What simple fix can save 3,320 lives a year?

October 29, 2014

Road diets offer cheap solution to a deadly problem

It’s only too common. A car along a four-lane road slows near a corner. The car behind it or next to it doesn’t understand why the vehicle in front has slowed. Perhaps the rear driver feels irritated and speeds up, swerving into the adjacent lane and passing the stopped car. It’s too late to see that the first vehicle has halted for a pedestrian crossing the street. Maybe the speeding car breaks in time, or passes before the pedestrian is hit. Unfortunately, sometimes it doesn’t.

This tragedy occurred just this week in St. Paul, prompting Bill Lindeke to write a thoughtful article about the danger of 4 lane roads. Lindeke takes issue with the general consensus that these incidents are unavoidable and rare accidents. Neither statement is true.

The DOT itself reports that, when properly implemented, road diets benefit pedestrians through “reduced crossing distance and midblock crossing locations, which account for more than 70 percent of pedestrian fatalities.” Road diets could save the lives of 3,320 pedestrians a year. So what are we waiting for?

Suggestions of road re-design invariably stir up controversy, especially concerns over increased traffic, writes Lindeke.

The problem with this reasoning is that there’s no such thing as a free street. Particularly in a walkable city, achieving a high traffic volume always come at a cost. In this case, the cost is increased accidents and far less safety for pedestrians, bicyclists, and people living in these urban neighborhoods.

Street design is always about tradeoffs. Slow speeds that are good for local business are bad for high-speed through traffic. Four-lane roads that improve “stacking” (i.e backups at an intersection) are dangerous for people on foot or on a bicycle. A turn lane that is good for throughput is bad for anyone trying to cross the street. A bike lane can sometimes come at the expense of an on-street parking spot, etc. etc. Everything is a matter of choices and tradeoffs.

Isn’t the trade-off of 3,320 human lives worth an extra five minutes on your commute? Visualizing the real cost behind this issue is the only way to break the complacency and false security with driving that powers the status-quo on American streets.

The People’s Climate March: From Sea to Rising Sea Level. NorCal rally photo diary

September 23, 2014

by Sven Eberlein

reblogged from the Daily Kos

Impressions from Northern California People’s Climate Rally

Lake Merritt Amphitheater, Oakland, CA, September 21, 2014Peoples-Climate-Rally-Oakland_20

Yes, there was the big climate march in New York, the one that everyone has been talking about, except the mainstream media.

It was a fantastic success, with 400,000 people flocking to a place that is both the pulsing heart of the world’s most wasteful nation as well as the nerve center of the world’s governing body, to shout it from the rooftops that a critical mass of earthlings are tired of seeing their home planet trashed right in front of their eyes.

But a good movement is like a human body or any other living organism: it can’t function with just a heart or a brain. If it is going to survive and thrive, there need to be a lot of other functioning organs or parts that can provide the kind of immunity and resilience required to make it long-term through a diverse and complex ecosystem.


So to me, going to a rally 3000 miles west of the main march was like putting my finger on the movement’s wrist and checking its pulse. Should there be signs of vitality in such remote regions of this body, I knew that this uprising was meant for the long run.

I knew right away that this would be a good day when — walking in along the lake’s shore with my sweetie and an old friend — my buddy Bill from 350 Bay Area came paddling up beside us, giving us his personal assessment of the rally’s health.


Meandering along the lake, we encountered beautiful hand-made banners and their designers. Getting these kinds of creative, sensitive, and intelligent statements was a clear sign that this organism was getting plenty of good oxygen.


As we walked towards the stage, we were greeted by all kinds of diverse groups of happy people. You always know that your rally’s blood pressure is in great shape when you see lots of smiling Buddhists.


Moving deeper into the crowd though, we spotted a disturbance.


Every functioning organism needs germs to help build up its immune system. Before we knew what was happening, our collective organism had built up the perfect antibodies to deal with this virus, in the form of these two gentlemen from National Nurses United who attached themselves to the denier bug for the duration of the rally.


We worked our way to the side of the stage, where Andrés Soto of Communities for a Better Environment was MC’ing the event. If Andrés, who has been one of the leading voices in the fight for climate justice and against the greedy polluters of Chevron, had decided to stay in California for the occasion, it meant that this was going to be a living breathing support system.


Not just living and breathing, but also pedaling, as the power for the stage was provided by the lungs of this organism, Rock the Bike.


As soon as a bike became available, my buddy Johnny got to pedaling, unsolicited, to keep the peoples’ mics from going silent. A functioning support system run by an interdependent web of participating denizens.


Bonus vision points of front row creativity for pedalers!


We walked around the back to get a view of the whole organism.


Great to see so many fresh cells.


It wouldn’t be human if there weren’t some bad habits. Then again, the revolution will definitely not be televised this time around.


It was a truly self-aware organism, calling playful attention to how unwholesome the entire foundation upon which modern life has been built really is.


It was an organism keeping its arteries unclogged and healthy…


and its creative veins stimulated…


In short, it was a well balanced weaving together of strands and connecting of dots. Small and local enough to be resilient and supportive of the whole, but large enough to make an impact and stand on its own.

And that’s important, because in the end, each other and our connection to this planetary organism we inhabit is all we’ve got.


Understanding your city by understanding its flow: towards Participatory Urban Metabolism Information Systems

August 27, 2014

by Sven Eberlein

Originally posted on the Ecocity World Map Project website


Exciting times for our EWM team! We are currently learning about, developing, and applying Urban Metabolism Information Systems (UMIS), a whole systems analysis that measures everything flowing into and out of a city over time and space. Created by the Consensus Institute‘s Executive Director and EWM team member Sebastian Moffatt, UMIS provides an open-source, easy-to-access visualization tool for the mapping of energy, water and resource flows through cities, neighborhoods, and buildings, from source to sink. For example, here’s a close-up of just one segment of the City of Vancouver, BC’s water flow, showing how water is used and where it goes after that.


In fact, with the help of intrepid citizen activists and students in our pilot cities of Cairo and Casablanca we are taking it even further: turning the tool from the inside out and from the bottom up, we are testing out Participatory Urban Metabolism Information Systems, a method designed to empower people on the ground to map out their own neighborhoods and become participants in transforming their communities into more resilient, equitable, and ecologically healthy settlements.

Community activists and students at Mundiapolis University in Casablanca getting ready to map out the neighborhood of Roches Noires.

Why is this important? Well, like a human body a city is a living, ever-evolving organism, and in order to have it operate at a healthy level and in sync with its environment you have to know exactly what flows into it, how those things are used, and where they go after the body no longer needs them. Another familiar analogy to think of is a Life Cycle Analysis (LCA), the well established method to assess environmental impacts associated with all the stages of a product’s life, from cradle to grave. But LCAs only work for products, and cities and neighborhoods aren’t products — they are situated in one place, they are complex, ever-changing physical and cultural ecosystems, and they have no lifetime. Cities are eternal.

Cities are also the largest things that humans build, and with the number of cities of 750,000+ inhabitants quadrupling over the last 50 years and 70 percent of the world’s population projected to live in urban areas by 2050, the quest to figure out how our urban environments could operate within the earth’s carrying capacity ranks as one of the most viable pursuits anyone concerned about climate change, resource depletion, loss of biodiversity, and the human struggles associated with it could undertake. To put it simply, if we don’t understand our cities’ organisms, we will never be able to have them function in balance with the larger natural organisms within which they reside.


The Urban Metabolism

Urban metabolism as a concept is not entirely new. In fact, back in the 19th century, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels recognized that human activity alters the biophysical processes by analyzing the dynamic internal relationships between humans and nature. Unfortunately, most of the intellectual heavyweights since then have been busy thinking about economy in terms of how quickly and efficiently we can extract, produce, consume, and trash the planet’s natural treasures without regard to the shortsightedness of such an approach.

It wasn’t until over a hundred years later that a more holistic assessment of a city’s anatomy was formally developed for the first time. In a 2007 paper entitled “The Changing Metabolism of Cities,” Christopher Kennedy and a team of civil engineers from the University of Toronto defined urban metabolism as “the sum total of the technical and socio-economic process that occur in cities, resulting in growth, production of energy and elimination of waste.”

However, up until very recently this was mostly a theoretical exercise, albeit an important one. It’s a big step for the western industrial mindset used to externalizing (i.e. ignoring) any costs outside of narrow short-term benefits within a limited area and for a very targeted group of recipients to come to a whole systems understanding of the world in which everything is interdependent and nothing ever goes “away.” To be sure, the reality of dwindling fossil fuels and melting ice caps is no longer affording us the luxury of one-dimensional thinking if we’re planning on sticking around for a while.

Whatever the motivation, the benefits of treating urban environments in such holistic fashion are similar in nature to being tuned in to the rhythm of our bodies — the more we know about the effects of different components like diet, exercise, sleep, or laughter on our physical and emotional well being, the more likely we are to live balanced and healthy lives. Figuring out the intricacies of our bodies is tricky enough, but how do we analyze something as complex as a modern industrial city, with all its physical and cultural microcosms, its ever-shifting flows of people, ideas, buildings, and materials?

Well, if we had a platform that could organize and visualize the data of the various in- and outputs of a city — food, water, energy, transportation, etc — and the conversions that happen between, you’d get an honest picture of where in the system most of the waste, pollution, and externalizations occur and which adjustments or loops might produce a more streamlined, efficient, and ecologically healthy process.

Urban Metabolism Information Systems (UMIS)


Sebastian has been thinking about how to create this kind of whole systems analysis that can draw a picture of where everything is coming from and where it’s going to for a while. The first planner in modern times to develop long-term sustainability plans for cities that integrate resiliency as a key theme, he has taken the urban metabolism field to a new level by creating the tools to estimate the flows of energy, water and materials through cities and illustrate them in a simple and standardized way.

The key to this tracking and visualization of the material flow that constitutes an urban metabolism are meta diagrams. Based on a Sankey diagram, a flow diagram named after an Irish Captain who came up with it in 1898, meta diagrams put visual emphasis on the major transfers or flows within a system, with the width of the arrows shown proportionally to the flow quantity. They are most commonly used to visualize the energy or material flow accounts on a regional or national level (the US Energy Information Agency uses them for their annual report), but they can be used any time you have a number of different sources, distributions, and outputs.

For example, here’s a simple and fun meta diagram that illustrates Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music’s recital distribution diagram from January to April 2014.

From Steve Wexler’s blog ‘Data Revelations’ on Sankey diagrams: Music Major, Data Miner.

The shades of brown describe the various types of recitals as the source (hover at this link to see weddings, church services, school recitals, funerals, etc), the composers as the outcome, and the thin and thick waves between them as the distribution. Turns out they played Bach at weddings, concerts and funerals, but not at church services and recitals.

Not surprisingly, it gets more complex than that. Sebastian delved into the development of what he calls MetaFlow diagrams for entire urban systems as part of the Eco2 Cities: Ecological Cities as Economic Cities project (published in 2010), an analytical and operational framework that offers strategic guidance to cities on sustainable and integrated urban development. Seeking to offer ground-level perspective, they conducted case-studies in cities across Asia that would help to showcase the cities’ current flow and offer insights on how these flows could be better looped in order to avoid so much waste and leakage.

A MetaFlow diagram of the energy system of Jinze, Shanghai, for example, shows the discrepancy between the current system (left) and a scenario for an advanced system (right).

Source: Author elaboration (Sebastian Moffatt) with approximate data provided by Professor Jinsheng Li, Tongii University, Shanghai.

In the current system, energy pretty much goes straight from source to consumption to sink, with very little capturing, reuse, or conservation happening in between. It’s a bit like heating your house with all the windows open — it may achieve the goal of keeping you warm, but the price in energy, pollution, and money to do so is huge. On the other hand, the MetaFlow diagram on the right with all the cascading lines provides a scenario for an advanced system that helps reduce emissions and costs and increases local jobs and energy security. In this example, a local electricity generation facility is powered by liquified natural gas and provides a majority of the electricity needs as well as hot and cool water for industry.

If you think of it like an onion, with things going in at the top and coming out at the bottom, then the fatter and more twirly the middle the more efficiently a city is using its resources and the closer to being resilient and ecologically balanced it is getting. To put it in “body language” terms, the more diversified, fresh, and nutritious your diet, the smaller the portions you need, the better you feel, the healthier your soils, and the less fossil fuels needed to produce your food.

Recently, Sebastian did a number of MetaFlow diagrams for the City of Vancouver B.C.. The energy diagram shows a very typical modern centralized system, with small amounts of locally sourced electricity, not much energy diversity, and minimal cascading (very little efficiency, recycling, or dual use). Basically, most of Vancouver’s energy comes from non-renewable sources (except hydro) and ends up in the air after being used for a single purpose at a single time.


Speaking of body language, here’s a MetaFlow diagram for food, which I think is worth zooming in a bit.


As you can see, there’s a lot more cascading at the top, which is partly because there are more diverse food-types than energy-types, with local farms supplying a visible share of different foods. Fruits and veggies are a substantial amount of the total organic material flow. On the other end though you can see how the sinks are much less textured, with most of Vancouver’s food waste (which typically represents about 50% of the entire waste stream) going to transfer stations and incinerators, from where it’s going to landfill or is released into the air. Many strategies could be considered for looping and cascading these flows, that is, to create a more connected food web within the city. For example, if food waste is composted as soil, the soil can be used locally for farming or landscaping and the city has less need for hauling material by truck and acquiring land for landfill.

As Sebastian likes to point out, these diagrams are worth a thousand pie charts. But this is not all of it. What if you could drill deeper into the metabolism of a city by looking at each neighborhood, everything it needs to stay alive, and all it disposes? The data you get from official sources usually is very static and general. A utility company can only tell you how many gallons of water the entire city consumes per year, but it doesn’t tell you how much of it goes to toilets, laundry, or showers, or how usage varies from neighborhood to neighborhood. This makes it hard to adopt relevant conservation or catchment strategies.

This is where the on-the-ground crowd-mapping tools and initiatives of the Ecocitizen World Map Project come in.

Participatory Urban Metabolism Information Systems (PUMIS)

Mundiapolis University students and community members on their way to surveying residents of Casablanca’s Roches Noires neighborhood.

The premise of the Ecocitizen World Map Project is that if we all take coordinated actions towards a shared vision of a sustainable and equitable urban environment we can address even the most serious problems facing the planet and its inhabitants. As citizens of living urban organisms it’s only logical that we would be active participants in the maintenance and evolution of the intricate webs that sustain us, and we each bring a unique set of knowledge and sensitivity to our local physical and cultural micro-organisms.

The fact that currently the MetaFlow diagrams of most cities in the world would look similar to Vancouver’s — with very unbending and centralized flows that leave little room for localized and adaptable ways to make better use of both natural and human resources — shows that there’s a real need for tools that enable communities to better understand their own neighborhoods and identify the areas where more looping and cascading could be applied as systems become more ecological. If we’re serious about sustainability, we have to do an honest audit of our cities from the inside out instead of the current superficial top-down assessments that all too often falsely proclaim cities with gigantic ecological footprints to be sustainable.

Consequently, if we want to find out how the resources and materials that flow through an urban ecosystem are being used and distributed within that ecosystem, we have to survey residents about how they’re using those resources. And that’s exactly what we did in our pilot cities Cairo and Casablanca.




Conducting citizen surveys and parcel audits in Cairo’s Imbaba neighborhood.

Going into neighborhoods and getting all kinds of local information is not only great because you get a lot of previously unknown data, but it makes residents curious about things they may not have thought of before, giving them incentive to become involved in finding solutions to problems that may exist. For example, in Casablanca, water samples that participants in our “bootcamps” took in the Roches Noires neighborhood turned out to be not as clean as the city claims, which led to further questions about the water cycle and a dialog between residents and the utility company.

Ecocitizens testing water from Roches Noires, Casablanca.

Water is a very precious and expensive resource in communities like Roches Noires and Imbaba, so finding out where waste occurs and how you could loop more gray water, for example, is really meaningful. Organizing the data from the surveys into an easily understandable format is key. This is where grassroots citizen participation meets MetaFlow.

Let’s look at the water that flows through the building at 4 Sharaf Allet in Imbaba and its corresponding diagram that you can find on the interactive ecocitizen map on our Cairo pilot page.


After learning to use the UMIS data templates, the citizen surveyors can customize the templates according to archetypes that represent parcels with similar structures and characteristics. This way a lot of the values that may be the same in similar structures can be set as default. For example, the template for a UMIS water survey may look something like this.

umis water use

Once you’ve completed the survey you can create a MetaFlow diagram for just that parcel as it relates to the city’s sources, conversions, and sinks. It’s pretty cool to see it in detail.


You can see that all the water used for hygiene (shower/bath) comprises just a very small part of overall water use, but is looped back into the toilets through an onsite greywater system. At the same time, water from the kitchen which comprises the lion’s share of water use at 4 Sharaf Allet is for the most part going straight to the city’s wastewater treatment on its way to the ocean. However, a small amount is reclaimed and goes to a neighborhood water facility. Residents may ask themselves whether it would be possible to recycle more of the water that flows through their kitchens.

This, of course, is very specific data, but analyzing these localized metabolisms leads to the patterns and trends necessary to make specific adjustments on a larger scale. Just as in any sampling or polling, you have to survey just enough people or units to get a meaningful representation of a larger population or neighborhood.

In the case of the UMIS system, it is set up with a structure designed to permit easy aggregation of the parcel-scale urban metabolisms. Once separated according to archetype, the parcels can be averaged, multiplied by the population they represent, and then summed with other archetypes. In other words, the audited parcels can be used to generate accurate and precise estimates of all the systemic flows for different combinations of parcels, or for the neighborhood as a whole.

Once we get these kinds of citizen-generated reports based on real-life conditions and structured around a holistic framework, the patterns that emerge allow for both residents and planners to ask the kind of questions that can lead to both local and regional ecological improvements. What could we do for people to get by on rainwater? How could the city avoid leakage in their water and energy systems?. How do we stay within the carrying capacity?

Or as Sebastian likes to say, “we can use these diagrams to tell the story of where we want to go and why!”

The breathtaking ecotecture designs of Vo Trong Nghia

August 20, 2014

Vo Trong Nghia architects of Vietnam have unveiled a newly constructed eco house project that aims to address Ho Chi Minh City’s treeless urbanism. According the the designers, “only 0.25% area of the entire city is covered by greenery. Over-abundance of motorbikes causes daily traffic congestion as well as serious air pollution. As a result, new generations in urban areas are losing their connections with nature.”

The project perfectly encompasses several core ecocity principles.

Copyright Vo Trong Nghia Architects, 2013

The compound is a single family home constructed of several blocks arranged around a central courtyard. Most remarkably, each of the five blocks are crowned by banyan trees. The trees were chosen for their above ground root structure. The trees are planted in 1.5 meters of soil and the roofs are designed to collect rainwater. Reinforced walls allow the structures to accommodate the weight of water and the growing trees.

Copright Vo Trong Nghia, 2013

Copright Vo Trong Nghia Architects, 2013

The compound provides an engaging irregular angled entrance to a courtyard paved in permeable tiles and grass. Each room opens to views of greenery and the building blocks are connected by shaded sky walks on the second floor. The rooms are oriented towards the communal spaces on the cool lower floors, including the courtyard, and blend the inside and outside environments.

The architects used local and natural materials where possible to reduce the project’s carbon footprint and costs. The exterior walls are composed of  in-situ concrete poured between bamboo lattice. The interior walls are constructed from locally sourced brick. “House for Trees” was built with a budget of only 155,000 USD. If multiplied across the city, these tree-houses have the potential to reduce flooding, pollution, and ambient urban temperatures significantly.

Copyright Vo Trong Nghia, 2013

Copyright Vo Trong Nghia Architects, 2013

Copyright Vo Trong Nghia Architects, 2013

Copyright Vo Trong Nghia Architects, 2013

Car Free Journey: North Conway, NH

July 23, 2014

Car Free Journey: August, 2014—by Steve Atlas


Northern New Hampshire is the epitome of Northeastern natural beauty. While attractive any time of the year, late summer and fall are particularly beautiful times to savor the beauty of the White Mountains in New Hampshire. The charming settlement of North Conway is an excellent base for visitors without cars to explore Mt Washington Valley and the White Mountain National Forest. In addition to being compact, very walkable, and easy to reach from Boston by bus, North Conway Village is home to both natural attractions and tax-free shopping. Sites of interest not within walking distance can be reached using Fast Taxi, a local taxi company in North Conway.

For these reasons, our August Car Free Journey column spotlights North Conway, New Hampshire.

North Conway, New Hampshire

Mt Washington Valley is a collection of 27 towns and villages all surrounding Mount Washington, the tallest mountain peak in the North East. The geographic center of Mt Washington Valley, is North Conway, NH. The entire valley is surrounded by the 660,000 acre White Mountain National Forest, offering seemingly endless hiking, biking, rock/ice climbing, waterfall viewing opportunities and scenic beauty. During each season this region offers gorgeous vistas and plenty of natural and man-made recreation. The region also offers 10 golf courses, adventure and water parks, the Conway Scenic Railroad, and 200 tax-free outlets, shops, boutiques and stores. There is no sales tax in New Hampshire (there is, however, a 9% rooms and meals tax).


Welcome to North Conway

North Conway is a year-round resort area in eastern Carroll County, New Hampshire, with a population of 2,349 (2010 U.S. Census). North Conway is the largest village within the town of Conway, which is bounded on the east by the Maine state line and the White Mountain National Forest on the west and north. Conway is home to Cathedral Ledge (popular with climbers), Echo Lake State Park, and Cranmore Mountain Resort.

Chartered in 1765 by Colonial Governor Benning Wentworth, the town is named for Henry Seymour Conway: ambitious son of a prominent English family, who was elected to the House of Commons at age twenty, fought at Culloden, and became Secretary of State.

The White Mountains became a popular destination for artists in the 19th century. Their paintings, known collectively as White Mountain Art, attracted tourists to the area, particularly after the Portsmouth, Great Falls & Conway Railroad extended service here in 1872. In 1932, “snow trains” began carrying enthusiasts to the area. However, by the 1950s increasing automobile travel brought the decline of trains. The railroad abandoned passenger service to the area in 1961, and freight service in 1972. In 1974, the Conway Scenic Railroad was established. It offers visitors a tour of the region, including Crawford Notch. Its Victorian station is on the National Register of Historic Places since 1979.

North Conway and its surrounding towns offer stupendous hiking in the White Mountain National Forest. The area, particularly Cathedral Ledge in Echo Lake State Park, is a major rock climbing destination. The 500-foot (150 m) cliff overlooks Echo Lake and North Conway from the west. Visitors without cars can call Fast Taxi to drive them to the Cathedral Ledge summit to enjoy the fine views of the Saco River Valley.

Come here to the White Mountains to enjoy autumn colors on the surrounding mountains and forests late September through early October. The Conway Scenic Railroad offers train rides that leave from the village’s Victorian station. In winter, the village is the destination for skiers visiting area resorts such as Cranmore Mountain (located in North Conway), Attitash Mountain Resort, Black Mountain, King Pine, Shawnee Peak and Wildcat Mountain, plus six additional ski resorts.


Getting Here

The only way for non-drivers to get to Mt Washington Valley is by bus. Concord Coach (formerly Concord Trailways). The best place to start your trip is in Boston at either Logan International Airport or South Station (a connection from Amtrak trains or Greyhound bus). At the time of this column, there were two daily trips in each direction. The cost is $30 one-way and $56 round trip. (For more details, visit http://www.concordcoachlines.com, or call toll-free 800-639-3317 or the local number: 603-228-3300).

Buses leave Logan Airport at 9:25 a.m. and 3:40 p.m., South Station at 10:00 a.m. and 4:15, and arrive in North Conway at 1:35 p.m., and 7:40 p.m.

Returning buses leave North Conway at 8:30 a.m. and 2:35 p.m., and arrive at South Station 12:20 p.m. and 6:20 p.m., and Logan International Airport at 12:35 p.m. and 6:35. p.m.

The Concord Coach stops at the Eastern Slope Inn in the heart of North Conway Village.   (http://www.concordcoachlines.com/index.php/nh/north-conway) From there, all of North Conway Village is easily walkable.

Another option is Sutton Luxury Limousine, which will pick you up at any New England airport and take you to North Conway. For details and reservations, visit www.suttonlimos.com, or call 603-387-3663.


After You Arrive

North Conway is a small village and you can pretty much walk to anywhere here. Taxi services are available to take you throughout North Conway. Fast Taxi delivery and shuttle service will be your best friend. They are reliable, friendly and very knowledgeable about the Mt Washington Valley and can take you anywhere you want to go. Info: www.fasttaxianddeliverysvc.com, or call 603-356-0000.


Where to Stay

The best bet is to stay in North Conway Village. There are a number of inns and B&Bs in the Village, including the Cranmore Inn, the Kearsarge Inn, Spruce Moose Lodge and the Nereledge Inn. If you want a larger hotel/resort property, stay at the Eastern Slope Inn and Resort. Another option is the Briarcliff Motel.

Further down the road, try Hampton Inn and Suites, Comfort Inn North Conway, Green Granite Inn, North Conway Grand or Residence Inn.

All of these accommodations are within easy walking distance of “the village” (i.e. North Conway Village). For more information (including phone numbers, web sites, and e-mails) about these and other places to stay, visit:

http://www.mtwashingtonvalley.org/visit/where-to-stay.cfm, or call toll-free: 877-948-6867. For reviews of North Conway accommodations, Trip Advisor is a good resource. You can find their reviews at http://www.tripadvisor.com/Tourism-g46186-North_Conway_New_Hampshire-Vacations.html.


Getting Around

North Conway is very walkable. For times when you need a ride to attractions and locations outside the village, Fast Taxi (www.fasttaxianddeliverysvc.com, or call 603-356-0000) is the best transportation resource available. Sutton Limousine provides limousine service when needed (www.suttonlimos.com, or call 603-387-3663).

Both road and mountain bikes are available for rent in the village. Any of the three biking shops within walking distance of the Concord Coach bus station can give you information about trails and other places to bike. For more information about renting bikes and where to bike, visit: Joe Jones Sun and Ski Sports (www.joejonessports.com/ or call 603-356-9411), Red Jersey Cyclery (www.redjerseycyclery.com or call 603-356-7520), or Stan & Dan Sports (www.stananddansports.com/ or call 603-356-5997).

Mount Washington Cog Railway Start.jpg
Mount Washington Cog Railway Start” by Dan Crow – Self-published work by Dan Crow. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.


What to Do

The Mount Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau recommend the following attractions that are within walking distance of most parts of North Conway:

Walk to:

Conway Scenic Railroad: scenic train rides and dinner rides: www.conwayscenic.com.

Cranmore Adventure Park – www.cranmore.com.

MWV Children’s Museum: http://www.mtwashingtonvalley.org/newhampshire/attractions/mwv-childrens-museum.cfm?SectionID=3.

Zeb’s General Store – largest collection of New England-made specialty foods in the country: www.zebs.com.


Take Fast Taxi to the Following Attractions Outside of North Conway

Here are a few ideas for local travel without a car, using Fast Taxi, plus the cost of getting there each way:

Northern Extremes Kayak & Canoe Rental with Shuttle Service
Cab fare: $8 for 1-4 people from North Conway

The Saco River’s crystal clear waters and wide sandy beaches make for some excellent canoeing and kayaking.

Rent canoes, kayaks or tubes and spend your day meandering down the river, then take advantage of shuttle transportation back.

Cranmore Mountain –Includes Zip lines, Bungy Trampoline, Climbing Wall, scenic chair rides,

Summer Tubing, Gem mining, Giant Swing and a small bouncy House. Cab fare: $8 for 1-4 people

Here’s one adventure park with something for everyone.  Scenic chairlift rides take you to the top of the mountain where a new trail offers the perfect loop and picnics are more scenic than ever.  Cranmore Mountain has plenty of exhilarating fun for the whole family.

Diana’s Bath’s has a free hiking trail with beautiful waterfalls and clean water to relax in
Cab fare: $12 for 1-4 people

Take the 6/10 mile hike into this cascading series of pools, waterfalls and natural swimming holes.

This is one of the most special places in Mt Washington Valley.

Mt Washington Auto Road has guided tours to the top of Mt Washington.
Cab fare: $75 for 1-4 people (call for details)

On a clear day, see into four states and Canada from the top of Mount Washington.  Don’t miss the newly opened Extreme Mount Washington Museum on the summit, chronicling the history of extreme weather on the tallest peak in the Northeast.

Storyland- great theme park for children and all.

Cab fare: $20 for 1-4 people

Story Land, celebrating its 60th anniversary, is where fantasy lives! Don’t miss the brand new one-of-a-kind wooden roller coaster Roar-O-Saurus and the new dino-park.

Settlers Green Outlet Shopping: This outlet center has over 60 outlets.

Cab fare: $10 for 1-4 people

Here’s the ideal spot for back-to-school shopping.  More than 60 tax-free manufacturers outlet stores offer everything from shoes to apparel, kitchenware, specialty foods, books, gadgets and much more.

White Mountains panorama.jpg
White Mountains panorama” by Charlie DeTar (Yourcelf (talk)) – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.


Special Attractions

Mt Washington Valley is world known for its weather. For decades it held the record for the highest winds ever recorded (in April, 1934) atop Mt Washington. The world-famous Mt Washington Observatory is located on the summit of Mt Washington, but it also operates the Weather Discovery Center in the heart of North Conway village.

The Weather Discovery Center is the only museum in the country totally dedicated to weather. Whether or not you are a weather buff, this museum, filled with interactive displays and fun experiments, is a must-see. There’s even the opportunity to go into a recreation of the building atop Mt Washington where the highest winds were recorded and see, hear and feel what it was like to be there back in 1934.

For more information, visit http://www.mtwashingtonvalley.org/newhampshire/recreation/mount-washington-observatory-weather-discovery-center.cfm.


Where to Eat:

The Mount Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau offers these suggestions: There are a number of great restaurants in North Conway Village:

  • Horsefeathers Restaurant – American food, casual
  • Hooligans Restaurant – American food, casual
  • Elvios Pizza
  • The Met Coffee House – coffee, pastries
  • Frontside Grind – coffee, light fare
  • White Mountain Cupcakery – fabulous cupcakes (owners won an episode of Cupcake Wars)
  • Stairway Café – breakfast, lunch
  • Pricilla’s – breakfast, lunch
  • Flatbread’s Pizza (located at the Eastern Slope Inn) – organic pizza
  • Chef’s Market of North Conway – sandwiches & soups + gourmet meals to go
  • Courtyard Café – light sandwiches, smoothies, coffee
  • Shalimar of India – Indian cuisine
  • North Conway Golf Course – eat lunch on the deck overlooking the 18th hole and Cathedral ledge beyond.
  • Vito Marcello’s Italian Bistro – fine Italian cuisine

Also, look for the Valley Originals flags (yellow with a fork) outside restaurants. This is a collection of 30+ independently owned restaurants dedicated to community spirit and finest local cuisine.

For more details, phone numbers and web sites for these restaurants, visit www.mountwashington.org.


For More Information

The Mt Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau is your best resource for all vacation planning and help while in the Valley. It’s located in the heart of North Conway Village at

2617 Main St # 1, North Conway, NH. You can reach them via phone at 800-DO-SEE-NH (800-367-3364) or locally at 603-356-5701. Vacation planning concierge and staff are on hand 9-5pm (M-F) to answer questions.

Their website offers the perfect resource for planning your lodging, dining, and recreation. Go to www.mtwashingtonvalley.org for complete information. Additionally, the Information booth managed by the Mt Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce is a cute yellow building adjacent to the chamber offices and an easy stroll from anywhere in North Conway village. It’s packed with brochures, maps and more plus very knowledgeable and friendly volunteers who will be happy to offer assistance and ideas for those without cars.


Do you have a favorite getaway or vacation destination you would like spotlighted in a future Car Free Journey column? E-mail Steve at steveatlas45@yahoo.com. Steve also loves to hear comments and suggestions from readers about recent Car Free Journey columns.



Ecocity Insights: Preliminary Comparison of IEFS with ISO 37120

July 14, 2014

by Jennie Moore, Director, Sustainable Development and Environmental Stewardship, British Colombia Institute of Technology

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has just released ISO 37120 Sustainable development of communities — Indicators for city services and quality of life (http://www.iso.org/iso/catalogue_detail.htm?csnumber=62436). The purpose is to advance a holistic and integrated approach to sustainable development through uniform measurement of standardized indicators. The hope is that the indicators will be used to track and monitor city performance towards the goal of achieving sustainability. However, conformance to the standard does not confer sustainability status.

The ISO 37120 indicators are categorized as “core” (mandatory), “supporting” (voluntary), and “profile” (descriptive). The Ecocity Framework and Standards (IEFS) groups headings of indicators according to “Urban Design,” “Bio-Geo Physical Features,” “Socio-Cultural Features,” and “Ecological Imperatives.” Both IEFS and ISO 37120:2014 are intended to be applicable to any city, municipality or local government regardless of size, location, or level of development. Using standardized indicators helps to make the performance of these cities comparable. A key consideration for both is that the methodology for measurement of indicators is consistent and verifiable. The IEFS indicators emphasize ecological sustainability and social equity in an attempt to distinguish the achievement of a minimum ecocity standard of performance, meaning a city that exists in balance with nature. ISO37120 indicators emphasize city services and quality of life. In the future these indicators could also be used with ISO37101: Sustainable development in communities – Management systems – General principles and requirements anticipated for release in 2016 (http://www.iso.org/iso/home/news_index/news_archive/news.htm?refid=Ref1856). Anyone interested in participating in this standard can send an e-mail to harjung@iso.org.

In a preliminary comparison of the ISO37120 with the IEFS (see Table 1), several important similarities and distinctions are noticeable. Both ISO37120 and IEFS present commonality in addressing topics related to education, economy, and energy. However, there are no headings in the ISO37120 to address food or soils, arguably important gaps where sustainability and resilience are concerned Whereas ISO37120 captures multiple indicators under the heading of “Environment,” the IEFS breaks these down into more refined categories including: “Ecological Carrying Capacity,” “Ecological Integrity,” “Clean Air,” etc. On the other hand, ISO37120 introduces multiple category headings to deal with “Water and Sanitation,” as well as “Wastewater.” The IEFS captures these under one heading: “Clean and Safe Water.” Similarly, ISO37120 introduces multiple category headings for “Health,” “Safety,” “Recreation,” “Urban Planning,” “Telecommunication and Innovation,” and “Finance.” Most of these issues are grouped within the IEFS under two headings: “Healthy Culture,” and “Well Being/Quality of Life.”

There are also differences in terms used for headings that seem to approach measurement of similar phenomenon, e.g. ISO37120 identifies “Transportation” whereas the IEFS identifies “Access by Proximity.” In the case of the latter, the IEFS includes access to shelter within this category, whereas ISO 37120 establishes a separate heading for “Shelter.” Similarly, ISO 37120 introduces “Governance” as a heading, whereas IEFS addresses this topic under the heading “Community Capacity Building.” Where ISO37120 identifies “Solid Waste,” the IEFS identifies “Responsible Resources/Materials.”

These distinctions reveal important nuances in the values and thought-processes that contribute to the emergence of different indicator groupings. The evolution of indicators to measure city performance is an important step towards sustainable community development and specifically what can be defined as an ecocity.

Table 1: Comparison of IEFS and ISO37120 Categories and Headings

British Columbia Institute of Technology School of Construction and the Environment is Lead Sponsor of the International Ecocity Framework and Standards Initiative

Swarms and Smart Hives, Part 2

June 28, 2014

In his last post, Warren Karlenzig discussed how cities enabled by data and modeled after beehives can improve our urban experience. Here is part 2 of his discussion, including a mention of Ecocity Builder’s Ecocitizen World Map Project.


Recently I explained how cities benefit from open data-enabled “swarms” of sustainability apps for energy, the built environment, mobility, food and more, transforming them into “Smart Hives.” The focus was on the rise of citizen-business user sharing apps and crowd-sourced capabilities emerging in the Silicon Valley as the Next Big investment wave. Let’s look at how global cities can plan capacities to attract and facilitate these emergent Sharing Economy swarms. Read the rest of this entry »


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