Mobilizing Power: Street Vendors and Urban Resilience

Th role of street traders in the public space of cities is constantly undermined in the extension of City Improvement Districts who see them as competition of the rate & rent paying proprietors and owners of urban land. Froth perspective of visitors and tourists and the local population street vendors add a unique ambience to the urban scene. Some problems that are used to justify the control of them and limit their spread is that they are  are often not independent, but owned / financed by hidden entrprenueurs who provide the goods and services of their trade through many small vendors who are intact just employees and this result is the street vendors not supplying anything unique, but simply multiplying the trade in grey imports of commodities such as panties and face creams, or fizzy drinks and chips,a s is ht case in Cape Town, where it is difficult to see any reason for having the rows of stalls all  still selling the same goods. Genuine  traders not selling endless commodities or poor reproductions of tourist nik-naks are hard dot find, ye the y are obviously seeing their goods to someone, but as the stall space is limited the opportunities for real traders are limited by this competition. From Urban Omnibus a report on New Yorks traders:

For more than 200 years, street vendors have been an integral part of New York City. Department store giants Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s, after all, started as collectives of door-to-door salespeople. And even more so than those institutions, New York’s estimated 20,000 vendors — by way of their highly visible sidewalk sale of food, flowers, art, books, and more — are embedded firmly in the city’s collective imaginary. When it rains in Manhattan, an umbrella is so easy to come by that a T-Mobile billboard once claimed that its network was faster than an umbrella vendor’s anticipation of rain. The public nature of vending extends to the roles vendors actively take on as direction-givers or go-to sources of change for a $10 bill.

Despite their provision of sought-after services, fellow business interests and policymakers often dismiss vendors as problematic, in part because their lack of a rent payment is considered an unfair leg-up on nearby brick and mortar shops. Regulation of the profession reflects this: vendors’ sidewalk presence is managed under convoluted rules too often used to remove them from areas where they’re deemed unwanted. Tellingly, the map of the city’s Business Improvement Districts, which are funded by local business interests, is roughly congruent with the map of streets where vending is prohibited. This bias against vending extends beyond the BIDs’ domains: across the city, vendors receive on average 40,000 tickets a year. A ticket can carry a fine of up to $1,000 for an infraction as minor as operating an inch too close to the curb or failing to display a vending license around one’s neck. Vendors are arrested roughly 10,000 times a year for reasons ranging from vending without a license to failing to comply with a police officer’s order to move, even when they are lawfully set up.

The cooperation of different New Yorkers, including street vendors in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy calls for a new emphasis on urban collaboration and symbiosis in disaster planning and city planning more broadly. Rather than offering free batteries from their Power Forward truck when the electrical grid shuts down, Duracell could partner with street vendors to distribute them, increasing their coverage area and stemming the use of short-term business tactics like price gouging. Rather than hiring an extra information guide, tourist agencies could work with vendors already performing this role in Lower Manhattan, allowing them to officially do so. Rather than deploying additional solar mobile charging stations, AT&T could invest in the social infrastructure of the city by having street vendors offer charging on the street in exchange for additional revenue.

Opportunities abound, especially when it comes to retrofitting street carts or food trucks to mitigate the pollution and noise that comes with their gas generators. Rather than invest in a project like Simply Grid, which provides on-demand sidewalk access to grid electricity through fixed kiosks, we could power vendors with energy sources like solar panels or biofuels that do not reduce their physical mobility or ability to remain operational when the main energy grid goes dark. Projects aspiring to this already exist: the solar-powered GrowNYC van in Union Square, Our Lady of Detritus’ “sunbrella”-powered mobile A/V system, the Solar Power Pops Truck, and the vegetable oil-fueled BLK Projek mobile green market in the South Bronx. Encouraging such programs and incubating new partnerships would not only lessen overall demand for energy and increase the amount derived from renewable sources, but street vendors acting as ambassadors for these models would increase the visibility of alternative energy sources in our most accessible and prominent public space: the sidewalk.

Because of their mobility, position on the sidewalk, and diverse demographics, street vendors are uniquely positioned to improve urban resilience. But if we are to build upon the unrecognized social role that vendors already play to help us further mitigate, adapt to, and recover from times of crisis, we must ensure that their multiple daily struggles are addressed. When vendors’ right to the sidewalk is threatened, not only are their livelihoods in danger, but the city loses out on this potential. Let’s build on infrastructure that already exists by facilitating strategic partnerships that will valorize, legitimize, and enable street vendors to work beyond their reductionist primary function and confront broader urban issues. It is time for the City to stop treating vendors as a nuisance, and to instead recognize their latent potential as rapidly deployable social infrastructure that can address existing and future needs.

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HOW TO STUDY PUBLIC LIFE -Jan Gehl & Birgitte Svarre

Looks like another great manual form the city life specialist Gehl Architects

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“For decades, the public space, public life studies developed by Jan Gehl and his team have been a great inspiration for professionals, academics and city planners in all parts of the world. Now their secret tools are available to everyone in “How to Study Public Life”. It is just a matter now of getting out there and putting them to use.”

— Peter Newman, Professor of Sustainability,
Curtin University, Australia
 

How do we accommodate a growing urban population in a way that is sustainable, equitable, and inviting? This question is becoming increasingly urgent to answer as we face diminishing fossil-fuel resources and the effects of a changing climate while global cities continue to compete to be the most vibrant centers of culture, knowledge, and finance.

Jan Gehl has been examining this question since the 1960s, when few urban designers or planners were thinking about designing cities for people. But given the unpredictable, complex and ephemeral nature of life in cities, how can we best design public infrastructure—vital to cities for getting from place to place, or staying in place—for human use? Studying city life and understanding the factors that encourage or discourage use is the key to designing inviting public space.

In “How to Study Public Life” Jan Gehl and Birgitte Svarre draw from their combined experience of over 50 years to provide a history of public?life study as well as methods and tools necessary to recapture city life as an important planning dimension.

This type of systematic study began in earnest in the 1960s, when several researchers and journalists on different continents criticized urban planning for having forgotten life in the city. City life studies provide knowledge about human behaviour in the built environment in an attempt to put it on an equal footing with knowledge about urban elements such as buildings and transport systems. Studies can be used as input in the decision?making process, as part of overall planning, or in designing individual projects such as streets, squares or parks. The original goal is still the goal today: to recapture city life as an important planning dimension. Anyone interested in improving city life will find inspiration, tools, and examples in this invaluable guide.

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Read Reviews Here:

Experiencing Streets, Parks, and Plazas: A Review for “How to Study Public Life”

Book Talk and Review: How to Study Public Life

Oculus Book Review: “How to Study Public Life” by Jan Gehl and Birgitte Svarre

Mapnificent -a time-based transit map (via Urban Observatory)

STEFAN WEHRMEYER, a 23-year-old German programmer, has developed a Google Maps application called Mapnificent (harhar). It's pretty cool: it shows you the places in your city that you can reach in a given amount of time using public transport. This does not yet work in South African Cites , but is still an interesting application of already existing cloud network i.e. Google Maps  and the programming API has lots of potential for creating your ow … Read More

via Urban Observatory

Really Cool Beach – The longest bench via The Cool Hunter

Here is the “Worlds Longest Bench” according to the The Cool Hunter :

“As much as we love temporary stunts, happenings, art installations and large-scale sculpture in the urban space, we want more.”

We are on a quest for truly transformed urban spaces. We are looking for instances where a council, city, town, municipality has taken the initiative, come up with the funds and actually transformed a mediocre, unused, ugly space into an inviting and fun public environment.

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Flower shops & Lively Communities – 1 (via A BIRDS’ EYE VIEW of the Property World)

Being Horticulturists and my mother having been a florist and competition flower arranger, something we have always enjoyed when walking round cities in Europe and the East is the fantastic displays of flowers in street markets and on the pavements outside flower shops which enliven and enrich the urban vibe!

Flower shops & Lively Communities - 1 Westbourne Grove, London – April 2009 This is Sunday morning… Good time to go out for a walk: I've always been amazed by how a flower shop or kiosk could completely change the character of a neighborhood… if it is given some allowance besides "the lease line"!…  Do you really think an element as simple as a flower shop could contribute to the value of a Property? We do… among other things. Enjoy this coming series of "Flower Shops & L … Read More

via A BIRDS' EYE VIEW of the Property World

U2, Bono & Co. Rock Cape Town Stadium & the Fan Walk

The controversial and troubled  event venue Cape Town Stadium  and the  infrastructure of street improvements, including the  2.4 km Fan Walk from the central city to the iconic event venue in Green Point, both built for the 2010 Soccer World Cup, which will be enlivened and activated by entertainment and thousands of Rock fans on the evening and night of Friday 18 February 2011 for the U2 360° Tour.

According to the Cape Town Partnership website:” Apart from murals set along the entire route, other elements will include a stage with a screen back-drop at St Andrews Square setting the scene for DJs and a VJ while rock bands will appear from a roof-top on Somerset Rd, emulating U2’s video shot in LA of the song “Streets With No Name”.

“Additional elements along the route will include sky-beams, cyber stilt-walkers, a marching band, mist-tunnels and activations from KFM.”

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