Hong Kong Part 1: Mixed-Use Urbanism

Here’s a picture I took in the Mong Kok neighborhood of Kowloon in Hong Kong. I’m standing on a second-story walkway that’s part of the Bird Market and Garden. Just across the street is the Mong Kok Soccer Stadium. You can see the Flower Market below. And above the Flower Market is apartments — several stories of them. Click the image for a larger view.


All four of these uses appear to exist quite comfortably in a small space. How?

The only motor vehicles using the street below are delivery trucks and public transit because there’s nowhere to go and nowhere to park. This is key. No one is driving to the stadium. No one is driving to these markets. And no one is parking cars at the apartments. So there’s no need for surface parking — the very thing that spreads other things apart.

Providing surface parking would create exactly the kind of urban spread — the “missing teeth” in the smile of pedestrian-friendly urban design — that would make this mixed-use neighborhood impossible.

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Big City

I’ll be in Hong Kong next week doing the thing I usually do when I visit a city: walk, ride transit, eat/drink local, watch people, and wander about. I’m not much for seeing “sights” such as museums. I’m more into seeing the whole of a city as one big sight filled with a never-ending street drama.

Parts of Hong Kong (e.g. Kowloon) are some of the most densely populated places on earth. But the entire city ends up mid-range in the big factor on lists of big cities.

I’ll be posting thoughts, photos, and video upon my return.

HK_Kowloon_Panorama_2009Photo by: WiNG, CC-SA2.0


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Like The No-Driving Thing

Not that I was tipsy or anything, but it’s nice to be able to walk home from happy hour during weather events 🙂

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It’s been a tough week for downtown business news in Springfield.

Coyote’s Sports Bar / Mille’s Cafe is closing and Modern Society Apparel  is moving south.


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Downtown Naples in 23 Seconds

I found some good examples of walkability in downtown Naples, Florida as described by Jeff Speck in his book Walkable City. Here are 23 seconds:

A Very Short Walk in Naples from acline on Vimeo.

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Great Things Coming in 2015


My sabbatical application was approved, so that means by mid-May 2015 I’ll be working on the Downtown documentary full-time until January 2016. Deadline for a finished, 90-minute feature: 31 December.

I’ll be in Naples, Florida for a couple of weeks starting on 28 December. I’m planning to do some filming there.

Thanks to everyone who has helped with this project so far!

Be sure to check out our Carbon Trace Productions web site.

If you’re still looking for a charitable tax deduction for 2014, please click this link and donate to my film project through the MSU Foundation. You’ll be helping me and my students you see pictured with me. They are the backbone of this thing because, well, they know way more about making movies than I do 😉

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Tax-Deductibility Has Arrived!

I’ll bet you need to make just one more tax-deductible donation to round out your 2014 tax situation. Well, I have just the thing. Click here to make a donation to my student-led documentary film project called “Downtown.”

In case you missed it, you’ll find details here.

In other Carbon Trace news: I have changed the domain for this blog and everything associated with it to carbontrace.net. Your old links will continue to work because isocrates.us is parked at this domain. Be aware, however, that this move may have broken some links in the blog archive. Please alert me if you see somthing amiss.

This blog exists at carbontrace.net/bike/ (but you DO NOT have to change your links).

Our Carbon Trace Productions site is in the root at carbontrace.net.

And I’m building a site for our multimedia documentary work at carbontrace.net/carbontraceproductions/ (under construction).


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Art and Tourists In Asheville

The list of largest employers in Asheville, North Carolina reads like most small cities in the U. S. — the usual suspects being education, health systems, and government at various levels and functions. But with my feet finally on the ground in downtown (with the arrival of better weather), it’s clear to me that tourism plays a big role here (tell-tale sign: Christmas stores). Art is an important attraction along with the natural beauty and the Biltmore estate.

The streets were crowded today with shoppers because, well, it’s Black Friday. But there are also plenty of places to shop and plenty of variety — including touristy Christmas ornaments. My daughter, who attends college here, reports the streets are lively here much of the time.


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Visiting Asheville, NC

I’m in Asheville, North Carolina for a few days visiting my daughter who goes  to school at Warren Wilson College. I’m also shooting b-roll for Downtown and exploring the city.

From a downtown perspective, Asheville feels twice the size of Springfield, yet is is half the size — even though it has a mall and sprawl y’all. The geography of western North Carolina is very different and, I suspect, led to a very different approach to urban planning. Other contexts play a role in this, too.

I’ll let you know what I discover.

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Carbon Trace Update

ctp_logoThe production of Downtown is now in full swing, and I am, for all practical purposes, working on this project full time until completion. I’m applying for a sabbatical for the fall 2015 semester to make finishing this project a bit easier.

Consequently, I’ll be blogging less on Carbon Trace and almost not at all on Rhetorica for the next 18 months.

To keep track of our progress, visit the Carbon Trace Productions website and get hip to our social media – especially our Indiegogo campaign 😉

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Our Indiegogo Campaign Is Live!

Check out our Indiegogo campaign for Downtown.


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Our Teaser and Site are Live!

Carbon Trace Productions took a big step forward today. Our teaser and website are now live! Our Indiegogo campaign goes live tomorrow.

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Submit or Be Damned

Do as you’re told.

Submit to authority.

No matter what. Even if you have the facts on your side. Even if you have reason on your side. Even if you have experts on your side. Even if you have morality on your side.

This is America today on our streets. Drive a car or stay home.

Keri Caffrey sums up the Cherokee Schill affair — a woman who just wants to drive her bicycle  to work on the roads she pays for. Read the whole thing now.


What we have here is a single mom trying to get back on her feet after escaping domestic abuse. She lost her license for financial reasons (she couldn’t afford insurance). She didn’t give up. She didn’t go on welfare. She got on a bicycle — at first, a delta trike — and rode to the only full-time job she could get. Those early commutes took her three hours each way. Three hours. She was out of shape and weighed 90 pounds more than she does today. She gutted it out. She lost weight. She got stronger. She got a faster bike. She learned how to ride safely and successfully. She was pulling herself up by her bootstraps, dammit!


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The Price We Gladly Pay

This column in today’s New York Times is heartbreaking:

There was videotape evidence that the man who killed Cooper did not yield. Witnesses corroborated that the driver was not paying attention.

I soon learned, however, that the Manhattan district attorney’s office would most likely not charge the driver who killed my son with criminal negligence.

The author, Dana Lerner, thinks she’s battling a legal system and law enforcement. She is not. She is actually battling an entire culture. And that means she will lose despite attempts by Mayor Bill de Blasio to mitigate traffic deaths in the city.

The cold hard facts of the matter: Tens of thousands of traffic deaths in the U.S. each year is the price we gladly pay for a traffic system (including enforcement) that largely allows us to self-righteously act in any damned way we please largely without penalty.

Well, obviously, we prefer that other people pay the utimate price.

We are all guilty. Every time we exceed the speed limit. Every time we dodge a rule because, well, no one is watching (and it seems safe). Every time we sigh with relief because the price we paid for a traffic ticket was easily affordable. Every time we applaud traffic engineering that makes it easier to drive faster with fewer obstacles (e.g. those damned things walking around on two legs). Every time we act like assholes because our tender convenience is just sooooo damned important.

We are all selfish assholes.

We are totally and completely happy to allow tens of thousands to die every year so that we can remain selfish assholes. And nothing will change until you accept that fact and find a way to be disgusted by it.

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Our LOS(S)

Todd Litman examines the concept of “level of service” in traffic engineering — the idea that streets and roads be designed to mitigate traffic congestion and delay. He writes:

This significantly affects transportation and urban planning decisions, and therefore our lives. In practice, the results are often perverse: this indicator favors wider roads with higher design speeds, although this degrades walking and cycling conditions (called the barrier effect), and discourages infill development (because it can increase local congestion, although by reducing total vehicle trips it tends to reduce regional congestion costs) despite resulting undesirable impacts associated with automobile dependency and sprawl, such as increased transportation costs, accidents and pollution emissions.

Litman makes a good argument for new metrics.

Until that day dawns, our unfettered use of automobiles will remain more important than, well, nearly everything.

This culturally-heightened importance — nearly 100 years of it — ensures that traffic solutions will nearly always go in the wrong direction: wider, straighter, more. And we know that increasing the level of service by increasing capacity is self-defeating.

What is it they say about insanity and outcomes? Oh yeah: “Insanity is repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results.”

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