In one of Philip K. Dick’s short stories, titled “Precious Artifact”, Dick appears to recognize what tends to happen in American cities.
Earth, “Terra”, has been attacked by “Proxmen” and the “Terrans” have lost. However, one of the Terrans, who has been reconstructing Mars for future Prox inhabitation has come back to Earth. A guide meets him at the spaceport and asks the Terran where he wants to go…
“I’m Mary Ableseth, your Tourplan companion. I’ll show you around the planet during your brief stay here.” She smiled brightly and very professionally. He was taken aback. “I’ll be with you constantly, night and day.”
“Night, too?” he managed to say.
“Yes, Mr. Biskle. That’s my job. We expect you to be disoriented due to your years of labor on Mars…labor we of Terra applaud and honor, as is right.” She fell in beside him, steering him toward a parked ‘copter. “Where would you like to go first? New York City? Broadway? To the night clubs and theaters and restaurants…”
“No, to Central Park. To sit on a bench.”
“But there is no more Central Park, Mr. Biskle. It was turned into a parking lot for government employees while you were on Mars.”
“I see,” Milt Biskle said. “Well, then Portsmouth Square in San Francisco will do.” He opened the door of the ‘copter.
“That, too, has become a parking lot,” Miss Ableseth said, with a sad shake of her long luminous hair. “We’re so darn over-populated. Try again, Mr. Biskle; there are few parks left, one in Kansas, I believe, and two in Utah in the south part near St. George.”
“This is bad news,” Milt said. “May I stop at that amphetamine dispenser and put in my dime? I need a stimulant to cheer me up.”
Abus Bordo 6500 Granit X-Plus 85cm locked around my WorkCycles Fr8’s frame, front wheel, and the standard Chicago bike rack (a u-rack).
Updated May 2016: After having two keys break inside the lock, I can no longer recommend it. While Abus replaced the first lock for free, I didn’t bother asking them to replace the second lock because I felt the problem would happen again. The keys broke, in part, because of the way I turned the key, as the lock rested, putting a lot of pressure on, and bending, the key. I did it like this so I could detach the lock with one hand. I now recommend chain locks because they fit around all kinds of fixed objects. Abus locks are still really good quality. I’ve been using this Abus chain lock for two months and I like it – it won’t have the key breakage problem because I have to grab and hold the lock before I can insert the key.
I’ve been using the Abus Bordo 6500 Granit X-Plus lock for my Fuji Royale fixed gear bicycle for about three weeks now. Previously I had been using a Kryptonite Evolution Series 4 Standard u-lock. The Abus Bordo lock style is very hard to describe; Abus calls it the “foldable lock”. It has a small block for the locking mechanism, and 6 rotating and connecting bars (“links”). One bar is fixed to the locking block, and the last bar gets hooked into the other side of the locking block. (They have the unique ability to be locked to another Bordo, in a chain of them.)
I’m not a lock designer, nor a bicycle thief, so I cannot talk about the advantages or disadvantages of this design over another lock design (like the ubiquitous u-lock, the style I’ve been using for six years). I can tell you its advantages on use: it’s a lot easier to use than a u-lock as it makes possible additional locking situations. The 6 flexible bars (or links) means you can wrap the lock around a variety of bike rack sizes and shapes, through two bikes, or through your bike’s frame and wheel (which is annoying to do with u-locks).
It took me a few days to find the fastest way to lock my bike with the Bordo and I think I’ve found it. Unlock the locking block and let all of the 6 bars drop towards the ground. Then thread the first one through your wheel (no handling necessary), grab it from the other side of your bike, pull it around the fixed object to which you’re locking, and pull it towards the locking block. It takes the same or less time to lock with the Bordo than with a u-lock. U-locks are difficult to get through a front wheel and frame unless the bike rack is empty and you’re the first one there, meaning you get to decide how to place your bike against the rack’s metal tubes.
I can fairly quickly lock with a Bordo by slipping the open link through the wheel spokes first, then around the fixed object. Then with both hands I grab each end of the lock and insert the open link into the locking bracket, shuffling them around the bike frame until the open link can reach the locking bracket. The Bordos are covered in a rubber-feeling plastic that protects your frame’s cover/coating.
The specific Bordo model I’ve been using is the Granit X-Plus 6500, which weighs a little more than the standard model (see weight specifications below). It comes with a carrying case that straps to any tube on your bicycle. There are two ways to mount the case: temporary and semi-permanent. With the temporary method, you wrap the velcro straps around the seat tube (reduce the chance for theft of the carrier by wrapping zip ties on it). By having it attached this way, you can move it to another bike in 30 seconds. The semi-permanent method lets you screw the case into braze-ons on the tubes, typically ones meant for a water bottle cage.
My new bike, a WorkCycles Fr8, provides me a new opportunity to test the folding lock’s abilities. The Fr8 has very wide tubes and large wheel rims and tires. I suspect that my Kryptonite u-lock won’t be able to wrap around the front wheel, frame, and the fixed object to which I’m locking. I tested the Bordo: it can definitely hold the front wheel, frame, and fixed object, but only if I’m really close to the fixed object. I haven’t tested the u-lock yet.
For people who are concerned about weight, they are as follows:
This review shouldn’t be taken as a dis-recommendation of the Kryptonite u-locks. I like them – I have three – and they may have prevented theft of the various bicycles I’ve used for 6 years; the lock in combination with other factors prevented theft, which can’t be known unless my bike was monitored 24/7 (in other words, have no idea if anyone’s tried to steal my bicycles). The Bordo lock’s sole disadvantage is its price: $100 for the short version, and $117 for the 15cm longer version. The Granit X-Plus is $153. My personal bike locking strategy is to buy the most expensive lock you can afford and to make your bicycle harder to steal than the bikes you park next to. The Bordo should do that.
My only gripe about the lock is the velcro strap on the carrier: it’s long and sticks out to the side a little and scratches my leg on every pedal. I used a zip tie to hold it down; I would prefer a kind of slot to insert the extra velcro to keep it out of the way.
Abus was a sponsor of the 2012 Cargo Bike Roll Call, donating a Bordo 6100 combination lock to the raffle. They gave me a second lock to test, a Bordo 6000, 75cm. However, I gave that lock to Brandon Gobel and I was given the lock I’m using in this review by Harry (Hans) of Larry vs. Harry. Here’s Brandon’s short review:
I like this lock for its compact size and light weight, while maintaining strength. It takes longer to lock, unlock and put in the frame holster than a mini u-lock, though. [For comparison, the Kryptonite Mini weighs 0.98kg and the lock Brandon is using is 1.03kg.] I carry the mini u-lock in my back pocket so it’s slightly more convenient. However, the Bordo is much more versatile, and you can wrap it around objects that are larger than the typical Chicago bike rack.
This photo of a Kryptonite mini lying on top of the Bordo 6000 75cm shows the open areas of each lock. The Bordo has a significantly larger open area and weighs less.
Both of us are also using an Abus brand rear-wheel lock. Mine came with the WorkCycles Fr8 while Brandon’s was a gift from Harry. We both appreciate the piece of mind and ease of use of the rear-wheel locks. See all photos in the Abus lock review gallery.
The Metra station in Riverside, Illinois, a version 1.0 streetcar suburb designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux.
I’m reading another book a publisher sent to me. It seems pretty biased, and it’s biased in the direction I already feel, so it’s really easy reading. But it seems that people like me are its only audience and that it assumes I’m already pro-cities, anti-suburbs and maybe even anti-car. Definitely not a book that’s going to espouse the benefits of transit to those who don’t use it, don’t want to use it, or are on the fence for either situation.
If I could get my father or brother to read this book, that would be an accomplishment just short of a miracle.
The book is Straphanger: Saving our cities and ourselves from the automobile, by Taras Grescoe. I really like the section I just finished reading, a “condensed history of sprawl”. I had recently “argued” with my father about the development of the subdivision he lives in, east of Phoenix. He posited that suburbs were the result of consumer desires. Grescoe writes to the contrary. Here we go:
The origin of the Anglo-American suburb has been traced to Clapham, five miles south of London, where, in the 1790s, Evangelical Christians eager to remove their families from the evils of the city began living in what had formerly been their weekend villas, and commuting to the City by private carriage. In the United States, [author Kenneth] Jackson dates the beginning of the process to 1815, when regular steam ferry service to Manhattan made Brooklyn Heights the nation’s first true commuter suburb. (page 89)
American suburb version 1.0
When: 1853 onward
What it was: picturesque, full of green space, near central cities, attached by rail line
Who lived there: As mortgages didn’t exist, only those who could afford to buy a home outright
Examples: Llewellyn Park, NJ; Riverside, IL.
Note: Ebenezer Howard’s “Garden City” design is related.
American suburb version 2.0
When: Post World War II
What it was: cheap, small housing on vast land tracts; pre-assembled homes
Who lived there: Families with soldiers that expanded quickly so new homes were needed fast.
Examples: Levittown, Long Island; Lakewood, Los Angeles.
Note: “The prevailing myth”, writes Kenneth Jackson, “is that the postwar suburbs blossomed because of the preference of consumers who made free choices in an open environment. Actually, most postwar families were not free to choose among several residential alternatives. Because of public policies favoring the suburbs, only one possibility was economically feasible”.
American suburb version 3.0
When: Late 1980s, 1990s to now
What it was: Found near office parks, also known as “edge cities”, “common interest communities” (gated and homeowners associations)
Who lived there: Single races (self-segregating), people who lean conservative
Examples: Silicon Valley, Nevada, Florida
Note: Under the George W. Bush administration, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac offered easy credit and homeownership rate rose to 69% by 2004. “(By 2012, it is expected to drop to 62%, the lowest level since 1960.)”
What it is: Least glamorous, the clichéd image of the inner city has moved to the suburbs. Arizona has highest rate of property crime. Nevada and Florida, the most suburbanized states, have highest rates of violent crime (Florida also has highest rate of pedestrian and bicycle fatalities).
Who lives there: A diverse group of people.
Examples: See “What it is”
Note: “Humans are social animals. I [Kenneth Jackson] think the biggest fake ever perpetrated is that children like, and need, big yards. What children like are other children. I think we move children to the suburbs to control the children, not to respond to something the children want. In the city, the kids might see somebody urinate in public, but they’re much more at risk in the suburbs, where they tend to die in cars.”
What are those public policies as described in American suburb version 2.0?
The federal government had carrots and sticks. Carrots were subsidies for homeownership (could be deducted from income taxes) and no down payment required for returning soldiers. Sticks included redlining (racial segregation), propagated by the Federal Housing Administration and banks. Zoning was another stick, which dictated what could go where.
Another carrot was the federally-funded highway system, the “greatest public subside to private real estate in the history of the world”.
Bear with me, this is my first book review since high school when the majority of the work was summarizing parts of the book and how you liked it. I feel that a book review at this age should be add in a critique about the book’s topic, strengths, and shortcomings. (Numbers in parenthesis are page numbers.)
A bus in Karachi carries more passengers than seems safe. The photographer’s accompanying essay is worth reading. Photo by Ejaz Asi.
The premise of the book is that it’s about an “instant city”, one that grows from 500,000 to 13 million in 50 years – probably what you thought it would be like. I felt that the author never defines the instant city in a single sentence, paragraph, or page*. He instead uses the stories and interviews and little explicit mentions here and there. His approach, though, is more interesting and readable than what you might find in a book about urban planning or theory.
The instant city Inskeep refers to is Karachi, Pakistan, on the Arabian Sea. It used to be the capital of Pakistan until an army general tried to create his own Brasilia at Islamabad (no word in the book on if this was accomplished). Continue reading
Update: I’ve started uploading my own photos now, starting with some of musicians who performed at Movement.
There were so many “firsts” this Memorial Day weekend for me.
I traveled on a Greyhound bus to Detroit. Coming back, I took Greyhound to Kalamazoo (another first!) and switched to an Indian Trails bus (same itinerary, though).
I visited and stayed in Detroit.
I went to Movement, the Detroit Electronic Music Festival.
You can bet that all of these have urban planning and transportation links, even the festival (you have to manage the influx of 100,000 people somehow!).
Part of visiting and staying in Detroit obviously includes many other firsts like,
Riding the Detroit People Mover in a complete circuit while also being temporarily ejected so a team of Department of Homeland Security agents could bring a dog aboard to sniff for explosives. I didn’t know anyone took the DPM seriously enough to do this, but it was also during a large festival, so I guess that’s appropriate.
Riding Detroit transit buses. This was weird. Thankfully the Detroit bus routes are in Google Maps so finding a route is dead simple. Finding the bus stop is not as simple, as not every bus stop sign indicates the routes it serves!
Visiting three museums! My friend and I checked out the Motown Museum (awesome, a must-see), the Detroit Institute of Art, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit.
Dancing at the Magic Stick club for an after party with local DJs. Unfortunately no one told us they stop serving Alcohol at 1:30 AM. Or was it 2 AM?
Walking 2 miles to see the Michigan Central Train Station, abandoned in 1988. This local guy came around to us while we were walking along the fence and showed us how to get in.
My poor perceptions of Detroit and Greyhound were reversed thanks to this trip. I’ve got a lot of ideas for Greyhound, but only one so far for Detroit. Detroit’s an interesting place and it’s not like it was bombed like Hiroshima as I imagined it was after reading countless news doomsday articles about the city. It’s probably best if you have a car in Detroit if you want to see many things in a short amount of time, or increase your taxi budget – everything is far away from everything else and you probably don’t want to wait 30 minutes for the bus.
I’ll write more about Detroit when I upload my photos.
Photo of Michigan Central train station, abandoned in 1988 when Amtrak quit service here, by Kyle Gradinger.
Photo of the Renaissance Center, world headquarters of Government Motors and a Marriott Hotel, on the Detroit River waterfront, by James Marvin Phelps.