City of Savannah Mobility and Parking Director Sean Brandon has a guest post at the Creative Coast blog this morning, which makes important points about poverty, employment, planning and creative communities:
“I have found repeatedly that the person that takes their bicycle on an inhospitable street is trying to do the very thing that many complain those in poverty don’t do: get to and from their job.”
You can read the whole post here.
Bill Dawers has strong feelings about parking lots, which he shares in his City Talk column, “Another parking lot detracts from downtown’s vibrancy” in today’s Savannah Morning News:
“They tend to rend the residential and retail fabric. They repel pedestrians. They generally generate far less economic activity than more intense uses. They create heat islands. They contribute to problems with drainage and polluted stormwater runoffs.”
And he’s not alone in his thinking. Here’s Donald Shoup quoting Jane Jacobs on how parking lots affect the sidewalks they border and the city at large:
“The presence of open shops and people on the street encourages other people to be out as well. People want to be on streets with other people on them, and they avoid streets that are empty, because empty streets are eerie and menacing at night. Although the absence of parking requirements does not guarantee a vibrant area, their presence certainly inhibits it. ‘The more downtown is broken up and interspersed with parking lots and garages,’ Jane Jacobs argued in 1961, ‘the duller and deader it becomes … and there is nothing more repellent than a dead downtown’.”
John A. Jankle and Keith A. Sculle review Jacobs’ ideas about what parking lots do to neighboring properties:
“A kind of ‘unbuilding’ or running-down process was set in motion. Thus, parking lots were ‘instruments of city destruction that could ‘disembowel’ a city. ‘City character is blurred,’ Jacobs continued, ‘until every place becomes more like every other place, all adding up to Noplace.”
And they offer a quote of their own:
“Nothing over the past century in America has proven as disruptive of the traditional urban landscape as parking. Perhaps nothing has made American cities less memorable…nothing fragmented the urban space more than the parking lot.”
It’s important to remember that the preservation movement in Savannah, which has prevented downtown from becoming “Noplace,” has its roots in a fight over a parking lot.
“Savannah was becoming Anyplace, USA and it was losing its soul. By the mid-1950s, the loss of the Wetter House, beloved City Market and demolition threats to the Isaiah Davenport House sparked the formation of Historic Savannah Foundation. Led by seven visionary women, HSF purchased the c. 1820 Davenport House and thus began the organization’s formal entry into the world of preservation and real estate.”
Why was Davenport House being threatened with demolition? So the land could be used for a funeral home parking lot. The question now is how to promote better uses for spaces left behind by buildings that were not saved.
Dawers offers more thoughts (and photos) on his blog.
Early adopters of reusable grocery bags probably remember the reactions of confounded cashiers and baggers, who weren’t sure what to make of shoppers who wanted neither paper nor plastic. But the practice has become so commonplace, shoppers rarely have to ask a bagger to stop shrouding their groceries in plastic before placing them in a reusable bag. Pretty much everyone’s gotten with the program, at least from the store employee side of the equation.
On the way out of the Gwinnett Street Kroger store earlier this week, I noticed the cling decal, right, on the window. By saving bags, in this case, Kroger means not giving so many away and fitting more into the bags they do, according to the 2010 Kroger Sustainability Report.
Curious about how the 138,825 bags figure was tallied, I called Kroger headquarters and got the answer. Nationwide, Kroger claims to have saved 159 million plastic bags.
“The way we account for bag savings is pretty simple,” said Keith Dailey, Kroger’s director of corporate communications. It turns out that the 159 million bag figure is derived from some 80 thousand cases of plastic bags the company did not order, based on the previous year figures. “It’s likely they did the same calculations at the store level,” he said, to arrive at the 138,825 bags saved number for Gwinnett Street. Dailey confirmed the reduction in bag use was achieved by promoting (and selling) reusable bags and training baggers to be more efficient.
Kroger’s sustainability report also describes the company’s efforts to reduce its energy and carbon footprint, improve transportation efficiency and reduce waste. While the word “bicycle” does not appear anywhere in the 32 page document (I hoped to see bicycles mentioned in the “Enabling Customer Sustainability” section), it’s worth noting that the Gwinnett Street Kroger provides more bicycle parking than any other store of any kind in Savannah. And it’s right at the front door, not out by the loading dock or on the side of the building. Providing ample and convenient bike parking clearly enables customers to make sustainable transportation choices. They should put that in the next sustainability report.
The Greening the Southeast Regional Summit is scheduled for April 16 and 17 at the Coastal Georgia Center in Savannah. According to event organizers, the summit will, “bring together regional and national experts and grassroots organizations to provide training/information and successful models that focus on renewable energy sources for agriculture and forestry, to discuss how does sustainable farming and forestry impact climate change in the Southeast.” Session topics include:
- Farming and Forestry
- Non-traditional Funding Sources
- Climate Change, Renewable Energy Sources, Food Access and Watersheds
- Successful Grassroots Models
- Green Action Plans for College Campuses
For more information, visit the summit Web site.
What can a business do to become truly bicycle friendly? The first step might be to correct policies that discourage bicyclists from patronizing an establishment. Providing secure bicycle parking is another way to attract those who shop by bike. To truly make the leap from bike tolerant to bike friendly involves rewarding cycling customers and supporting groups that promote bicycling. B Street Salon in Savannah is leading the way. According to Savannah Bicycle Campaign Chairman Drew Wade, the partnership with the salon is important for a number of reasons.
“We’re thrilled about the concept. We are encouraged to see more businesses taking voluntary steps toward sustainability, including more sustainable forms of transportation like bicycling. A large proportion of people who ride bikes regularly are men, and we are especially pleased to have this connection with B Street to promote bicycling as a safe and healthy activity for women as well.”
Read more about it on the Savannah Bicycle Campaign Web site.