Articles by Benjamin de la Peña

  • Article

    27 leaders from Knight cities to visit Scandinavia on study tour

    August 26, 2016 by Benjamin de la Peña

    27 leaders from Knight cities to visit Scandinavia on study tour
    Copenhagen, Denmark, during a 2015 Knight cities tour. Photo by Kyle Kutuchief. This October teams from nine Knight communities will join an annual study tour of Copenhagen, Denmark, supported by Knight Foundation. For five days, 27 civic leaders and innovators will visit the Danish capital, a city that consistently ranks in the top five of the most livable cities in the world. Study tour participants will experience how Copenhagen designs and programs its parks and other public spaces to attract residents and will explore how well the city accommodates both pedestrians and bicyclists. The study tour is an annual event organized by 8 80 Cities, a nonprofit that focuses on creating “more vibrant, healthy, and equitable communities.” Since 2014 more than 50 civic leaders from Knight communities have visited Copenhagen and Malmo, Sweden, through the program. Many participants have reported that that experience inspired specific changes in their home cities. 
  • Article

    27 civic innovators to visit Copenhagen, Denmark, on Knight study tour

    July 31, 2015 by Benjamin de la Peña

    27 civic innovators to visit Copenhagen, Denmark, on Knight study tour

    Photo: Leaders from Knight communities touring Copenhagen last year.

    Knight Foundation’s Community and National Initiatives Program returns to Copenhagen, Denmark, this September with civic innovators from 13 Knight communities. Knight grantee 8 80 Cities will take 27 civic innovators to “one of the happiest cities on earth” for five days. Tour participants will experience Copenhagen’s excellent bike and pedestrian infrastructure and learn how various city agencies, nonprofits and the private sector have worked together to cultivate the city’s robust public life.

    This year’s participants represent Akron, Ohio; Charlotte, N.C.; Columbus, Ga.; Detroit; Grand Forks, N.D.; Gulfport, Miss.; Lexington, Ky.; Long Beach and San Jose, Calif.; Macon, Ga.; and Miami, Tallahassee and West Palm Beach, Fla. They represent local government, the private sector, nonprofits and local foundations. Invitees include:

    Akron

    ·      Andy Davis, active transportation coordinator, The University of Akron

    ·      Jason Segedy, director, Akron Metropolitan Area Transportation Study

    ·      Scott Scarborough, president, The University of Akron 

    Charlotte

    ·      Jordan Moore, bike program manager, Sustain Charlotte

    ·      Tony Lathrop, chair, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Commission

    Columbus

    ·      Isaiah Hugley, city manager

  • Article

    How a civic commons can build better community connections

    September 8, 2016 by Benjamin de la Peña

    How a civic commons can build better community connections
    A rendering of the Detroit Civic Commons initiative.
  • Article

    Zero-occupancy vehicles

    March 17, 2014 by Benjamin de la Peña

    Zero-occupancy vehicles

    googlebikes

    Photo credit: Benjamin de la Peña.

    I was at the Googleplex in Mountain View, Calif., recently for a meeting convened by the New Cities Foundation and Google. About 100 of the top transportation experts from around the world were in the room to discuss the future of urban mobility. There were urbanists and designers, engineers and economists, researchers and city officials, such as Mayor Chris Coleman of St. Paul, Minn. 

    Google, of course, took the time to show off its autonomous vehicle, aka the “self-driving car.”  Its current incarnation is a white Lexus SUV, nondescript except for the spinning LIDAR contraption where the luggage rack should be and a Google logo with a smiley car painted on a rear passenger door. Some of us even got to ride the cars. (Sadly, not me.)

    In the parking lot where the tech giant was showing six of these smiley robot cars were dozens and dozens of yellow bikes that belong to Google’s campus-wide bike sharing service. It was fascinating that while the engineers talked up the robot cars, other Googlers were quietly coming and going via the yellow bikes in the background.

    The Google engineers also didn’t talk about the big Google buses that were streaming in and out of campus at the start and end of the day. These buses were huge tourist coaches, white but without the Google logo or smiley face and trying to be as nondescript as a 40-foot bus can be. Googlers were patiently waiting to get on these contentious buses that would shuttle them, mostly to San Francisco and Oakland, but also to San Jose and Marin County. Some of the bus waiting areas had tables with power outlets so the Googlers could juice up their laptops.