The Summer of Smart

6 Jul

Flick from summerofsmart.org

The era of urban hacking has arrived. The city of San Francisco is throwing a ‘Summer of Smart’ effort to get urban and civic hackers of all stripes to start working together. Local arts orgs and the relevant City departments have partnered to create space and time for designers, developers, journalists, and activists to make apps and tech solutions to important urban problems. These ‘Civic Hackers’ will link over the summer for a few super intense creative sessions called hackathons.

There are going to be three weekend long hackathons. These are events where interested people meet up to code  and draw like mad for 48 hours straight. At the end of the weekend they compare their achievements and party. The first of these three weekends just happened and it was rad sounding. The Gray Area Gallery gathered SF’s finest civic hackers to work on the themes of Community Development and Public Art. Unfortunately I was only able to stay for the keynotes and the introductions, but the list of projects made is super impressive.

The started projects include Art Mapper,  a slick twitter based app that maps out all the pics of Street Art sent to it. Also surprising it hadn’t been made yet is Public Art Spaces.  Additionally, there were location constrained digital bulletin boards, and even a tool to help make paying taxes fun. Keep on eye on YayTaxes.org. There were many more ideas passed around during the introduction that didn’t get teams. My favorite idea presented was a kickstarterish way to crowdsource funds for urban renewal. Such as community funded gardens, bike paths, and the like. Holler at me if you want to work on that one sometime.

There are two more hackathons happening this Summer. Sustainability and Transportation at the end of July and Public Health and Food in August. These events aren’t just for computer programmers, come through if you have any ideas or desires to be a part of the new civic hacker movement.

Gavin Newsom came through the first hackathon, here he is talking about the importance of Open Gov, Open Data and Civic Hacking. 

GOOD Mag on DIY Urban Design

20 Apr

GOOD Magazine posted a great photo essay on DIY Urban Design. My favorite is the SignChair in the picture above.

Portland’s Singing Bike Bridge

16 Feb


This post has a soundtrack. Press play and read the rest.

There is a new bridge being built in Portland for light rail and bikes to get over the Willamette River. They were having problems though, trying to slow down bikers who would come flying down the steep landing of the bridge into heavy pedestrian traffic. In addition to signs and paint, they are going to cut grooves into the path, spaced just so, to play a song when bike tires roll over them. The chosen track is SImon and Garfunkel’s “The 59th Street Bridge (Feelin Groovy)“.

They got the idea from this Honda commercial. It’s an ill idea, even if I wouldn’t want to live next to that road.

I heard about it from @portlandafoot.

P.S. I’d have chosen Ye’s “Drive Slow.”

Poster Pocket Plants

30 Jan

Poster Pocket Plants

 

Poster Pocket Plants are an idea by two artists from Toronto. They cut into the thick layers of illegal advertising posters, peel it back, fold it over, staple it, and fill it with soil and plants. Easy enough and you end up with a cheap, DIY green wall. Its a protest against advertisers, its slightly illegal, and a little hippie all in one. An A+ Urban Hack. One of them waxes a little deeper on his blog.

I appreciate that they have posted the ‘plans‘ online for easy replication. Looks easy enough, just use a razorblade to slash a top and side open, fold, fill, and photo. I bet you could get super arty with it. In addition to plant choices, how you cut them can make a statement too.

They have an old gallery online with lots of their work at http://picasaweb.google.com/sean.martindale/PosterPocketPlants#

Taking Back the Streets of NYC

14 Oct

When your city understands that its shape and feel should be focused on people instead of cars, there is less need for us to do our DIY Urban Design hacks in the middle of the night. This video is about such a place. All the city agencies in New York have been working together to reclaim the streets from the automobile.

The changes they’ve made in just three years are incredible. Some are small improvements like just painting the asphalt differently, while others such as the protected bike lanes are expensive infrastructure projects. All together though they have a serious impact on quality of life, transit speed, the environment, as well as public healthy and safety.

The Story of San Francisco’s Sunday Streets

1 Oct

Photo by Sirgious

San Francisco’s Sunday Streets are an awesome event where the City shuts down major roads to car traffic and invites thousands of people to come play in the street. From bikers to rollerskaters to strollers, rolling down the middle of the street is an experience because of how different it feels there with the cars gone. You begin to imagine what it would be like if your neighborhood was always like this, with old folks and young out playing, feeling good and safe, smiles on every face.

“Slowly it dawns on them that they can use the main drive and the roads. For once the world does not belong to the automobile. The bicycle is king again and the rider may go where fancy dictates without looking nervously over his shoulder. You are even allowed, for a few unrealistic minutes, to reflect on how pleasant life would be if the car were banned from San Francisco.” Herb Caen, San Francisco Chronicle, 1/28/73

All the local stores set up booths outside selling neighborhood delicacies. They say Sunday Streets is their best day of business. San Francisco’s Sunday Streets has an interesting history though, it came to be during a time of animosity towards biking in the city.  In 2006, the SF Bike Coalition was trying to get riders some car free roads to play on in Golden Gate park on the weekends. There was opposition from the new de Young museum that didn’t want any shortage of parking. Mayor Gavin Newsom sided with the drivers and insistently blocked the car-free streets idea in the park. It took a lot of organizing and support from the Board of Supervisors to finally get the first Healthy Saturday approved, and even then it was only a very small stretch of closed streets in the park. Also, our city wide bicycle plan was bogged down in an expensive lawsuit. Every obstacle stood in the way of bringing clean and healthy transportation options to San Francisco. Then something interesting happened.

The story of Sunday Streets begins a long time ago, far far away. The idea of closing down streets for the primary purpose of bicycling begins in 1976 in Bogotá, Colombia with their now world famous Ciclovias, a weekly event where the City closes 70 miles of streets to cars and encourages everyone to come outside and play.

The amazing StreetsBlog and StreetsFilm crew went to visit Bogotá. The video above was made, along with a full length version, and it became viral in the advocate community. Eventually it was shown at the US Conference of Mayors, and they freaked out. Every city in the country began racing to be the first to host a Ciclovia. Mayor Newsom flipped his whole script and gave official City support to the crew who were starting up the Ciclovia here in SF. Where before we were fighting for every inch of bike lane, we now had national support for car free streets.

In 2010, San Francisco held nine Sunday Streets and all them are a blast. Most major cities around the world are now hosting Ciclovias as well. All it took was a well made video and and good idea to change the world. Hack Your City officially salutes the StreetsBlog crew and the visionaries in Bogotá. San Francisco’s Sunday Streets are currently part of the DIY Urbanism exhibit on display at SPUR right now. If you are one of the four readers of Hack Your City, you need to go check it out.

DIY Urbanism in Detroit

14 Sep

“Cities have always went down. It’s people who bring them back.” – Larry D’Mongo

Palladium Boots sent Johnny Knoxville (?) to Detroit to see whats up with the DIY scene out there. We’ve all seen the photoessays by them “dutch assholes” focused on the massive empty buildings, so it’s really cool to finally see the human reaction to the abandonment. This video series does a great job of showing off the creativity people employ when provided all the infrastructure. Watch the whole three part series over at palladium.com.

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