Walk Score Gives Detroit the Shaft

(And El Paso, Too, But We Don’t Care About Them*)

Walk Score‘s oft-cited walkability index rates the pedestrian-friendliness of locations throughout the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, and even provides on its website easily-readable green-to-red heat maps for U. S. addresses. It gives Detroit a score of 50 out of 100, ranking our city at #22 in the 50 largest municipalities in the United States. Not bad, right?

Except, as cycling blog m-bike.org observes, Walk Score is broken.

One glance at the Walk Score website’s map view, and it is quite obvious that something has gone terribly wrong with the organization’s assessment of our city:

Green=good, red=bad. Screenshot: www.walkscore.com

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Where Did All These Neighborhood Names Come From, Anyway? (and Why it Matters)

Photo: www.alliedfabrication.com, used with permission.

Detroit’s neighborhood names are on Google Maps now (actually, they have been since 2009 — does this mean we’ve finally achieved our dreams of becoming a world class city?) and other major Internet content providers have also joined the game, identifying and displaying the names of neighborhoods. Palmer Woods, Corktown, West Village — at last, we can geotag photos to them on Flickr, debate the merits of their dive bars on Yelp, and scope out their real estate on Trulia. Foundation-backed think tank Data-Driven Detroit has proposed using their boundaries to elect City Council members by district, and they’ve even spawned a series of cute, map-themed wall decor inspired by Chicago-based typographer Jenny Beorkum’s Ork Posters.

Let’s not get too excited, though! While some of these titles — Indian Village, Herman Gardens — describe historically and visually distinct sections of the city that are well-known among Detroiters, others seem to be, well… rather dubious.

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Detroit: The Capital of Comic Sans?

Quicken Loans CEO Dan Gilbert espoues the virtues of Comic Sans at TEDxDetroit. Photo: Jonathan Oosting, MLive.com; I think this is fair use.

This past winter, Philadelphia entrepreneur and blogger Jason Lorimer commuted back and forth between his city and Detroit a dozen times, leaving us with this list: Six Things I Love About Detroit… So Far. Up there with regular, easy-to-like stuff like “live music” and “Avalon Bakery” was an item whose recognition, I believe, is long overdue: our typography.

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The Ice Tree is Back!

As reported in Detroit Moxie, Detroit’s coolest attractive nuisance has returned. After a warmer-than-usual December and early January, winter temperatures have finally arrived in the city, giving us cause to be optimistic regarding the remainder of the ice tree season.  Over the past week kids and adults alike have been seen having a great time climbing on, skating around, spelunking within pine-scented grottos of, and generally admiring and being inspired by our great city’s grandest, coldest, slipperiest, jaggedest, and probably most dangerous public art installation.

The 2012 Ice Tree. Photo: Roger J. Frank, Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The winter of 2011 was a very sad time on Belle Isle, when the tipi-like structure of discarded tree parts was erected, but the water supply to the installation was never turned on. According to Belle Isle Manager Keith Flournoy, cold weather froze and damaged the pipes before the structure could be completed. “We had no idea how beloved that tree was until last year, when it was gone,” Mr. Flournoy said in an interview, citing numerous telephone inquires park staff received from ice tree admirers. Continue reading