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Community / Public space

Imaginary city limits, sewer bomb detectors and a ban on dancing

Some of the city stories we enjoyed elsewhere this week.

  • If you’ve ever visited China, chances are you’ll have seen people dancing in a public space. Middle-aged groups of ballroom dancers regularly take over quiet residential street corners, while major shopping districts play host to night time hip hop classes.

And one city authority in Changchun, Jilin province have had enough of it. According to Shanghaiist, resourceful officials have placed steel triangles, usually used to prevent cars from parking,  throughout a public square to stop the “dancing aunties” whose “blaring music” has been annoying nearby residents:

Image: ECNS.cn.

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It remains to be seen how effective the measure will be – it looks like the blocks aren’t close enough together to thwart truly determined dangesr.

  • This piece at Citylab makes the case for US major road lanes to be made narrower to improve safety. This may sound a little counter-intuitive, but the article’s author, Jeff Speck, argues:

When lanes are built too wide, many bad things happen. In a sentence: pedestrians are forced to walk further across streets on which cars are moving too fast and bikes don’t fit.

Using a collection of studies and traffic regulations he argues that the wider lanes act as a signal to drive faster, as cars have more room and are less likely to encounter obstacles.  

  • As we know all too well at CityMetric, the borders of cities can be frustratingly hard to pin down. There’s official limits, and government-drawn lines in the sand, but where do residents actually think the city proper ends and the suburbs begin?

Gawker decided to settle the matter once and for all by crowdsourcing ideas on US city borders from readers and residents. The piece includes maps of LA, Chicago and five other US cities. Here’s their final decision on New York’s borders:

Image: Gawker/Jim Cooke.

Sorry Staten Island, you’re out.

  • Last week, we learned that sewage testing could help governments tackle drugs. Now, it turns out sewers could be used to detect bombs, too: a group of technologists from the EU is planning to install sewer sensors which would detect chemicals commonly used to make bombs and alert local police.

Hans Oennerud, co-ordinator of the project, told the BBC:

If you make homemade explosives or bombs, you need a place to be, you need to use some equipment, and some chemicals. In the process there could be a need to rinse equipment or pour it down the drain – and this is something we want to take advantage of.

Of course, the technology will rely on bomb-makers’ ignorance of it – otherwise, the materials could just be dumped elsewhere. So, er, don’t tell anyone.  
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