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Posts about Japan


Like DCís protected bikeways? Kyoto has a bike arcade

The Sanjo Arcade is a nearly kilometer-long covered shopping arcade in the center of Kyoto, Japan. Lined with shops and restaurants, locals stroll or ride their bikes to and fro through the colonnade throughout the day.

The Sanjo Arcade. Photo by the author.

The arcade is a "shotengai," or shopping street in Japanese, that stretches 850 meters from Horikawa Street to Senbon Street on the west side of central Kyoto, Google Maps shows.

The entrance to the Sanjo Arcade on Horikawa Street. Photo by Google Maps.

Another view of the Sanjo Arcade. Photo by the author.

While we do not have any direct parallels to the Sanjo Arcade in our region, there are similar streets elsewhere, like the Downtown Mall in Charlottesville, the 16th Street Mall in Denver, and the Ithaca Commons in Ithaca, New York. However, neither has the sheer density of people or shops—not to mention the roof—as in Kyoto.

The lower density of many US cities is a good reason why dedicated pedestrian and bike malls are not more common here. Some cities have even had success reintroducing cars to former pedestrian and bike malls, like in Buffalo, where cars recently returned to three blocks of its Main Street pedestrian mall.

This is not to say we shoudln't look to Kyoto and elsewhere for bike infrastructure ideas. The city is teeming with cyclists, with dedicated on-street or on-sidewalk lanes lining many major thoroughfares and the city's narrow side streets popular ways for cyclists to cut through its large blocks.


Give the robot your bike

Here's what we could do with the unused parking space at DC USA: build an enormous robotic bike parking system. We covered this before, but now there's an even better video with more information (though also ads). This system grew the Tokyo neighborhood's already-high rate of bicycle usage by another 20%. (Hard Drive, Nat)


Weekend reading: someone is wrong on the Internet

More obnoxiously judgmental? Prince of Petworth discusses the curb cut-gorging townhouses on P Street between 16th and 17th, leading to a debate about curb cuts followed by "which blog commenters are more obnoxiously judgmental," on PoP or Greater Greater Washington.

Photo by Prince of Petworth.

No Facebook for Annapolis: The Maryland General Assembly will block Facebook and MySpace for members and staff at their office computers. They claim that viruses prompted this, but the Baltimore Sun says Republicans think there were political reasons. Either way, legislators who use Facebook to communicate with the public will lose this valuable tool.

Tobago, DC? цarьchitect figured, if DC has a Trinidad, it needs a Tobago. He suggests the area between Van Ness and Tenleytown sometimes called Wakefield or North Cleveland Park.

Why can't we be like leafcutter ants? Leafcutter ants don't get into traffic jams, even on narrow paths like tree branches. That's because they patiently wait behind slower-moving ants instead of going around them, Wired explains. If cars behaved that way, say scientists, traffic would move more smoothly too. Via Planetizen.


Sustainable Transportation Five, please step forward

Five unnamed but heroic Democratic Senators refused to support Boxer and Inhofe's amendment to add $50 billion in highway spending to the stimulus. According to Streetsblog, they insisted on these criteria:

Five DC superheroes. Photo by Custom Lego minifigs on Flickr.
  • Allocating a minimum of 30 percent of the total to clean water and public transportation/passenger rail. Of the total funds allocated to highways and bridges, 10 percent would have to be set aside for Transportation Enhancements, i.e. bicycle and pedestrian improvements.
  • Giving the Secretary of Transportation discretion to redirect funds from states that were not adhering to certain criteria to states that were adhering to them. The criteria Dems and enviros wanted to see, for example, would not have allowed states to receive funds by showing that a project improves vehicular Level of Service.
  • Remember, Level of Service (LOS) is an outdated metric that assumes the only objective of roads is to move the maximum numbers of cars as fast as possible. When transportation departments focus on LOS, they end up with wider intersections and more lanes that reduce walkability and pedestrian safety and promote sprawl.

    According to Streetsblog, the Boxer/Inhofe amendment is "nearly dead", though nothing is certain yet. Update: Infrastructurist reports that Inhofe hasn't given up. The Bond amendments to cut rail programs also appear to be going nowhere.

    I'd love to know who these five unnamed Senators are so that we can thank them for their enlightened approach to transportation.

    In other stimulus news, The New York Times this morning reports that Japan's stimulus in the 1990s failed to revive its economy. Economists both inside and outside Japan disagree on whether "didn't go far enough... [or] was a colossal waste." According to the article, they built "increasingly wasteful roads and bridges" instead social services. The article doesn't mention transit at all, whether in the wasteful or the more useful category. Tip: Greater Greater Dad.

    In a Boston Globe op-ed, Ed Glaeser argues for a separate infrastructure bill to create the transportation network we need, and for limiting the stimulus to items like repairing decaying infrastructure that we can actually begin right away.


    Afternoon links: (Rail)road to the future

    No to new roads: Friends of the Earth has launched a campaign to keep roads out of the upcoming federal stimulus. "The road-building lobby is attempting to hijack [the stimulus] bill and divert billions of dollars to the construction of new, unnecessary roads, highways and bridges that would deepen our nation's dependence on oil and increase greenhouse gas emissions," they write.

    Photos by Suzan Tobin.

    Yes to high-speed rail: You probably saw this Monday, but USDOT is talking to contractors about designing a new high-speed Northeast Corridor rail link. Congress funded the study (but not yet the line itself) in October. Via DCist.

    No to a Shell: Tomorrow at 1 pm, DDOT's Public Space Committee will consider the proposed Shell gas station at 14th and Maryland, NE. Right near the revitalizing H Street corridor, that major corner should have some retail or apartments, not a gas station. The hearing is at 1 pm, 941 North Capitol St, 7th Floor. Via Frozen Tropics.

    Convert those garages into cafes: Suzan Tobin suggests in Planning Magazine that suburbs can become mixed-use quite easily, by legalizing accessory retail, like cafes, bookstores, or flower shops in the garages of today's houses.

    Driving makes you fat: So says a new study by University of Tennessee and Rutgers researchers, reports Jalopnik. Tip: Joel.

    How about one at DC USA? Check out this amazing bike parking system in Japan. Via BoingBoing; tip: Alex.

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