Saturday, November 01, 2008
"We need more coffee shops, brew pubs, and neo-urban hipsters."
The City of Dallas recently sent a delegation to Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, British Columbia, to observe their streetcar systems. Paid for by a private foundation, these elected officials and city staff members came back with lots of observations as Dallas prepares to expand its own streetcar line beyond McKinney Avenue (and with modern cars).
One of the observations that was brought back was a reflection on the number of young neo-urban hipsters hanging out in coffee shops, bookstores and brewpubs. It was noticed that almost every urban block had a coffee shop or two (some Starbuck's stores, but also Peet's, Pups and Cups, Anna Banana's and others). All the young (and not so young) neo-urban hipsters were apparently drawn to Portland by the vast number of coffee shops, as well as by the many bookstores and brewpubs.
So the official observers deduced that for Dallas to get more neo-urban hipsters for its streetcars, Dallas needs more coffee shops, brewpubs, and bookstores. But what drew the coffee shops, bookstores, and brewpubs to Portland in the first place? A visit with the landscape architects from Awful+Design (Portland's famous transportation fashion boutique) revealed the answer: Bike Lanes.
According to Awful, Portland was a dying city that looked an "awful" lot like Beaumont, Texas (a city that's a lot like Portland, except that it's flat and hot and humid, almost devoid of interesting architecture or public spaces, and the water has an odd color and odor). But once Portland began installing bike lanes, the coffee shops, bookstores and brewpubs followed as if a modern-day "Johnny Coffee Bean" had come down the bike lanes, spreading unroasted beans to his right unto the sidewalks where the coffee shops sprouted almost overnight (because he could only ride to the far right side of the streets, the beans he threw to the left were crushed by cars and grew not).
Once the coffee shops, bookstores and brewpubs sprang up, the young (and not so young) neo-urban hipsters soon followed in droves. Portland was revitalized, the Metro and streetcars were running, the coffee and ale flowed, and the streets hummed to the sound of post-modern literature being discussed and to The Decemberists.