Cities for people: in need of a new narrative.




Have you ever had that awful sinking feeling when being told that a street is too narrow to accommodate cycling but not too narrow to park store cars? At present, this problem seems insurmountable. But the day will come when we will be looking back and laughing at the such ludicrousness. (Attitudes to tobacco comes to mind). In the meanwhile, we can help speed up the arrival of that day. We can start a new conversation about how that public space needs to be divvied up more equitably and economically.

Just take a look overseas and you will see that the world is changing. Cities used to be ranked on their car parks and motorways. Now they are being measured by their livability. It’s no coincidence that the cities around the World that are at the top of the livability stakes are the cities that are full of bicycles; people using bicycles to get about their business. In those cities, ‘moving people’ now takes precedence over ‘moving cars’.

A new narrative is begging to be told. A narrative about creating ‘cities for people’. Of course, that’s a very radical departure from the ‘cities for cars’ paradigm that we currently live in. It won’t be easy to make the transition. Cars are in our DNA. (Well, since the post-war oil boom, that is). But the health and wealth of our communities depends on making some serious and necessary changes.

Clearly, there are conflicting views around the role of the car in our cities. But we should not shy away from this conflict. We need to deal with it positively and constructively. It’s a pro-people approach, rather than anti-car. If we are to make any significant progress towards achieving the vision of providing ‘better cities for all’, we can not ignore the present unsustainable reality. The quality of the conversation needs to be raised and expanded upon. As tough as that may be.

‘Cycling’ is sport and recreation. ‘Riding a bicycle’ is everyday activity. No sweat. As easy as walking, but faster.

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