Shrinking the sprawl

One of the ironic aspects of bike racing is that you spend a lot of time in the car.

When carpooling to races  with my teammate Tris, we invariably end up talking about how we don’t like driving, and how we’d like to be able to walk and/or ride to more places.  The urban sprawl that most of us live among makes that difficult. While in suburban Louisville for nationals, there was a Starbucks just half a mile from the hotel.  But walking required crossing 6 lanes of heavy traffic without any visible pedestrian crossings.  Riding required either (illegally) dodging said traffic on the bike, or else following the maze of traffic lights and required u-turns.

Who was responsible for that planning fiasco?

One of the things I most miss about the 8 months I spent in Germany was being able to — and in many cases being required to — walk to places.  It was easy to walk to the grocery, bakery, restaurants, while it would be a hassle to drive and try to park.  In those 8 months, I lost weight simply from walking more, more than offsetting the increased beer consumption.

Is it possible to shrink the sprawl?  Especially in areas like Northeast Ohio, where the population is declining or at best stable?

A couple of related stories caught my attention. This one, written by fellow racer Jim Nichols, talks about how some would like to transform decaying urban spaces into small, working farms. Cool idea.

http://www.cleveland.com/news/plaindealer/index.ssf?/base/cuyahoga/1246870636117330.xml&coll=2

The other story is about the city of Youngstown, where we will be racing this weekend at the Tour of the Valley (promoted by our team).  Faced with declining population, Youngstown has taken the forward-thinking approach of embracing the decline and creating large green space from blighted areas, and then concentrating the developed areas.  This sort of an approach has the potential to shrink the sprawl.

The current and future land use maps can be seen here:

http://www.youngstown2010.com/plan/plan.htm

At least some people are thinking.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Shrinking the sprawl

  1. Jim Nichols

    Brian,
    Given your interest in Youngstown’s shrinking-city planning model, you ought to check out the “Re-Imagining a More Sustainable Cleveland” report at http://www.cudc.kent.edu/shrink/Images/reimagining_final_screen-res.pdf
    (Beware: It’s a beast of a file at 9 MB.)
    It’s a reflection of some of the more innovative, progressive thinking going on around here of late. Leans a bit toward the academic side, and some of it surely is just dreaming. But if you’re into this stuff, it’ll challenge you.
    Back when I covered environment for The PD in the 1990s, “sustainable” and “green” were still fringe concepts and words that rarely entered mainstream conversation. Eco-City Cleveland (now called GreenCityBlueLake) was a couple of idealists with lots of pipe dreams about sustainability and green living.
    Now all three are, to varying degrees, insinuated into the mainstream. It’s kind of exciting, even if there’s a lot more marketing hype and good intentions than actual behavioral change.
    (Given your interest in these matters, you might consider bookmarking gcbl.org and/or subscribing to its RSS feeds. You might not agree w/ everything, but you don’t need to. It’s just as good to be provoked.)
    Raise a glass to hope.

    Jim

  2. Jim Nichols

    By the way: The PD story you mentioned at the Cleveland.com link is just a sidebar to a much longer and broader main story. Find it at:
    http://www.cleveland.com/news/index.ssf/2009/07/clevelands_forprofit_urban_gar.html

    Wait — let me make that easier:

    http://tinyurl.com/mjubfx

  3. Brian

    Thanks for the links. I thought that the story on cleveland.com was a little short. Couldn’t find the full article though (their web site sucks).

    Given the state of the city itself, and the (un)likelihood that people will actually start moving back there, why not just accept it and try to make things greener and smaller at the same time?

    Will definitely keep an eye on gcbl.org.

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