Category Archives: Public Space

Are spikes the problem?

IMG_5280_scaledA South Park neighborhood character who insisted his real name was Elvis Presley died in this alcove in 2012. He was run over by an emerging car, whose driver was cleared of wrongdoing. Another man died the same way in December 2014.

Some transit and bike activists have taken the moral of the story to be that car drivers escape blame easily when they run people over. That may be true in general, but with respect to this doorway I agree with Streetsblog commenter “gneiss”, who wrote, “This is a design flaw not an ‘accident’.”

My old blog has some details about the design flaw that I posted after Elvis died. Also about Elvis himself, who was a skilled street mechanic before his addictions got all the way in the way.

In the meantime, the subject of “unfriendly architecture” has come up strongly in public debate about heartlessness in public spaces, mostly by way of some especially ugly-looking spikes placed by London property owners outside an apartment building and a Tesco’s. A little farther down in this blog is a link to a Storify about that with examples of anti-sitting/anti-sleeping design in San Francisco and elsewhere.

So the reason I mention spikes is, the picture above shows a recent addition to the rain-sheltered garage entry alcove where two men have been run over: they’ve added pebbling to the pavement to discourage sleeping.

And this is why it seems worth asking: are spikes the problem?

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A good Twitter conversation on anti-sitting design

I put together a quick Storify from today’s good Twitter conversation about anti-sitting spikes in public spaces and other attempts to move non-paying customers along in public space.

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The taming of Pier 70’s ghosts

IMG_0357detailTwice I’ve had the thrill of crossing the Spanish-French border under European Union law. Once at Hendaye, once at Portbou. There are no border guards now. No papers to show. You just go on through. If you’ve read and heard about the history of border crossings there, it’s like undercounting stair steps in the dark: you reach out a toe, feeling for that one more step down, and instead you find bizarrely solid ground.

Without meaning to suggest equivalence, I had a distant echo of that feeling today at the gate shown here. It was, until recently, the gate to San Francisco’s main city car impound yard. For the last ten years it was run by the Auto Return company. Before then it was run by the legendary City Tow. Continue reading

San Francisco, blissfully unaware of the America’s Cup

IMG_0093detailOnly visible sign of the America’s Cup at Fort Point today was a sign warning people off a little triangle of beach. Maybe for the sake of the bird life? Earlier, while walking over Pacific Heights, we saw a couple of big sails moving smoothly on the water below, surrounded by escort boats and a helicopter. Almost as if they were under arrest.

Four more races left according to the Chron. And our city, wonderfully, has yet to pay any attention. This place is, wonderfully, not Newport.

Meanwhile, San Franciscans spent a perfectly normal beautiful Sunday minding their own business on the waterfront.

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