The 20 Best Of 2018

In the past, my “Best Of” posts have included the most read pieces for a given year.  But this year, I’m pulling rank and picking 20 of my personal favorites.  While 2018 was another amazing year for The Urban Phoenix, and while I am grateful to everyone who has enjoyed our content, most of our top hitters this year were posts that showcased the beauty and interest of our Upstate New York cities through pictures and conversation.  And why not?  We have so much to celebrate!  These posts are an important part of what I try to do, as I’ve always promoted “getting excited” about our cities and the positives that abound within them.  The more energized we are about our towns, the more engaged we will be going forward.

But while posts like these get a lions share of the fanfare, The Urban Phoenix is, first and foremost, about the components that affect the urban experience across our great country.  Conversations about smart development, urban priorities, bike culture, the perception of our cities today, and intelligent transit are at the core of what a sustainable urban revitalization is really about.  Bars, restaurants, retail and entertainment play a big role in our cities now, but the stories listed below address important topics that will keep this strong urban trend moving forward for years to come.  That’s why the very first story here is one we all need to be reminded of.

Finally, thank you for yet another amazing year. I can’t wait to see where we go together in 2019!

PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT WE CLAIM TO PAY ATTENTION TO

Bars, entertainment and nightlife play an important role in our city’s rebirth, but when they become the primary focus, we all lose.

THE FALSE PROMISE OF TRICKLE-DOWN URBANISM

When our leaders make statements about how massive development projects will invigorate the local economy, consider this… it usually doesn’t happen.

BUILDING A FOUNDATION, NOT A DESTINATION

When we build our cities to be livable environments instead of shiny tourists hubs, we are building toward long term sustainability.

MOVEMENT VS. MILITANT: A PERSPECTIVE ON UTICA, A LESSON FOR US ALL

We are passionate about issues affecting our city… should we build here, or there?  Should we bulldoze to develop?  But at what point do our efforts turn from public a strong public voice to a militant agenda?  At what point do we redirect our efforts to lower hanging fruit for the good of the city?

MONORAIL: A KEY URBAN LESSON FROM “THE SIMPSONS”

An old Simpsons episode warns of shiny, glitzy transit made to create a “wow” factor.  Apparently, not enough people paid attention, because we are making many of the same mistakes.

STUCK IN BETWEEN

Cars have roads, and pedestrians have sidewalks.  Cyclists are caught in between, shamed out of every space the occupy.  Not fast enough to be a car, not slow enough to be on a sidewalk, those on two wheels are feeling the frustration.

NOVELTY OR LEGITIMACY? THE BIKE LANE DILEMMA IN ROCHESTER

Bike lanes are all the rage in many of our cities across the country… but the real test comes AFTER we lay the pain on the ground.

THINKING CRITICALLY ABOUT “GROWTH”

We use the term growth to describe progress in our cities, but not all growth is good.  How do we think critically about growth without becoming a NIMBY?

HIGH EXPERIENCE, LOW COMMITMENT: THE SUCCESSFUL URBAN BUSINESS MODEL TODAY

Coffee houses, breweries… people love smaller scale locations where they can spend 5 minutes or 2 hours.  Interestingly enough, these types of establishments are often the elements that turn a dormant neighborhood around.

WHAT THE HELL IS AN URBANIST?

No explanation needed.

PLANNING FOR THE URBAN/SUBURBAN PARADOX

To build great cities, we must increase density and minimize automobile impact… but for our cities to succeed, we must be able to accommodate the needs of suburban residents who wish to occasionally experience city life… which means providing parking and automobile access.

OUR CITIES: ENGINES OF FLUIDITY, IMPERMANENCE & THE SHARED ENVIRONMENT

Our American economy and way of life is becoming less “rooted” and more fluid.  Cities can cater to this trend better than anything.

UNAPOLOGETICALLY BASED IN PERCEPTION

Stats and numbers are important… but if we want to address the real misconceptions of our cities, we have to address why negative urban perceptions persist.

THE FAILURE OF “JUST ADD WATER” URBANISM

Building mixed use developments on 6-lane roads won’t create urbanism… we have to make fundamental changes to the whole environment.

WALKABILITY FOR DUMMIES

Again, this speaks for itself.

WHAT IF REDUCING SPEED ELIMINATED A DEADLY DISEASE?

I asked people if they would drive 30mph to end breast cancer.  The results might surprise you.

RESIDENTIAL MOATS: GREATER ROCHESTER’S ELMWOOD AVENUE

When we build highways pretending to be streets through our residential neighborhoods, we do ourselves a world of disservice.

REFLECTING ON 20 MONTHS OF CAR-FREE LIVING

I didn’t have access for a car for 20 months.  Here’s what I learned, and it might surprise you.

WHY WALKING & BIKING TO WORK MAKES YOU A BETTER DRIVER AND HUMAN

I truly believe biking makes you more aware.

WHAT’S HAPPENING TO PUBLIC TRANSIT?

Public transit has experienced a serious decline in recent years… ride hailing appears to be at the forefront.