When I began writing with The Grid, I was moving from the New Mexico desert to the City by the Bay, San Francisco. Arriving in the midst of gentrification, I had the pleasure of experiencing the struggles of finding housing in a place where the word “affordable” meant $2,100 a month for a closet in the Tenderloin. I endured a painful initiation into the world of San Francisco bicycle infrastructure that a handful of chosen ones experience at least once while riding in the city. Although I cannot recall what happened after my face hit the trolley tracks, I can say that this experience has impacted a handful of my articles regarding pedestrian and bicycle safety. One of my first articles about the Vision Zero initiative in San Francisco set a catalyst for later posts about how the city was addressing pedestrian safety. Aside from these less graceful moments, I am grateful for the opportunity I was given with The Grid to explore such a unique city and others along the way.
A professor once told me, “If you’re doing the right research, you should come out with an infinite chain of paths. One source should provide a door to the next and so on. This chain of events should lead you to a picture which is much more vibrant and dynamic than you ever could have imagined. The picture you paint in your head will hardly ever manifest in the way you expected.” I found this to be the case with a large number of my articles. What started out as a generalized theme quickly turned into topics which revealed a greater issue plaguing the city.
While traveling to Egypt, I took the opportunity to write about the recent announcement of the construction of the new capital of Egypt. Publications on its unveiling came off as hopeful and inspired, as if it could become the next Dubai. But the reality was far from that. They are trying to build a utopia in what felt dystopian. Individuals living in neighboring “New Cairo” could not imagine populating the $45 billion city when current residents of Cairo could not afford to live there. With “New Cairo” failing to attract more than 100,000 residents in a 2 million residential development, it is hard to imagine the new capital becoming anything but a ghost town.
Within a year of writing, I have already begun to witness the ways in which the Bay Area is resolving the issues I reported on in my first moments with The Grid. One example is through the deconstruction of the Bay Bridge, which has been a heated topic in the Bay for some time in regards to sustainability. With over 300,000 tons of Bay Area history doomed to the landfill, artists, designers, and communities began to envision plans for the adaptive reuse of materials. As a result, the Bay Bridge Steel Program was started under supervision from the Oakland Museum of California (OMCA). Through this program, steel and materials will be salvaged from the bridge to be recycled into public art and historical projects throughout California. I was able to witness a unique experience of a city growing and evolving for the betterment of its community.
I have gained a wide perspective of the built environments of vastly different cities. Hopefully my writing and images have done the same for readers. Working in the cyber realm can sometimes leave you feeling isolated where your impact is comparable to yelling into the wind. But small moments of readers reaching out to start a dialogue and the supportive community I have connected with has made all the difference. I want to give a special thanks to the editors I have worked with along the way, my supportive community of readers, and Renee for this unique opportunity and journey. I am excited to watch The Grid grow and continue to connect communities worldwide.
Credits: Images by Lauren Golightly. Data linked to sources.