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Archives for November 3, 2014

Gardeners learn tips and tricks from the best

THERE may be 60 years between them, but Bailey King and Bob Halliday have a wealth of experience when it comes to gardening.

Mr Halliday drove from Bundaberg to participate in a two-day workshop with guru gardeners Paula West and Gary Hands, picking up tips at the no-dig planting session on Saturday at a Calliope property.

“I don’t know what I would do without my garden,” he said.

“We live in a retirement village and we grow plenty of silverbeet, tomatoes and garlic.”

The former Calliope resident of 15 years, who is still a member of Calliope Garden Club, works on his vegie patch 10-12 hours a week.

“We were the first couple to put our names down for the workshop,” he laughed.

“I like gardening because it takes you away from the TV.”

Ten-year-old Bailey King is a blossoming green thumb, often helping his grandfather in the yard.

“I like having food when it has grown,” he said.

Around 25 people learnt handy gardening tips from Sunshine Coast gardener Mr Hands on how to grow a “no-dig garden” from scratch.

Mr Hands said it was great to see Calliope Garden Club pick up 21 new members over the weekend and to give growers confidence in their planting.

“We are passionate about getting the message across that in any environment you can grow anything,” he said.

Ms West, a bee keeper of 12 years, taught members the importance of bees in our environment, with the next generation of bee keepers.

“We have had two people adopt a bee hive this weekend and I will now look after the bees on farms.”

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The origins of Halloween

Posted: Monday, November 3, 2014 8:35 am

Updated: 8:36 am, Mon Nov 3, 2014.

The origins of Halloween

By Bob Beyfuss
For Columbia-Greene Media


This weekend we celebrate Halloween, one of the most popular Holidays in America. I hope that Saturday, Nov. 1, does not produce a snowstorm, since that is when most parties are scheduled. We have had such perfect weather this past summer and fall, I keep expecting things to go bad any day now. Like other modern holidays the origins of Halloween are somewhat obscure. According to Wikipedia, despite the connotation of “All Hallows Eve”, which has Christian affiliations, the origin is more typically linked to the Celtic festival of Samhain, which comes from the Old Irish for “summer’s end”. It was held on or about 31 October – 1 November and kindred festivals were held at the same time of year by the Celts. Samhain is mentioned in some of the earliest Irish and Welsh literature. The names have been used by historians to refer to Celtic Halloween customs up until the 19th century and are still the Gaelic and Welsh names for Halloween.

Samhain marked the end of the harvest season and beginning of winter or the ‘darker half’ of the year. It was seen as a liminal time, when the spirits or fairies could more easily come into our world and were particularly active. At Samhain, it was believed that the spirits of fairies needed to be “gifted” to ensure that the people and their livestock survived the winter. Offerings of food and drink, or portions of the crops, were left for them. The souls of the dead were also said to revisit their homes. Places were set at the dinner table or by the fire to welcome them.

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Monday, November 3, 2014 8:35 am.

Updated: 8:36 am.

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UC Santa Cruz farm tour offers gardening tips

Click photo to enlarge

SANTA CRUZ GT;GT; A free peek into organic gardening and farming techniques was a draw for some two dozen visitors to UC Santa Cruz on Sunday afternoon.

The school’s Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems’ monthly Farm and Garden Tour led visitors from seedling to compost piles, from program apprentices’ “tent cabins” to tractor-tilled rows overlooking the ocean, and everything in between.

Visitors explaining why they had come to center docent Trish Hildinger shared interests ranging from veteran farming to Girl Scout project research.

Cindy Smith said during the tour that she and her husband Kim Smith had recently purchased a condominium in Santa Cruz and were curious about their new community’s farm. Smith said she was also hoping to glean some tips to help her tomato plants flourish.

“We wanted to come and just see what was here, and it’s pretty cool. We’ll come back, bring other guests,” Smith said. “I’m going to go home and Google cover crops and possibly get better luck with my tomatoes.”

Hildinger’s explanation of planting a variety of low-maintenance and low-water cover crops, including plants like legumes, vetch and bell beans, captured the interest of several of the tour group members. Cover crops, sometimes called green manure, can be planted in fields and gardens during their off season to help introduce needed nutrients like atmospheric nitrogen to the soil for the coming grown season, as was being done at the UC Santa Cruz garden, Hildinger said.

UC Santa Cruz alum Michelle Jenkins, visiting with girlfriend Nina Francesconi, said she knew of the farm when she went to school there several years ago, but never visited. The couple are looking to move to Santa Cruz and establish their own garden, they said.

“I feel like the sustainability aspect is really interesting, considering the way our food system is going,” Jenkins, of San Jose, said. “I would love to grown my own food.”

Anna Sarsfield, troop leader for the San Jose Cadet Girl Scout Troop 779, brought two of her senior scouts to the farm as a field trip for their eight-week “journey program.” Sarsfield said the farm and garden tour offered an excellent opportunity for her girls to get out and explore.

“They explore a topic and they learn about it and then they learn how to take action on it. It’s about the food systems and the food process and where the food comes from,” Sarsfield said. “We’ll probably go to a farmers market and we’ll probably go to local grocery stores.”

Girl Scout project partner Rayna Carey, a 9th grade student, said she was impressed by the efficiency of the farm’s greenhouses.

“So much of our food is processed now, it’s really bad,” Rayna said. “I’ve been going to farmers market since I was little. When we were picking a journey, I was like, this would be cool to learn about.”

More information about the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems and its tours is available online at

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Bioretention garden teaches conservation

Eighth-grade students at Bunsold Middle School applied lessons in teamwork and water conservation toward building a new bioretention garden on the building’s south lawn.

The goal was to retain parking-lot rainwater runoff and filter excess soil nutrients and pollution before they enter the drainage system, according to science teacher Suzi Clarridge. The project combined beautification and environmental stewardship.

“The kids are fantastic to work with this year. They’re very enthusiastic,” she said.

This is the school’s second project of the kind. The first bioretention garden was built five years ago on the building’s north lawn, but it became overgrown. Clarridge said they used insights from the first experience, including the need for better soil, stronger plants and involving the community more.

Some of the first volunteers were Jeff Wargo and Joe Smith, from the school district’s maintenance department. They donated their time to excavate the garden basin to fit the drainage design.

Brodie Rockenbaugh, Marys-ville Parks and Grounds superintendent, jumped at the chance to offer his services. He said it was an easy decision to get involved because the project would establish a legacy for the community and teach students about conservation.

“Any time you involve youth in conservation and the environment, it’s going to pay exponential dividends in the future,” Rockenbaugh said.

The city of Marysville donated about 20 cubic yards of surplus composting soil. Having fertile soil was the key to replacing the “impermeable clay” the students removed, according to Clarridge.

“There’s a difference between soil and dirt,” Rockenbaugh said. “Dirt is what we take out of the vacuum cleaner and soil is what we plant with.”

Kaylee Port, Union Soil and Water Conservation District water resource specialist, also volunteered her time to the project. Port taught students how to read topography maps, evaluate the landscape and apply that knowledge to the garden’s design.

Student Caitlin Kressley said they used the maps to study the slopes of land and how to use the natural flow of water. She said they also learned how to work with soil.

“We had to put the heartiest plants on the outside for when winter comes,” student Maddie Ball said.

Student Tyler Richardson said the placement of plants is important to their growth. The garden features a variety of irises, black-eyed Susans, white daisies and lots of cup plants. Taller species could block the sunlight from shorter ones.

Sometimes they had to sacrifice aesthetics for practicality, Ball said.

The group also took the opportunity to rehabilitate the north garden, Clarridge said. Some students were so affected by the project they used their own time to research other conservation strategies, such as rain barrels and composting.

“We only get one Earth and we better take care of it because if we don’t, we’re going to be in trouble,” Ball said.

Rockenbaugh said the middle school students are adopting perspectives most do not reach until they enroll in college-level courses.

“The enthusiasm I hear from students, they can take that and turn it into conservation in their own backyards,” he said.

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Full Bloom: Gardens and Living Walls Become Trendy Design Elements

Full Bloom: Gardens and Living Walls Become Trendy Design Elements

Published on Monday, 03 November 2014

Written by Amelia Levin, Contributing Editor

By incorporating on-site gardens and living walls, a growing number of foodservice operators are conveying a message of freshness and literally bringing the farm to the table.

LYFE Kitchen herb garden on display. Photo by Bridget ClausenGreen walls and gardens in foodservice spaces may not have hit the mainstream nationwide, but they continue to gain steam both as food sources and design elements, chiefly among independent restaurants and some healthcare facilities. The slow-food movement celebrates noncommercial farmers and sustainable practices and shows no signs of slowing down. Taking the concept further, chefs and restaurant owners are becoming growers themselves, with on-site gardens or nearby plots of land. In many of these cases, building gardens and green or herb walls don’t just produce fresh food and “free smells,” they add to the overall dining experience by providing a bird’s-eye view to the origins of food.

“I think over time restaurants have become more interested in gardens and other green spaces,” says Colin McCrate, owner, Seattle Urban Farm Co. McCrate designs, builds and maintains edible gardens for a handful of restaurants, including Bastille Cafe Bar in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood. But space, budget and operational constraints can quite literally hinder the growth of these installations.

“For a restaurant it starts with identifying the space for a garden or other greenery,” McCrate says. “We’ve met with a lot of landlords who won’t let the restaurant put a garden on the roof. Or the restaurant’s square footage is so valuable they can’t justify a need for the garden.”

Still, there’s a lot of value in having on-site greenery, McCrate adds. In the case of Bastille, “people associate the restaurant with the garden, and that shows they care about the freshness of their ingredients.”

Gardens and green walls — also known as living walls — can cost thousands of dollars and require ongoing maintenance, making it difficult for some operators to justify. Then, there are potential operational considerations as well: impacts on workflow, watering and pruning maintenance, and food safety requirements in the case of produce harvested for commercial use. Some restaurants just don’t have the staff (or means to hire the staff) to maintain these installations. But some do.

Rooftop Gardens

A rooftop garden offers obvious benefits: uberfresh, delicious food; control over what the foodservice operation grows and beautiful scenery, of course. But rooftop gardens offer some less obvious benefits, too — namely, the opportunities for education and community involvement that can arise.

“Not only are we growing food but growing people who can grow their own food,” says Helen Cameron, who, along with her husband Michael, owns Uncommon Ground in Chicago, dubbed one of the “greenest” restaurants in America by the Green Restaurant Association. Cameron clarifies that the 4,000-square-foot garden atop their second location is actually a certified organic farm, complete with a full-time farm director.

“The purpose was to produce certified organic food for use in the restaurant, but we also work on public outreach and education,” says Cameron. Not only can diners see the garden firsthand through tours and the occasional special event, students and other groups come through the farm regularly. Ten raised beds, about 4 feet by 10 feet, plus a handful of smaller beds made from untreated cedar, produce more than 1,000 pounds of harvest every year, including heirloom tomatoes, squash, greens, beans and more exotic vegetables like Tokyo turnips, Chinese leeks and delicate shishito peppers. The farm also produces 20 or so pounds of honey annually through its beehives.

“What we produce through the farm is actually just a drop in the bucket, considering we feed 20,000 people a year, but our diners love to see the farm and try new dishes with the food we just harvested,” says Cameron. “I think the farm really connects people with Uncommon Ground’s mission. We want people to become aware of how important good, clean, sustainable food is.”

Dishes like the Sunshine Salad feature rotating seasonal vegetables and fruits each week. Homemade ricotta might top heirloom tomatoes with three types of nasturtium flowers for a twist on a caprese. Just this summer, Cameron began collecting green cilantro seeds — also called coriander — from the farm, along with hops and currants for the restaurant’s house-made beer.

In the Alameda, Calif., headquarters of VF Outdoor, which houses offices for brands The North Face, JanSport and lucy, cafeteria diners are inspired by the 1,200-square-foot on-site garden, visible through windows off the main dining space.

“VF Outdoor is very interested in their employees’ health and well-being. Sports and good nutrition are a big part of the company’s core values and ours too,” says Mary Clark Bartlett, CEO and founder of Epicurean Group, the foodservice management company for VF Outdoor. “The on-site garden makes a lot of sense. It’s amazing to see something grow from seed to table. It’s a teachable moment and reminds us where food comes from in a day and age when most people still think food comes from the grocery store.”

At Bastille in Seattle, though the garden resides on the rooftop, guests can take a trip upstairs to view and learn about it firsthand. Executive chef Jason Stoneburner has also set up a long table and chairs for special, coursed dinners throughout the growing season that use produce harvested earlier that day.

“I think it’s important to raise awareness about growing your own food, and the garden is a great way to learn and teach younger cooks, our diners and the community about that,” says Stoneburner. “When you put that much energy into something, you can definitely see a difference in quality.”

The 2,400-square-foot garden, consisting of about twenty 12-foot by 4-foot raised planter beds as well as climbing walls and trellises, grows mainly heirloom fruits and vegetables.

Other than the taste and education components, there’s a cost-value element with gardens, Cameron points out. “Herbs and tomatoes are expensive by the pound at the height of the season,” she says. “It’s more cost effective to grow our own. We also try to grow crops that are prolific, like kale, which keeps coming back after you cut it. But we don’t have space for cabbage, which needs a lot of room.”

At Uncommon Ground, the farm also adds value by generating energy through the use of solar thermal panels that can be used to heat water through a heat exchanger. “That gives us about 10 percent of our overall energy needs,” says Cameron.

Structural Soundness

From the get-go, the Camerons knew they wanted to build a garden atop their second location on Chicago’s Northside. Good thing, because a roof must be structurally sound to hold the weight of a full garden.

“We had to modify the building dramatically,” Cameron recalls. The basement of the 100-year-old building had to be dug out an additional 5 feet and filled with extra foundation to support the added weight on the roof. The structural engineer hired to build the garden also replaced the wooden beams with steel ones for extra support. On the rooftop itself, a stainless steel grid supports a raised deck for the garden, keeping it from sitting directly on the roof.

Bastille, housed in another 100-year-old building, required similar structural adaptations to support its green roof. Architects had to build in additional beams and support for the extra rooftop weight. Typically, because of soil’s extra weight when wet, most rooftop gardens can only accommodate 12-foot-deep planter boxes, McCrate says.

Bastille also required improved access to the roof. In fact, architects built an entire staircase and elevator to the roof in anticipation of the regular maintenance required for the garden.

The integrity of the roofing surface needs to be examined, and access to basic services like water and electricity must be considered as well. Many rooftop gardens use drip irrigation systems or hoses woven throughout the beds to supply water. Many opt to use timers and/or rain sensors to prevent watering too much or too little. In some cases, wind barriers are necessary to protect the plants. “Most garden sites require a second decking over the actual rooftop membrane, which is often not designed to be walked on because it can puncture or wear down and create leaks,” McCrate adds.


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Budding garden designer? Check out this competition: George Weigel – The Patriot

Hershey Gardens and Hampden Twp.-based Ames True Temper Inc. are teaming up again to give budding garden designers a chance to have their design built and displayed at Hershey Gardens next season.

Entries are now being accepted for a Garden Design Scholarship Competition that’s open to students in grades 10 through 12 who are home-schooled or enrolled in a public, private or vocational-technical school in 12 midstate counties: Adams, Berks, Cumberland, Dauphin, Juniata, Lancaster, Lebanon, Northumberland, Perry, Schuylkill, Snyder and York.
This year’s theme is the butterfly garden. Individuals or groups of up to four students may submit a design.

The registration form is due by Fri., Nov. 28, and designs must be submitted by Fri., Feb. 13, 2015.
A downloadable registration form, additional details and submission requirements are available under the Education and Garden Scholarship Program tabs on the Hershey Gardens website.

Inquiries can be made by calling 717-508-5968. 

First prize is $800 and the opportunity to work with Hershey Gardens staff installing the winning design at Hershey Gardens.

Last year’s winner of the debut scholarship program was Kylie Wirebach, a 10th-grader at Conrad Weiser High School in Robesonia, Berks County.

Wirebach’s design for a kitchen garden was built and displayed next to Hershey Gardens’ Butterfly House during the 2014 growing season.

First-place winners also receive a set of Ames gardening tools and a 1-year family membership to Hershey Gardens.

Second prize is $400 and a 1-year Hershey Gardens membership. Third prize is $200 and a 1-year membership.
The competition is offered as a way to encourage practical experience for students interested in gardening, horticulture, landscape architecture, the arts and the development of public gardens as a community resource. 

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Sunday Homes: Take your breath away

Larry and Barbara Conklin’s canal front home has plenty to see inside and out.

The top floor has a great room with spectacular views and the master and guest suite on the second floor have elegant floors, also with views of the water.

The kitchen sports a six-burner Thermador stove top, a granite-topped island and a separate ice maker.

With all the natural light it’s hard to decide to head to the deck, or stay inside and enjoy the luxury.

Why do you love your home?: It is a true oasis on the coast designed for fun. Beautiful views and so much natural light refresh your soul. The lock-and-leave aspect of this property makes it so easy to enjoy.

Why did you decide on this home… We searched the entire Eastern Seaboard in 2004 after dropping our son off at West Point Military Academy. We just didn’t find the right combination of restaurants, people and architecture we were looking for until we returned to the Texas Coast. The Moorings offered beautiful coastal architecture with excellent building standards. It came with a boat slip out the back door. The landscaping is absolutely first class and it is all managed by an affordable HOA. We face the bay so we have as much privacy as we want and extremely easy access to the beach with our golf cart.

One thing I’d change about my house: We have a two-car garage and could use three.

Best home project I’ve completed here: Organizing all the fishing tackle/ gear for our offshore fishing trips.

I get ideas/inspiration for my house by… shopping in the local stores like Coastal Closet Susan Castor Collection.

Something no one knows about my home: The deck off the third floor is called Sunset Deck because you have the most beautiful views of the sunset as the sun sets behind the cityscape of Corpus Christi. You also see the intercoastal ships and The Moorings Marina.

I save lots of money on my home by… using my smart air conditioner controls. They can be programmed for extended vacation or maximum useage during the day.

A home item I can’t live without: The Thermodore oven because I love to cook. (And having) hardwood floors and laundry on the same floor as the living quarters.

My home’s best feature: Third floor living with two TV’s. Great for sports enthusiasts that have to watch all the football games, World Cup soccer and the playoffs. The elevator is also a strong feature for groceries and tired legs after a long day.

My dream home would include… a world class kitchen that my extended family would enjoy. This home has it.

A current home trend I like: Contemporary furnishing with a clean line. Not too modern.

Three words that describe my home: Refreshing, open and entertaining.

If my kitchen walls could talk… They will tell you that we have entertained many good friends and have experienced much joy in this home. We have even had a two-piece band on the third floor for a birthday party.

What I like most about my home: It is so bright with natural light and the views are on every floor.

Favorite room: My master bedroom. Spa colors for a calming effect, beautiful master bath, very large master closet and beautiful view of the water.

I’ll never throw out my… glass paperweights and Steuben collection. I am originally from Corning, N.Y. and my family was all in the glass business with Corning Glass Works.

My next home project: Decorating for Christmas

Unannounced guests would find my home… easy to adapt to and welcome, and something in the fridge to enjoy.

The most I have ever paid for an item in my home:Oh please… original paintings, the master mattress, custom sofas and chairs.

My home can never have too many… Serving dishes for entertaining.

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Big Data Startups News: Funding And Acquisitions July — September 2014

The big data landscape continues to evolve and expand at a fast pace, fueled by new investment rounds and re-shaped by new ideas, successful exits (for some), and reincarnation (for others).

Here are the funding and acquisitions highlights of the third quarter of 2014 in the big data space.

New to the big data scene

Amplitude, providing a mobile analytics platform for app developers, has raised $1.975 million in seed funding.

EQLIM came out of stealth mode, aiming to create a subscription service for real-time data about human activity in emerging economies. It raised $425,000 in seed funding.

Scalable Inference, a startup still in stealth aiming to provide cloud-based machine learning services, has raised $4 million in seed funding.

Peel-Works, providing SaaS-based big data analytics, has raised $2 million from IDG Ventures India and Inventus Capital Partners.

Metanautix, a startup founded by former Google and Facebook engineers, came out of stealth and has raised $7 million in A round of funding from Sequoia Capital, Stanford University endowment fund and Shiva Shivakumar, a former VP of engineering at Google.

GridCraft, providing analysis tools to business users with a spreadsheet-like interface, has raised $2.2 million in seed funding led by Techstars’ Bullet Time Ventures.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Source: Wikimedia Commons



DataStax, delivering Apache Cassandra to the enterprise, has raised $106 million in Series E financing led by Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield Byers (KPCB), bringing the total invested to date to $190 million (and moving it up to number seven on the list of the ten most-funded big data startups).

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Five ideas to fix Downtown Crossing

The City of Boston first closed Downtown Crossing to cars exactly 36 years ago, just in time for the holiday shopping season. At the time, the notion of pedestrianizing the intersection of Washington Street at Summer and Winter streets was visionary. Instead of dodging cars in traffic-clogged streets, shoppers and workers could stroll in the space between Filene’s and Jordan Marsh, or amble from Park Street down to their offices. The city passed out 120,000 leaflets to drivers that year, announcing the change and dubbing the intersection “Downtown Crossing” for the first time.

Today, the area feels like a job half-done. The rules about who can drive on the streets, and when, are complex and poorly enforced. Confused drivers make wrong turns. Delivery trucks nudge walkers off the pavement. Construction sites extend into the street.

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An estimated 250,000 pedestrians pass through the neighborhood every day. They make for a diverse crowd: suburban commuters, office workers, college students, buskers, teens meeting after school. And it’s changing, as new condo developments bring more full-time residents into the area.

Rachel Szakmary, transportation planner with the City of Boston, is one of several city planners looking at the area and asking its users what they want for the neighborhood they frequent. “The focus is on reestablishing the pedestrian zone for exactly what it is,” Szakmary said, “a place for people, for walking, for eating lunch, for getting a cup of coffee, but not for fearing getting hit by a car.”

Making a secure pedestrian district isn’t easy. Traffic must be diverted. Businesses need access to loading zones. Emergency vehicles can’t be blocked. Design elements like maps and landscaping help, but so does proposing new ideas entirely. The Downtown Crossing conundrum is longstanding, and Boston isn’t alone in facing it. Here are a handful of ideas drawn from other cities’ novel approaches to reserving some streets for the folks on foot.

The weekly park

Every Sunday, bustling Guragon in India, shuts down several streets to traffic so that residents can play sports of all kinds, starting at 6:30 a.m. They call it Raahgiri Day. The idea is similar to Cambridge’s weekly closing of Memorial Drive, but Guragon goes much further: The city offers a wide range of free outdoor exercise options including soccer, Frisbee, yoga, Bollywood dance, and gully cricket. The sedentary can play cards or pitthoo, or bring their own games.

The idea of an urban outdoor gym has proved so popular that four other Indian cities have launched their own versions. In New Delhi, The Times of India sponsors bike rentals. Children can even learn to ride unicycles. The city has experimented with extending the car-free day into the evening.

Day for people, night for cars

Koren Shadmi for the boston globe

In Bogotá, Colombia, a 13-block portion of city’s historic main street, Carrera Séptima, is reserved for pedestrians and cyclists starting at 8 a.m. Shoppers cross the street at ease. Artists draw massive pictures in chalk on the ground. Vendors can pedal their fruit carts. But every night at 6:00 p.m., cars and delivery trucks take the street back.

Boston has a timed system, sort of: Rules for delivery trucks vary all day long, depending on multiple factors, including type of license plate and which street they want to drive on. Bogotá’s cleaner version means that pedestrians know they won’t have to fight trucks in the morning, and nightlife can thrive, as taxis and restaurant-goers in cars can come and go as they please.

The human factor

Koren Shadmi for the boston globe

Most pedestrian zones are policed with signs, bollards, and raised curbs. In Boston, confused drivers often find themselves forced to make unexpected turns. Programmable bollards are difficult to install because the T station is directly below the street. The whole scene is

as unfriendly to drivers as it is unreliable for pedestrians.

The city of Burlington, Vt., took a more human approach with its popular Church Street Marketplace, a fully pedestrianized downtown shopping zone. During the holidays, a peak-use time, the city installed crossing guards at intersections who could also explain alternative routes to drivers. Over time the city found that drivers and walkers could negotiate safe passage on their own terms. In Boston, guards might find their work cut out for them indefinitely.

Go big!

Koren Shadmi for the boston globe

In Istanbul, Turkey, where commuters suffer hours per day in stopped traffic, the city pedestrianized an astonishing 90 streets in its historic peninsula in January of 2011. It was an immediate success. Walkers could pause to look at the city’s beautiful old buildings; reduced air pollution made eating outdoors a more pleasant prospect. So the city went even bigger, and has now banned cars from 295 streets. (Commercial vehicles have overnight access, to supply the area’s thriving businesses.) According to EMBARQ, an international sustainable transportation planning organization, residents and business owners in the neighborhood recently reported an 80 percent satisfaction rate with the change.

While Boston is a different kind of city, and it would be almost unthinkable to ban cars from the entire downtown, Istanbul’s success suggests that we may be nowhere near the limit of how much we could include.

The free-for-all

Koren Shadmi for the boston globe

The City of Boston’s 1978 report detailing the founding of Downtown Crossing as a pedestrian district offered this reason for the change: “The auto and the pedestrian were in conflict and the pedestrian seemed to be losing.” But what if the rules favored no one? In one of the world’s most radical and closely watched transportation experiments, the village of Makkinga, Netherlands, did away with traffic signs, reasoning that an excess of rules can inhibit basic human courtesy.

What sounds like a recipe for chaos actually led to smoother functioning as drivers, walkers, and cyclists learned to make way for one another on their own terms. The experiment is growing: Several larger European cities have taken notice, and reconstructed their downtown intersections to be signal-free.

Alexa Mills teaches media production to city planning students. She researched pedestrian districts while teaching “Collaborative Planning” at Universidad de los Andes in Bogotá, Colombia, last summer. She can be reached at and @alexatimeaus.

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