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Smart Bus Stops Done Dirt Cheap

8 Oct

Check out the latest Hack Your City project! Smart Bus Stops Done Dirt Cheap!

San Francisco’s Bus stops are already kinda smart, they have those cool Next Bus arrival signs, and some detailed maps of bus routes. Those help answer a few questions people have when they are stuck at the stop. Smart Stops is a project to help bus stops answer all kinds of local questions though. Think of it like Siri for the block.

You’ll be able to ask your favorite neighborhood smart bus stop all kinds of things. Just text in a question and your bus stop will send you a answer. How do I take the bus to Golden Gate Park? You’ll get SMS directions you can carry with you on your trip. Who’s got the best burritos in this hood? Where’s the local health clinic? We’ll ask around and find out for you. Smart stops will also collect stories from the neighborhood to share if you ask nicely.

This project came about because of the always awesome GAFFTA and their upcoming Urban Prototyping Festival. Hack Your City was invited to submit a project. We are honored to have Smart Stops included in the selection of urban interventions for the festival. All of the projects chosen have a mix of open source technology, public art, and had to be easily built by others in any city.

We chose to make Smart Stops a text message app so that it would be more accessible to people who are riding the bus. I’m not really feeling making a smart phone app, it just doesn’t seem as important. The spirit of this festival is create open source art that any one can clone and easily reproduce in their own city. By creating a SMS service, our Smart Stops art project can easily be built in any city in the world. There are parts of the globe where text messaging is used way more than the internet. Smart Stops is ready for these places already, no digital divide, no expensive hardware, just any easy code base to upgrade your bus stops.

We’ve got a talented crew of Hack Your City hooligans making this happen. We got people coding the backend, the questions, and the SMS service. You can check our work in progress code at https://github.com/visiblethinking/sbsdc.

We’ve also got urban hackers hand building our signs from reclaimed materials. We’re hand painting them with classic hand styles. The’re gonna be fly.

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DIY Libraries

9 Aug

NYC

DIY Libraries

Awesome! Urban Hacker John Locke from NYC has been fabricating and installing DIY Payphone Lending Libraries around Morningside Heights. I’m really feeling them because they turn this unused, deprecated, relic of the city into something equally antiquated, yet fresh. The little libraries are getting a lot of love lately from the press, yet this interview in World Literature Today is the coolest review.

I’m excited about this project because it’s part of something bigger that John and his crew are trying to do, The Department of Urban Betterment, which is like Hack Your City NYC. What up DUB, lets link!

DIY Libraries are important because they install a little shelf of pride in a neighborhood, by showing that neighbors are chill enough to ‘give one, take one’. They are also easy enough to build that you can replicate them anywhere in the world and since people have been building bookshelves since forever, they’ve gotten crazy stylish too. Building a DIY library in your neighborhood, inspired by the local architecture can produce infinite, unique designs that can be thrown up in a day.

BRAZIL

Poetic Civility.

A crew of Urban Hackers in in Puerto Alegre, Brazil have been putting in DIY Libraries at a few of their Bus Stops. They started as one DIY project that got lots of respect, so the city and some nonprofits sponsored them to be built in other neighborhoods. A great trend that a lot of these DIY Urban Design projects have had lately is posting easy to follow instructions so that other like minded neighbors around the world can replicate these good ideas.

In the video below, this crew in Brazil has stepped up the design of the DIY libraries by encouraging local artists to help build and decorate the shelfs.

COLOMBIA

Colombia, always on point, has a bunch of small libraries in there public parks. The local gov took an easy, cheap idea and ran with it. They have over a hundred of them throughout the country.

More DIY Libraries

World Literature Today 10 micro libraries.

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.

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.