City Trends – 2013 Part One

By admin 27/12/12

City Trends for 2013 – Part One: Positive Trends

A few weeks ago I was speaking at the New York Conference of Mayors.   As part of the gig I was asked to partake in a panel discussion at the end of the event and the topic was  urban trends we had been seeing over the past year.   It got me thinking about what I had been seeing over the past 12 months or so and to look forward to 2013.  Here is a synopsis of what I said:

Some Positive Trends

DIY Spirit – The urban do it yourself spirit shows no signs of abatting.  In fact it seems to be picking up steam as it expands beyond the expected urban laboratories of San Francisco, New York and Detroit into places like Raleigh, Dallas and Orlando.  Kickstarter and other online crowdsource funding platforms have fueled many of these projects as well as new models such as the Awesome Foundations that have made giving circles hip.  Cities have started to get into the crowd sourced funding as withnessed by the launch earlier this year of Neighbor.ly which is essentially Kickstarter for cities.

Backlash Against the CarStudies are showing the young people are falling out of love with the car. Buyers between the age of 18 to 34 make up just 11% of the auto market, down from 17% in 2007,  and even drivers licenses issued to 20-24 year olds is down from 92% in 1983 to 81% in 2010.   To this age group the car is more encumbrance than symbol of freedom.  As they flock back to urban centers where parking spaces are scarce and parking fees are high, the bike, the scooter and even the skateboard become highly appealing.

And look at the current crop of cars that are targeted towards young people – small, stylish, hybrid or entirely electric.  Parking spaces that were designed for big sedans or even bigger SUVs suddenly seem like lots of wasted space.  When these smaller cars become the norm, what interesting things might we do with some of that reclaimed parking space?

Small is the New Big – A few years ago, I kept hearing “Green is the new black” as people and places got religion about issues  around the environment and sustainability.  Every city started to ask if they should have more recycling and LEED certified public projects.  That is still a powerful and very important trend but the economic crisis of the past few years has slowed or curtailed many of those projects.  And in the wake of those fiscal challenges we are seeing a huge increase of smaller, faster and cheaper projects.   Crowdsourcing platforms (see above) have gotten small amounts of money into the hands of really creative people who can stretch a buck  to unknown lengths.  Part of this is the lack of formal organizational structures to many of these projects.

Without official status, offices or full time employees, these groups are smaller, highly social and often passion projects that fill strange gaps.  For example, in Edmonton, Alberta a group called Operation Fruit Rescue Edmonton has a bicycle based juicing machine that travels to peoples’ backyards when they have more fruit than they can use.  And the juicing machine was the result of a crowd-sourced fundraising effort!


Coming next – the negative trends.