Sometimes you just need to yell, smash & swear!

I’ve been a bit grumpy these last few days. I think I’m experiencing sunshine withdrawal after the glorious spring weather we had last week.  So I decided to take myself for a walk at lunch today, hoping to chase the grumpiness away. Alas, all it did was highlight how exposed and fragile people are.

I’m primarily a cyclist and a pedestrian. I’m also a driver and a transit user. Not to toot my own horn, but I like to think this sharpens my awareness and influences my actions with all modes of transportation I use.

I obey traffic rules while riding my bike, and frequently dodge pedestrians and cars that carelessly cross into/over designated bike paths. I look both ways before walking across the street and exhibit extra caution when approaching parking garages and the like. Good thing! A car failed to stop at the line with the word ‘STOP’ written in big bold letters before the sidewalk while exiting a parking garage today. And I try to give cyclists extra room while passing them in the behemoth van or car share cars that I drive.

Not that I’m perfect or always as careful as I should be. I tend to be a bit of a speed demon on my bike, I occasionally pull into the crosswalk while waiting to turn at an intersection (sorry fellow pedestrians – this actually infuriates me) and I can be a bit of a cocky pedestrian. Especially when I’m cut off by a car. I know. I’ve just clearly demonstrated my own hypocrisy.

I’ll get to the point. My lunch time meander led me to a (new to me) café in Gastown, Buro Espresso Bar. I got an Americano and started my walk back to the office, feeling like I had made some progress in chasing the grumpy cloud away. And then, BAM!

A cyclist got hit by a car that pulled into a parking lane and cut him off. He fell off of his bike onto the curb. The driver immediately stopped and got out of her car. She was very apologetic and offered to give the cyclist her phone number for insurance purposes. The cyclist proceeded to yell, smash & swear. He kicked & completely smashed the passenger side mirror of the car. To the credit of the driver, she remained calm and the cyclist rode away.

I meekly said to the driver “in all fairness, you kind of deserve the broken mirror, this could have been much worse. Yesterday, a friend of mine was cut off by a car and now has a broken arm”. To which she calmly replied, “I know. I take full responsibility.”

Let’s be clear here. I am NOT condoning the cyclist’s decision to intentionally damage the car. However, I can fully sympathize with the adrenalin rush and anger from being hit or nearly hit by a car while cycling or walking. The overwhelming desire to yell, smash & swear is sometimes uncontrollable.

The bottom line is that we ALL need to exercise more caution, awareness and thoughtfulness while driving, cycling and walking. There’s plenty of room for everyone.

On Exactitude in Science by Jorge Luis Borges,

…In that Empire, the Art of Cartography attained such Perfection that the map of a single Province occupied the entirety of a City, and the map of the Empire, the entirety of a Province. In time, those Unconscionable Maps no longer satisfied, and the Cartographers Guilds struck a Map of the Empire whose size was that of the Empire, and which coincided point for point with it. The following Generations, who were not so fond of the Study of Cartography as their Forebears had been, saw that that vast Map was Useless, and not without some Pitilessness was it, that they delivered it up to the Inclemencies of Sun and Winters. In the Deserts of the West, still today, there are Tattered Ruins of that Map, inhabited by Animals and Beggars; in all the Land there is no other Relic of the Disciplines of Geography.

Walking, Wandering, Contemplating

It’s been over a year since my last post. There hasn’t been much to report on the Pedestrian City front – apart from a very humbling Pecha Kucha experience back in September. Walk This Town: Perspectives on Designing a Healthy City was hosted at the Seattle Public Library as part of the 2013 Seattle Design Festival. I was both honoured and excited when I was asked to present, and only wish it had gone smoother.

As prepared as I was, I got up in front of a room of strangers to find out there had been a glitch uploading my presentation to the computer being used for the evening. I stuttered, I apologized, I fumbled to present my information and ideas without the accompanying visuals, which are key when doing a presentation on memory mapping.

Following that, I decided it was time to walk away for a little while and rethink what I wanted to do with Pedestrian City. I haven’t come to a decision yet. No fresh inspiration has come my way. So for now, I’m happy to let it serve as an archive of memory mapping workshops, and the initial neighbourhood study. As well as a resource for others who are interested in themes of public space, active transportation, and psychogeography. There’s a list of links and a reading list – predominantly of books that inspired the creation of Pedestrian City, with the occasional new addition.

Will I ever organize and lead another memory mapping workshop? Not likely. While I love the idea of engaging people in this capacity, I’ve learned that I don’t particularly enjoy leading the public engagement side of things myself. I enjoy the theory of the practice much more than the actual practice.

Velo City

I recently came across this post from the old Pedestrian City site. Written in December 2008, the goal at the time was to create a space for people to share personal memory maps from Toronto, New York, and cities in between…

Walking: stories, memories, reflections

I recently read a brief report about the promotion of cycling in Malmö,Sweden, for which the city organized an advertising campaign. Part of the campaign involved a competition asking citizens to submit ideas that could help increase the number of bike users; resulting in the production of a book that engaged local celebrities to share their cycling stories as a source of inspiration to residents.

The book contains a diverse mix of biking experiences, thoughts, stories, secrets, memories, commissioned essays and reflections; including a “rock star’s personal tour of the city, nostalgic biking memories, how biking satisfies a comedian’s need for speed and how cycling helped a local writer to become famous”.

Now you’re probably wondering what this has to do with Pedestrian City, right?

I’m hoping this will give you some ideas. I know some of you are having trouble getting started because you can’t decide on a place to focus on for the project. Instead of thinking of a place to explore first, try thinking of a story or memory and work from there.

Start with a walking story, memory or reflection, answer the questions outlined in Task #1 (a few posts down), draw your map and wait for a day suitable for a winter walk with a camera.

Another approach could be to use this as a visioning exercise, to share any ideas you might have to improve your neighbourhood of choice, no matter how idealistic they might seem!

Walking through the Infinite City

I’ve recently begun to read Rebecca Solnit’s Infinite City, a collection that maps the city of San Francisco based on a number of themes that have played a significant role in shaping the cultural and political movements that are synonymous with the city. Part geographical exploration, part cultural study, part history lesson, this unconventional atlas takes the reader through a journey of a multitude of experiences in and perceptions of the city. Through these meanderings, the reader is invited to wander/wonder about their own city, places they’ve lived, played, travelled.

While I’m still at the beginning and admittedly, the first theme didn’t hold my attention, the introduction was quite captivating.  Rather than summarize, I’m highlighting two passages that drew me in and made me once again consider all of the places I’ve wandered…

[A city has thousands of] inhabitants, more or less, and each of them possesses his or her own map of the place, a world of amities, amours, transit routes, resources, and perils, radiating out from home. [A city contains thousands of] living maps, because each [citizen] contains multiple maps: areas of knowledge, rumours, fears, friendships, remembered histories and facts, alternate versions, desires, the maps of everyday activity versus the map of occasional discovery, the past versus the present, the map of this place in relation to others that could be confined to a few neighbourhoods or could include multiple continents of ancestral origin, immigration routes and lost homelands, social ties, or cultural work.

And this one, which set me to dreaming of the neighbourhoods I lived in as a child…

[No] two people live in the same city. Your current surroundings exist in relation to your other places, your formative place and whatever place shaped your ethnic heritage and education, in relation to your role in this current place… If you pay attention to the neighbours, you find other worlds within them, and other neighbourhoods magnify this effect. Most of us settle into familiar routines in which we see the same places and people…in the city, but it takes very little…to land in some unfamiliar city, to find that the place is inexhaustible.

Memory Mapping Toolkit

Coming soon from Pedestrian City… a comprehensive toolkit designed to help educators conduct memory mapping sessions in the classroom.
  1. An introduction to memory mapping as a learning tool, including a list of suggested applications
  2. Detailed instructions to develop a memory mapping workshop
  3. Outlines for workshop styles
    • a basic mapping exercise to create both individual & group maps
    • option 1: walkabout
    • option 2: photographs and visioning
  4. Case Studies
  5. Resources

If you’re interested in using this as a resource, or know someone who might, please email me at natalie[at]