Archive for the ‘Urban Lifestyle’ Category

Below is a link to an interesting article about one city’s approach to building on its walk ability to compete with suburbia.  Trussville, Homewood and Mountain Brook  as well as over the mountain suburbs like Hoover, Pelham and Helena could all learn from this example.

Complete Streets » Red Wing, Minn Writes an Rx for Business: Complete Streets.

And on another note,  a complete streets bill has been introduced to the Alabama Legislature.  This bill would require the Alabama Department of Transportation to plan for pedestrians, cyclists and transit users as well as motorists when they build roads. (Federal Law requires this for federally funded projects, but ALDOT regularly ignores this it seems, or finds a way out of it).

Let your representative know you support including all modes of transportation in our street and road planning by supporting this bill. See this  for more information!

According to USA Nation, educated 20- and 30-somethings are flocking to live downtown in the USA’s largest cities — even urban centers that are losing population:

Urban centers draw more young, educated adults –

However, Birmingham seems to be bucking the trend. According to the report, Birmingham’s city center lost 600 of these young people over the last decade. Compare this to the more than two-thirds of the nation’s 50 other largest cities, where the young college educated population living within 3 miles of the city center grew twice as fast as the rest of the metro area.

Given that this demographic is very interested in the urban lifestyle, my guess is  this could be due to fact that most of the inner city neighborhoods near downtown are very run down and/or lack quality housing that this demographic can afford. Thus, many of them are living over the mountain or on the 280 corridor instead of near downtown. It may also have something to do with where the jobs are. Downtown has been shedding jobs for years.

If it is due to a lack of safe, quality and cool affordable housing, then I sense an opportunity  that multi-family developers might want to look into.

I plan to watch this with a skeptical eye.

I agree there are serious environmental and social problems associated with suburbanization, but I do not agree that the automobile as a means of transportation is unsustainable. IMHO, we need to simply stop government subsidization and promotion of cars and urban sprawl and let the market decide the fate of the automobile.

The utility of the automobile, SUV and pickup truck is not easily replaced, especially by mass transit. A free market will not run out of energy and will find substitutes for oil should it become scarce and thus more expensive. Or you can make it scarce by making it  illegal or taxing and regulating it out of existence.  Is that consistant with a free society?

Finally, the economy of scale and inexpensive goods found in big box retail are here to stay as well. The corner grocery store with its limited range of items is nostalgic, but expensive. It will return en-mass only if forced on us.

I also believe land planning needs to be a local and state driven process, not dictated by the Feds. I can almost take bets on what position this program this take!

Enjoy. No doubt there will be some value in this program to make it worth watching. Just don’t suspend your brain.



This is pretty cool!

AIA Announces the Best Housing of 2011 [Slideshow] | Co.Design.

Interesting summary listing of census data for  Metro Areas over 1 million in population. Birmingham is 23rd in growth  with 7.20 % growth and an increase of almost 76,000 people in the last decade. Other cities are listed as well, or course.

The Urbanophile » Blog Archive » Metro/County Census Results So Far (Plus a Brief Look at Jobs).

This is the second of two articles I have seen recently that claim that, although many central cities (like Birmingham) are loosing population overall, many are seeing residential growth in their inner urban cores, demonstrating a growing attractiveness of the urban lifestyle. » Downtowns Are Back, and They’re Bringing Central Neighborhoods Along.

I am looking for evidence of this in Birmingham in the recent census data, but have so far not been able to find a database that allows me to compare the population of different neighborhoods in Birmingham. If anyone knows of such a data base, please let me know.

I have been wondering…would a Velodrome with an indoor mountain bike park would be a cool addition to the Birmingham scene?  How about having rental bikes available right next to the park? Would the local cycling scene benefit from a central hub? Would it attract more people to the healthy sustainable activity of cycling?What do you think?

Almost every form of cycling is currently present in the Birmingham area except track cycling. Would people like having this  exciting Olympic sport  available to area cyclists and spectators? In addition, could an indoor velodrome and mountain bike park serve to introduce cycling to many new adherents as well as provide an alternative hangout for area cyclists?

I submitted this idea as my entry for the Railroad Park Prize 2 the Future competition today. This competition is being held to obtain fresh ideas for developing a parcel of land adjacent to the new Railroad Park in downtown Birmingham, Alabama. My idea may be a long shot, but I thought I would share it with my friends for comment. It gave me an opportunity to propose something that is cycling related as well as to develop my skills with some new (to me) design software.

The Railroad Park Velodrome and Cycling Center is conceived as a central hub and learning center for the Birmingham area for all forms of healthy sustainable bicycling, indoors and out, connecting the park with the city at large. The facility will have the following features:

Indoor Velodrome: A velodrome is a banked bike race track designed for high speed bike racing. Velodrome cyclists and spectators are drawn to the pure speed and excitement of riding in close quarters on a banked track.  Beginning in the 1800’s, it was popular among the public, much like NASCAR is today. In fact, Madison Square Garden in New York was originally built as a track racing venue. Today, there are approx. 20 working outdoor and 2 indoor velodromes in the U.S. plus many more around the world. There are four general types of track race events: individual timed, team timed, sprint, and mass start events. All are different and thus can suit most any rider and spectator. This Olympic sport flourishes in other countries, and is making a comeback in the US. 1000 spectator seats are proposed, with concessions. There are currently only two indoor velodromes in the US, so this will bring new distinction and new visitors to the Magic City.

Indoor Mountain Bike Facility: This facility will be designed to accommodate four skill levels: toddler, beginner, intermediate and advanced. Indoor facilities are a place where riders can develop their skills before trying outdoor trails, and ride during inclement weather or off season. Paths made of wood sections can regularly be rearranged, collaboratively by a team of users, to create fresh new combination of experiences and obstacles. This will be the only such indoor facility in the south.

Rays Mountain Bike Park

Bike Rental and Repair Facility: A fully staffed rental and maintenance shop providing rental bikes to the general public for exploring the park, future greenways and bike lanes, as well as indoor users.

Multipurpose Space: For classes on safe riding, driver education, bike commuting, as well as bike club meetings, parties and community events.

Locker rooms, storage and support facilities: Provided for competitors, members and day users.

Community Outreach: Programs can be included to provide alternative sports outlets for disadvantaged youth and minorities. Classes on safe and legal riding and commuting can be provided to low income residents and others who wish to commute by bicycle. Classes can also be provided for drivers and cyclists to educate them on how to safely share the road, as required by law.

Below is a link to the drawings I prepared to illustrate the concept. Obviously, there are many forms this could take, so this is just one possibility. Let me know what you think of my proposal. Is it cool, a pipe dream or what?

VELODROME P2F drawings

UPDATE 03.15.2011: Some friends of mine have created a Facebook Page about this idea. You can find it here.

UPDATE 04.18.2011: Sorry to report that my idea did not make it into the top 50 entries, and thus has not chance of being implemented by the Railroad Park Commission. HOWEVER, if we can get enough support  for this idea, I may try to find some investors and develop it myself! So stay tuned to the FB page!

UPDATE 09.02.2012: The FB page was taken down due to a lack of interest.