Questioning a Driverless Future

imageI was in Dallas last week attending the Congress for the New Urbanism’s CNU 23 Conference, turning over the question “how do we build places people love” with professionals as enthusiastic about city design as myself. One concept that kept popping up was that of the driverless car. What bothered me about the surrounding discussion though was this attitude of inevitability regarding our driverless future. No one seemed to be stopping to ask whether such technology actually provides a net benefit to our quality of life. To be sure, such cars may provide several benefits from a possible reduction in traffic fatalities to better mobility for the elderly, disabled and others isolated by our auto-oriented society. But what about the potential pitfalls? Have we considered those? Let me just share a few unanswered questions of mine ranging from the concrete to the philosophical: Continue reading

Store Brands to Cover Bands: The Lost Art of Local Imitation

imageI blame Michael Pollan. Not too long ago my wife and I both read his excellent book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and our food consumption hasn’t been the same since. We started thinking more about what we were eating and shopped for foods with simpler ingredients, less processing, and fewer artificial sweeteners and preservatives. One of our favorite new finds was an incredibly delicious loaf of bread with the simplest of ingredients – wheat, yeast, honey, water, and salt – that’s it! It was so good in fact that we initially ignored the $6 price tag as the price of shopping with our values.  As we kept eating and our grocery bill kept growing, however, we started thinking of alternatives. Continue reading

A Place for the Bicycle

imageFor my birthday a few months ago my wife gave me a pannier – a bag that attaches to my bike. It was a simple gift that unexpectedly opened up my world. I had always liked the idea of biking to work but it just wasn’t very enjoyable with a heavy backpack weighing me down in intense Texas heat. Now, I’m riding to the office at least three days a week and looking forward to my commute, what used to be the worst part of my day. I’m using less gas, avoiding the stress of rush hour, and getting in some regular exercise without cutting into the precious hours I have with my son between work and bedtime. It has been a great thing for me and I think in general more bikers and fewer drivers is a great thing for any place. So how do we get more citizens on two wheels instead of four? Well here are a few things I’ve noticed in the past few months that I think greatly improve a place’s bike-ability: Continue reading