Obstacle Course

21 thoughts on “Obstacle Course”

  1. I’m a retired special ed teacher and in my profession Universal Design for Living was well known and practical. It’s pretty well known around the world. So if the powers that be are familiar with it and are concerned, they would not be putting street lamps in the
    middle of walking, wheelchair, baby buggy etc sidewalk areas. Makes sense.

    1. I would have expected that Americans with Disabilities Act would prohibit something as boneheaded as a lamp in the middle of a sidewalk. Apparently common sense isn’t always sufficient.

      1. ADA compliance is not proactive generally, especially when the funding source and implementers don’t know and/or care. But when an activist and/or shyster decides to sue because of clear noncompliance, those poles will get moved very quickly.

        1. I had an accident that resulted in my spending several months in a wheelchair. And if I came away from that experience with one observation, it’s that the people who implement ADA compliance are not themselves handicapped. One example — I’d use a bathroom stall for a wheelchair, but then I couldn’t wash my hands because the piping below the sinks would prevent me from getting close enough to the faucet.

  2. Why is this so ridiculously much harder here in the US compared to elsewhere in the world. My wife’s family is from Santiago Chile. A middle income country comparable to say Poland so about half as wealthy as the US. Here is my brother-in-law’s street in a middle class neighborhood in Santiago. Decent sidewalks, walkable streets, protected bike lands with these unique diagonal curbs. Nothing is particulary fancy or expensive. Everything works. Kids walk to school, people walk to the subway or market. Despite all the apartments, people manage to life without on-street parking on major streets. It’s all just normal. Compared to the ridiculousness that is Atlanta:


    1. I would suggest that countries with less money have no choice but to use public and private funds more carefully. The US is (temporarily) rich enough to piss away money on crap.

    2. It’s always eye-opening that the walkable lifestyle that people pay a fortune for today in the US tends to just be the norm in less prosperous places, from pueblos in Spain, to English villages. It’s ironic that in a country as huge as the US, we still have a scarcity of space – human scale space. Or perhaps it’s not ironic at all.

    3. 1. Americans want everything because they’re rich enough to have it. (temporarily, like Johnny said)
      2. They think as individuals, so they’re “having everything” ends up clashing with their neighbors and that generally means majority rules no matter if it’s a bad or good idea.

      I should point out that this insanity is not unique to Americans. Give any group of people that much wealth and freedom and you’d probably get a very similar outcome. Americans aren’t naturally any more or less virtuous than anyone else.

    4. Poland has better urbanism and better quality of life than any American city I know of- Poznan, a city you’ve likely never heard of, is more livable, walkable, affordable, and lovely, than any place in north America I’ve visited.

      1. Actually I’ve had friends in Poznan since the late 1980s. And yes, it has some lovely neighborhoods. The problem with Poland is it’s in a bad neighborhood… historically speaking.

  3. I had one visit to Atlanta in 1999 when I worked on a documentary about animal communications and I set up an on-camera interview with a woman who raised a gorilla from birth.

    Aside from the job, I had lunch with the two guys who were our camera crew for the day. They were southern white guys, not very sociable, seemingly angry about something unrelated to their gig that day. Later on, in our lunch conversation, they said that growing up in Atlanta nobody ever sued anyone, but lately, suing had come into their town by way of outsiders. Their seemed to be a sort of latent bigotry going on, I couldn’t place my finger on it, and nobody said anything outright hateful, but maybe being from Los Angeles, and having the last name “Hurvitz” stamped me in their mind.

    I traveled around the hot, humid city and saw just vast emptiness and vacancies and sprawl and fake Georgian style banks, hospitals, schools, houses, with pasted on historical vinyl decorations. Maybe I’m being unfair, but looking at your photos, it seems my initial impressions may have been correct.

    1. It sounds like you, much like the author of this post, weren’t actually in Atlanta, but in a suburb outside the city.
      None of these pictures appear to be in Atlanta, but East Point, which is a small town outside the city.

      1. I’m not sure I understand your point.

        Half the photos I took were in East Point which is six miles from the center of Atlanta and pressed up against Hartsfield Jackson Airport. So yes, East Point is technically a distinct municipality and a suburb.

        The other half of my photos were in the immediate vicinity of the new stadium in downtown Atlanta, Spelman, Morehouse, and Georgia Tech. That pretty “real Atlanta.” Feel free to get on Google street view and tool around the English Avenue area or Vine City neighborhoods. It’s were MLK lived back in the day.

        There’s “the City of Atlanta”
        as defined on a political map, and then there’s the physical reality of the Atlanta metroplex. Is Sandy Springs and Perimeter Center (fifteen miles from downtown) technically “Atlanta?” No. Is it functionally part of the same larger thing? Absolutely.

  4. So true, Johnny.

    Our culture loves to come up with formulaic answers for all this, but I’ve found that time after time the simple answer revolves around a willingness to work together and good communication. I believe there MIGHT be a formula, but it’s not a neat-and-tidy one. Something like this:

    1. Get government, lenders and culture in the same room.
    2. Find a goal everyone can buy into.
    3. Make sure everyone is on the same team and not just acting in their own interests.
    4. Develop ways to work together and communicate well.

    In each case the outcome is going to look different because the players always are, but cooperation gets results exponentially faster – and you have partners in the meantime.

    1. I’d suggest that your playbook won’t work unless everybody is acting in their own (economic or professional) interests.

      The trick is that everyone “buys into” goals, or a group of them, that address most folks’ interests without putting anyone at a disadvantage.

      1. That’s a big ask. And it assumes each individual understands their true best interest, which is a stretch. Mostly there are inherent conflicts and one segment dominates another.

        1. It’s like political dealmaking (and sometimes it IS political dealmaking). Everybody gets a little somethin’ somethin’.

          Or I guess the alternative is your sub rosa route. The fewer people involved, the less likely any objection will arise.

          The difference is probably scale. Neighborhood scale projects require a lot of dealmaking; your one building, not so much.

          1. Good point, Chris. This strategy work – but on small scale. Actually I suspect human beings themselves mostly work best on small scale. It seems we can only look at small pictures and work through one topic at a time.

          2. In the sub rosa route, everybody realizes they are somewhat vulnerable and so nobody is too keen to pick a fight. Live and let live is the min-bar for being involved. Contrast that to the big, formal development where everybody is encouraged to demand their rights, and lawsuits get flung around with abandon.

            1. Exactly. At my last house, one neighbor ran a body and paint shop in his garage (which was maybe 20 feet from one bedroom window in my house). I thought about reporting him to the zoning folks…

              …until I realized that the carport and fence built by previous owners of my house were not legal either.

              I chose to live and let live and I had the guy repair a minor fender bender for me for cash (<deductible) a few years after he opened a legit shop.

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