Wednesday 18 December 2013

Transport: 10 steps to a better city

Better transport

Potentially the single biggest challenge that faces many cities lies in the domain of transport. But this also provides one of the largest opportunities for cities, in terms of reshaping a city and how citizens interact with it. Beijing’s recent 9-day, 100km long traffic jam is a reminder of how important this is to get right, to avoid a car-based future of gridlock. But an excellent and highly visual report from Our Cities Ourselves, in collaboration with several partners, gives city leaders a range of refreshing principles to apply–along with case studies of cities that have implemented these. The goals aren’t only to get rid of cars, but is a more nuanced set of views that aim to improve the quality of life in cities.

Here’s the 10 points, each of which are given more detail and concrete examples within the report (PDF download here):

1. Walk the walk: Create great pedestrian environments.
2. Powered by people: Create a great environment for bicycles and other non-motorized vehicles.
3. Get on the bus: Provide great, cost-effective public transport.
4. Cruise control: Provide access for clean passenger vehicles at safe speeds and in significantly reduced numbers.
5. Deliver the goods: Service the city in the cleanest and safest manner.
6. Mix it up: Mix people and activities, buildings and spaces.
7. Fill it in: Build dense, people and transit oriented urban districts that are desirable.
8. Get real: Preserve and enhance the local, natural, cultural, social and historical assets.
9. Connect the blocks: Make walking trips more direct, interesting and productive with small-size, permeable buildings and blocks.
10. Make it last: Build for the long term. Sustainable cities bridge generations. They are memorable, malleable, built from quality materials, and well maintained.

Case studies within the report are sourced from a range of cities, including the already well known (Copenhagen’s excellent cycling infrastructure, Curitiba’s bus rapid transit system), the high profile (London’s South Bank redevelopment, New York’s Broadway pedestrianisation), the  recent (Johannesburg’s BRT system), and, most impressively, an array of projects from relatively poor cities (Guangzhou, Mexico City, Ahmedabad, Rio de Janeiro, Beijing, Istanbul). After all, as this site passionately believes, good ideas should be freely exchanged.

The good news about some of these principles is that they aren’t necessarily very costly. Take Portland, Oregon, which is already well ahead of most US cities in terms of its promotion of cycling, but which has done so at a relatively low cost. As this post highlights, the city built its entire 300-mile network of bike ways for the cost of a single mile of urban freeway.

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