People reclaiming the streets and other good news

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There’s a lot of bad news in the world right now, so I’ve been trying to think instead for a day or two about the news in the past year that’s been most inspiring and hopeful. The best of it has involved people around the world stepping up and making public spaces their own, joyously and in the face of major difficulties. If I had to sum up the theme of this blog in one sentence, that would be it.

Here’s a selection. If I missed anything particularly heartening, please share in the comments!

Update: How could I have forgotten one of the most inspiring stories of the year? In Bolivia, construction of a highway through the Amazon was stopped after thousands of indigenous people marched in protest against it, gaining popular support and embarrassing the country’s president.

– In Tripoli, Lebanon a youth organization organized a citywide Carfree Day celebration last month — the first ever in the middle east, they say — featuring thousands of participants, many kilometers of street closures, the country’s President, whirling dervishes, and contraptions that resemble giant pennyfarthing trikes.

– Weekly Carfree Day celebrations in Jakarta! This video still makes me happy.

– A Carfree Day celebration in Kampala, Uganda featured a team of young cyclists in stripey outfits and this hopeful quotation:

Despite the many challenges, Amanda Ngabirano does not let her head down. “We can leapfrog development in urban planning by learning from the West. If you look at telephones, Africa skipped the steady lines and immediately went to wireless cell phones. We can do the same with sustainable transport. Right now in Uganda, only 2% of Ugandans own a car. If we are really smart, we can take our development to the next level and create more incentives for people to start using bikes.”

– When Occupy first kicked off this fall, I wrote about the role — and potential — of bikes in the movement. That potential has been more than realized in the Bike Swarm, which has come into its own as a spirited, effective, and fun organizing tool.

– Critical Mass gets a bad rap in some parts of the world. But in Guadalajara, Mexico it’s a joyful family celebration, with thousands of participants and seemingly the blessing of everyone. I’ll leave you with this smile-inducing video.