Pam Mandel

Pam Mandel

Pam Mandel is a freelance writer, photographer, and ukulele playing musician who thinks that electric bikes are hugely underrated. You'll find her travel stories in a variety of publications, but also, she blogs about her global adventures at Nerd's Eye View.

Articles by Pam:

Walkable Summer Reads

"Reading’tis the season for the summer reading list! After watching this TEDx talk  (The Suburbs are Dying, so Let’s Create a New American Dream), I hunted down Leigh Gallagher’s The End of the Suburbs. I liked the way she spoke about the shift in what the American Dream means to those looking for a home today, so I wanted to hear more of her ideas.

“In The End of the Suburbs journalist Leigh Gallagher traces the rise and fall of American suburbia from the stately railroad suburbs that sprung up outside American cities in the 19th and early 20th centuries to current-day sprawling exurbs where residents spend as much as four hours each day commuting. Along the way she shows why suburbia was unsustainable from the start and explores the hundreds of new, alternative communities that are springing up around the country and promise to reshape our way of life for the better.”

If you’re interested in learning more about what’s happening around the idea of walkable cities — and walking in general — we’ve compiled a handful of good reads to keep you occupied:

  • Walkable City by Jeff Speck: Speck is an urban planner and advocate for sustainable growth. His book tackles both the process and the benefits of growing cities that fully embrace walkability as a value. (Note:  I follow Jeff on Twitter and he posts great links to interesting shorter web reads, too.)

    “Jeff Speck has dedicated his career to determining what makes cities thrive. And he has boiled it down to one key factor: walkability. Making downtown into a walkable, viable community is the essential fix for the typical American city; it is eminently achievable and its benefits are manifold. Walkable City—bursting with sharp observations and key insights into how urban change happens—lays out a practical, necessary, and inspiring vision for how to make American cities great again.”

  • Wanderlust by Rebecca Solnit: A history of walking, that most human of activities. Solnit’s book features poets and ramblers and philosphers and takes us walking in  — can you believe it? — Las Vegas.

    “What does it mean to be out walking in the world, whether in a landscape or a metropolis, on a pilgrimage or a protest march? In this first general history of walking, Rebecca Solnit draws together many histories to create a range of possibilities for this most basic act.”

  • The Option of Urbanism by Christopher B. Leinberger: What made the car dependent suburbs so popular and how does the US government continue to favor suburban development? Leinberger examines the intersection of politics, development and sustainability.

    “In The Option of Urbanism visionary developer and strategist Christopher B. Leinberger explains why government policies have tilted the playing field toward one form of development over the last sixty years: the drivable suburb. Rooted in the driving forces of the economy—car manufacturing and the oil industry—this type of growth has fostered the decline of community, contributed to urban decay, increased greenhouse gas emissions, and contributed to the rise in obesity and asthma.”

  • Unlocking Home by Alan Durning: A look at how zoning and regulations are limiting housing options, slowing the development of the kind of density that makes for great walkable cities, and as an unfortunate by product, limiting affordable housing.

    “Hidden in city regulations is a set of simple but powerful barriers to affordable housing for all. These rules criminalize history’s answers to affordable dwellings: the rooming house, the roommate, the in-law apartment, and the backyard cottage. In effect, cities have banned what used to be the bottom end of the private housing market. They’ve made urban quarters expensive and scarce, especially for low-income people such as students, seniors, blue-collar workers, artists, and others who make our cities diverse and vibrant.”

  • Completing Our Streets by Barbara McCann: Barbara McCann founded the National Complete Streets Coalition, an organization that advocates that streets are not just for cars, they’re for transit, cyclists, and pedestrians too. Her book is a practical take on how to work for Complete Streets in your community.

    “The complete streets movement is based around a simple idea: streets should be safe for people of all ages and abilities, whether they are walking, driving, bicycling, or taking the bus. Completing Our Streets gives practitioners and activists the strategies, tools, and inspiration needed to translate this idea into real and lasting change in their communities.”

Did we leave anything out?

And a safety warning to keep you on your feet — don’t walk and read, kids! The worst ankle injury I’ve ever had was because I was reading and walking at the same time.

Reading is good. Walking is good. Do both, just not at the same time.

Image: Reading in Central Park via Flickr (Creative Commons)

A Home for You – AND Your Bike, Too!

Maybe you’d like to ride more, but the hassle of liberating your bike from the storage locker every time you want to go get coffee is too much to deal with. The scowl from the building manager when you’ve got your bike in the elevator feels like an accusation. If there’s an elevator – you might be using the stairs because you’d rather keep your bike in your apartment than trust it to the garage.

There’s good news. Rentals with bike friendly services are on the rise. This year, for Bike to Work Week we’re all about these buildings that have amazing amenities for our rides.

In Denver (Bike Score: 70) a handful of buildings are adding bike rooms – DIY repair shops with work benches and tools. From the Denver Post:

Susan Maxwell, director of real estate for Zocalo, said the Velo Room at Solera includes “all the tools that you might need — Park brand tools, a stand to put your bike on while you work on it, a workbench, aprons, air pumps, tubes and lube, and other supplies. Also, consumables such as gel packs and energy bars, as well as maps on the wall for the more than 800 miles of bike trails in the Denver area.”

Biking is part of the design style at Cruise in Denver

Biking is part of the design style at Cruise in Denver

Cruise, a building in a Biker’s Paradise neighborhood, has bikes at the center of its design aesthetic. They gave away cruiser bikes as an incentive to renters, they’ve got the coveted bike room on site, and there’s storage space for your fair weather ride – we know you don’t have just one.

No surprises here – Portland (Bike Score: 70) buildings also have bike friendly services as part of what they’re offering renters. Currently under construction in the city’s Lloyd District, a cycle-centric apartment complex named Hassalo on Eighth has 1,200 bicycle parking spaces in its design. That’s believed to be more than any other apartment building in North America.

The Milano (which bill’s itself as “Portland’s premier bicycle friendly apartments, designed and built from the ground up to accommodate everything the Portland bicycle community need from an apartment complex”) and EcoFlats PDX both have secured indoor wall mounted parking for your ride. EcoFlats PDX has a bike bar on the ground floor and yes, it’s totally okay for you to hang your bike from the ceiling in your loft.

Velo Bike Shop located in the Via6 Apartments

Velo Bike Shop located in the Via6 Apartments

In Seattle (Bike Score: 64), Portland’s neighbor to the north, Via6 Apartments also has a bike shop at the ground level and there are 250 bike parking spots. Seattle just announced its new bike share program, so you don’t even need to own a bike to live a bicycle friendly life.

But bike friendly living isn’t just a west of the Rockies thing. A developer in Philadelphia (Bike Score: 68) opened a handful of buildings with bike sharing included – no bike, no excuse, the properties have a small fleet you can access for free.

And several communities in the Washington DC area – long a great city for cyclists – are using bike amenities to entice potential renters. Crescent, in nearby Arlington, VA has a room in the garage with storage for up to 200 bikes, offers complimentary loaners to residents and is home to Tri360, a swim/bike/run shop.

We’re psyched to learn that there are places where our bikes are not just welcome, but a part of the design for apartment living. We’d ride anyway – every week is bike to work week for us – but anything that makes living with a bike easier, we’re all for it.

  • Do you live in a building with great biking amenities? What could your building offer that would make biking a better option? Tell us about it in the comments.
  • Want to live a bike ride away from work? Use My Commutes on the map tool bar to find a rental within biking distance.