Lars Christiansen discusses Friendly Streets Initiative

Lars ChristiansenAssociate Professor Lars Christiansen teaches courses in Augsburg’s Department of Sociology and Urban Studies Program. Christiansen puts his scholarship into practice as director of the Friendly Streets Initiative, a St. Paul-based organization that facilitates community organizing through creative public engagement events. The group aims to help communities envision positive change to public spaces, collect and analyze data, and assist neighbors in navigating city planning processes.

Christiansen described the successes of the Friendly Streets Initiative to author Jay Walljasper for a chapter of the new book, “America’s Walking Renaissance: How cities, suburbs, and towns are getting back on their feet.” Walljasper serves as a senior fellow in Augsburg’s Sabo Center for Democracy and Citizenship, and his writing explores how new ideas in urban planning, tourism, community development, sustainability, politics and culture can improve citizens’ lives.

An excerpt from “America’s Walking Renaissance” was published by MinnPost and included a photo of Darius Gray ’15, a community organizer with FSI.

Read, “Friendly Streets: Bottom-up St. Paul project changes the way people look at their city” on the MinnPost site.

 

Lars Christiansen adds expert opinion to MinnPost article on crosswalk laws

MinnPost recently published an article covering efforts by the City of St. Paul to more strictly enforce crosswalk laws and change a driving culture that places drivers and vehicles ahead of pedestrians. State crosswalk laws dictate that drivers should stop for pedestrians at every crosswalk, marked or unmarked, but drivers in the city rarely comply. This has led to fatalities and, more recently, sting operations designed to ticket drivers who fail to stop for pedestrians.

Lars Christiansen, associate professor of sociology and urban studies at Augsburg College, feels that the problem is larger, and less easily addressed, than simply ticketing individuals. “This isn’t about an individual flouting the law, it’s a very real feeling of pressure from motorists,” he said. “One feels the heat of the other cars around you as you’re moving, so to do something unusual [like stopping for a pedestrian] feels dangerous.”

Read St. Paul launches effort to change the city’s driving culture — by enforcing crosswalk laws on the MinnPost site.

MinnPost interviews Lars Christiansen on city planning

MinnPostMinnPost recently included an interview with Lars Christiansen, associate professor of sociology at Augsburg College, in an article examining the importance of civic engagement in city planning. The article cites ongoing controversies such as the proposed soccer stadium in St. Paul as indicative of a problematic lack of both transparency and residential participation in public processes. Earlier this year, Christiansen published an article in the Journal of Education Planning and Research detailing his study of the St. Paul Friendly Streets Initiative and its public process for a bike lane project.

Moving beyond public processes that merely pay lip service to community inclusion takes time, according to Christiansen. The MinnPost article quotes him as saying, “The community organizing approach to public engagement [that I prefer] takes a lot longer. Like any other community organizing, it involves trust building, relationship building, and lengthy listening. It’s really aiming for co-creation.”

In the article, Christiansen stresses that one important aspect of processes that successfully engage the public in city planning projects is timing. The earlier that planners can involve the public and establish communication with them about a project, the more likely it is that their involvement and communication will see a project through to completion. “The holy grail is the notion of inclusion. How do you do it for the whole duration of the project?” Christiansen says in the article.

Read: While we’re talking parking meters and a stadium, what is ‘public process’ anyway? on the MinnPost site.

The Line highlights Lars Christiansen and Nancy Fischer

Augsburg College faculty members Lars Christiansen and Nancy Fischer, known for their avid bicycling, recently were featured in The Line, a Twin Cities-based online journal.

In the article, Christiansen describes how he and Fischer have never been happier living “car-ownership-free” after selling their car two years ago and relying on their bicycles and, if necessary, the metro transit system.

Christiansen also revealed his tips for healthy living as well as his reasoning for choosing a car-free lifestyle, noting that the sense of community gained in such a lifestyle could easily be reason enough.

“…when you ride a bus, train or bike, you’re in public,” he said. “You encounter a greater diversity of people with whom you develop camaraderie.”

To learn more about living car-free, read “How being ‘car ownership free’ led to healthy living, community organizing and embracing transit.”

Torstenson Lecture in Sociology features Garry Hesser

Garry Hesser
Augsburg professor Garry Hesser

Each year, Augsburg College honors the legacy of an individual who helped shape the College’s mission by hosting the Torstenson Lecture in Sociology, and—for the first time—the 2013 presentation will highlight the important work of a current Augsburg faculty member.

The Torstenson Lecture is an opportunity for a sociologist from the Twin Cities area to share with the Augsburg community the contemporary scholarship, research, and thinking on a sociological topic.

This year’s speaker, Garry Hesser, is the first Augsburg professor selected to be the Torstenson lecturer, and Hesser will present “Place Matters…So?” at 5 p.m., April 2 in Hoversten Chapel, Foss Center. Continue reading “Torstenson Lecture in Sociology features Garry Hesser”

Nice Ride Minnesota comes to Augsburg

nicerideIf you’ve been out and about in Minneapolis recently, you might have noticed a few funky neon green and blue bikes zipping around the lakes or downtown. That’s because Nice Ride Minnesota, a bicycle rental program that will allow subscribers to rent a bicycle for short periods from self-service kiosks, kicked off its first phase last week.

Sociology professor Lars Christiansen, who is a member of the Nice Ride board of directors, helped initiate the Nice Ride program at the opening event held Thursday, June 10 in downtown Minneapolis. Our own Auggie Eagle [shown giving a high five to Christensen] was also present at the opening to try out the bikes and to support riders who coasted down Nicollet Mall at the lunch hour. Continue reading “Nice Ride Minnesota comes to Augsburg”

iTerm gets attention

Tayo Johnson, a student in the Integrated Term, "Fate of the Earth 101," with other Augsburg students at the State Capitol, during the 350 Day of Action.
Tayo Johnson, a student in the Integrated Term, “Fate of the Earth 101,” with other Augsburg students at the State Capitol, during the 350 Day of Action.

What happens when you combine 50 first-year students, five professors, a gigantic problem, and no traditional grades? In the case of Augsburg’s Integrated Term, you get a pretty interesting story.

Here’s a quick primer on the iTerm.

For the students in the iTerm and the five faculty members teaching it—Phil Adamo, Lars Christiansen, Robert Cowgill, Lori Brandt Hale and Colin Irvine—this is their entire load of courses for the semester. The focus of the iTerm is on the Fate of the Earth: Food, Fuel and Consumption. Continue reading “iTerm gets attention”

Auggies traverse the concrete jungle

ecotripIn summer 2008, Professors Lars Christiansen and Nancy Fischer led students to Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, British Columbia to explore sustainability in an urban context. The professors and students from the “Sustainable Cities in North America” course, will share insights gained in these cities and our own Twin Cities on Thursday, Oct. 16 from 3:30-4:30 p.m. in Lindell 301. The event will be of particular interest to those concerned about environmental issues, cities, business practices, comparative government, and the culture of the Pacific Northwest. Continue reading “Auggies traverse the concrete jungle”

Auggies traverse the concrete jungle

ecotripHow can a major metropolitan area — with all its concrete, glass, and steel — be green? How can it be eco-friendly and implement measures that will ensure its healthy future? That is precisely what students in the Sustainable Cities summer course are attempting to discover. Sociology professors Nancy Fischer and Lars Christiansen are leading a group of students through Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, British Columbia to examine different facets of sustainability in an urban context. The course is a faculty-led seminar through Augsburg Abroad. Continue reading “Auggies traverse the concrete jungle”