Thursday, August 9, 2012

Public Policy Lessons from Spain

Sure, it may be on the verge of default. But Spain has its act together when it comes to small details on urban policy and design that can greatly effect how visitors interact with its cities.

Calorie-count walking routes in Granada.
1.Urban Policy Mini-Detail Uno: Exercise breakdown of principal walking route in Granada. Breaks down calories burned by gender, intensity of pace, and velocity. Some German-style thinking in the heart of Andaluica.

This would be a wonderful addition to Greek routes in Athens, Thessaloniki and other urban cities where walking is a favorite past-time, particularly at night when the heat has died down.

Near Puerta del Sol in Madrid, Spain.
To aid in these promenades, Urban Design Policy Mini-Detail Duo would be a great addition in Greece as well: heat-reflective tarps that cool down urban passages during the day. I know these are common. I know they're not new. But consider the case I heard of today that makes these sorts of urban design instruments impossible to implement: a business owner near the northern city of Leptokarya had bought $15,000 worth of this tarp in order to put up in the main plaza of a nearby town. (Previously, an industrial air-conditioner had been installed to cool down the city center, but it was deemed "too ugly" by the residents and taken down). This tarp now sits in the basement of this business owner -- not because it was ugly, but because he hadn't "supported" the proper official with the right amount of money for the ability to put up the tarps.

Lastly, Cultural/Literary Policy Mini-Detail Tres: a lending-book vending machine in the Madrid metro. How cool is that? People can return books they've borrowed from the Library of Madrid, and rent out selected copies of popular volumes.

Now, this may only work in Greece if a free coffee and cigarette is included -- but I can't think of a better way to offer reading material to the average citizen in a venue that often calls for a volume to pass the time with. If Thessaloniki's metro every gets finished -- construction has  been permanently since the crisis -- this would be a great addition underground.

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