🌱 The 99% Invisible City

Finished 2021-10-10

First time using speed reading techniques.

I’d heard most of these stories on the podcast already.

Big take away is that cities are complex systems that evolve and are impossible to control by a single mind. Cities do incentivize, force, coerce behavior to be a certain way so we should take care when building cities.

Cars are a relatively new addition to cities and they do seem to conflict with people.

speed, perception and safety

engineering issue: people tend to use what’s given to them

clear vistas help reinforce the illusion that drivers are traveling at a reasonable pace along a highway, even if that velocity is incredibly high

Visual cues can not only make higher speeds feel normal, they can encourage drivers to speed up.

This phenomenon isn’t only limited to lines—the presence or absence of objects alongside a road can change drivers’ perceptions of time and distance and inform their sense of speed. Take sidewalks and street trees, for instance. In many prewar suburbs, roadside trees were arrayed along verges between car-filled streets and pedestrian sidewalks. In postwar suburbs, some planners were concerned about the collision risks posed by this roadside greenery and began to experiment with putting trees on the other side of the sidewalk. Clearing out objects that could cause damage in collisions seems sensible on the surface, but it can have certain unintended side effects, like creating the visual impression of a wider paved area for drivers. More open roads encourage faster travel thanks to reduced “edge friction” from peripheral objects. A reduced number of obstacles also exposes pedestrians to increased danger when speeding vehicles swerve off roads. All of this points to a larger traffic engineering issue: people tend to use what’s given to them. Presented with wide open spaces, drivers will go faster. Intentionally closing off space by adding trees and other landscaping along the side of the road may make a driver a little more anxious but also more cautious, which can in turn make roadways that much safer for everyone.

Roundabout recursion

isn’t one roundabout-its five smaller roundabouts that run clockwise

It works like this: each circle around the periphery allows cars to enter from feeder roads. Cars then rotate through the various circles to exit where they want Experienced navigators can move through it fairly quickly and directly while less proficient ones can always go with the flow, working their way around the edge until they get where they need to go. Initially, traffic police officers were stationed all around to make sure drivers could understand the flow of traffic, but people soon got the hang of it.

If this all still seems crazy and complicated, consider the relative simplicity of each choice a driver has to make along the way. They only have to follow the lines and arrows, yield to others already in a given circle, and keep moving incrementally toward their destination. As a whole, it looks like a mess, but at each step, its relatively straightforward. Plus, any complexity could also be spun as an advantage. increased awareness forces drivers to pay more attention to the road and their surroundings rather than relying on signs or signals.

Sustainable construction

simple but fundamental truth about the nature of human constructions the world over: no building lasts forever. There is a lot to criticize about the global culture of planned obsolescence, but even well-built things eventually become obsolete. In that light, employing more deliberate, considerate, and sustainable deconstruction methods can offer old architecture a more graceful way to permanently exit the built environment.

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