News Roundup: June 19, 2013

Feed me your cars! Photo by Alan Durning.
Ugly by Law (Sightline)
Probably my favorite post on the internet this week, Alyse Nelson's photo essay illustrates the type of development that's resulted from the introduction of parking minimums, and it isn't pretty. With a focus on the Pacific Northwest, she compares and contrasts current townhouse, commercial, and "dingbat" apartment buildings with buildings from the pre-parking era and you can't help but feel a sense of loss for what we've given up in exchange for "free", convenient, ubiquitous parking.

Getting Physical (Reconnecting America)
All about how we can use infrastructure to promote higher levels of physical activity and health, this stood out to me as both persuasive and shockingly effective: "A study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine in 2011 found that the body mass of residents of Charlotte, North Carolina, who started to ride a light rail line that opened in 2007 fell an average of 1.18 points compared to those who didn’t ride — which translates into a loss of about 6.5 pounds for a 5-foot 5-inch tall person. In addition, these light rail users were 81 percent less likely to become obese over time." Imagine if they included biking and walking with those trips!

New Pentagon Mandate: Make Military Bases Livable, That’s an Order! (Streetsblog)
Tanya Snyder reports that the Pentagon is planning to shift their base development to promote more compact, walkable communities. It's a great move since it will lead to more efficient use of land in an increasingly lean military (hopefully), and will of course decrease auto dependence and encourage better physical fitness for residents, which I hear is a pretty big deal in the armed forces.

“We’re a Highway Department, Not a Bicycle Department” (Streetsblog)
Angie Schmitt brings our attention to a shocking post written at NextSTL: that quote is from a St. Louis County Department of Highways and Traffic spokesperson. It might not be a totally ridiculous thing to say if it were true, but the reality is that there is no bicycle department, no pedestrian department. It's rarely said so explicitly, but this type of sentiment is exactly what leads to urban freeways that tear through neighborhoods, ruining communities, shuttering businesses, and endangering pedestrians and bicyclists. If your only job is to build highways, the welfare of other users of the public right-of-way is irrelevant.

Could someone explain the market failure that protecting car dealerships solves? (Richard's RE&U)
Some states currently make it illegal for auto manufacturers to sell and market their cars directly to consumers, and Tesla has been challenging that system by opening showrooms and not requiring purchases to be made through qualified dealers. Understandably, car dealerships do not like this. And now they're lobbying legislatures to ban the practice or increase restrictions, and they're gaining a lot of ground with supposedly anti-regulation and anti-protectionist GOP politicians.

The Devastating Impact of 30 Years of Sprawl, As Seen From Space (Atlantic Cities)
A crazy look, in gif form, at the march of sprawl for various cities around the world. Texas cities like Dallas and Houston are especially impressive for the amount of wilderness they've eaten away at over the past three decades; likewise with international examples like Shanghai and the cities of the Pearl River Delta.