✊🏙 Light electric vehicles are coming; shaky global housing market; future megacities; UK airport drones; US construction costs; & more!





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January 13 · Issue #68 · View online
Radical Urbanist
Hey urbanists,
This week’s issue is pretty long, but I think you’ll like it!
It starts with a closer look at light electric vehicles — I particularly recommend the piece on the legalities around injuries — then moves to how housing markets in North America, Asia, and Australia seem to be facing some trouble. Finally, I highlight a series by the Guardian on future megacities which I’ve really been enjoying, before finishing with great articles on issues from around the world.
I’m in Washington, D.C. this week for the Transportation Research Board conference. I’ll likely end up tweeting about it if you want some insight into what’s going on.
Have a great Sunday!

Light electric vehicles are the future
Hugh Malkin wrote a great piece at the end of last year on the coming explosion of light electric vehicles: bikes, scooters, and other small electrified modes. In particular, he addresses the question of ownership, and how to reduce the barriers for people to own electrified bikes or scooters to further encourage their use.
But for that use to grow, people need to feel safe. Bird quietly cut their bike-lane fund recently, but cities are still pushing forward with better cycling infrastructure. Mark Wessel wrote about the elevated Bike Skyway in Xiamen, China for TheCityFix that was designed by a Danish firm, which made me think of Auckland, New Zealand’s beautiful pink cycleway.
There’s also been concern about injuries from scooter use, which the CDC will soon be studying in Austin, Texas. However, CityLab has a really in-depth piece written by Sarah Holder this week on the legality of scooter injuries and how cities can promote safer scooter use.
Finally, Kieran Smith wrote about some ways to promote greater cycling use in the Guardian, from making bikes free and having car-free days, to placing liability for crashes on the more powerful road user and taking subsidies away from automobiles.
Peter Flax
"I'm really worried that electric scooters are making our streets unsafe." https://t.co/rqRZcHCIGC
Global housing markets in trouble?
When the 2008 recession hit, Canada didn’t suffer the same housing crash as its neighbor to the south, but its time may finally have come. Rents in some of Canada’s biggest cities are poised to keep soaring in 2019: Toronto by 11%, Ottawa by 9%, and Vancouver by 7%; Montreal is the exception with only a 1% expected rise. However, the same can’t be said for the housing market.
The Bank of Canada has begun raising interest rates — from 1% to 1.75% in 2018 — but it may have waited too long. Spurred by low rates, Canadians took on a lot of debt; the national debt-to-income ratio is 173.8%. Jason Kirby has an in-depth account of what’s going on with the Canadian housing market in Maclean’s, but Cory Doctorow’s response covers the main points.
But it’s not just Canada where the housing market looks shaky. San Francisco has been the poster child for an inflated market, yet in December housing inventory for sale was up 113% and price cuts were up 445% year over year, while median asking prices had dropped 12% since May.
It looks like the property markets in Asia and Australia might also be slowing down, according to a new report in Bloomberg. Prices are falling in Hong Kong, Singapore, Shanghai, and Beijing; and in Sydney, prices are falling faster than any time since the 1980s. Bloomberg attributes this to volatile stock markets, increased regulation, and lower Chinese demand — but with declines in so many places, what will happen next?
Ed Burmila
I know Twitter is limited to NYC/DC concerns but I can't emphasize enough that this is a *real map* of what El*n M*sk is proposing for Chicago and it literally runs parallel to a train that costs $2.25 and leaves every 7 minutes.

I am not kidding, this is it. 1/3 https://t.co/rWAzYagBVt
Challenges facing future megacities
The Guardian has an ongoing series on the next 15 megacities. I’m really enjoying it, and I think you will too. In particular, I was in Iran in 2013, so I loved reading about Tehran. I saw first-hand how young people are challenging social norms, and the urban and environmental challenges the country is facing. I’d love to go back, but visa rules have become more restrictive for Canadians.
🇮🇷 Tehran, Iran — “LA with minarets” — is sprawled and car-dependent, and that’s making it hard to address living condition and pollution challenges.
🇹🇿 Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s bus-rapid transit slashed commuting times from two hours to 45 minutes. It’s the only gold-rated BRT system in Africa.
🇮🇶 “15 years of conflict have unstitched Baghdad.” Concrete barriers still separate the city, squatting is common, and there’s no mass transit.
The articles on the Middle Eastern cities brought to mind a piece I read last month about the shopping malls being built in developing countries that are like an escape from the disfunction of the cities which surround them.
Other great reads
😬 LA Metro Rail will close parts of the Blue and Green lines to complete upgrades which will affect 100,000 riders, but with the agency struggling to raise ridership, will this make it harder for people to rely on transit?
💷 London’s ultra-low emissions zone starts in April, which will make driving into central London cost up to £24. It will expand to a larger area in 2021.
📱 Could a Meta-Uber be developed to transfer rides to worker co-ops? Or a Meta-Amazon to send book orders to indie bookstores? Not with laws that protect the disruptors from being disrupted, argues Cory Doctorow.
🚇 NYC Council Speaker planning to ask the state to let the city control its own buses and subways
🚐 Microtransit was pushed by some as the future of buses. Chariot, one of the mode’s leaders, is going out of business.
🚗 Poor neighborhoods have car-ownership rates far below middle-class and rich neighborhoods. Better transit is more equitable than more roads.
💸 Bay Area’s BART regional commuter rail distance-based fare system means “the highest cost burden falls on the lowest-income earners
✈️ London’s Heathrow and Gatwick airports investing in anti-drone systems after incidents caused flights delays and cancellations
💥 Bird tried to censor a journalist. It backfired — big time.
🚧 Big difference in transportation construction costs in US and Canada: heavy rail averages $650 million/mile in US vs $362 million/mile in Canada; light rail averages $332 million/mile in US vs $146 million/mile in Canada.
🛴 Atlanta’s new scooter regulations restrict use on sidewalks, set 15 mph speed limit, and require operators pay $12,000 annual permit fee
🇸🇦 Western media praised Saudi Arabia for letting women drive. After they left, authorities arrested right-to-drive activists and allegedly tortured them.
"Oh my God. Oh my God. I'm shaking." This Milwaukee bus driver went above the call of duty when she stopped and ran out to scoop up a baby girl who was wandering barefoot on a freeway overpass in freezing temperatures, and approaching an intersection https://t.co/SCwNFZkgcQ https://t.co/9ItU4fh4ZM
✊️❤️ Thanks for reading. You can follow me on TwitterMedium, or Instagram for even more!
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