Your allergies are bad because of tree sexism

I'm one of those people who's damn near allergic to everything — or at least, according to my doctor, to all forms of dust and tree pollen, which might as well be everything. This was particularly frustrating at the start of the COVID-19 outbreak this spring, as every day I woke up with a scratchy throat or runny nose I immediately assumed the worst. (Don't worry, I'm fine; it was allergies every god damn time.)

While I tend to thrive better in cities that offer some respite from our botanical oxygen-pooping friends, I recently learned that American urban planning generally favors male trees, which produce more pollen. From Atlas Obscura:

[W]hen [Tom Ogren, horticulturalist and author of Allergy-Free Gardening: The Revolutionary Guide to Healthy Landscaping] studied frequently landscaped plants in other cities, he noticed the same thing: males, all the way down. “Right away I started realizing there was something weird going on,” he says. While tracking down the origin of this trend, Ogren stumbled upon perhaps the first trace of sexism in urban landscaping in a 1949 USDA Yearbook of Agriculture. The book advised: “When used for street plantings, only male trees should be selected, to avoid the nuisance from the seed.”

Urban forestry’s apparent sexism seems to boil down to our distaste for litter. The USDA reasoned that tiny allergenic spores are likely to be blown away by wind or washed away by rain, making pollen an easier civic task to manage than, say, overripe fruit or heavy seed pods that would need to be cleaned up by actual humans.

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We need a "science of the night"

In the journal Nature, University of Melbourne researcher Michele Acuto argues that what happens in our cities after dark has a tremendous impact on energy, sustainability, waste, and inequality "yet scholarship and policy often neglect these dark hours." According to Acuto, we need a coordinated and cross-disciplinary "science of the night" to gather data and build understanding if we hope to tackle societal-scale issues and build truly smart cities. From Nature:

For instance, few analyses look to see whether policies exacerbate inequalities, which tend to be worse at night. The hospitality and entertainment sectors get most of the focus, even though more midnight workers are employed in logistics and health care. Work at University College London (UCL) demonstrated that night-time spaces for LGBT+ people (people from sexual and gender minorities) are important for community life, and are also at a higher risk of closing than other establishments. UCL also highlighted inequality in transport options: London’s celebrated 24-hour Night Tube serves bustling downtown and restaurant districts, and so does more to accommodate late-night revellers than low-income late-shift workers...

Information about the night-time is also crucial for a sustainable planet. At the Connected Cities Lab, we are working with the Melbourne School of Design and the London-based design firm Arup to evaluate how cities are performing at night-time vis-à-vis the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. This is no academic exercise. Evidence that late-night and shift workers have higher risks of conditions such as heart disease, mental-health disorders and cancer reinforce other analyses calling for a higher night-time wage.

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An entire village built on the roof of a huge building

Jakarta's Comsmo Park is an entire village built on top of a ten story building containing a shopping mall and parking garage. Built a decade ago, Cosmo Park only recently garnered attention when @shahrirbahar1 posted the above drone photo of the curious community. From The Guardian:

“It’s a lovely oasis,” says (resident) Fazila Kapasi, as she tails her four-year-old son around on his bike along one of the complex’s neat roads. “I cannot recommend it enough.”

Fazila and her husband moved to Jakarta from Mumbai, and chose Cosmo Park partly because they were concerned about Jakarta’s floods. But after living there for six years Fazila can reel off a string of other advantages, including that it is less isolating than standard apartment living.

In the afternoon Fazila stops to chat to her neighbours, while most days she and her son feed the pigeons that live in a nearby tree. She also has her own garden, where she has a hammock and space to grow aubergines, tomatoes and chillies.

“It is so good. There is so much open space, my son can ride his bike around. It’s so central, it’s really safe, and there is a lovely neighbourhood feel,” she says.

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Pipes under Portland produce power while they deliver water to homes and businesses

Apparently, this story popped up back in 2015, but it's so cool that it's still worth reading about now: the city of Portland, Oregon has water pipes buried underneath of it that not only carry clean drinking water to the locals, but also generate hydroelectric power at the same time!

From Fast Company:

In Portland, one of the city's main pipelines now uses Lucid's pipes to make power that's sent into the grid. Though the system can't generate enough energy for an entire city, the pipes can power individual buildings like a school or library, or help offset a city's total energy bill. Unlike wind or solar power, the system can generate electricity at any time of day, regardless of weather, since the pipes always have water flowing through them.

The pipes can't generate power in every location; they only work in places where water is naturally flowing downward with gravity (if water is being pumped, the system would waste energy). But they have another feature that can be used anywhere: The pipes have sensors that can monitor water, something that utilities couldn't do in the past.

Providing power to partially operate water treatment and pump facilities during the day and then juice up streetlights at night: what's not to love about that? Read the rest

Great explainer on how bike-friendly road diets make everyone safer

Road diets (previously) have been proven to reduce fatalities and unsafe speed incidents. Here's how it works. Read the rest

Watch traffic flow better in 30 simulations of a 4-way intersection

YouTuber euverus modded Cities: Skylines to demonstrate how 30 different types of intersections have dramatically different amounts of traffic flow. A four-way intersection with no traffic lights gets a flow of 191 vehicles per minute, where a stack interchange can handle 1099 vehicles in the same time frame.

The mods used, Traffic Manager: President Edition and Network Extensions 2, are both available for free on Steam.

The big surprise for me was the roundabout, because we rarely have them in the Midwest or the West Coast. They seemed like a lot of extra space needed for an incremental benefit, but it appears they can be more efficient and safer, even weird ones.

Traffic flow measured on 30 different 4-way junctions (YouTube / euverus) Read the rest

Trailer for Elevation, a film on how drones will change cities

Dezeen interview leading architects and designers around the world for Elevation, a new documentary on how drones will change cities. Speculative architect Liam Young points out, "Now that drones are in the hands of every person in the street, they're potentially as disruptive as the internet." Read the rest

Gorgeous x-ray area maps show how street-level entrances connect to NYC subway stations

Getting to a subway platform from the street often involves navigating stairs as well as a labyrinth of corridors. Architect Candy Chan created remarkably detailed and accurate diagrams of New York City's noted subway entrances and exits, overlaid with transparent parks and buildings. Read the rest

Living Tiny

This week on HOME: Stories From L.A., a member of the Boing Boing Podcast Network:

HGTV and glossy magazines have sparked a boomlet of interest in tiny homes, but they've also made them look fun, cute and easy. The realities of a tiny lifestyle can be more daunting. Municipalities often don't know what to make of tiny houses, and living in one legally is, in many places, challenging. There's a lack of infrastructure for people who want to build them. And although they're in many ways an imaginative solution to some of the most vexing urban housing issues, they don't yet have a high profile in cities. Is there a place for tiny homes in Los Angeles? One woman thinks so, and has founded a collective of like-minded people to make it happen.

Photo by Ben Chun: Creative Commons

This is the fourth episode of Season 5. You can catch up on the whole series at the iTunes Store. While you're there, please take a second to leave the show a rating and review. And you can subscribe right here:  

iTunes | Android | Email | Google Play | Stitcher | TuneIn | RSS Read the rest

Drivers who dislike cyclists don't see them

A new study of driver attitudes toward bikers shows that being able to perceive cyclists is influenced by driver attitudes toward cyclists. Those who don't like or don't care about cyclists don't see them even when looking at them. They also found that the social dominance of vehicles means they have a far higher degree of lethality over "alternative" transportation like biking or walking: Read the rest

Public road built on top of 5-story building in China

What to do in a highly populated city when you've got too many cars and not enough streets? Build a two-lane public road on top of a 5-story building, of course. Read the rest

E-commerce is clogging American cities with real delivery trucks

Convenience always carries costs. In the case of e-commerce, the surge in residential deliveries is causing in urban gridlock. Citylab goes out on delivery routes for their interesting report: Read the rest

Robert Moses wove enduring racism into New York's urban fabric

Robert Moses gets remembered as the father of New York's modern urban plan, the "master builder" who led the proliferation of public benefit corporations, gave NYC its UN buildings and World's Fairs, and the New Deal renaissance of the city: he was also an avowed racist who did everything he could to punish and exclude people of color who lived in New York, and the legacy of his architecture-level discrimination lives on in the city today. Read the rest

Drone's eye view photos reveal the racism of South African neighbourhoods

Johnny Miller is a Cape Town-based photographer who uses drones to capture aerial views of neighbourhoods and cities that reveal the deep, racial inequalities in architecture and city planning between black and white populations. Read the rest

Taxi medallion markets collapse across America

Uber may be rapacious, exploitative corporate scum, but they're knocking the bottom out of one of the most corrupt "markets" in the country. Read the rest

Solving San Francisco's housing crisis with narrow, human-scale streets

The Narrow Streets SF site tries to imagine what San Francisco would be like with streets redesigned for humans instead of cars, allowing the space clawed back from the roads to be used for more housing. Read the rest

Sinkhole opens 'neath holiday resort complex near Disney World

A 15-foot-deep sinkhole opened beneath a vacation condo complex near Walt Disney World in Florida, partially devouring a pair of three-story buildings above it. Some 35 people were successfully evacuated from the buildings at Summer Bay Resort, 10 minutes' drive from the Disney property. One building is still sinking. Read the rest

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