Tuesday, January 12, 2010

First Post from Dr. Davenport's Greenways Class

Feico Kempff and I are here for the first class in Davenport's "Sociology 396: Greenways, Mobility, and American Public Life".

Davenport is here on two year appointment through the Mellon Foundation to offer course work that wouldn't ordinarily be offered to help support our Environmental Studies program. John says he's mostly a geographer, but the course will also have a good deal of sociology.

As John described the different texts he'll b e drawing from for the class, he noted that one, "The Ecology of Place: planning for Environment, Economy, and Community," was recommended by Centenary College President David Rowe.

Here are excerpts from John's very thorough syllabus:
First, some great bike quotes:
Mankind has invested more than four million years of evolution in the attempt to avoid physical exertion. Now a group of backward-thinking atavists mounted on foot-powered pairs of Hula-Hoops would have us pumping our legs, gritting our teeth, and searing our lungs as though we were being chased across the Pleistocene savanna by saber-toothed tigers. Think of the hopes, the dreams, the effort, the brilliance, the pure force of will that, over the eons, has gone into the creation of the Cadillac Coupe de Ville. Bicycle riders would have us throw all this on the ash heap of history.” – P.J. O'Rourke

The bicycle is the perfect transducer to match man's metabolic energy to the impedance of locomotion. Equipped with this tool, man outstrips the efficiency of not only all machines but all other animals as well.” – Ivan Illich, Energy and Equity, 1974

“When I go biking, I repeat a mantra of the day's sensations: bright sun, blue sky, warm breeze, blue-jay's call, ice melting and so on. This helps me transcend the traffic, ignore the clamorings of work, leave all the mind theaters behind and focus on nature instead. I still must abide by the rules of the road, of biking, of gravity. But I am mentally far away from civilization. The world is breaking someone else's heart.” – Diane Ackerman

The bicycle is the most civilized conveyance known to man. Other forms of transport grow daily more nightmarish. Only the bicycle remains pure in heart.” – Iris Murdoch, The Red and the Green

When I see an adult on a bicycle, I do not despair for the future of the human race.” – H.G. Wells

Image (on left): Child Labor – a 10-year-old boy moves a burden of plastic waste by bicycle down a city street in India, an unfortunate validation of the observation that “the bicycle is the most efficient machine ever created: converting calories into gas, a bicycle gets the equivalent of three thousand miles per gallon. Bill Strickland, Quotable Cyclist

“The hardest part of raising a child is teaching them to ride bicycles. A shaky child on a bicycle for the first time needs both support and freedom. The realization that this is what the child will always need can hit hard.” – Sloan Wilson

Course Description:

"The First Two-by-Four: A Meditation on the Humane Machine

"In the beginning, one wheel became two. The invention of the bicycle marked one of humankind’s most extraordinary technological achievements and the casting of a pair of historical bookends, of which the second one’s placement is only now being realized. The early velocipede, as with its close cousin the bicycle and distant relative the automobile, dramatically extended the range of mobility for a culture ordinarily limited by locomotion. As pounding-the-pavement gave way to pedaling, and pushing-the-pedals was supplanted by the normative act of pressing-the-pedal-to-the-metal, Joe(lle) Citizen went both farther and faster, if not higher, than ever before. Two wheels plus two became four. The term ‘peak-oil’ – more connotative then of a gusher, than a rapidly approaching road sign on the dim-lit highway to carbon non-neutrality – had yet to enter the American lexicon. So, Joe(lle) drove onward and outward. A decisive trend in urban morphology accompanied this development: the city’s edge extended beyond its former limit. As cities grew, so did Joe(lle)’s commute time amidst the continually receding bucolic scenery. Countryside became curbside; urban ate up rural. Turning back remained an option. Yet, the bifurcated city had gained an inner-, which promised to define its outer-. The specter of urban sprawl had already clothed itself in concrete and asphalt, making once fertile ground a paved over memory both vague to a sense of community and unfit for co-habitation. As energy consumption surged, Joe(lle)’s own metabolic rate decreased marking the triumph of human inefficiency over the long-term sustainability of ecological health. Her perceived ascendancy to the apex of the animal kingdom was astonishingly rapid, yet several nagging questions loomed large in his arboreal mind: Had his ingenious machines pushed the virtues of progress beyond their logical limit? Was the tide of technological innovation returning to its previous watermark: the bicycle? It seems the answer she sought could be found, all the while, right beneath her own two feet. Perhaps, four wheels divided by two was precisely the solution Joe(lle) Citizen needed to this ongoing architectural problem and the first two-by-four upon which the construction of a new urban framework could be re-joisted. Welcome back, Joe(lle), to the urbane jungle.

Today, at places around America and the world at large, fertile ground is being restored in the form of greenways, as a means of fostering inward-mobility and a re-enchantment between the cosmopolitanism of urban culture and the natural world upon which its growth makes a continual statement. We study the urban environment, in part, because it remains a locus of activity and relations between humans and planet Earth. Cities are teaming with nature! Albeit an often tightly restricted nature made up of linear corridors and greenways stretched-out along the arterial waterways and topographic features that connect the inner-city curbside with Joe(lle)’s proverbial shrinking countryside. Indeed, the planning of greenways and re-visioning of alternative strategies for urban development are burgeoning areas of professional opportunity and admirable intellectual endeavors. To this end, both greenways and mobility, or rather lack thereof, have emerged as central rubrics upon which the aforementioned projects often pivot. The bicycle is easy enough, two wheels not four, but what exactly is a greenway? GeoPlan, an organization at the University of Florida actively engaged in local sustainability issues, defines a ‘greenway’ as:

"a corridor of protected open space that is managed for conservation and/or recreation. The common characteristic of greenways is that they all go somewhere. Greenways follow natural land or water features, like ridges or rivers (or bayous), or human landscape features like abandoned railroad corridors or canals. They link natural reserves, parks, cultural and historic sites with each other and, in some cases, with populated areas. Greenways not only protect environmentally sensitive lands and wildlife, but also can provide people with access to outdoor recreation and enjoyment close to home" (University of Florida GeoPlan, www.geoplan.ufl.edu) (addition mine).

Enjoyment close to home is something, no doubt, most everyone can agree upon. However, where might all this enjoyment occur? The answer: hubs and sites, including wildlife reserves, regional parks and preserves, ecological sites, working landscapes, cultural/historical/recreational sites, and urban retail areas. Greenways may be broadly conceived as landscape linkages, allowing citizens to access the full array of nearby, natural and cultural amenities available on a convenient, cost efficient, and ecologically friendly basis. Greenways promise to elevate the quality of life enjoyed by community members. Yet, they are not without their detractors. Greenways do, at least, one other thing. They increase the mobility of all community members, which may dissolve socio-geographic boundaries and challenge the cultural norms erected upon them. The term mobility ordinarily relates to the relative freedom or prohibition of physical movement, but the metaphor of mobility extends deeper into social life, denoting the movement or “upward mobility” of one’s socio-economic status. As Grady Clay so poignantly relates in his seminal book, Up Close: How to Read the American City:

“Geographic mobility is a special American thing; a mode of learning and getting with it; a means of personal advance, a way of making it. It implies, without guaranteeing, social mobility. Most Americans see their histories as migrational success stories – movement from the old country to new beginnings. History, American style, is seen as a series of confrontations between explorers and raw nature, between white settlers and red Indians, between open-rangers and homesteaders, claim stakers and fence jumpers” (Clay 1975, 75).

In the context of Shreveport, one might add to the above list that of a congenial yet complicated encounter between bicyclist-and-motorist; two-wheels-and-four; city-and-country; inner-and-outer; resident-and-resident; Joe(lle) Citizen and ultimately one’s self. It is, in part, the vast potential of greenways to cultivate urban renewal and an alternative vision of ecologically-responsible sustainable living, here in Shreveport and in similar places abroad, that makes them an interesting and increasingly relevant topic of study. Will we someday arrive at the conclusion that the bicycle, a cultural artifact, has become just as important to the bayou as the bayou always was to the bicycle? What role could greenways play in helping restructure urban environments to support sustainable cities in the 21st Century? How might the development of greenways and increased use of human-powered transportation positively affect your community? In what ways could the confluence of these two ideas – the greenways movement and community cycling campaign – bring greater awareness to segments of society who stand to benefit from improved infrastructure for human-powered transportation (e.g. people with disabilities)? These are a few of the questions this course will attempt to address."

The syllabus also includes course requirements, such as exams and a research paper, but also a service-learning component.

The format of the course will be Davenport lecturing on Tuesdays, and class discussion of the readings on Thursday.

The required readings are drawn from the following:

Required Reading List:

Beatley, Timothy and Manning, Kristy. 1997. The Ecology of Place: Planning for Environment, Economy, and Community, Island Press: Washington D.C.

Erickson, Donna. 2006. MetroGreen: Connecting Open Space in North American Cities, Island Press: Washington D.C.

Little, Charles E. 1995. Greenways for America: Creating the North American Landscape, The Johns Hopkins University Press: Baltimore, Maryland.

Wray, J. Harry. 2008. Pedal Power: The Quiet Rise of the Bicycle in American Public Life, Paradigm Publishers: Boulder, Colorado.

Recommended Reading List (Available on Reserve in Magale Library):

Hurst, Robert. 2009. The Cyclist's Manifesto: The Case for Riding on Two Wheels Instead of Four, The Globe Pequot Press: Guilford, Connecticut.

Warren, Roxanne. 1997. The Urban Oasis: Guideways and Greenways in the Human Environment, McGraw-Hill Professional: Dubuque, Iowa.

Mapes, Jeff. 2009. Pedaling Revolution: How Cyclists Are Changing American Cities, Oregon State University Press: Corvallis, Oregon.

McHarg, Ian L. 1969. Design with Nature, The Natural History Press: Garden City, New York.

Suggested Readings:

Alexander, Leslee T. 1994. The Effect of Greenways on Property Values and Public Safety, Denver, CO: The Conservation Fund and Colorado State Parks State Trails Program.

Batterbury, S.P.J. 2003. Environmental activism and social networks: campaigning for bicycles and alternative transport in West London, Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 590: 150-169.

Byrne, David. 2009. Bicycle Diaries, Viking Press: New York, NY.

Flink, Charles A. and Searns, Robert M. 1993. Greenways: A Guide to Planning, Design, and Development, Washington, DC: Island Press.

Gobster, Paul H. and Westphal, Lynne M. 2004. The human dimensions of urban greenways: planning for recreation and related experiences, in Landscape and Urban Planning, 68: 147-165.

Hellmund, Paul Cawood. 2006. Designing Greenways: Sustainable Landscapes for Nature and People, Island Press: Washington D.C.

Labaree, J. M. 1992 Second Edition. How Greenways Work: A Handbook on Ecology, Ipswich, MA: National Park Service and Atlantic Center for the Environment.

Lindsey, Greg. Spring 2003. Sustainability and urban greenways: Indicators in Indianapolis, in Journal of the American Planning Association, 69(2): 165-180.

Lindsey, Greg, et al. Fall 2004. Property Values, Recreation Values, and Urban Greenways, in Journal of Park and Recreation Administration, 22(3): 69-90.

Minetti, Alberto E., et al. 2001. From Bipedalism to Bicyclism: Evolution in Energetics and Biomechanics of Historic Bicycles, in Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, 268: 1351-1360.

Moudon, Anne Vernez and Lee, Chanam. September/October 2003. Walking and Bicycling: An Evaluation of Environmental Audit Instruments, in American Journal of Health Promotion, 18(1): 21-37.

Murray, Ray, et al. 1995 Fourth Edition. Economic Impacts of Protecting Rivers, Trails and Greenway Corridors, San Francisco, CA: Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance, National Park Service, Western Region.

Pinsof, Suzan Anderson and Musser, Terri. October 1995. Bicycle Facility Planning, Planning Advisory Service Report #459. Chicago, IL: American Planning Association.

Pucher, John, et al. 1999. Bicycling renaissance in North America? Recent trends and alternative policies to promote bicycling, in Transportation Research Part A, 33 (7/8): 625-654.

Schiller, Andrew and Horn, Sally. 1997. Wildlife Conservation in Urban Greenways of the Mid-Southeastern United States, in Urban Ecosystems, 1: 103-116.

Suggested Electronic Resources:








I gotta pick up the kids now and leave early. Thursday will be my next post, for day two of this great, exciting, and important class!

1 comment:

Dominic said...

Where is this class being taught, Centenary?