the blog posts

cohousing for bermuda revisited

Cohousing is a concept foreign to Bermuda but one that is worth looking at again. 'Again' suggests Bermudians considered it at all when, in reality, I keenly researched it back in the nineties but appeared to be alone in my interest.

The topic came up recently, when (and this happens when you reach a certain age) friends asked us if, in retirement, we would consider some form of communal living. The discussion centred on private accommodation around a square of some sort where we could keep an eye out for each other but not actually live together. We like these friends but not that much.

After dispensing with the term 'commune', which has unfortunate Koolaid connotations, I realised we were being asked to ponder a form of cohousing.

 cohousing in sebastopol, ca: image - schemata workshop

cohousing in sebastopol, ca: image - schemata workshop

A familiar form of residential development in Denmark, Sweden and, to a lesser extent, USA and UK, cohousing communities are made up of groups of families or couples living in self-sufficient private residences but who access and use shared facilities as well. The key component of cohousing is a Common House with a kitchen and dining facilities where everyone can share an evening meal, have community meetings and generally socialise. Links between residences are important too, as the notion of watching out for each other is a primary reason for living in a cohousing set up. Other shared facilities can comprise playgrounds, laundry facilities, workshops and guest accommodation. 

As described by the UK Cohousing Network, advantages include:

             common kitchen: image - schemata workshop

            common kitchen: image - schemata workshop

  • a sense of community and shared values, a sense of belonging,
  • keeping one’s privacy while having an active and locally based social life,
  • living more economically and sustainably – sharing skills, tools, heating systems, all sorts,
  • neighbours that become friends and the mutual support that comes naturally with that (anything from shared childcare to a shoulder to cry on to a pint of milk to someone noticing if you have not been seen for a day or two),
  • support in older age, and,
  • feeling useful/making a contribution.

Cohousing is something Bermuda should investigate. It could be an alternative to traditional assisted living situations or as a (new to us) way of building healthy and sustainable communities. 

biking while black?

We are all familiar with the term "driving while black" and, then, in the wake of the Trayvon Martin killing, the new term was "walking while black." Well, Fort Lauderdale, Florida appears to have engaged in actions that lead to this new term "biking while black."

 image - grist, shutterstock

image - grist, shutterstock

As recounted by Heather Smith, writing for Grist, in the article, "Biking while black" is a thing too, the City introduced a pedal bike registration system to help cut down on bike thefts and make the sale of stolen bikes more difficult. Laudable idea except when you look at who is stopped and checked: it is mostly black people and only in certain neighbourhoods.  

Smith notes, over a period of 2010 to May 2013, of the citations issued by Fort Lauderdale police, 86% were issued to black people. And, when the geographical analysis was done, it showed the police were primarily targeting predominantly black neighbourhoods in any case.

It will be challenging for supporters of the 'walkable city' movement, which advocates primacy of place to pedestrians and cyclists, to make headway in these sorts of circumstances. Usually, the battle is with highways engineers to ensure street design that prioritises walkers and bikers over car drivers. It would be most unfortunate if the police were to be another barrier. 

Of course, in Bermuda, we are a long way from even appreciating 'walkable city' concepts, so worrying about the police is probably premature.

a revitalized riverfront park

Cali, Columbia is working towards revitalizing its riverfront, creating the new Rio Cali Park. A collaboration between the design team of West 8 and the Municipality of Cali, the aim is to link the people of Cali with the river in a safe environment, which prioritises pedestrians and cyclists.

 rendering by west 8

rendering by west 8

Cali is the third largest city in Columbia and it has been torn by violence and suffered stagnation for decades. The River Cali Revitalisation Project faces challenging odds as it seeks to kick start urban renewal and regeneration. The idea is to prioritise public space and connect people to the river in a safe way. To this end, a roadway is being re-purposed to provide bike lanes and safe pedestrian routes that join the city centre with the new river park. As outlined by designboom, Cali will have a peaceful public realm, with plazas for events, where residents and meet and relax. The emphasis is placed on fostering a safe urban area where a density of people can begin to engage with each other constructively.

This is striking to me - not least because funding for Phase 1 is actually approved!  Cali faces struggles of a kind that Hamilton's waterfront in Bermuda does not and will not face, and yet progress is made. This is a properly considered plan and we could learn a thing or two.