Happiness and Mobility

Amsterdam is arguably the biking capital of the world.Spend even just a day there and you’ll see firsthand the massive volume of Dutch bicyclists that constantly cover Amsterdam’s streets. Stay there long enough, and you might notice how happy the Dutch seem to be. (A quick google search of the World Happiness Report puts the Netherlands at the 6th happiest country and the U.S. at 18th). I think a key to their happiness is that the Dutch are presented with abundant mobility options. Yes,they can drive, but there is public transit, the cities are walkable, and the emphasis on bicycling and bike infrastructure is unparalleled. The Dutch don’t spend over an hour each commute night sitting in frustrating traffic, because they have other feasible transportation options. The urban planners in the Netherlands successfully connected networks of bike paths and public transit, created narrow streets to slower drivers, and wide, attractive sidewalks to encourage pedestrians.

In the U.S., public transit use and bicycle networks are far from the high Dutch standard. Instead, the average American relies on personal vehicles and sits in ridiculous amounts of traffic. When Americans arrive home after their daily commute, they tend not to decrease the time that they spend watching TV. Time at the gym, with family, and sleep all decrease, and so does happiness. Having better options besides cars- transit that allows for reading time, or walking and biking which provide exercise, are factors that contributes to happiness. Aside from needing urban planners to help make other transportation options a reality, the U.S. needs urban planning leaders. There is no right answer or way to improve multimodal choices and contribute to American happiness. The best leaders understand that, so they lead with curiosity and passion. Leaders also focus on professional growth, which includes networking. This combination can put urban planning leaders in touch with others that have experience with reducing car-centric transportation and assist with creativity and new ideas. Collaboration between leaders is an important step that will manifest as urban planning leaders make their way in the field. Urban planners must work together to improve cities by providing multimodal transportation options to everyone, and simultaneously increasing our happiness.

-Written by Marissa Brown 


Sacramento’s Unique Bike Racks

As I walked the streets of Sacramento, I noticed several interesting designs of bike racks throughout the downtown area. I was intrigued by the creative, artistic design of the racks and questions shot through my mind. Who is designing these bike racks? Why are they designing the bike racks in such a creative way? How did this trend begin?

The City Planning department had their own standard bike rack designs and I realized the City didn’t have anything to do with designing or implementing the bike racks. So I came up with the courage (I am personally working on developing unshakable self-confidence) to talk to the business owners about the bike racks. The businesses saw an opportunity to provide parking for biking customers and to do it in a creative way that may intrigue customers to visit their business (it definitely caught my transportation planner attention!). The Alhambra Dental Plaza  (featured with their bike racks shaped as a tooth), informed me of Rossi Sculptural Designs who designs the unique bike racks. Check out the company’s site for more of the artist’s designs.

The Bike racks bring a creative flavor to Sacramento by filling its streets with art and providing infrastructure that enhances a bicyclists opportunity to use a bike.


Beautiful Space, Great Potential

Frank H. Ogawa plaza in downtown Oakland has big trees, cut grass lawn, benches, colonial buildings, and some shops surrounding it. However it lacks community life on a typical work week day at 8 in the morning. I expected much more people using the space, even though it’s the beginning of the work day. I’m curious. How can this space could be activated to allow more community interaction?

Where to go?

What are you thinking if you are a pedestrian when you first cross this?  I was thinking, I’m not waiting for this bullshit light and I’m going straight through to the island so I can wait to cross the street. This intersection is clearly built for cars, but it’s not even designed well for motorists. It confuses some people and it’s an incident ready to happen where a pedestrian could get hurt. What you don’t see is that there is a major street just behind where this picture was taken. Cars are coming to this intersection at speeds of 35-45 mph making the environment not safe for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Continue reading “Where to go?”