Cal Berkeley graduate student Geoff Boeing conducted a fascinating analysis of the street layout of major cities in the US and Internationally. Meaning, how is a city’s street layout oriented relative to a traditional compass – how true is the layout to a North/South/East/West layout? Across most major US cities, the orientation follows that of a compass. However, to no one’s great surprise, Boston fails spectacularly in this analysis (as does Charlotte, NC for some reason).
Although [Boston] features a grid in some neighborhoods like the Back Bay and South Boston, these grids tend to not be aligned with one another, resulting in a mish-mash of competing orientations. Furthermore, these grids are not ubiquitous and Boston’s other streets wind in many directions. If you’re going north and then take a right turn, you might know that you are immediately heading east, but it’s hard to know where you’re eventually really heading in the long run. This makes it harder for unfamiliar visitors to navigate Boston than many other US cities. It does not adhere to a straightforward north-south-east-west pattern (or any other consistent, predictable pattern) that our brains adjust to in most places, not because Boston apocryphally paved over its cow paths, but because of its age, terrain, and annexation of various independent towns.
When you look at how the International cities trend from the lens of this analysis – old, European and Asian cities that have been around forever and basically just evolved and expanded with no set ‘urban plan’ from their ancient origins – it makes sense that some of the older US cities follow the same ‘organized chaos’.
So next time you’re driving around Boston, you can take some solace in knowing that driving around there is not for the faint of heart.
Over the course of a typical year, the value of all the bikes stolen across the US totals about $350 Million. That’s a lot of bikes but one has to ask where do they go and who is doing all of this stealin’?
So once a bike has been stolen (hopefully not yours), what happens to it? Well, it all depends on the level of sophistication and professionalism of the thief or thieves. The most amateur ones, which might be homeless or drug addicts looking for a few bucks for their next meal or hit, will sell bikes for a small faction of what they are worth. They’ll sell it on the street, or exchange it directly for what they need, or fence it at a pawn shop or maybe a flea market or whatever. More professional thieves want to get better prices, and they have more bikes to sell, so they can’t use the same strategy. They target more expensive bikes and will often try to resell them online to get a better price. They usually will go sell bikes where there’s a bigger market for them, so they might sell a bike from San Fancisco in Los Angeles.
The basic premise is that it is such a low value crime, most of the time the perp is not a priority for the Police. One video from the NY Times in the original article demonstrates this as a NYT reporter stages several bike thefts where close to 100 witnesses walk by him “in the act” yet no one stops to ask what he is doing.
The net takeaway is probably targeted towards city Mayors and Police Cheifs to have the Police pay more attention to these sorts of crimes, the way Rudy Gulliani did in the early 1990’s in NYC. Reduce these “petty” crimes and the “bigger” crimes will also fall.