Birds & Limes at UCSB by Glenn Beltz licensed under Creative Commons.

Los Angeles is about to launch a one-year scooter pilot that collects trip data. Japanese inventor Seiichi Miyake made cities more accessible to people who are visually impaired. More US cities are ending their recycling programs after China stopped purchasing their recyclable materials.

LA wants to track scooter trips: Los Angeles is preparing to launch a one-year dockless pilot that would require trip data from shared scooters and bicycles to be sent to transportation officials to help them determine whether companies are operating within regulations. Although the data would be anonymous, opponents claim that location data can be matched to commuters' unique travel patterns. LA wants to use the data to optimize shared vehicle use and ensure equitable access, but skeptics are concerned it encourages a surveillance state. (Laura Nelson | Los Angeles Times)

Seiichi Miyake made public space more accessible: Google's March 18 Doodle celebrated Japanese inventor Seiichi Miyake, whose innovation has reshaped cities across the globe. Miyake invented the tactile square, often known as braille blocks. The bright yellow tiles installed at crosswalks and subway platforms worldwide help people who are visually impaired navigate public spaces. Bumped squares inform the user to stop, while tiles with bars give directional cues. They were first installed in Okayama, Japan, in 1967 next to a school for the blind. Miyake died in 1982, but his innovation lives on. (Megan Barber | Curbed)

More US cities end recycling: China had been a big buyer of recyclable material from the US, but in January 2018 officials determined that too much trash was contaminating recycling loads. Now China has stopped purchasing the materials, and soaring costs of local recycling have led many cities to end their programs. Many cities have simply increased their landfill output, but others like Philadelphia have turned to incinerators that convert waste into energy. Now the sustainability conversation has begun to shift from recycling waste to making less waste in the first place. (Michael Corkery | New York Times)

Don't solve traffic, build great places: In 1965, the Highway Capacity Manual coined the term Level of Service (LOS), which graded roads on their ability to keep vehicle traffic flowing freely. Ironically, however, LOS has been the greatest obstacles to transportation choice and access. The metric encourages building or widening roads to manage congestion instead of finding solutions that don't require single occupancy vehicles. Some US cities are turning to other metrics such as "Multi-Modal Level of Service," which considers the needs of bicyclists and pedestrians or Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT), which aims to reduce driving. (Lara Fishbane, Joseph Kane, Adie Tomer | Brookings)

To build future cities, stop driving: The purpose of cities is to bring people together, but in the 20th Century, they were blown apart. Auto-oriented development encouraged unsustainable and inequitable land use patterns that limit the potential of cities. Peter Calthorpe, a Berkeley architect, wants cities to stop sprawling and paving over nature, and instead find ways to allow nature back into the urban core so city dwellers can fight climate change and become more equitable. Dense, mixed-use, accessible cities are the future, so long as we get out of our cars. (Robert Kunzig | National Geographic)

Quote of the Week

"Madrid closed its central business district to cars for the first time during the 2018 Christmas period and an analysis informed by Spain’s second largest bank has found that, year-on-year, till transactions were significantly boosted by the measure. The closure also had another benefit: cleaner air."

Carlton Reid in Forbes discussing the benefits to retail of closing down streets during Christmas.

This week on the podcast Yonah Freemark joins for the annual prediction show!