Where’s Your Urban Porch?

Open multi-use spaces in our community like parks and open lots offer an opportunity for something unexpected to happen. A street fair, a pop-up shop, or some live music can easily re-purpose a city street, vacant lot or a neglected park to revitalize the space as an area to slow down and relax. When the area becomes a place to share a picnic–like the magnificent multi-city Le Dîner en Blanc phenomenon–or a space to play games with friends and family, it quickly extends the feeling of a front porch atmosphere. We can all benefit from a simple, safe place to enjoy outside our home.

Philadelphia recently revitalized an old lot at their 30th Street Station by turning it into an urban front porch space:

The new 50-foot-wide, block-long plaza replaces an unnecessary outer parking lane and barren sidewalk on one side of the station with seating, tables, shade, plantings and, depending on the week or day, perhaps music, a farmers’ market, a beer garden, or even miniature golf.  It is ambitious because, in its statement when The Porch opened, UCD said that it “sees this new space as Philadelphia’s front porch, a welcoming entryway to the city, as well as a place to linger and socialize, and to entertain and be entertained. The Porch serves to balance the indoor grandeur of 30th Street Station with the wonder and expanse of Philadelphia.”

Living in a city like Austin offers a lot of opportunities to extend our “front porch” whether its the activities that seem to pop up around every corner or just finding a place to relax and enjoy the unexpected. We’re fortunate to have lots of parks that naturally lend themselves to open air concerts and farmers markets, like Republic Square and Auditorium Shores. But when city streets close for festivals and street fairs do you ever stop to think how awesome it is? Or do you find yourself frustrated by the inconvenience of detours and traffic?

If you attended the inaugural Viva Streets you witnessed the beauty of public spaces becoming urban porches where cafes poured into our streets and became safer places to play. Similarly, DAA’s PlazaLife at Frost Bank brought play and seating that welcomed people.

Are there places or events that you think can extend Austin’s front porch? Add your comment to let us know.

Urban Growth Outpaces Suburban Growth



Reposted from Austin Mobility News because a solution to your commute could be “moving closer to your work place.”

National news reports have poured out in the last week that U.S. cities are growing faster than the suburbs for the first time since the 1920s.

“Driving the resurgence are young adults, who are delaying careers, marriage and having children amid persistently high unemployment,” according to the Associated Press report. “[T]hey are spurning homeownership in the suburbs for shorter-term, no-strings-attached apartment living, public transit and proximity to potential jobs in larger cities.”

At the same time, reports say young people are driving significantly less than past generations.

In a July 2 article, Reuters reported “Generation Y includes an increasing number of people for whom driving is less an American rite of passage than an unnecessary chore.”

That report followed an earlier study publication that showed a dip in miles driven by young people.

Young people, which data shows are driving less and living in urban environments, are a key contributor to Austin’s “creative sector.”

In March, Austin-based economic research firm TXP reported the creative sector accounted for just over $4.35 billion in Austin’s economic activity in 2010, an increase of about one-third from 2005, according to Community Impact.

The sector created more than $71 million in city tax revenues, and almost 49,000 jobs.

“We’re talking about one of the most vibrant, young and exciting pieces of the overall Austin economy,” Jon Hockenyos, president of TXP, told Community Impact News.

The unanimously-adopted Imagine Austin plan calls for a “compact, connected Austin with improved transportation options” and the Austin Transportation Department is working to implement that vision by implementing travel options to improve driving, biking, walking, and implement a regional high-capacity transit system.

Which Muscle Groups Do I Work By Riding A Bike?

LiveStrong Foundation: Jun 10, 2011 | By Chris Blank

Between 2005 and 2009, the percentage of people who rode their bicycles to work increased by 35 percent in the 70 largest urban areas of the United States, “Wired” magazine reports, citing figures collected by the League of American Bicyclists. Bicycling is an excellent means of reducing both your waistline and your carbon footprint. Riding a bicycle is good for your overall health, although certain muscle groups are more involved than others.

Legs, Thighs and Glutes

The act of pushing the pedals on a bicycle exercises the feet, the lower legs, thighs and gluteus maximus. Bicycling provides similar benefits to the lower body as walking or running, without the stress of impact or weight-bearing that those exercises require, explains Lisa Callahan, M.D., of the Women’s Sports Medical Center in New York City, quoted by Healthy Women. The act of pedaling also helps preserve cartilage and is gentle on joints, according to Callahan. This is especially important for overweight people; bicycling is an enjoyable way to introduce exercise into their daily routine. Riding a bicycle can also help relieve back pain, foot and muscle strain, and knee problems, all common complaints associated with running and other high-impact exercises, Callahan claims.

Heart and Cardiovascular System

The heart, besides essential to cardiovascular functioning, is also a major muscle. As an aerobic exercise, bicycling strengthens your cardiovascular system and also improves endurance, according to Sarah Kovatch M.F.A. and Melinda Smith, M.A., writing for Helpguide.org. The AHA recommends 30 minutes of moderate-to-strenuous exercise nearly every day for most healthy adults. Recreational bicycling is a low-stress, no-impact means of reducing the risk of diabetes and heart disease, while also providing weight-loss benefits and increasing endurance, according to the American Heart Association. Riding on a stationary bicycle provides a less strenuous workout than riding outdoors because of the lack of wind resistance and varied terrain, Callahan explains. Step up your workout on a stationary bike to compensate.

Arms and Shoulders

Riding a bicycle works the muscles in your shoulders and arms. This is especially true if your route includes hills and other varied terrain and you stand up to pedal, Callahan claims. If you ride on a racing bicycle with “drop” handlebars, sit up straight periodically to prevent cramping and possible injury to your upper body, the University of California at Berkeley Wellness Letter recommends.