NYC –> Shanghai, 9 days: Wheeling Mobility and Community

September 1st, 2013. 9 freaking days!

Right outside my stoop. “What will happen with this wheel now?”

2013-08-30 16.40.24I ran across this right outside of my doorstep a couple of days ago. Unfortunately, I cannot say it’s the first time a bike – or most parts thereof – have been stolen on my block, in my neighborhood, in NYC. But this was the first time I’d seen action quite like this taken. I felt equally disappointed, engaged, and energized – and obviously, motivated to write a blog about it. I immediately thought – is injustice like this a function of a neighborhood, its design, its people? Moreover, is there something that could be done from a “community” perspective to discourage or even eliminate such behavior? And perhaps even more to the point, what are the factors that drive this deviant behavior to begin with? This kind of thievery – in the end – benefits no one. The culprit may temporarily gain something from selling off the parts that he or she managed to lift from this bike. But then what? The ends gained are fleeting. It just begets more thievery (at least without access to other more legitimate means of earning a “paycheck” – assuming that is a desired goal). And of course, the bike owner is left with a mere relic of a  functional (green and convenient) form of transportation. So what’s the solution? A better locking mechanism? A secured basement (like we have) to store it? Or perhaps even more progressively, ensuring access to bikes – and other alternate forms of convenient transportation to those who need it most? Maybe that’s too naive or simple? Perhaps ensuring access to better jobs, so that thievery isn’t as “enticing” (or lucrative) an option? But maybe you really have to go one step further — dig into the structure of the problem and focus on education and providing better access to “development” in the way most of us reading this blog have had…As an urban designer, I recognize that the built environment can only do so much in so far as facilitating or encouraging certain behaviors. But as a “social ecologist,” I know that all of these behaviors are connected – and that community (which is impacted by design) can indeed be as an integral a part of addressing the root causes of things as “minimal” as bike thievery – and as critical as mobility…So what’s the best course of action? Of change?


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