Sanity in Urban Design

Via Mobjectivist, here’s another example for how our monomanical love of automobiles is helping us make very bad choices for the future of our cities, especially for an era where driving is for the privileged few and not the masses. I’m not surprised at all that such words of sanity don’t come from a US politician:


And who else but David Byrne should provide us the latest thinking in bicycle transportation. Mr. Byrne went to a talk by the former mayor of Bogota, Columbia:

One common measure of the cleanliness of a mountain stream is to look for trout. If you find the trout, the habitat is healthy. It’s the same way with children in a city. Children are a kind of indicator species. If we can build a successful city for children, we will have a successful city for all people.When I was elected mayor of Bogotá and got to city hall, I was handed a transportation study that said the most important thing the city could do was to build an elevated highway at a cost of $600 million. Instead, we installed a bus system that carries 700,000 people a day at a cost of $300 million. We created hundreds of pedestrian-only streets, parks, plazas, and bike paths, planted trees, and got rid of cluttering commercial signs. We constructed the longest pedestrian-only street in the world. [more than 20km!] It may seem crazy, because this street goes through some of the poorest neighborhoods in Bogotá, and many of the surrounding streets aren’t even paved. But we chose not to improve the streets for the sake of cars, but instead to have wonderful spaces for pedestrians. All this pedestrian infrastructure shows respect for human dignity. We’re telling people, “You are important — not because you’re rich or because you have a Ph.D., but because you are human.” If people are treated as special, as sacred even, they behave that way. This creates a different kind of society….

“If a bike lane that isn’t safe for an 8 year old child it isn’t a bike lane.”

“Traffic jams are not always bad. The priority is not always to relieve them. They will force people to use public transportation.”

“Building more highways never relieves congestion.” (This was not his insight, but he reminded us how true it is.)

“Transportation is not an end — it is a means to having a better life, a more enjoyable life — the real goal is not to improve transportation but to improve the quality of life.”

“A place without sidewalks privileges the automobile, and therefore the richer people in cars have more rights; this is undemocratic.”


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