Saturday, July 31, 2010

Normal's Utility Boxes: Wrap 'Em Up!

An artist has transformed utility boxes in Culver City, California, into works of art. The boxes are wrapped with vinyl that has images (plants, benches, store fronts) that blend with the surroundings. What a great idea! This would not only spruce up unattractive structures but would probably also reduce graffiti. Someone needs to bring artists and public utility representatives together to make this happen locally.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Normal Transportation Center Web Cam

The web cam on the Normal website now shows site preparation beginning for the Multimodal Transportation Center. How exciting!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Normal's Relative Youth

Another ranking of cities: Normal is the 7th youngest city with a median age of 24.3 (Champaign is a couple of years older). Twenty-somethings -- they make me feel older, slower, a technological left-behind, and unfashionable. On the other hand, they make me feel wiser, more sober, and less distracted by social minutiae. I'll embrace the latter, dismiss the former, and accept that which cannot be changed.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Normal's Non-Top Ten Winning Ways has an article rating cities in terms of quality of life. Normal isn't in the top 10 but compared to the top-rated city, Eden Prairie, Minnesota, Normal does have lower house prices, lower property taxes (yes, lower!), and a higher low temperature in January. There is also a lower percentage of divorced people in Normal (obviously, because many college students are not divorced, yet). And even better, the sales tax, state income tax rate, and auto insurance premiums are all lower than those in Eden "We're #1" Prairie.

So go ahead and celebrate your victory, you Eden Prairians. It's a hollow victory, though, because Normal's got you beat in ways that really matter.

Normal FJR Fix

Hooray, they're fixing Ft. Jesse Road [note: elected officials standing in the road and they're not in a crosswalk -- isn't that asking for trouble?]!! It's a minor inconvenience at the moment but it will be so nice to drive east on FJR and not swerve back-and-forth, avoiding big-asphalt potholes. Now, if the railroad crossing gates work correctly and the ISU bus no longer sits for a long time blocking traffic at the Rec Center bus stop, I think driving that road might just be a pleasant experience.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Normal VOLs?

This is a quasi-humorous description of vigilant old ladies in Europe who spend a lot of time looking out their windows, watching for any illegal/anti-social/questionable activity. It sounds funny but it's actually quite helpful to have people at home (especially during the day), keeping watch over their neighborhood. That's why it's nice to live near retired folks: they're usually keeping an eye on things (if they aren't traveling or off playing golf). Maybe, instead of posting signs indicating that there's a neighborhood watch, we should have signs that there are Vigilant Retirees watching.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Normal Fellow Twin-Citian Urbana to get Bike Path

The Daily Illini reports that Urbana will begin work on a bike path. Bike Urbana created a Bicycle Master Plan, increased bike usage, and helped Urbana earn the League of American Bicyclists' "bike-friendly community" designation (the first one in downstate Illinois).

I lived in Urbana (and Champaign) for quite a few years and I remember that area as having so much bicycle traffic that this effort to increase bicycle usage surprises me. Of course, I spent most of my time around the U of I campus, so I wasn't aware of bicycle riding on the outskirts of the area, where the planned bike path will be located. I actually rode my sister's bike to run errands during my first year there (before I got a car). (I can't believe I rode a bike on Springfield Ave.! Seems risky to me now.) There were bike lanes along the streets throughout campus, which was helpful for bicyclists but gave pedestrians another lane to cross with caution. I always admired the MTD drivers who (usually) managed to get around campus without hitting people, bikes, scooters, cars, or squirrels.

Good luck to Urbana with their bike path! Hope it is as nice as the Constitution Trail.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Normal SCAF

This year, the Sugar Creek Arts Festival returned to its original location along the streets of Uptown Normal. Very hot, flat, and crowded (hey, someone should write a book with that title!). The parking deck was nearly full (hello, fourth level) and the area between the booths/tents was packed -- and this was right after it opened at 10:00. Maybe everyone was trying to get there early in the day before it got even hotter. There is so much to see and buy that I don't think people have to worry about missing out on anything if they attend later. Lots of jewelry, pottery, accessories, and unique art.

Why people bring their dog to the event is perplexing, although I'm sure it's very exciting for the dog -- lots of people and billions of odors to experience.

I'm quite proud of myself for resisting the desire to buy a lovely silver necklace with blue stones. In fact, I didn't buy anything (not even food or drink). But I had a nice time looking at everything and I'm sure the artists sold lots of items even without any purchases from me. The Festival has obviously become quite popular and that's good for everyone.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Normal Attractions?

I happened upon a website, which is supposed to give some basic information about Normal, IL. For example, there is a list of "Top Normal Attractions." The problem is that this list includes attractions that are not in Normal:
Peoria Players Theatre
Bertha Frank Performing Arts Center
Krannert CTR For Performing Arts
Assembly Hall
Avon Theater

Just thought that was rather misleading.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Normal Bicycle Highway (Byway?)

"Bicycle Highways" by Tom Vanderbilt is an article discussing ways to increase bicycle use in cities. Basically, there are three ways to do this: have bicycle paths along the sides of streets (set apart from vehicle traffic by painted lines), have bicycle boulevards (streets that give bicyclists priority over drivers -- with minimal vehicular traffic, slow speed limits, and turns or barricades that allow bicyclists to continue on their way but divert vehicles), or have bicycle highways (completely separate roadways for bicyclists). Lots of cities are trying to integrate these methods and are finding that the key is to get bicyclists to feel safe.

Normal already has the Constitution Trail, which would fit the category of a bicycle highway. It seems like that is the one method of increasing bicycling that would make riders feel the safest, so I think we've got a good start. The bicycle and pedestrian master plan addresses a lot of the bicycling (and pedestrian) issues for the local area but will probably have to be implemented little by little, given the complexity of implementation as well as the costs. I'm sure I'll be well past the age where it would be safe for riding a bicycle on any roadway by the time that plan becomes fully implemented!