- a collection of notes and reflections on urban living from the perspective of a family of five in Tokyo. My epiphany was many years ago, but being hit by a motorbike and seeing my life flash before my eyes caused a sudden change that slowly made me reflect on whether American style auto-centric urban transportation of the Roosevelt era really is a capital G "Good Idea" for civilized modern cities in the 21st Century. This blog explores the good and the bad in urban planning and design, here and elsewhere. The goal is simple - not "death to all cars," just more walkable communities, quiet tree-lined streets, good public transport, traffic calming, Velib style bicycle sharing and a bit of common sense. The bolg is mostly theraputic, so I don't go wanting to throttle every dangerous driver I come across, but partly also out of a real desire to see positive change. This blog explores how it can be done, the people who do it, and how, in many small ways, this very old idea may at last have found its zeitgeist. Comments and suggestions welcome.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Which would YOU prefer

So which one is it going to be? Streets for people, or streets for cars? I love stories like this. Why do the newspapers not report stories like this. Is it because auto advertising pays their bills?

Bitter twisted cynicism aside, we really are a conservative lot. We hate to veer from accepted street lore - the tried and true - or so we like to convince ourselves. When it comes to roads, we instinctively resist anything that would restrict, slow or divert auto traffic. It goes against the flow - 70 years or so of tradition, so we resist out of habit. New ideas sound nice on paper, but we resist anyhow. Surely if they really worked, they would have been done before, right? Block off a road to auto traffic? Surely it would increase congestion elsewhere. It would reduce visitors. No doubt it would send local business under. Well, now a comprehensive city study commissioned by the San Francisco Mayor, and conducted by the County transport authority, no less, seems to have shown that in the case of the world-famous Golden Gate Park at least, blocking roads to auto traffic has (1) more than doubled visitors' usage of the Park, (2) increased attendance at local businesses and museums, and (3) caused no significant negative impacts on parking or traffic whatsoever in the surrounding neighborhoods.

It can't get much more convincing than that ! Wow. What a mandate for change that is. Yes, it has been done, and yes, it does work.

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