City streets need only few things to make them safe, according to the famous urbanist Jane Jacobs. She says safe streets need people walking around, places for them to go, things for them to do and other people for them to interact with. Simple as that. But Jane forgot one more thing: a sock full of quarters.
This final piece is a critical element in maintaining the safety of a street or neighborhood. The antidote to crime and the fear it inspires is a community that asserts its own security. The social livelihood of streets and neighborhoods is what maintains safety and security. But in the absence of this social interaction, crime prevails. The fear of crime kills the street.
The automobile is undoubtedly the dominant mode of travel in Los Angeles. But to write off the city as made up entirely of car-driving, bumper-to-bumper rush hour commuters is clearly an over-generalization. A growing group of Angelenos is finding ways to make transit, cycling, and walking (and, often, a combination thereof) relevant and viable in their daily lives.
I just got back from my first trip to Europe, where the cities are a lot older and a lot different than they are here in the New World. I made many observations on my brief trip, which included Paris and Barcelona, and I'm sure those will bubble up in blog posts in the near future. However, I won't waste anyone's time remarking about how great European cities are. We've all heard it before, and while it may be right, the point has been made. Like, really made.
So, yes, the narrow streets are nice to walk on, the bike sharing system in Paris is awesome, and the architecture is impressive. But one piece of these cities that hasn't receioved enough praise is their garbage cans.
Specifically, I'm talking about Paris here, and more specifically, we can't even call them garbage cans. As you can see in the picture below (yes, I take pictures of garbage cans on vacation), these garbage "cans" are not much more than posts, hoops and plastic bags.
City cycling can be hectic. Let's be realistic: most American cities are not meant for cyclists. It would be great if they were, but for now, our city forms are primarily designed for the movement of cars.
Because cities are made for cars, it's understandable that car drivers tend to disregard the fact that somebody might be riding a bike out there. (Interchange blogger Mike Lydon recently wrote an excellent piece about planning for bicycle networks.) Until our urban forms and public policies encourage the use of roads by a variety of transportation types, the burden is on cyclists to assert their role in the transit jungle. Communication is key to achieving this goal. Safe cycling (and safe transportation in general) relies heavily on communication.