Saturday, July 12, 2014

Still Life With Robin: If You Build It, We Will Use It

Photo by Den Bosch (Netherlands)
via Wikimedia Commons
by Peggy Robin

One of the great things about travel is seeing innovations other people have that we don’t…but could have if the idea could find backers and builders to make it happen here. Here are three things I’d like to see built in Washington DC – both practical and whimsical:

A bicycle-lift to help riders deal with  steep hills:
Greater Greater Washington has made the case for importing this technology from Norway and putting it to use on steep slope of 15th Street, a popular route for bicycle commuters that could become even more popular if the uphill climb had an automated assist:

While it would be useful for bikers to have help going up, this next idea makes the downhill side more fun – for pandas, that is:  We could start lobbying right now to have the National Zoo build this for Bao Bao. Why should our American panda grow up with fewer amenities than her cousins in China?

On the related topic of improvements to the Zoo, how about a way to make it easier for tourists who arrive by Metro to find their way to the Zoo entrance? It’s about a half mile from either the Woodley Park/Zoo Metro exit or the Cleveland Park Metro exit, and it’s not very clear when you exit the station, which way you should go. For tourists carrying backpacks or pushing strollers, it makes more sense to take the Metro to Cleveland Park and make the half-mile walk along a level sidewalk, but on the way back to the Metro, take the downhill route a half mile to Woodley Park. Right now there’s no source of transit information to convey these walking instructions to Zoogoers. The problem is similar to one that was solved in Japan by the creators of an “Augmented Reality” app called Penguin Navi, which shows the route to the Sunshine Aquarium in downtown Tokyo. Tourists on their way to the aquarium can turn on the app on their smartphone as they exit the subway, and simply follow the walking penguins on their screen as they lead the way:

Of course, anyone who created a National Zoo pedestrian app would not want to use penguins. Perhaps our Augmented Reality leader should be Rusty the Red Panda, who has already demonstrated his ability in real life to walk out of the Zoo and come back again:

I’m sure there are many more enhancements, big as a bicycle lift or small as a virtual reality guide on a phone, that could be imported from overseas to improve life in the nation’s capital. If you’ve seen any good ones in your travels, by all means, let me know….


Still Life With Robin is published on the Cleveland Park Listserv and on All Life Is Local on Saturdays.

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