Regardless of whether it is Wall Street, the sub-prime loans or state budgets, this last decade has shown the runaway tolls the nation has to bear when there we stray away from basics and over-indulge.
Hopefully, communities across the world will cope better with the global urban population growth that is slated to reach 5 billion by 2030, and which will make up 60% of the world’s total. Climate change, our fragile environment and our air quality are not such distant issues as they were a decade ago.
To meet transport needs, we know we cannot afford to continue to rely on cars and trucks at the expense of their many downsides, among which is the effect of their comparative high greenhouse emissions. Fortunately, there are blueprints already in place in Europe and in our own backyards to accommodate those needs while simultaneously, preserving and improving the quality of life for our urban masses.
The Danish “Principles for Transport in Urban Life”
Among the 10 Principles for Transport in Urban Life put forth by Danish visionary and urban design consultants, Jan Gehl and Walter Hook, are that transport has to be — powered by people i.e. walking, and bicycles; cost effective such as public transport; clean vehicles at “cruise control” speeds and be sustainable at the same time.
We see how these principles transform the streets of their capital, Copenhagen via this Streetfilms.org, into an enviable environment of calm, safety and civility despite the mish-mash of transport modes.
The American Approach: Complete Streets
Running parallel to many of the Danish principles are our Complete Streets policy which stress the livability of our streets, and, the need to design urban spaces that consider all potential users, regardless of age and ability. Fourteen states and almost 200 communities are on-board and have enacted the policy, to varying degrees.
Even the cradle of the American auto industry, Michigan, has enacted the policy recently. In the past, their heavier traffic may have justified the hefty need for roadways (with nine lanes in some cases), but its auto industry’s two decade decline has exposed over-capacities. Ones that need to be curbed and re-purposed to cater to more affordable, non-motorized and eco-friendly road uses.
The time is ripe to move away from old-school biases for new roads and highways to ones that reshape, rejuvenate and enrich our local economies. Rather than the splurges of the past decade which we can ill-afford, let 2011 be the beginning of new hope and transitions for our entire community by being a bit more Amsterdamized or Copenhagenized and a whole lot more “Complete”.
Presently, Michigan — with twenty communities that have signed up Complete Streets policies —- takes the lead over the other states.
Separately, this study shows how homes with above-average Walkability Scores can “are worth between $4,000 – $34,000 more than similar but less walkable homes”.