Notes from ‘Cities are Good for You’ by Leo Hollis

LEO-HOLLIS

This book is one that I read about sixth months ago. I found it interesting and engaging. It provides lots of interesting information, and has recently been released in paperback. Before the summer holidays we purchased copies for all our A2 geographers to read.

Some of my notes are listed below:

  • It is estimated that by 2050 75% of the world’s population will live in cities.
  • The genius of the city is not it’s physical fabric but the complexity caused by interactions. We are constantly making connections, moving from place to place, these connections are important, they formulate the network of the city.
  • Dubai is a nation run by a constitutional monarchy, however most of the key government roles are in the hands of the family members. The city was built by thousands of workers shipped in from the sub-continent who have few rights and no chance to share in the pleasures of the state or citizenship. In Dubai the desires of the state, in person of the Emir, supersede the individual citizen.
  • Bangalore International Airport is India’s fourth largest airport. However the terminal opened well before the road that connected the airport to the city, causing three hour plus transit times. This is an example of the fabric of the city failing to keep up with the demand of the burgeoning creative economy it has spawned.
  • The world population is becoming more fluid; a survey of 8,500 people in fourteen major cities showed that 75% of residents had chosen their city.
  • An experiment by Robert Levine of California State University in Fresco timed the average walking speeds in thirty-one cities and found nine out of the top ten were wealthy cities – and economic factors such as earning power, cost of living and time accuracy were key factors. When time is money, we tend to pick up the pace.
  • Informal settlements have significant value. Dharavi contains 5,000 industrial units producing garments, pottery, leather and steel goods as well as a further 15,000 single-room factories. It produces almost $500 million in revenue every year.
  • Researchers are using ‘smart’ cities to save time and money. For example in Beijing researchers studied congestion on 106,579 roads within the city, over 5,500 kilometres, and created a smart grid forming a digital map of the city. This was also integrated with weather and public-transit information. As a result, the new smart grid improved 60-70 per cent of all taxi trips, and made them significantly faster.
  • Congestion is a significant sources of pollution within the city. In 2005 the average American spent over thirty0eight hours stuck in traffic. It is estimated in New York that gridlock adds $1.9 billion to the cost of doing business, a loss of $4.9 billion in unrealised business, and nearly $6 billion in lost time and productivity.
  • Cities are thinking of creative solutions, such as ‘shared spaces’. In 2012 exhibition road was re-opened as a ‘shared space’, a broad Victorian thoroughfare lined by the national museums of London. There is only a shallow brick lip between the road and the pavement. 92.9 per cent of the people interviewed considered the ‘shared space’ an improvement. Many felt the design had increased a sense of empowerment, and 80 per cent of shops reported a significant increase in takings.
  • In Park Space, Brooklyn, 45% of all traffic is created by cars circulating the block. In the Chinese city of Chongqing there is a deficit of 190,000 parking spaces, and this is growing by 400 a day.
  • Living in cities can make us fitter and healthier; a study compared the fitness of young men in inner Atlanta versus men living in the city suburbs. Compelled to walk more inner city dwellers were 10lbs lighter than their suburban neighbours.
  • City dwellers emit different amounts depending on where they live. The average New Yorker emits 6.5 metric tonnes of carbon, versus 15.5 for people living in Houston. The difference is the population density, in New York, people live on top of each other.