Sunday, November 21, 2010

A Bike, When You Need One

How many city folk have experienced the sudden need to get to another part of town, and quickly--the race is on, you think, as you calculate the time it will take to get your car out of the parking garage or flag down a taxi. "If only I had a bike right now," you lament, "I could just hop on and zip over."

Luckily for the health--and perhaps sanity--of urban dwellers, the system of bike sharing has caught on, and is spreading.

Yesterday, I was strolling in Busan when I ran into my first U-Bike stand. An inconspicuous rack of about 25 bikes with a screen kiosk made it easy for pedestrians to hop on and ride off to another part of the city (which, I must say, experiences snarling traffic rough enough to put a Manhattan-bred driver ill at ease).

The U-Bike stand in Busan is one of eight pilot programs in Korea, modeled after South Gyeongsang's Nubija (Nearby Useful Bike, Interesting Joyful Attraction) program of 20 stations, 430 bicycles for rent and over 3,000 users a day. Nubija, in case you're curious, was modeled after Paris' VĂ©lib' program that launched in the summer of 2007 and now boasts "1,750 stations across the city and neighbouring suburbs [and has] a maximum of 24,000 bikes in operation at any one time," according to a 2010 Guardian Article by Leo Hickman.

Monday, November 8, 2010

21st Century Agriculture: Rooftops and Store Shelves Welcomed, Soil Need Not Apply

Growing food in urban areas has existed for some time, whether herbs and tomatoes are grown from one's balcony or window bed, or a supermarket staple like New York's Zabar's invests in greenhouses atop their Upper East Side buildings. Recently, the process of hydroponically growing these fruits and vegetables atop urban roofs has gained notoriety.
"Hydroponics (from the Greek words hydro [water] and ponos [labor]) is a centuries-old method of growing plants using mineral nutrient solutions in water and without soil." (Urban Gardening, Part 1: The Hydroponic Lab on the Roof, Ted Madden, TechNewsWorld June 22, 2010)
Because of limited space, many urban areas are looking to make use of their rooftops--and because of the weight-savings that hydroponically growing your vegetables provides, this process is gaining in popularity. Meet, for example, Gotham Greens:
"Gotham Greens is creating New York City’s first commercial scale greenhouse farm. The 15,000ft2 rooftop greenhouse facility will annually produce over 30 tons of premium quality, pesticide-free, sustainably-grown, vegetables, fruit, and culinary herbs. The farm will combine technically sophisticated Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) techniques with unique energy saving innovations. The produce grown will be sold under the Gotham Greens brand at grocery stores and farmer’s markets, as well as restaurants across the city. The greenhouse facility will begin crop production in 2011." (Gotham Greens website)
However, this new concept isn't void of its own challenges. The weight of greenhouses, collecting fertilizer runoff, transporting items to and from the rooftop garden, building permits etc. require a solid investment of time, expertise and capital.