Wednesday. 19/6/2019

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Nolan Giles

Chain reaction

Most cities are designed with cars in mind so the idea that our urban fabric could be woven around cyclists might seem far-fetched. But according to the team behind the Bicycle Architecture Biennale (BAB), which is running in Amsterdam until Friday, urban planners ought to be looking to the humble two-wheeler when thinking about our future.

BAB’s organisers want 50 per cent of all city trips to be made by bike by 2030. This lofty goal is being promoted with an exhibition of smart cycling infrastructure, which will soon tour the globe. Highlights include the world’s longest suspended bike path in China, and an underground parking facility in the Netherlands that shows how dense cities can increase their capacity for cycle storage.

Seeing these efforts makes it easier to envision a new future for cities – one that’s based on mobility provided by a more environmentally friendly mode of transport than the car. And with the proliferation of electric bikes, residents have even less of an excuse to not get pedalling in support of the BAB’s worthy agenda.

Politics / Egypt

Outside the law

On Monday the former president of Egypt, Mohamed Morsi, collapsed and died in a courtroom in Cairo, where he was being tried on espionage charges. Authorities reportedly barred him from vital medical care, keeping him in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day. “Amnesty International called Morsi’s solitary confinement a sort of torture,” Steve Crawshaw, director of policy and advocacy at Freedom from Torture, told The Briefing. “In the Mubarak regime the outcry surrounding torture helped bring down the government but such practices have continued. What is saddening is not just the brutality here but the lawlessness that goes with the continued use of torture.” It’s a lamentable step backwards for Egypt.

Business / Europe

Going, going, gone

What do an internet router and a Claude Monet painting have in common? They’re now both sources of income for French billionaire Patrick Drahi. This week the founder of multinational telecoms company Altice announced the purchase of UK auction house Sotheby’s for $3.7bn (€3.3bn). It’s an arrangement where both parties have something the other wants: Drahi will gain influence in the art world; the age-old auction house will be better equipped to keep pace with a fast modernising market. Updates in the pipeline reportedly include online auctions and the use of artificial intelligence to provide personalised recommendations for customers. Time will tell whether Drahi’s bid will make an impression.

Urbanism / Berlin

Developing story

Berlin’s long history of low-cost living looks set to continue with a proposal, approved yesterday, that will see rents frozen on 1.4 million properties for five years from 2020. The city’s strong employment market, allied to the lure of space, have seen housing costs double over the past decade. The Social Democratic party, a minority member of Germany’s coalition government, has pledged to champion rent control nationwide – but others are more cautious. Landlords would need to seek approval to raise rent during extensive renovations and the stringent regulations might deter developers from investing in the German capital. A balance between business and affordable living is healthy; Berlin is doing a better job of discussing it than London or New York.

Politics / Canada

Trouble for Trudeau

Canada’s general election is four months away but voter-preferences already seem to be hardening. Not around a particular candidate, per se, but regarding the kind of government that Canadians want to see representing them in Ottawa. In a recent study, 73 per cent of voters said that ethics will dictate who they cast their vote for; that doesn’t bode well for the government of prime minister Justin Trudeau, in light of the furore caused by the SNC-Lavalin political-interference scandal earlier this year. He can claim an economic uptick, a raft of marquee policy announcements and record-breaking monthly job-creation numbers posted in the months since the story broke. Alas, he may be about to find out that in politics, public perception can mean everything.

M24 / The Menu: Food Neighbourhoods

Port of Spain, Woodbrook

Monocle 24’s Rory Gooderick takes us to the capital of Trinidad and Tobago, home to an amazing mix of cultures – and cuisines.

Monocle Films / Sweden

The secret to building affordable homes

As part of our 'Secret to...' series we visit the architecture practice of Andreas Martin-Löf, which is reinventing residential housing in Stockholm.

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