Why We Need to Design Streets for Pedestrians, Not Cars
Lack of walking makes us fat and isolated. Walking is what our bodies are designed to do and needs to be a daily activity for our overall wellness. Streets need to be designed to promote walking more and driving less. The world can't take much more of our carbon emissions. And too much of our precious public space goes to parking lots and cars.
After World War II, a mass-exodus from the city to the suburbs occurred in America. There was an opportunity to spread out. Own a home with a green lawn. And drive your own car. These pursuits became associated with the American Dream. The sprawl that resulted left many Americans siloed. Distanced from each other. No longer connected to the wider community.
If we follow the logic that we are products of our environment, it stands to reason that social isolation fosters a need to further isolate. Our comfort zone leans towards staying at home watching TV rather than sitting on a cafe patio. We crave social interaction so we play World of Warcraft or other multi-player games. Deep at our core we know that we're social creatures who need to be socialized with a broad range of people to be happy. But our environment has made it difficult to run into new people.
Most city planners know all of this and agree that walkable cities make sense. The issue is that there aren't always enough statistics representing the pedestrian when tough design decisions need to be made. City planners are often pressured to defend designs that support walking. If city planners can't prove that walking is important to a wide enough consensus, the other side often wins. Many businesses still think more parking means more customers, even though the reverse is often more true.
The mindset for most people is that they need their cars to get around. And even though these same people agree that walkability is important, they fear it might mean giving up their cars entirely. For some this means giving up their security and freedom. So when it comes down to design decisions there's still a push to design streets with as many amenities as possible to support cars. Once again, pedestrians get pushed aside.
If we design streets for pedestrians first and cars second, it would be possible to start reversing our mindset. Cars cannot continue to dominate our streets because it's unsustainable and keeps us socially isolated. City planners know this but they need to hear from you to help them defend their position with urban developers. Tell city planners you want streets designed for pedestrians and not cars by signing this petition at change.org.