The Sidewalk Weekly: what we're thinking, doing, and reading about the future of cities.
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17 Mar 2017

The best urban environments provide residents with a range of mobility options that are just as convenient as the private car. Few cities are pursuing that ambition as strongly as Barcelona.

The Spanish city has a long-term plan to expand its bike and transit networks. It's piloting "superblocks" that preserve walkable space by restricting car access. And now Mayor Ada Colau says that finding ways to further reduce private car use is "a challenge that we cannot delay" if cities want to preserve clean air (Reuters).

As a policy tool, technology can help local leaders achieve their push for transportation options that are as efficient as — and more affordable and sustainable than — private cars. This week a new study on autonomous vehicles finds that shared fleets could help reduce car-ownership significantly in dense cities like New York and even car-oriented metros like Dallas (Curbed).

While often framed as a "war on cars," statements like Mayor Colau's are really a celebration of choice. Great cities don't force transportation into a binary, mode-vs-mode decision; they help people choose among convenient options based on their travel needs. More mobile links:

  • ICYMI - The next-generation intersection helps all modes share the street (Sidewalk Talk)
  • Behind the Quiet State-by-State Fight Over Electric Vehicles (NYT)
  • Most NYC bike-share trips are taken to reach mass transit stops quicker (Daily News)
  • Cities Shop for $10 Billion of Electric Cars to Defy Trump (Bloomberg)
(Image: Matías Callone / Flickr)

What we're thinking

Help us brainstorm: Technology has played a role in shaping urban life for as long as people have settled in cities. The Sidewalk editorial team is developing a new series that will explore some of the most influential urban-tech innovations across time and place — from the aqueducts of Ancient Rome to the bike-share systems of modern America. Knowing how well our readers know cities, we're crowd-sourcing ideas to explore in the series. Submit yours via this Google Form (link).
  • Bonus read: When cities went electric (CityLab).

What we're doing

Transit Explorer update: Last month we launched the NYC Transit Explorer to show how long it takes to get anywhere in the city by bus or subway. (Even during L-mageddon.) This week, thanks to a helpful data assist from TransitCenter, we've updated the map tool to include a wheelchair accessibility option. As this demo comparison shows, getting from Ridgewood, Queens, to Midtown East, Manhattan, adds an extra 11 minutes if you need an ADA-compliant station — making the trip 26 percent longer (link). Explore more:
  • New map demo: How the L train shutdown will impact your commute (Sidewalk Talk)
  • Got feedback? Let us know via Google Form (link).
Giga-brit: On the heels of the U.K.'s new Digital Strategy (Gov.UK), Sidewalk portfolio company Intersection announced that LinkUK's super fast Wi-Fi kiosks will be coming to the London borough of Southwark in 2017 (BT). We'll have more news on the rollout soon; for now, more connected links:
  • Tim Berners-Lee: I invented the web. Here are three things we need to change to save it (Guardian)
  • How the Internet Is Saving Culture, Not Killing It (NYT)
  • The rewards and risks of smart cities (FastCo)

What we're reading

Energized: How to build cities in a climate change era (Princeton). Why Isn’t Wind As Sexy As Solar? (FastCo). CO2 is rising at the fastest rate ever recorded (WaPo). What if highways could turn sunlight into renewable energy? (CityLab). Study: Improved estimates of ocean heat from 1960 to 2015 (Science). Mapping solar potential in 50 U.S. states (Google).
Urbanized: Red State/Blue City Isn't the Whole Story (CityLab). Malls and cities are becoming indistinguishable (Guardian). The 21st-century utopia: Cities without slums (CNBC). Infrastructure policy should encourage walkability (Washington Monthly). Why start-up utopian communities fail (Aeon). Egypt is building a new capital city in the desert (Places).
Tech talk: In 60 years, automation has eliminated just one US occupation (Qz). Will Cheap Robots Prevent a Jobs Comeback? (Fortune). The $100 Million Plan to Link Brains to Computers (Tech Review). Meet Silicon Valley's Secretive Alt-Right Followers (Mother Jones). In SV, Teachers Scramble for Housing (CityLab). Coastal elites should fund 'Flyover County' (Wired).
Pulse points: DeepMind’s Health Data Play Makes the Blockchain Actually Useful (Wired). Why tech investors fail to understand that health care startups don’t grow at internet-company pace (FastCo). The Fight to Close the Racial Health Gap Just Got Harder (CityLab). Your Doctor App Could Amplify Your Health Anxieties (Tech Review). Can a Machine Predict Your Death? (Slate).
Rush-hour reads: The results of the SF's transit-incentive program (CityLab). Silicon Valley Had a Meltdown Because It Couldn't Use Uber and Lyft at SXSW (Slate). Cable Cars Are Changing the World (How We Get To Next). Trump’s budget hits transit hard (Transport Politic). Why Intel is paying $15 billion for Mobileye (Recode). New SF laws penalizes stationless bike-share (Examiner).
Long: Why Is Silicon Valley So Awful to Women? (The Atlantic)
Look: "Mostly Human": A six-part series on our increasingly complicated relationship with technology (CNN)
"US workers will need a stronger, not weaker, safety net if they are to survive in an automation nation."
— Maya Rockeymoore (Wired)
Copyright © 2017 Sidewalk Labs, All rights reserved.
The Sidewalk Weekly Newsletter is written by Sidewalk Labs Editorial Director Eric Jaffe. 

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