July shorts: aimless bicyclists, green roofs

Pearl St.
Do the French have a term for aimlessly bicycling around towns?

Cleaning out the fridge, so to speak, with several links & quotes:

1. Flaneur, randonneur: just wandering about, whether on foot in the city or on bike in the countryside, is a long-established practice in French but just doesn’t translate to English.

There’s no direct translation for randonnée (pronounced ran-don-NAY) — it can mean a long outing or trip, or a ramble in the countryside. For its practitioners, called randonneurs, it’s easier to define the event by what it isn’t: a race. There are time limits, which means riders can’t go too slowly — but they also can’t go too quickly.

2. Mayor Bloomberg speaking about the myth of the scofflaw cyclist at Citibike’s launch:

I’m sure there will be people who will, just like they are today, take their bicycles and do things that break the law. This will shock you but there are even people in automobiles who do the same thing. When you take a look at the number of people killed in automobiles, it sort of dwarfs everything put together on the road.

3. The world is filled with ironic NIMBYs, but this story still takes the cake: a retired Concorde pilot complaining about the noise from a playground.

4. Nate Berg sounded an appropriate note of skepticism over green roof cheerleading. It always really irked me that Mayor Daley would take credit for putting green roofs on big box stores in Chicago, even though the ratio of blacktop parking lot to green roof built by said stores is easily 3:1. A garden built on the ground, within a depaved parking lot, can offer more environmental benefits than a monocultural, thin green roof, and at a much lower cost. Oh, sure, someone might lose their parking space, but discouraging driving is yet another environmental benefit!

5. During the years I bike commuted through the South Side, it always fascinated me that Chicago’s ghettos were often bereft of any commerce whatsoever: for the most part, there weren’t even fast-food joints along the way, even though plenty of people lived nearby. Other U.S. cities (much less thriving Canadian inner cities) didn’t seem quite as derelict: witness the busy, if run-down, retail streets of Spike Lee’s Brooklyn. Whet Moser uncovers research by Marco Luis Small that quantifies this: “In some cases, the difference is stark. Chicago has 82% fewer small restaurants, 95% fewer small banks, and 72% fewer small convenience stores than a black poor ghetto in the average city.”

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