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Walkable Cities

What Paris Can Teach Other Cities About Removing Roads

Can removing a road make it easier to drive more freely elsewhere? A major study of 63 roads and squares closed to motor traffic in various European cities (mainly in Britain and Germany) suggests that it does. In many cases, cars disappeared altogether, rather than being displaced into parallel streets, lessening the dreaded congestion. Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris, made the same claim, but the court disagreed, holding that the research was inadequate. However, actual measures of traffic levels before and after the road closure along the Seine, announced the week the court handed down its decision, indicated a reduction in motor traffic in nearby areas.

Can Car-Dependent Suburbs Become Walkable Communities?

In recent decades the urban planning profession has been strongly influenced by the movement to create safe, attractive, walkable districts, Cleveland says. Traffic engineering departments, on the other hand, tend to prioritize the swift and unimpeded movement of vehicles. Both groups are involved in suburban retrofits, and sometimes the result is a project that spends much public money to encourage walkability, and just as much or more money widening car lanes on more roadways, thereby discouraging walkability. A paradigm like car-dependency tends to be self-reinforcing. If nearly all the residents in a district travel by car, then shopping centers have their doors opening to large parking areas, instead of opening directly to a sidewalk where the rare pedestrian might pass by.

A Dazzlingly Precious Gift From The Future

The Vauban, Freiburg, Germany -  During my talks, I often invite people to time travel in their imagination to a 2030 that’s not utopia, or dystopia, but rather is the result of our having done everything we could possibly have done in those intervening years. We do it because, as Walidah Imarisha puts it, “we can’t build what we can’t imagine”. Unless we cultivate longing for such a future, it will never happen. In spite of having done that exercise now over 100 times, the responses are pretty much always the same. “The birdsong is louder”. “There are far less cars”. “The air smells so much cleaner”. “The streets are full of kids playing”. “There is a strong sense of community”. It’s exciting then to be able to announce that this week I actually managed a spectacular feat of time travel to visit the future they dream of in that exercise, immersing myself in its magic and its deliciousness, with all my senses.

Cars Are Vanishing From Paris

Bright parasols, wooden sun loungers and expanses of golden sand suddenly appear every summer on what was once a traffic-clogged, 3.3 kilometer road along the banks of the River Seine in the heart of Paris. The so-called “Paris Plages” have been coming to the picturesque waterside location since 2016, after Mayor Anne Hidalgo, following two years of consultation, decided to take the controversial step of closing the road to motor vehicles. “This used to be such a stressful corner of the city,” says Françoise Genet, 38, sipping on a glass of lemonade as her two boys dig around in the sand. “It’s not quite the Côte d’Azur, but now I almost feel like I’m on vacation here.” Under Mayor Hidalgo, Paris has done as much as any city in the world to wage a war on cars amid a growing awareness of the damaging impact they have on cities.
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