I heard mentioned in passing recently that many American cities were designed for cars, not people. The comment seems unfortunately and oddly true. I define a city as a place where lots of people work, play, live, and gather. Because people are at the forefront of my definition of “city,” I am left questioning why the coupling of cars and people became so concrete. Ultimately, I want to explore how to detach that outdated and inefficient bond of people to personal cars in my city, Seattle.
Brent Toderian, a former chief city planner for Vancouver, B.C., has been exploring this area. He highlights the health opportunity in making cities easier for people to get around without cars, building body movement into our daily transportation routines. One example he gives of healthy urban transportation is the escalator and gondola systems in Medellin, Columbia. I remember when I lived in Belgium, how mass transit and walking were part of everyday life. I had no need for a car then, which was good for my health and added to my sense of community.
In Seattle, our last mayor was hot to make our city more bicycle friendly, much to the dismay of many. As a driver, I do see a struggle, although reconcilable, between car drivers and bicyclists. Bikes can be difficult to see, and bicyclist’s navigating decisions can be unpredictable as they swap between car and pedestrian rules at their own convenience. On the other hand, some car drivers act aggressively toward bike riders. I feel that traffic flows best when everyone is responsible for watching out for themselves by being aware of those around them, and being as polite as possible.
Seattle also has an adequate bus system. They keep raising rates, which makes it expensive for the working class, and they keep reducing services and stops, but it connects most sections of our city. Walking is more of an option in densely populated intercity areas. However, our city’s affordable housing seems to be disappearing, so walking commutes are becoming more of a luxury.
What used to be a twenty-minute commute from my home in North Seattle to downtown, can now take me up to an hour and half. If you ignore the waste of time, which as you know is my most precious commodity, and you just take a look at the Earth’s resources, the rise in travel time is unacceptable. So how do we change this and make our Emerald City more sustainable and livable? In my vision, we choose three or four innovative transportation methods (bikes, light rail, gondolas, and walking) and interlink them while we wait for shareable community cars that drive themselves.
What initiative transportations do you think we can link together to make our cities more livable? Can you help limit your gas usage and emission footprint? How can you help shift your the transportation around you?
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