A few tweaks towards a ‘smart city’ (city-brollies, and drinking fountains)

These two small, but (I believe) quite effective initiatives seem so obvious to me that I’d be surprised of somebody who can usually only organise an half decent biro-pen composition could come up with them as original ideas, but here goes all the same.

After finding myself both dehydrated yet getting drenched on a warm,piss-wet-through day in central Leeds (after all, how can one go places always prepared for such mixed weather?), I had to consume far more disposable bits of plastic than my conscience usually lets me get away with: a couple of cheap-plastic bottles of water and a cheap umbrella.

I know I need water when the sound of crying babies (whose mothers are seeking the dryness on the same shopping malls as me ) are like ‘wack-attack’ mallets hitting my anxiety-buttons. And getting drenched is always a best-avoided humiliation for someone with an hastily-bodged together self-esteem in an anxiously-hierarchical society, where those already trodden on the most like sodden and discarded bus tickets seem to be the ones drenched by the rain of city streets.

Beyond my own experiences, thirst and heavy rain clearly have a large negative affect within city spaces that are already lacking any sufficient communal areas adequate for such refuge and recuperation. Things that shouldn’t be as disruptive as they are, make a sufficient number of people (thus the general mood of the city) more stressed and angry.

I thought how beneficial it would be to all if that unnecessary stress was lessened, making peoples’ journeys within the city more pleasant, by having stop off/drop off points for weather-essentials such as umbrellas, drinking water, etc. Regarding umbrellas, despite being annoyed by their nickname, and a deep dislike of the individual concerned in the nickname, maybe a way of making this seem practical would be by calling them ‘Boris Brollies’ – as umbrellas, and other weather-essentials could have collection and drop off stations within a city like ‘Boris Bikes’ have in London. Obviously water bottles would have to be boiled before reuse (glass or steel probably being the best bottle material) – but would such a system of doing this really be so difficult, for the benefits of eradicating the city-wide tension caused by thirst, and the unwanted used water bottles littering the streets because the city-user didn’t have any choice but to buy one?

I don’t trust the assumption that people wouldn’t hand back the umbrellas, water bottles and other things, and would pocket them. If there were enough conveniently place drop off stations for the items (such as in public transport interchanges), people would most likely find it far easier to give them back after use than lug them around for the rest of the day.

Of course, all this sounds nonsensical under a cultural reality based around an assertion that everything should be commercially-driven within city spaces for prosperity. But the most privatised, commericialised city-spaces, in my opinion, usually tend to be the ones that deprive one of well-being, at least until the next purchase provides momentary relief from discomfort. Perhaps this is why European countries that, even if their levees are being broken by the tide neoliberal economics, are still largely social democratic, are more open to ways of making cities smarter, than here in the UK. Here, there are so many ways that our cities could be better environments for all, but the private and commercialised notion of space is so dominant that they remain ‘day-dreamer’ ideas.

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