Hello, Tom. Your blog entry touches interesting and certainly one of the most important topics in urban design. Yes, unfortunately, our cities are built for and around cars. Human scale was completely neglected in the urban design in the 20th century. And now we have what we have-physical and social fragmentation of cities, isolation and separation of uses.
However, the question is what can be done now to reverse this process and resolve the issues we created? We still rely on cars, as our built environment is designed for cars and not for walking. As you say in your post, to break the vicious cycle of car dependency, we should start changing our cities to adapt them to human scale and needs again.
One of the ways to reduce car dependency is cycling. It is not only an environmentally friendly way of travelling, but also requires less space. I believe it is not even the cars causing all the issues themselves, but the space required to accommodate them in urban setting-motorways that segregate the cities and create void spaces in urban fabric. In other words, cycling makes congestion more manageable while increasing efficiency.
While doing research on this topic, I came across an interesting report written by PeopleForBikes and Alliance for Biking & Walking which states that protected city bike lanes can actually encourage long-term economic growth and strengthen local businesses. The report, that focuses on protected bike lanes around US, outlines that:
- Cycling proved to be an efficient way of getting more people around in less space. This is particularly important in inner cities where the density of living is higher
- Cycling promotes healthier life style as obesity is another side effect of the car dependent built environment
- It has been proven that cycling supports retail better than car can do-cyclists tend to stop by shops more often and require less space than a car does
U.S. demonstrates a good example how to apply the successful elements from refined biking cultures of other countries such as Denmark with 390 km of designated biking lanes.
However, delays in cycling promotion and development is mainly associated with presumption that only cyclists would benefit from protected bike lanes. It is important to raise awareness of benefits that cycling will bring to the city as a whole.
Integrated public transport is another tool that would help to reduce reliance on personal vehicles. Cities like London have launched a charge for private cars entering the city centre as well as developing an integrated transport system, TFL (Transport For London).All the revenues made by the congestion charge scheme would be spent on London’s transport facilities. According to Mayor Livingstone
Congestion charging has meant that the number of cars entering the central area has been cut by some 70,000 vehicles a day. Put simply it has prevented London from grinding to a halt … The amount of traffic entering central London during charging hours has been cut by around 20 per cent … It has contributed to the growth of cycling, with more people than ever before travelling by bike.
Therefore, I would add, the battle against the car can only be won if addressed on different levels, from integrated transport links to protected bike lanes