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Bill Teams Up
Mayor De Blasio delivers his first state of the city address.
Courtesy NYC Mayor's Office

The difference between Michael Bloomberg’s final State of the City address and Bill de Blasio’s first was so vast it seems impossible the two were speaking about the same city. In the newly opened Barclays Center, then-mayor Bloomberg touted the booming development across New York—from the Atlantic Yards to the Hudson Yards. He referenced job opportunities, sustainability, and, of course, the bike-share program.

One year later, at the LaGuardia Community College in Queens, Bill de Blasio spoke of “The Tale of Two Cities”—a town racked by inequality. He didn’t talk about any big, splashy developments, but pledged to help “New Yorkers crushed by skyrocketing rents.” There was no mention of transportation, climate change, or infrastructure—all considered bright spots in Bloomberg’s complicated legacy.

But while Mayor de Blasio makes national headlines for his laser-like focus on tackling inequality, he has been appointing highly competent individuals to lead the city’s housing, transportation, environmental, and planning teams. All of these appointments, explained de Blasio, are not separate from the fight against inequality. They are central in waging it.

In early February, de Blasio appointed Carl Weisbrod—a real estate industry veteran with experience in the private and public sector—to chair the city’s planning commission. Weisbrod is perhaps best known for his integral role in cleaning up Times Square in the 1980s and later helping to transform Downtown Manhattan into a mixed-use neighborhood.

Rick Bell, the executive director of New York’s AIA chapter, said Weisbrod is “an excellent choice” for planning commissioner because he “brings to the table the skillset, the mindset, and the attitude of someone who is going to take the promises made, the expectations of the de Blasio campaign, and realize them.”

As planning commissioner, Weisbrod will be instrumental in accomplishing one of de Blasio’s key legislative goals: to “preserve or construct” 200,000 units of affordable housing over the next 10 years. He will be joined in that fight by the mayor’s new housing team.

The mayor recently appointed Shola Olatoye—a former executive at an affordable housing non-profit—as chair of the New York City Housing Authority. The Department of Housing Preservation and Development’s new commissioner is Vicki Been, who was the former director of NYU’s Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy. And Gary D. Rodney, from the affordable housing developer Omni New York, is the new president to the Housing Development Corporation.

Alicia Glen—the former head of the Goldman Sachs’ Urban Investment Group—is the city’s new deputy mayor of housing and economic development.

Even with a strong team beside him, de Blasio’s affordable housing goal will be exceptionally difficult to achieve. One tool de Blasio will likely use to hit his 200,000 figure will be “mandatory inclusionary zoning,” or requiring developers to include affordable housing units in new buildings. Under Bloomberg, developers were only incentivized to do so.

And since it will not be enough to just “preserve” existing affordable units, the de Blasio years might see significant zoning changes to offer new development opportunities. The benefit of this could be twofold: more development would boost the number of new affordable housing units, and the housing stock overall.

In terms of transportation and the city’s streetscape, the de Blasio administration is poised to build on Janette Sadik-Khan’s impressive legacy of transforming New York City streets. The mayor’s selection of Polly Trottenberg—the former under secretary for policy at the U.S. Department of Transportation—to lead the city’s DOT has been lauded by those championing safer streets and improved transportation. “The personnel positions, and particularly hiring Polly Trottenberg, look really good from street safety and livable streets perspective,” said Ben Fried, the editor-in-chief of Streetsblog.

Trottenberg will be responsible for more than bike lanes and pedestrian plazas; she will work alongside the new police commissioner, Bill Bratton, to implement the mayor’s “Vision Zero Action Plan” to reduce pedestrian fatalities.

It has become clear with these appointments that the mayor plans to use every department, and every new official, to address the city’s inequality. Combatting inequality is a daunting, if not impossible, fight to wage from City Hall, but the mayor and his team seem ready to at least throw some punches.

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Brooklyn Bridge Crossroads
Improvements will make access safer for pedestrians and cyclists.
Courtesy NYCDOT

Every day, thousands of cyclists and pedestrians jockey for space on a narrow strip along the center of the Brooklyn Bridge. A ballet plays out as cyclists commuting to and from work dodge eager tourists looking for the perfect photo op, as the soft chime of bike bells blending with the din of car traffic below. At the Brooklyn terminus of the bridge, however, the already-chaotic scene devolves into a dangerous confluence of cars, bikes, and pedestrians as the path abruptly ends in the center of a busy intersection at Adams and Tillary streets.

After five years of study, meetings, and schematic designs, however, accessing the Brooklyn Bridge will soon be improved under a plan to revamp the Brooklyn Bridge Gateway Area streetscape, encompassing Tillary Street between Cadman Plaza West and Prince Street and several blocks of Adams Street, with widened sidewalks, improved bike lanes, and increased landscaping.

 
Plan of the Brooklyn Bridge Gateway redesign (left). Existing conditions at the Brooklyn terminus of the bridge (right). [Click to enlarge.]
 

A joint effort of the New York City Department of Transportation (NYCDOT) and the Department of Design and Construction, the campaign to improve the bridge entrance began in 2009 with community workshops that identified project goals including improved safety and better aesthetics. At the intersection of Tillary and Adams streets, for example, the crash rate is nearly nine times the New York state average, with 117 crashes between 2008 and 2010. The dialogue resulted in a set of schematic plans presented in 2009 and 2011, but the proposal languished without federal funding until last December, when another update was presented to and unanimously approved by Brooklyn’s Community Board 2 Transportation Committee.

Existing and proposed changes to the bridge terminus at the intersection of Adams and Tillary streets.
 

Last month, the full community board approved NYCDOT’s polished traffic safety and landscape plans showing the revamped Brooklyn Bridge Gateway Area. The first phase of the project reconstructs the entrance to the bridge at Adams and Tillary streets, softening the busy intersection with widened sidewalks, dedicated bike lanes, and more landscaping. Pedestrian and cyclist access has been streamlined by converting Adams Street into a tree-lined boulevard with a 30-foot-wide median containing widened and separated paths for pedestrians and cyclists. The design includes place-making amenities such as new benches, wayfinding signage, bollards, and even a water bottle filling station.

Widened sidewalks, improved bike lanes, and new landscaping will transform the public space along Tillary Street.
 

An access road along Adams Street will be reconfigured to accommodate the wider median, including removing a row of parallel parking and adding a bike lane. A group of neighborhood residents have expressed concern about these changes, citing construction noise and pollution from passing cars. The group has asked the city to conduct an environmental review, but NYCDOT has said such a study is not required by law.

Future phases along Tillary Street aim to increase safety and curb problems of motorists parking in bike lanes by replacing concrete jersey barriers along bike paths with extended sidewalks and new landscaping. The plan also streamlines bike access to Downtown Brooklyn. Throughout the target area, curb extensions at intersections—called neckdowns—and widened sidewalks will help slow car traffic, improve visibility, and reduce the length of street crossings. NYCDOT did not respond to requests for comment by press time.

The city plans to begin construction on the first phase of the project along Adams Street by the end of the year. Construction is expected to last 18 months. Future phases are contingent on additional funding.

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Chicago breaks ground on Navy Pier flyover for Lakefront Trail
Bicyclists and pedestrians cruising down Chicago’s 18-mile Lakefront Trail generally enjoy an exceptionally open, continuous and scenic path along Lake Michigan. But near Navy Pier they’re shunted inland, underneath a highway, onto sidewalks and through road crossings that interrupt their journey in the middle of one of the popular pathway's most congested corridors. The Navy Pier Flyover, announced in 2011, was designed to remedy that situation, and today Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced the project has officially broken ground. Though it won’t be fully open until 2018, work began on schedule for the portion of the pathway between Jane Adams Park and the Ogden Slip. The first phase of construction has a budget of $22.5 million. The total cost will be $60 million, split over three phases. The Lakefront Trail and Lake Shore Drive will remain open throughout construction. To track progress and occasional detours during the work, the city has set up navypierflyover.com. Sporting bike lanes and space for pedestrians, the trail will be 16 feet wide and approximately as elevated as Lake Shore Drive.  LED lighting will supplement the “ambient light of Lake Shore Drive,” according to the city's website. The city called in architect Muller+Muller after studying the problem for years. That design, from 2011, remains intact. When complete the trail will allow for uninterrupted travel over the Chicago River, through DuSable Park, the Ogden Slip, across Illinois Street, Grand Avenue, Jane Addams Park and into the Ohio Street Tunnel. (The news comes among other improvements to the lakefront trail announced recently.) More design details are available here, in a presentation by the city made available online.
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PeopleForBikes Issues Green Light For Six Cities Seeking Improved Bike Infrastructure
A list of over 100 cities has been whittled down to six. PeopleForBikes has announced the latest cities that will be the focus of the 2014 iteration of the Green Lane Project, an initiative that promotes urban bike infrastructure. The decision means that beginning in April, Atlanta, Boston, Denver, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, and Seattle will all be on the receiving end of expert assistance, training and support in efforts to become increasingly bike-friendly. The project's director Martha Roskowski said that all the selected cities demonstrated "ambitious goals and a vision for bicycling supported by their elected officials and communities." Pittsburgh and Seattle's inclusion comes as each takes steps towards establishing bike share programs within their borders. Boston is already in possession of such a system. A major focus of the Green Lane initiative is to increase the number of protected bike lanes, and Seattle, Indianapolis, and Atlanta are already in possession of lanes included in PeopleForBikes' Best Of List for 2013. Since the program was launched in 2012, the number of such lanes within the US has nearly doubled, rising from 80 to 142. Half of this growth can be found in the Green Lane Project's six original focus cities: Austin, Chicago, Memphis, Portland, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. [Via Streetsblog USA.]
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Blow Your Horn For Urbanism
Rios Clementi Hale's Sunset Triangle Plaza.
Jim Simmons

A couple of weeks ago, Los Angeles Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne sat down with LA mayor Eric Garcetti at Occidental College’s Keck Theater to discuss the changing face of LA. The city, as Hawthorne mentioned (and as I have pointed out on numerous occasions), is undergoing a tectonic shift from a car-oriented, sprawling, and private city to a transit-oriented, dense, public-oriented one. So it seems fitting that LA has a mayor who, at least in his words, supports these changes and takes architecture and urban design seriously.

In many ways the discussion was a chance for Garcetti to tout his accomplishments in the urban realm as both mayor and councilman, from the establishment of the Great Streets Initiative, meant to improve the pedestrian and bike experience on the city’s thoroughfares, to the installation of hundreds of new bicycle lanes, to the installation of numerous pocket parks. He also promised to start construction on a subway connection to LAX (and the extension of several other lines) before the end of his tenure, help re-fund the city’s affordable housing trust fund, complete the effort to recode our outdated zoning system, and he mentioned that he was tripling the size of the city’s Urban Design Office (albeit from one person to three). He spoke about his lobbying trip to the White House to fight for the transformation of the LA River, and mentioned that the Federal Government was now choosing between alternatives, not just weighing whether or not to do something.

And you know what? A little bragging is ok. Granted many of these initiatives were started before Garcetti started office, and any of these accomplishments come from a large pool of people, not simply from his desk. But if somebody has a record in the urban realm to brag about, I want to hear about it. I want more people (particularly people outside of our fields) to understand that urban change can be a positive thing, not something to fear. Sure, not all change is good. But change in LA is inevitable, and if we know what we’re getting, and are willing to fight for the best result, then we can shape it to fit our needs.

As much as we lament that LA’s fractured political system leaves our mayor without much power, having an ally in the urban realm is a gift that we can’t take for granted. The mayor can appoint the right people in relevant departments (planning, building, transportation, etc.); he can issue executive orders; and he can rally people behind major initiatives. Just look what Mayor Bloomberg was able to achieve in New York City.     Garcetti also wasn’t shy to attack the unsuccessful schemes that the city has undertaken in the past. He attacked the LAUSD’s recent wave of schools as “fortresses” that “don’t talk to the architecture of the city.” And he joked that widening the 405 Freeway was “analogous to finding a slightly bigger sponge to throw in the ocean.

That being said he did not turn a critical eye on what he hasn’t accomplished, or what problems he could still address. Why, for instance, is our planning department reactive, not proactive? Why, despite all the talk, are our entitlement and permitting processes still so dreadfully inefficient? Why does our procurement process still favor the well-connected and well-financed? Why are we still allowing freeways to be widened, despite the mayor’s outrage about it? And why aren’t more architects part of (or leading) city commissions? Of course these are just a few, but the only part of the discussion that was missing was a critical look at where the mayor hasn’t been successful to this point.

Still, the fact that the Mayor is talking about these things at all—particularly
in such a public forum—is a victory for architects, planners, and any advocates for the urban environment. The more we can keep these topics on the radar the more this city, and others, will successfully adapt to fit a world that has changed dramatically and live up to its staggering potential.  

 

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TxDOT Approves Barton Creek Bicycle Bridge for Austin
url Since the construction of the twin freeway bridges that carry the MoPac expressway over Barton Creek in 1987, the Austin community has been clamoring for a bike and pedestrian bridge to accompany it. That outcry has now been answered. On February 11, The Texas Department of Transportation approved just such a crossing. The project will cost the state around $7.7 million and will take approximately thirty months to complete. According to the Austin Public works department the construction will be handled in three phases: Phase I includes adding a bicycle/pedestrian bridge over Barton Creek at MoPac. The south bound lanes of MoPac will also be re-striped to lessen traffic congestion and to improve bicycle and pedestrian connections to the Southwest Parkway, Loop 360, and other trails in the area, including the Violet Crown Trail and the Oak Hills Neighborhood Trail System. Mopac_Bicycle_and_Pedestrian_Bridge_Project_Map Phase II will add a bicycle/pedestrian bridge over Loop 360 at MoPac. Phase III entails the creation of a multi-use trail to accommodate bicycles and pedestrians on the west side of MoPac from Loop 360 to Tamarron Boulevard. After the plan is completed there will be approximately two miles of paved bicycle and pedestrian trails running along MoPac. While Austin is no stranger to trails throughout its many greenbelts, there are almost no such trails in the city where it is comfortable to ride a road bike. Construction these trails will improve the travel prospects for those wishing to commute via bicycle. Phases I and II have been funded since late June of 2012. On the February 11, financing was finally put in place for the last section of the plan. Some of the funding comes from the not-for-profit Friends of Barton Creek Bike Bridge, which was started by Solar Winds, Brandywine Realty Trust, and Commercial Texas in an effort to raise funds and awareness for the creation of the new bike path.
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In State of the City, New York City Mayor de Blasio Promises Affordable Housing
In his first State of the City address, Mayor Bill de Blasio promised to tackle the “inequality gap that fundamentally threatens [New York City’s] future.” At the LaGuardia Community College in Queens, the new mayor spoke of the “Tale of Two Cities” that has taken root in America’s largest city, and he promised to address it head-on. One of the main weapons in fighting inequality, explained de Blasio, will be creating more affordable housing. He spoke of “New Yorkers crushed by skyrocketing rents” and repeated his campaign pledge to “preserve or construct 200,000 units of affordable housing.” In a break with his mayoral predecessor, de Blasio said he won’t just incentivize developers to include affordable housing units, he’ll require it. “We want to work with the real estate industry to build. We must build more to achieve our vision,” said de Blasio. “But the people’s interests will be accounted for in every real estate deal made with the City.” While de Blasio offered no new details about how he plans to achieve this ambitious goal, he said his newly-appointed housing team will present a plan by May 1st. And following a string of pedestrian deaths, de Blasio pledged to “end the tragic and unacceptable rash of pedestrian deaths on our city streets,” through Vision Zero. The mayor, though, made no further mention of a transportation agenda—bike lanes, pedestrian plazas, or otherwise.
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Jan Gehl Calls On Cities to Design For People, Not For Cars
The Oculus book talk on the new book, How to Study Public Life, at the Center for Architecture with Jan Gehl and his co-author Birgitte Svarre was like seeing the documentary The Human Scale come to life—only with a sense of humor. Gehl’s urban theories have gained a lot of traction, not least in New York City. Jeanette Sadik-Khan went to Gehl's native Copenhagen two weeks into her job as commissioner of NYC's Department of Transportation (along with fellow commissioner of City Planning, Amanda Burden) and experienced the city's pedestrian-over-cars public plazas, rode bicycles on protected bike lanes, and absorbed the lessons of the city that is repeatedly named the most livable in the world. The 77-year-old Gehl traces his crusade back to a New York antecedent, Jane Jacobs' 1961 Death and Life of Great American Cities, published one year after he graduated from architecture school. He was trained to make free-standing buildings that “look nice from an airplane,” but married a psychologist who challenged him: why aren’t you interested in people? Gehl began to observe the behavior of people in cities (people like to cluster near the edges, not stand in the open, for example) and came up with measurable statistics in a series of studies that began to influence policy. In 1962, Copenhagen pedestrianized its first street, Stroeget Street, which began its transformation from a car to a biking and walking city. Today, Copenhagen has seven times more people space than in the 1960s, and all taxis and public transportation are legislated to have bike racks to widen the reach of this preferred mode of transport. I was reminded of the new film, Copenhagen, winner at the Slamdance Film Festival, where the human-scaled city traversed by bike is a main character. Gehl noted that the “Brasilia Syndrome” of cities that look good from the air but not from the ground, is still rampant in China, Dubai, and even in Brooklyn. He calls this birds-eye-view building “birdshit architecture.” His twin devils are the two M’s: modernism and motorists, and he’d prefer to have a Department of Pedestrians to a Department of Transportation (no city yet has taken on the challenge). Perhaps the proof that Gehl’s theories work is that in 2012, New York City was awarded the Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize recognizing the transformation of the city during the Bloomberg administration. Books by Jan Gehl available from Island Press: How to Study Public Life, 2013 Cities for People, 2010 Life Between Buildings, 2008
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Across the Los Angeles River, A Statement in Steel Reconnects the City’s Urban Fabric
“We got very attracted to the project, and to the idea of making something that reconnects Los Angeles,” Zoltan Pali said of Taylor Yard Bridge, the pedestrian and bicycle bridge designed by his firm, Studio Pali Fekete architects (SPF:a). Originally introduced as part of a mitigations package twenty-two years ago, the bridge, which will span the Los Angeles River between Cypress Park and Elysian Valley, should be completed within two years at a cost of $5.3 million. “Frankly bridges are a very interesting topic,” Pali said. “It’s also one of those types of things that you can design ten bridges in ten minutes, there’s so many different ways of looking at it.” In the case of the Taylor Yard Bridge, the designers faced a unique set of challenges. Large power lines on the Taylor Yard side of the 360-foot span limited the height of the bridge. Also on the Taylor Yard side is a maintenance road, hampering access to the riverbank; on the opposite side is a narrow bike path. Finally, the two banks are about ten feet apart in height, necessitating a 3 percent grade. “[We] had a lot of issues we had to deal with from the standpoint of geometry,” Pali said. To deal with those concerns, and to minimize construction time, Pali and his colleagues chose a lightweight steel construction that eliminated the need for supports in the river bed. The body of the bridge is a 30-foot-by-30-foot box truss, painted orange. A DWP recycled water pipeline, painted purple, will provide a contrasting splash of color. The 17-foot-wide road platform, designed with lanes for pedestrian and bicycle use, “kind of floats, almost seems as if it’s suspended” within the truss, Pali said. The Taylor Yard Bridge is more than just a solution to a set of practical problems. It’s also Pali’s way of pushing back against over-the-top bridge designs. “Truth be told, we really wanted to have a counterpoint philosophically and architecturally from the sort of heroics that lots of folks go through to make bridges,” he explained. The designers aimed for “simplicity, elegance. We wanted to refer to those really beautiful, utilitarian bridges you see around the world, plus the railroad bridges that used to span the LA River. Just do what you need.”
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Drive On, Southside
Courtesy Chicago Lakeside Development

On October 26, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn and Mayor Rahm Emanuel cut the ribbon opening a brand-new roadway through the former site of a massive U.S. Steel manufacturing plant. Over the next 40 years, McCaffery Interests is planning to build a massive, sustainably designed mixed-use development known as Lakeside on this 600-acre area in South Chicago.

City and state transportation departments have been planning the South Lake Shore Drive extension to reroute through traffic on U.S. 41 around residential areas since before McCaffery and Skidmore, Owings & Merrill revealed the Lakeside master plan in 2004.

 
 

The $64 million, state and city-funded road now connects to 79th Street at Rainbow Beach Park in the north and crosses the Calumet River with Ewing Avenue in the south. It does more than provide a bypass of residential areas to the west. South Lake Shore Drive, which connects to Lake Shore Drive via South Shore Drive and Marquette, gives Lakeside the edge it needs to attract retailers to anchor its first phase, called the Market Common.

During a tour in October, McCaffery Interests project manager Nasutsa Mabwa said that the road was delayed for three years. In 2010, press reports said construction would begin in 2012, but it wasn’t until Mayor Rahm Emanuel came into office in 2011 that the road’s construction got back on track.

 
 

South Lake Shore Drive is 1.9 miles long and was built with some sustainable development features. For example, it offers parallel parking atop permeable pavement, is illuminated with LED street lights, and is planted with 600 new trees. It also has wide bike lanes along half its length.

The Lakeside website presents a transit vision of using rapid bus routes and light rail that cut down the travel time from the development to Midway airport and downtown. An electric commuter rail is less than half a mile away. Mabwa said that the images on the website are ideas. “We know we have some weak points and we know we have to bring the rail transit closer,” she said. The Chicago Transit Authority has the option to plan buss routes on South Lakes Shore Drive. All of its existing bus routes serve residential areas located a couple blocks west.

South Lake Shore Drive also opens Park 523 to the public for the first time. The park was built in 2008, just a year after Solo Cup sold some land to Lakeside Development, and five years after 87th Street was connected to meet it and provide access to a proposed Solo factory.

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Colorado Avenue Esplanade
Courtesy Peter Walker and Partners

Colorado Esplanade
Architect: Peter Walker and Partners
Client: City of Santa Monica
Location: Santa Monica
Completion: 2015

The City of Santa Monica recently green-lighted construction on the $10.7 million Colorado Esplanade streetscape project, designed to improve public access to the Santa Monica Pier and provide pedestrian links from the soon-to-arrive Expo Light Rail line. Work will commence next year, and the light rail is scheduled to arrive by 2016.

Designed by Peter Walker Partners, the landscape firm behind the National September 11 Memorial, the plan turns Colorado Boulevard into a westbound-only, multi-modal thoroughfare from the downtown Santa Monica station at Fourth Street all the way to Ocean Avenue, edging the coast. A new promenade will connect the light rail station to Ocean Avenue, the Pier, and the future Palisades Garden Walk. An expansive public amphitheater stairway, called the Gateway Triangle Garden, will lead to the Expo Line’s Fourth Street Station and create a dedicated public gathering zone, named the Downtown Expo Station Plaza. The City Council had earlier rejected a xeriscape design for this zone, noting that a more welcoming public space was desired.

 

The plan also includes dedicated bike lanes in both directions and widens the south-side sidewalk to a generous 55 feet with decorative paving and seating. The lanes will eventually tie in to the regional network of bike paths and connect with Santa Monica’s Bike Center. Numerous trees will also be added in accordance with the city’s Urban Forest Master Plan.

According to the Santa Monica Lookout, the city has secured $9.7 million in funding, including a $3.3 million Metro grant. When legislation shut down California redevelopment agencies last February, the city had to cut the promenade budget in half.

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Zip Lines Over the Ohio River? Louisville Designer Says It’s Possible
Louisville, Kentucky has asked its residents for help in determining the future vision for the city, and citizens sent in thousands of ideas on how to improve Possibility City. Among the crowd-sourced suggestions were many promoting alternative transportation, whether improving bike infrastructure to building light rail to, well, even more alternative methods of getting around. Local Russ Renbarger proposed what he calls RiverZips, a mile-long zip line across the Ohio River that would convey people between Kentucky and Indiana—more of a ride than an adventure, says Insider Louisville. Renbarger is founder of digital marketing firm Red Tag Ideas, based in the city’s suburban East End. It sounds far-fetched, but a recent municipal push to liven up Louisville could be just what his idea needs. The plan calls for attaching the zip line high atop a railroad-bridge-turned-pedestrian-bridge that connects downtown Jeffersonville, Indiana with Louisville's Hargreaves-designed Waterfront Park. Riders would land in a staging area in the park near the base of the Big Four Bridge. Mayor Greg Fischer called ziplines “far-out” while he unveiled citizens’ ideas for the Vision Louisville project, in comparison to more practical plans to revitalize the city, like more bike lanes. There are some logistical difficulties to the RiverZips proposal: the heads of the Louisville Waterfront Development Corporation worried it would sit idle in the winter, and perhaps be “too obtrusive” at other times. Renbarger said the launch platforms could be removed, if necessary, and that a nearby iceskating rink could use the site’s base for vending during the winter. A former member of the Army Corps of Engineers, Renbarger says the 1-mile zipline is plausible. For now, though, the idea remains unfunded. But Renbarger, a “man about town” who appeared on the reality TV show "Southern Belles: Louisville," has people talking.