trust for Public Lands—which partnered with both the Texas Trees Foundation and the Nature Conservancy on the project—that was plenty of data to work with. He fed them into a visual mapping program, overlaying the numbers with additional data on the socioeconomic and health status of Dallas’s neighborhoods.
“We go beyond just looking at single issues, and actually seeing where are the intersections between challenges posed by climate change within a city,” said Kent, who heads the group’s north Texas division. “So our maps also looked at where are the neighborhoods that suffer from the highest health disparities—we know that urban heat is going to exacerbate cardiovascular conditions and asthma, so let’s find the places that have high prevalences of those diseases.”
When they put together that map, which also included data on the prevalence of diabetes—extreme temperatures deter an active lifestyle—the lower half of Oak Cliff was shaded in an alarming red, indicating high priority for greening intervention.
Trees, though, can do more than mitigate the heat island effect. Kent’s team also put together a map that combines a variety of data: heat, health, equity, flood zones, and pedestrian and biking safety. The groups settled on targeting areas that show high health disparities—particularly among the elderly—as well as public schools that have little to no shade near playgrounds, and places with high foot traffic and pedestrian deaths.
After all, trees provide a good buffer between pedestrians on the sidewalk and vehicles on the road. “It not only provides a physical barrier of separation, but the tree will also be a signal to drivers to slow down,” Kent said. “It also makes the sidewalk a more inviting place to walk.”
While data brought the project to the southern part of Oak Cliff, numbers can only reveal so much about the needs of a community without local input. The project needed the trust of locals in this area of nearly 300,000 people, where almost a third of families live below the poverty line, according to 2016 census data. Across the city, some of the poorest ZIP codes are in areas that are made up of predominantly minority populations.
Historically, the black community here has been neglected, said Holy Cross Catholic Church’s Kebran Alexander, who’s lived in Oak Cliff since the 1980s. “There has been decisions by developers that left Oak Cliff particularly vulnerable over decades to neglect and blight.” Indeed, a recent study out of University of North Texas identified the southern half of the city, where Oak Cliff sits, as the most troubling areas of decline. When Alexander and other volunteers from his church came out to help plant the trees, they came across trash, broken bottles, and leftover concrete from prior constructions.
All that has left seniors, who can’t afford to move to other neighborhoods, vulnerable to the heat island effect. Many of their yards are browning and either lack a tree or have an aging one in need of removal. “So you cut a tree down because you were afraid it was going to fall on your house,” Alexander said, “but then, what happens to your cooling bill? And your grass? [These are] things that add to the quality of your health.”
Also vulnerable are students, whose public schools have little shade to provide relief during recess. Alexander called the playgrounds “literal hotboxes.”
Community leaders like Alexander vetted the good intentions of the project’s plan—to make sure they actually help those who need it most and, in essence, to close the trust gap between residents and the organizers. In one instance, for example, the GIS data pinpointed a residential street running parallel to the busy Illinois Avenue as an area to plant trees, but the thing was, few people walk down that stretch of road. ”The kids actually walk down the busy thoroughfare because they are going to the corner store to get drinks or candy,” said Alexander. “It was those types of granular adjustments from the ground level that we were able to give them some insights.”
Roots of a larger goal
When it comes to tackling climate change, and the human consequences of it, planting 1,000 trees seems almost insignificant—even for Dallas. The Texas Trees Foundation’s report suggests that the city will need to increase its tree canopy by about 5 percent to make a dent in curbing the heat island effect. That can mean roughly 300,000 trees. But Grubisich said it’s a good start to push revitalization efforts in at-risk neighborhoods in a city that’s historically favored new developments, and it could eventually generate more data to drive policy change.
The hope is to take their experience in Oak Cliff and repeat it in other neighborhoods across Dallas. The three groups will monitor the neighborhood’s temperatures and health statistics over the next five years, with the Trust for Public Land updating the GIS maps annually. They’ll also maintain the trees over the next two years, during which they’ll come up with a plan to transition the task over to the community and the local government.
For Laura Huffman, the Nature Conservancy’s state director in Texas, the project is about much more than increasing tree canopy. “Part of what we’re doing in this work is generating the science to connect the dots between trees and vegetation and mental health and well-being, and things like asthma,” she said.
Meanwhile, Alexander is under no illusion that this will solve Oak Cliff’s inequality. But, he said, “I have to remain optimistic because we have to start somewhere.” At the very least, the project has piqued the curiosity of the residents. Dozens have already volunteered to help. Others, meanwhile peeked through their blinds to see what was going on, Alexander recalled of the day he volunteered. Some even stepped outside, asking for a tree in their yard.
For many, Alexander said, this was one of the first times they’d seen anybody invested in their neighborhood. And while they might not see immediate benefits—it takes time for trees to mature—they can at least “see the potential.”
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The Los Angeles Dodgers have a great mass-transit heritage—the team owes its name to the “trolley dodgers” of their Brooklyn homeland. What they do not currently have is great mass transit.
Dodger Stadium, which opened in 1962 at the height of L.A.’s early highway-building fever, sits high on a hilly roost, locked in by traffic-engorged freeways and a massive parking moat. It’s a trek, and the vast majority of fans arrive by car, which means that even the Truest Blue fans will arrive late and leave early to beat the gridlock that girdles the stadium on game nights. L.A. Metro runs express buses down dedicated lanes from Union Station on game day, but those carry an average of just 2,975 riders per game in the 2017 season, according to the L.A. Times. Per-game attendance averaged 46,000; the stadium—which is Major League Baseball’s largest (and third-oldest) park—holds at least 56,000.
Like so many human problems, the issue of game-day traffic congestion has caught the attention of Elon Musk. Tesla’s chairman, CEO, and stock-price-whisperer-in-chief has been having a rough time of late, as a new interview with the New York Times makes clear. So consuming is his role trying to save his car company that Musk works 120 hours per week, depends on Ambien for dribs of sleep, and barely made it to his brother’s wedding in June. “There were times when I didn’t leave the factory for three or four days—days when I didn’t go outside,” he told the Times. “This has really come at the expense of seeing my kids. And seeing friends.”
Still—those Dodger fans need help. So Musk’s tunnel-drilling side-project, The Boring Company, has come up with a fix. Their proposal: a tunnel.
Defeating traffic is the ultimate boss battle
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 16, 2018
Specifically, it’s a high-speed underground “loop” from East Hollywood to Dodger Stadium. Eight- to 16-person, zero-emissions pods—“skates” in Musk-ese—would zip baseball fans to Dodger Stadium in four minutes along a 3.6-mile tube. Rides would cost $1 per passenger, according to the Boring Company.
Many observers familiar with Musk’s feelings about traffic and mass transit have been quick to dismiss this new scheme. But as a proof of concept, the “Dugout Loop” holds more promise than the Boring Company’s previous skate-based transit proposal, the 18-mile “Express Loop” linking downtown Chicago to O’Hare Airport, which already has a great, inexpensive rail connection. As Curbed’s Alyssa Walker points out, a tunnel-based transit line would be genuinely helpful in this part of L.A., given the hilly topography, proximity to the L.A. River, and the distance from Metro’s rail system.
The problem is that the Dugout Loop would only carry 1,400 people “per event,” with the possibility of expanding service to 2,800 depending on demand, per the Boring Company. That’s fewer riders than Metro is carrying on its buses. Such limited capacity would probably mean long lines and wait times at either end—traffic, in so many words. One might suggest a cheaper path to the same result would be to just run a few more buses.
This isn’t the first futuristic proposal non-car-based scheme to ease traffic around Chavez Ravine we’ve heard in recent months. A tech firm founded by Drew McCourt, the son of former Dodgers owner Frank McCourt, proposed an aerial tramway in April which could carry 5,000 passengers per night—more that the Boring Company’s proposal.
Dodger Stadium probably needs all the non-car based transportation options it can get, including better walking and biking options. But if you’re going to the enormous expense of blasting a hole through a mountain in order to avoid missing the first inning, why not put a high-capacity train in it? After all, the advantage of a fixed route transit line that runs on its own right of way is the high-passenger capacity it can achieve when the vehicles can fit more than a handful of bodies. A few miles south in Exposition Park, for example, the Expo light rail line carried 20,000 riders to one Rams football game alone. The Loop can’t really “defeat traffic,” to echo a Musk tweet from Thursday. Fitting more people in fewer cars would. “Instead of an underground transit system that terminates at Dodger Stadium only on game days, why not continue it to the Cypress Park Gold Line station—or beyond—and run it all the time?” Walker writes at Curbed. In other words, why not build something more practical?
It’s possible that a plain subway extension would be too boring for the Boring Company, eager to prove out the viability of its drilling technology, as well as its “skates.” Or perhaps Musk’s got bigger dilemmas to worry about now than getting thousands of Dodger fans “dug out” from traffic hell.
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Friday was one of those mornings when Donald Trump directed his Twitter ire at a mayor.
This time, Donald Trump blamed the cancellation of the military parade he had slotted for Veterans’ Day in D.C. on “local politicians,” arguing that the District of Columbia quoted too high a price to host such an event. Mayor Muriel Bowser embraced that accusation:
Yup, I’m Muriel Bowser, mayor of Washington DC, the local politician who finally got thru to the reality star in the White House with the realities ($21.6M) of parades/events/demonstrations in Trump America (sad). https://t.co/vqC3d8FLqx
— MurielBowser (@MurielBowser) August 17, 2018
Bowser brings up a point that’s plagued a lot of other U.S. mayors: Cities have often ended up underwriting Trump rallies, even though they’ve been saddled with some pretty hefty costs in the aftermath.
Several municipalities learned this the hard way in the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election, when they hosted the Trump, Clinton, and Sanders campaigns. A Center for Public Integrity investigation of federal campaign and municipal records found that as of 2017, around three dozen municipalities had not been paid. The Trump campaign, in particular, was responsible for at least $204,000 in unpaid security bills. These costs include police and fire department staffing hours and overtime for security and traffic control, the cost of equipment such as barricades, and even in some cases, utility costs and media relations.
Tucson, Arizona, racked up over $80,000 (double what the Sanders rally had cost the previous day); Spokane, Washington: around $65,000; and Eau Claire, Wisconsin: $47,000. And these are just some of the cities that have complained about being left with the bill for a Trump rally. It’s not always clear who foots the bill when presidents or presidential hopefuls come to town, but in the case of Tucson, the Trump campaign manager had signed a prior agreement to cover the costs of security. Still, no dice.
“You are responsible for these payments,” Tucson City Attorney Mike Rankin wrote to the Trump campaign in a letter obtained by the Center for Public Integrity. Rankin did not rule out a lawsuit.
According to a recent study by University of Pennsylvania, cities hosting Trump rallies saw higher numbers of assaults than those hosting other presidential candidates, which means they come with additional public safety concerns and often the need for heightened security measures. In 2016, Trump cancelled a rally in Chicago after pro- and anti-Trump protesters clashed. In many cases, attendees and campaign staffers have been charged with assaulting dissenters and journalists. Trump himself has made statements encouraging security officers to remove hecklers and supporters to “knock the crap out of” dissenters. After the Chicago rally was cancelled, security expert Juliette Kayyem— a professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and a former assistant secretary in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in the Obama administration—wrote in an op-ed for CNN:
..while I believe that all of the blame rests on Donald Trump himself — a man who speaks of leadership while taking no responsibility for the impact of his words — that fact is absolutely irrelevant for public safety agencies. For future events, mayors and police chiefs must simply assume the worst and build a safety apparatus around that. Any failure to plan makes police act in ways that are completely inconsistent with the minimal threat the protesters pose.
This advice remains relevant because Trump hasn’t stopped campaigning, even though he’s now president. In 2017, Trump held a rally in Phoenix that saddled the city’s taxpayers with $450,000 in traffic, security, and utility costs—riling up opposing politicians and local taxpayers.
“It’s 2017. He just won in 2016. This shouldn’t be something that the city of Phoenix should pay for,” Arizona Democratic Party spokesman Enrique Gutierrez told The Arizona Republic at the time.
The topic became particularly contentious at a city council meeting in Phoenix earlier this year, when citizens petitioned to withhold city resources on future Trump events and criticized the heavy-handed police response towards counter-protesters. The city council unanimously rejected the proposals, although some members brought up the need to look into whether these costs can be reimbursed.
Even though Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton asked the president to delay the rally for fear of violence, he later told The Phoenix New Times that his city nonetheless had a responsibility to provide the necessary security.
“When it comes to public safety, we have an obligation to provide public safety services to any dignitary visiting our community,” he said.
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Welcome to the latest installation of “
Meanwhile the public refreshment facilities house something positively avant-garde for Britain at that period: rotisseries that spin chickens and bread rolls as if they were being treated to a ride on a Ferris wheel. In a city where most older building were still caulked with a thick layer of Dickensian coal soot, the station must have looked like a time capsule from the future, made familiar to 1960s Londoners only by the pasty complexions of its employees and the reassuringly awful look of the food being sold. There’s still some documenting here of why Euston ultimately proved unpopular. At 4:05 we get a glimpse of the station forecourt—an arid waste of paving without life or much utility. Nowadays this forecourt is flanked by towers built in 1979, partly filled in with new fast casual restaurants and softened by the odd thicket of bushes. It’s still a charmless afterthought, especially when you consider what was demolished to make way for it: an interesting knot of buildings including a neoclassical crescent and a triumphal Doric gateway—the Euston Arch, formerly the station’s great landmark. Clearing these away may have helped realize that great late 20th century fetish of separating cars and pedestrians by creating a large underground garage. It was still a crime nonetheless, one bitterly resisted at the time. Campaigns to return the dismantled arch to its original site have continued to rumble over the decades. By contrast, the station itself is really not bad at all, even as it nears its 50th birthday this October. The proportions of its main hall have been made squatter by the addition of a mezzanine, while kiosks cluttering the concourse have robbed it of that sense of space and order. But as the functional, well-designed nucleus of a complex that’s otherwise difficult to like, it’s stood the test of time well enough.
Meanwhile the public refreshment facilities house something positively avant-garde for Britain at that period: rotisseries that spin chickens and bread rolls as if they were being treated to a ride on a Ferris wheel. In a city where most older building were still caulked with a thick layer of Dickensian coal soot, the station must have looked like a time capsule from the future, made familiar to 1960s Londoners only by the pasty complexions of its employees and the reassuringly awful look of the food being sold.
There’s still some documenting here of why Euston ultimately proved unpopular. At 4:05 we get a glimpse of the station forecourt—an arid waste of paving without life or much utility. Nowadays this forecourt is flanked by towers built in 1979, partly filled in with new fast casual restaurants and softened by the odd thicket of bushes. It’s still a charmless afterthought, especially when you consider what was demolished to make way for it: an interesting knot of buildings including a neoclassical crescent and a triumphal Doric gateway—the Euston Arch, formerly the station’s great landmark. Clearing these away may have helped realize that great late 20th century fetish of separating cars and pedestrians by creating a large underground garage. It was still a crime nonetheless, one bitterly resisted at the time. Campaigns to return the dismantled arch to its original site have continued to rumble over the decades.
By contrast, the station itself is really not bad at all, even as it nears its 50th birthday this October. The proportions of its main hall have been made squatter by the addition of a mezzanine, while kiosks cluttering the concourse have robbed it of that sense of space and order. But as the functional, well-designed nucleus of a complex that’s otherwise difficult to like, it’s stood the test of time well enough.
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