Discover more from The Curbivore
Discussing the Future of Urbanism with The CityNerd
Tune in: 11 AM PT Webinar on eBike Delivery
Tune in TODAY at 11 AM PT / 2 PM ET for a lively discussion on the evolving sustainability of delivery. We’ll hear from the leaders of San Francisco’s ebike delivery pilot, visionary urban planners, and public and private sector officials inventing new ways to improve the efficiency of urban deliveries. RSVP now!
Talking Transportation with The “CityNerd”
One of the core tenets of the Curbivore project is that you need a big tent of stakeholders to push for positive changes to our cities and transport systems. Enough of the public sector already understands that our streets and curbs need to change; the tougher task is convincing businesses to get on board as well. If we can show a restaurateur that they’d make more money converting a parking lot to a dining area, or a retailer that they’d improve throughput if a parking meter becomes a PUDU zone, we can build a broader pro-curb constituency.
I would say Ray Delahanty also understands the value of not just preaching to the choir. A former transportation planner, he branched out to running the popular CityNerd YouTube channel, where he’s spread the gospel of good urbanism to 186,000+ proletariat. Through witty videos like “10 Cities Where Buses Are Normal and Good, Actually” or “Pedestrianized Streets Are Good, So What Are We Even Doing?” or even “Miami: Ultra-Livable Paradise or Car-Dependent Nightmare?” he shows viewers keen examples of how a better built environment is possible.
I chatted with him about his worldview, how he ended up what I’d like to call a “pop culture urbanist” and how we can get more folks involved in fighting the good fight.
Jonah Bliss: What's your background, how did you become the CityNerd?
Ray Delahanty: I spent 15 years in the transportation planning and engineering realm, mostly as a consultant, before deciding to explore YouTube as a format for talking about things related to cities and transportation that are meaningful to me personally, but no public agency, apparently, wanted to pay me to research and write about.
JB: What can you tell us about your audience?
RD: They’re younger folks, most Millenial and Gen Z, who care deeply about cities all the ways urbanism intersects with livability, climate change, social issues – you name it.
JB: Why do you think folks tune in to you in particular?
RD: It’s probably different for different people. I do try to bring in concepts and experiences from my time as a professional planner, and I think people find value in that. But some people clearly just vibe with my sense of humor and personality (?), as absurd as that sounds.
JB: How do you view yourself - a news source, an advocate, an influencer, an entertainer, something else?
RD: What I do probably includes a bit of all those things, but out of all those things I do mean to entertain every week. If people don’t enjoy what they’re watching, they won’t come back – so as long as I keep it entertaining, I can interject those other pieces (judiciously).
JB: Is there a particular takeaway you want for people watching your channel?
RD: I want them to know there’s a community out there that cares about the same things they care about, and I want to do at least a little bit each week to grow people’s vocabulary and understanding around what planning is, how design decisions get made, and how they might personally influence those things in the place where they live.
JB: How do you feel about American transit and urbanism in general?
RD: We have a long way to go compared to basically every other developed nation in terms of building out high quality transit and improving walking and biking conditions. But I’m hopeful about the trajectory as American urbanism as a political movement gathers strength.
JB: How do you think the rise of new mobility and delivery options have changed city life?
RD: People have fewer things they NEED to leave home for – but humans are social animals, so the need for safe, efficient, and climate-friendly mobility options is still there. I’m a big believer in the power of living car-free, because of the impacts on personal behavior and personal finances. But to me, that means not owning one – NOT never using one. For example, I think a strong car share system is a good tool in the urban mobility toolbox.
JB: In the past, you’ve lived in Las Vegas — I think a place with more interesting urban characteristics than many would assume — what can you tell us about living as an urbanist in Vegas?
RD: Las Vegas’ urban form isn’t a monolith – if you live downtown, or in Fremont East, or the Arts District, you’re going to see a fine-grained street grid and recognizable urban fabric. But most of Vegas is more car-centric, low density, and pedestrian-hostile, to be sure. Living as someone determined to get by without a car in suburban Henderson was often difficult and a bit dehumanizing – but some pieces, like Henderson’s bike path system, were something of a delight – almost a life-saver.
JB: If you were emperor, what’s one American city you would refashion, and what would be the first order of business?
RD: I think about Las Vegas all the time, and the fact that it has one of the most traveled and visited corridors on the planet in Las Vegas Boulevard South (“The Strip”). I would severely limit motor vehicle access, build grade-separated heavy rail from the airport to downtown, and re-envision the Strip as a complete people place with expanded public and commercial space in the newly claimed right-of-way.
JB: Anything final thoughts for us curb enthusiasts?
RD: No, just stay imaginative when it comes to curb space and the public right-of-way, and keep thinking beyond on-street parking and general travel lanes!
Thanks for reading The Curbivore! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support our work.
HOT INDUSTRY NEWS & GOSSIP
A tough week for food delivery: Super-fast deliverer Getir just announced it was pulling out of Spain, Italy and Portugal, as the economics of burning $100M a month to move snacks catch up with the company. Even the “slower” 3PDs had a tough go of it too - while conglomerate Just Eat Takeaway trimmed its overall losses, it’s still struggling to unload Grubhub, which the CEO says is “proving difficult.” Even as the company retools its Grubhub+ free delivery program, it seems its Dutch overseers are pessimistic the company will break out of its 10% marketshare rut. And in international news, Delivery Hero is taking complete control of Saudi-based HungerStation.
Curbside charging: Accelerating EV adoption in cities where most car owners park on the street is a trickier proposition, but now a new company is trying to solve it: Voltpost. Its charger attaches to existing street lamps, although because of that it seems the energy output (7.6 kWh) is on the pokier side of L2. Their design looks slick, but is it slicker than that of competitor itselectric? On the non-curbside side of things, the OEMs are teaming up to launch a new charging network of their own.
Lyfting prospects higher: It’s been a tough year for Lyft, but new CEO David Risher has a turnaround plan, and he’s spilling the beans to the WSJ. After cutting jobs, he’s using the savings to lower rates while keeping driver pay consistent - helping drive the app’s marketshare up 3 percentage points since late March. And while earlier comments made it sound like the company’s commitment to bikeshare was wavering, Risher insists it’s still interested in operating the likes of Citi Bike and Bay Wheels, it just thinks it can better interest those riders in using the occasional ridehail for longer trips like airport dropoffs.
People love shared streets: Now here’s a story worth taking to heart. In SF, transit officials decided to kill off weekend street-closures on Hayes Street, a popular retail and dining area. Citizens got mad at the move, eventually state senators and local supervisors heard the din, and now the city agency has backed off. The moral of the story? Don’t try this at home (the first part, anyway.)
Never trust a generalist: As news of VanMoof’s demise makes it into the mainstream press, less educated authors are speculating that the ebike brand’s failure is symptomatic of larger problems with electric bicycles, or even electric vehicles of any type. That couldn’t be further from the truth! VanMoof died because it eschewed the bike (and ebike) world’s standard kit of parts. Yes it made for an iconic looking product, but the company was then doomed by higher costs and lower reliability. On your average ebike, the hub drive, the battery, the shifters, the stem and probably even the frame are all more or less interchangeable and serviceable by someone other than the brand that sold you the finished product. Don’t let the normies forget that!
Adversarial legalism strikes again: Of course NYC’s launch of a congestion pricing cordon wasn’t going to be easy. It’s not super shocking that New Jersey has filed a suit, the Governor has to look like he’s fighting for his taxpayers. More interesting (and sadder) is that Staten Island, a part of the City of New York, is also suing to stop the plan. A big part of the reason that American infrastructure and legalism is so slow is because we allow for so many “veto points” like this. Even if unsuccessful, it still manages to throw plenty of sand in the gears of progress…
Nobody wants to work in Austin: As cities monitor RTO, hoping to get commuters back on trains and office lunchers back into CBDs, a number of tech towns had kept a close eye on Austin. While SF, SJ and Boston had some of the lowest desk occupancy rates in the country, the Texas capital had workers back in droves. Not so any longer: office-occupancy has fallen from 68% in March to 57% last week, the biggest drop nationwide. Perhaps the region’s unrelenting oppressive heat (not to mention the state’s oppressive policies) has finally pushed talented workers to the breaking point?
Cut the breaks, cut your losses: AV trucking continues to get battered. After seeing some startups pull-out, and regulators get cautious, now it’s Waymo’s turn to throw in the towel on autonomous trucking. The company is “pushing back the timeline” on the initiative, so it can focus instead on its Waymo One ridehail service.
A few good links: German taxis combat Uber with upfront pricing. “How do we solve problems rather than eliminate workers,” I chat with Bake Mag about automation. SF plans more traffic safety cameras. A recap of last week’s delivery as a service webinar. Passport shakes up the C-suite. EV fleet software startup Flipturn raises $4.5M.
Until next week!
- Jonah Bliss & The Curbivore Crew