How We Roll, Dec. 23: the power of cities, America’s love of cars, cycling safety

I’ll have our annual year-in-review post by the middle of next week; 2016 has been quite the year and it’s been fun combing through everything that has happened. Until then, have a great and safe holiday weekend and spend some well-earned time with friends, family, strangers, dogs and cats, etc!

The power of nature in cities (Nature Conservancy magazine)

A few scenes or urban nature from our urbanity. Photos by Steve Hymon.

We’re living on an increasingly urbanized planet. In 1900, about 14 percent of the world’s population lived in cities; today that number is north of 50 percent. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, writes Pascal Mittermaier, because cities have the capability to use resources efficiently and to incorporate nature into them.

Cities are the engines of the economy, accounting for more than 80 percent of our global GDP—yet they cover only about 3 percent of Earth’s surface. Getting lots of people to live close together makes creative and efficient use of our energy, our water, our sewer systems and our land. Yet many people still see urbanization as a destructive force that displaces and extinguishes nature. That may have been true in the past—and may continue to be true when cities are unplanned—but urban living can lead to more efficient use of resources and smaller carbon footprints. We have learned better ways to design and run our cities so that they are no longer competing with nature but are coexisting with it, or even incorporating it.

This is a great article that I think especially applies to the L.A. area — an area that may not have a ton of parks within the city proper but has considerable nature preserved in backyards and open space in our mountain ranges (enough to still provide habitat to mountain lions, for example). Cities, too, give us the opportunity to design and hopefully take advantage of more efficient transportation networks — so you don’t have to drive everywhere.

Speaking of….

Automakers prepare for America that’s over the whole car thing (NYT)

Preparing by making more cars, that is, and thinking about new ways to get people to ride in them, especially for everyday trips. The story is more or less set in L.A. and has some nice anecdotes from Metro riders but also tends to play down one of its own statistics: automakers sold 17 million vehicles in the U.S. last year and while future citydwellers may buy fewer cars, no one is sure if that will make a significant dent in America’s love affair with the car.

I thought LAT transpo reporter Laura Nelson had an insightful and excellent response to the article:

Big rig crash snarls traffic on 210 (SGV Tribune) 

Thankfully no one was seriously hurt in the early Thursday morning collision between a big rig and a vehicle. But the truck — for the second time this year — ended up on the Gold Line tracks, the reason why we’re shuttling riders by bus today between the Allen and Sierra Madre Villa stations. More here.

5 ways not to get killed while cycling (Sierra Magazine) 

I like that the headline is not terribly politically correct and that the article doesn’t play down the fact that cycling amid car traffic can have its dangers. And…if you’re a 45-year-old male cyclist reading this, please be smart.