A blog for better streets and public spaces in Portland, Maine.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Blessing of the Bikes

An announcement from Portland Green Streets and the Bike Commuters Meetup group:

An interfaith "Blessing of the Bicycles" will be held on May 17 at 12:30 PM at St. Luke's Cathedral, 143 State Street, Portland. Adults and children of any faith (or no faith background at all) are welcomed to attend with their bicycles and any other non-motorized wheeled vehicles. The brief service will include a multi-faith blessing, a sprinkling of bikes with holy water, and a moment of remembrance for riders who have passed away this past year, followed by refreshments. The event is sponsored by Gorham Bike & Ski and Ernie's Cycle Shop.

The Blessing caps "Get to Worship a Greener Way Weekend" May 15-17, promoted by Portland Green Streets and the Portland Bicycle Commuting Meetup. Worshippers are encouraged to travel to their church, synagogue, mosque, temple, or meetinghouse by carpool, bus, walking, or biking.

FMI: Sarah Cushman, 841-7186

Franklin Street Public Workshop TONIGHT

Help envision the future of Franklin Street. Tonight, at the Ocean Gateway building on the waterfront (one block east of the Casco Bay Lines ferry terminal), Portlanders will be getting together to discuss how Franklin Street should look in the future.

What kinds of buildings should go up in all of the empty space surrounding Franklin? How wide should the street be? How wide should the sidewalks be? Are there other streets in Portland that you'd like to see emulated on a redesigned Franklin Street?

Public input from tonight's meeting will set the agenda for the city's Franklin Street Committee and its traffic and planning consultants as they come up with a final plan for city approval. With a plan in hand by the end of the summer, the city could start rebuilding Franklin within the next two to three years.

I'll be there as a facilitator. Come introduce yourself if you're a blog reader whom I haven't met yet.

April 29, 6 to 9 PM, at the Ocean Gateway Terminal
There will be food!
Click here to pre-register.

Below: Franklin St. in 1966 (left) and in 1970, after the devastation of urban "renewal." See the Maine Sunday Telegram's excellent article and accompanying photo slideshow here.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Maine Mall...

...is bankrupt.

More accurately, the Mall's owners, General Growth Properties, whose business consists entirely of owning and operating hundreds of shopping malls nationwide, is bankrupt, thanks to crushing debt from over-inflated real estate speculations and plummeting enthusiasm for Made-In-China pap.

That's the thing about a recession. Why go to the Gap or Hot Topic to feel insecure about yourself, when you can merely contemplate your employment situation, for free?

So what's this mean for South Portland's wasteland of junk-food franchises and big box stores? The Mall itself will likely be sold at a bargain-basement price to satisfy General Growth's jilted creditors. But the outlook for the neighborhood doesn't look good. The old Circuit City, which has been abandoned for only a few weeks, already looks like a transplant from Chernobyl. Here's a good overview of the direction in which our malls are headed...

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Find this bike.

Above: Slovenski's stolen bike looks similar to this one, but is blue.

Via the AP (who may try to sue me for this fair-use good samaritanism, but let 'em try):

LEWISTON (AP) -- Ruth Slovenski of Lewiston acquired her blue Huffy bicycle as a gift in 1943 when she was a teenager and had been riding it ever since.

But the 66-year-old bike was stolen last weekend after its 83-year-old owner left it unlocked during her regular visit to a local nursing home.

Police said Slovenski arrived at Maison Marcotte at 2:45 p.m. Saturday, leaving the bike near a mailbox. When she went to leave less than two hours later, the bike was gone.

A security video at the nursing home showed a male wearing a hat and dark clothing riding off on a bike that fit the description of the one that was stolen.

Cpl. Matthew Cushman quoted Slovenski as saying the bike, with wide fenders and a large metal basket, had great sentimental value.
Even though it's a Huffy, it's still a gorgeous vintage bike. I suspect that the thief might have had an inkling of this and expected to pawn it off to an unsuspecting collector. Don't let it happen: everyone in southern Maine should keep an eye out for it.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Drive less, die less.

Traffic-related deaths in the United States dropped to their lowest level in almost half a century in 2008, reports the New York Times:

Preliminary data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration showed a decline in deaths of 14 percent in New England...

The spike in gasoline costs last year probably contributed to the overall decline, officials said, because people ended up driving less. The number of vehicle miles traveled dropped by about 3.6 percent nationally, the safety agency found, after climbing for several decades.

But officials in several New England states also credited stepped-up safety programs, especially for young drivers, and enforcement of laws against drunken driving.
Maine's Bureau of Highway Safety credits some of the decline to stricter seatbelt laws: our state has 138 traffic deaths in 2007, and 129 deaths last year. Seatbelts are undoubtedly important, but Americans also drove 100 billion fewer miles in 2008 than they did in 2007. So drivers had fewer opportunities to smear their gray matter on the pavement, and the drivers who were still on the road had fewer opportunities to crash into other cars.