The ethics of where you live

Quote by Eric O. Jacobsen:

I believe that choosing to live in a neighbourhood that is mixed in income, mixed in use, and replete with inviting public spaces can be an important fundamental ethical decision. When we can walk from our home to the corner coffee shop or park with the realistic expectation of running into someone who is destitute in one way or another, we place ourselves in the uncomfortable realm of Christian decision making.

— From the article “Where Then Shall We Live? The traditional neighbourhood as a fundamental ethical choice” in Comment magazine

How to brand our bike routes

Do bike route signs matter?

If you don’t think so, check the 20 and counting comments on the Spaulding brothers’ Web site, What’s Going Down(town), where they posted the possible bike route sign that would be duplicated all over Fort Wayne.

I accept some blame for stirring the pot with a comment that said, in its entirety:

TooMuchClutter!GetRidOfSkyline!

Perhaps that wasn’t too helpful. Regardless, the comments started piling up and dividing into two camps:

  • Those who agreed with me that the bike route signs should follow normal sign regulations.
  • Those who said they liked the signs because they were different, for aesthetic and branding reasons.

To the right are the proposed Fort Wayne signs. Note the downtown skyline at the top that I unfairly called “hokey” in a Twitter post. Actually, it’s nice enough, isn’t it?

But it’s beside the point, because although I don’t want to be too cranky about this, these are not traffic signs.

As I noted on What’s Going Down(town):

Honestly, what are these signs trying to tell me? Are they telling motorists there is a bike lane? Or bikes on the road? Or are the signs for cyclists only? And if cycling is going to be an actual serious transportation mode in Fort Wayne, why not use actual serious traffic signs? Pretty things like skylines indicate parks and recreation, not traffic warnings.

Traffic signs are supposed to answer questions for everyone in the traffic flow, motorists and bicyclists alike, easily and quickly.

As commenter Ashley on What’s Going Down(town) noted, there is all kinds of great information, advice and signage in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices. Why spend the money to reinvent the wheel?

Now, someone mentioned that the suggested sign design does a good job of branding Fort Wayne’s bike routes. That is true, but not necessarily in a good way.

Does the city want our bike routes to be thought of as merely recreational? Then the suggested signs will do the trick. Great for the Greenway, for example.

But if the city wants our bike routes to be “branded” seriously as a transportation mode, then serious, official traffic signage that is helpful to motorist and cyclists is key.

Thanks to the city’s bike route committee for sharing its thoughts so we citizens can contribute to the discussion!

— Top photo by splorp on Flickr

In Defense of Fake Authenticity

This essay is a response of sorts to a post on Scott Greider’s blog in which he criticizes a local Uno’s Pizzaria for looking like an old urban building but actually being a new suburban building. I agreed with Scott’s concerns, but offered a different perspective. The Uno’s in question has since closed.

My friend Scott is frustrated with a pizza place.

He enjoyed the food, he liked the prices, and he thought the service was acceptable.

But he still feels like he’s been lied to — by the building itself.

“What made this place so cool — primarily its atmosphere — was … well … inauthentic!” Scott said on his blog after his visit to Uno’s Chicago Grill in Fort Wayne.

“You see, this was a brand new building out in the sprawling suburbs on a lot surrounded by parking spaces that was intentionally trying to look and feel a hundred years old.”

He’s right, especially when he compares the Fort Wayne restaurant to the original Uno’s in Chicago.

My family and I ate at the original Uno’s last year, and while we ate deep-dish authentic Chicago pizza elbow-to-elbow around a table a bit too big for the tiny dining room, even the youngest of us knew we weren’t just taking in a pizza. We were taking in history.

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