Sunday, July 31, 2005

Walk this way

I've just returned from a pleasant Sunday morning walk on Broadway in South Boston to get a coffee and a gallon of milk. I also got a doughnut so in terms of calories burned it's doubtless a wash. Still, it's always so refreshing not to climb into the car. The way urban neighborhoods promote walking is a big topic among planners and architects and, increasingly, public health experts these days. It's just common sense that when your physical surroundings allow you and indeed encourage you to walk, you're more likely to make physical activity a routine part of your day -- one way all those French women don't get fat. I have a piece on physical activity and design in today's Boston Sunday Globe Ideas section, which features innovative thinking in the Greater Boston area; communities around here are working on Safe Routes to Schools and better sidewalks, clearer wayfinding for those on foot and multi-use paths:

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Terror's toll on cities

I was asked on the Chet Curtis Report on New England Cable News July 7 how transit systems could be better secured following bombings on the London subway and bus system. The answer is, it's much harder compared to air travel -- although $18 billion has been spent on security for aviation, while $250 million has been spent on transit security. There are 32 million trips on transit on an average weekday in the US. You can't screen everybody who enters the systems. Here in Boston, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority conducted random baggage checks using a GE-built explosives-sniffing machine during the Democratic National Convention, built new hub monitoring stations in the subway, and started the "See Something, Say Something" campaign, to enlist riders as eyes and ears, on the lookout for bags that have been left unattended. More police officers will be riding the rails, and plainclothes marshals may as well. Since many of the hundreds of injuries seemed to have been caused by shattered glass and flying debris, subway cars may be required to have shatterproof windows in the future -- now common in many secured government buildings. It's going to mean a lot of expense, and more reminders for urban dwellers of a creeping -- and justified, in the years to come, I think -- lockdown state. It is cities, their landscape and their system for getting around, that are the target. My most recent article in Planning magazine gauges the impact of physical security strategies, and a chapter in my forthcoming book on development trends in America looks at whether the age of terror is encouraging exurban dispersal.