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The Cities This Week: Edition 24




People standing on balconies look at participants as they run in front of Alcurrucen’s bulls during the first bull run of the San Fermin Festival, on July 7, 2013, in Pamplona, northern Spain. Pedro Armestre/AFP/Getty Images

People standing on balconies look at participants as they run in front of Alcurrucen’s bulls during the first bull run of the San Fermin Festival, on July 7, 2013, in Pamplona, northern Spain. Pedro Armestre/AFP/Getty Images

 

Chengdu

The largest building in the world has opened in China- complete with its own cinemas, shops, beach resort and replica Mediterranean village. Beneath smoggy clouds in the Chinese mega-city of Chengdu, waves lap against sandy shores and a salty breeze blows across the beach. 6,000 holidaymakers look out on a glowing sunset, dining on platters of “the rarest oceanic fish species”, while a stage rises from the water, ready for the evening’s multimedia music spectacular. China’s fourth largest city may be 620 miles from the coast, but that hasn’t stopped it having its own seaside – newly opened inside the biggest building in the world.

Paris

France’s Bastille Day celebrations took place this weekend as investigations continue into the country’s worst rail disaster for 25 years. Six people were killed when a train derailed at Bretigny-sur-Orge, south of Paris, at 17:14 (15:14 GMT) on Friday. The French train operator SNCF says the crash may have been caused by a fault on the tracks. The French president is expected to call for solidarity in a traditional Bastille Day broadcast on Sunday. Francois Hollande will give a series of television interviews as workers continue to inspect the wreckage. A large crane arrived at the site on Saturday evening to lift away the remains of carriages, and to find out whether there are still bodies lying beneath. French media are reporting that it could still take a number of days to clear the derailed cars.

New York City

On Tuesday morning, the NYPD flooded the New York subway system with an odorless, invisible gas. The simulated terror attack is part of a three-day test that will generate a map of how air flows through the subways, helping emergency responders if a real airborne toxic event ever occurs. The NYPD is working with Brookhaven National Laboratory, a Long Island-based lab, which will handle the actual dispersion and tracking of the gas. Funded by a $3.4 million Department of Homeland Security grant, the project will release small amounts of Perfluorocarbon tracers—an odorless, invisible, and non-toxic gas—throughout roughly 200 subway stations.

Istanbul

Turkish police fired water cannon and tear gas on Saturday to disperse hundreds of protesters who gathered to march to Gezi Park, which has been at the heart of fierce unrest against Prime Minister Erdogan’s rule. Protesters scattered, running into sidestreets where police pursued them, before starting to regroup on Istiklal Street, metres from the main Taksim Square. The demonstrators also clashed with shopkeepers disgruntled by weeks of bad business due to weeks of demonstrations. What had started as a small protest against the planned redevelopment of Istanbul’s Gezi Park triggered a nationwide wave of protest last month against Erdogan, accused by his critics of becoming increasingly authoritarian. Five people died and thousands were injured in the police crackdown on the protests across Turkey, which posed the biggest challenge to Erdogan’s decade-old rule.

London

The Mayor’s (RTF) Roads Task Force has outlined its vision for the future of transport in London, emphasising the importance of upgrades to roads and public space. In a report published this week (July 10th), the body said improvement work is essential to ensure the capital is able to cope with the major population growth that is expected to take place in the city in the coming years. According to the RTF, one of the biggest challenges is finding innovative solutions that enhance travel in London while at the same time safeguard its public spaces – a factor that it says other world cities are increasingly focusing on.

Pamplona

A 23-year-old Australian woman was gored in the chest on the final day of Spain’s San Fermin bull-running festival, where bulls chase people down the cobbled streets of Pamplona. The woman was taken to hospital for surgery and was in a serious condition, health officials said. Four more people injured in Sunday’s run were taken to hospital but it was too soon to say how serious their injuries were, officials told reporters. The Australian was struck by a massive Miura bull as she clung to wooden barriers yards outside the bull ring entrance. Other runners got tossed by the bulls or fell as they ran. Miuras are renowned as Spain’s largest and fastest fighting bulls, and Sunday’s run was quick, taking two minutes, 16 seconds to cover 850m from stables just outside Pamplona’s medieval stone wall to the central bullring.

Prague

Prague transportation officials have suggested a novel way to help combat big city loneliness: introducing singles cars on the Prague metro. Mooted for later this year, the idea is to set aside one car per train (probably the last one) for single people for a fixed period each week (though apparently you wouldn’t have to be single to get on). According to Prague transit spokesman Filip Drápal, the plan is designed to help time-poor singles lacking opportunities to meet others. He commented in Czech weekly Týden that, “People today have no place to meet … Here they have the opportunity.”

Washington D.C.

Harriet Tregoning, the director of D.C.’s Office of Planning, just made some big news as far as the city’s developers, smart-growth advocates, and car owners are concerned. The long-overdue update to D.C.’s 55-year-old zoning code, which the office is currently working on, will preserve mandatory parking minimums in transit zones for new residential and commercial developments. Tregoning made the announcement during a segment on WAMU’s The Politics Hour. While D.C. has quite a large car-free population—38.5 percent of households, according to the U.S. Census Bureau—car owners have worried that the end of parking minimums at new developments would tighten the availability of on-street parking.

Lagos

A potable water scheme has given Lagos residents new hope for access to water. Owing to water shortages and the Lagos population having to resort to unorthodox means to access water, the state government has begun to work on a plan to provide residents of the megacity with water. The recently-initiated process will deliver over 900 million litres of potable water to the homes of residents. This Day reports: “According to residents who spoke on the issue, nearly every household in the state either digs well or sinks boreholes within their premises despite the grave consequences of such measures on the environment and an ominous trend the state’s Commissioner for the Environment, Mr. Tunji Bello acknowledged. He disclosed that the challenge of providing potable water has led the governor, Babatunde Fashola, to set up a technical committee to nip the problem in the bud.

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Melissa Meyer

Future Cape Town London-based correspondent

Urbanist-in-training from Cape Town, currently working in London. MSc City Design & Social Science.

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