Peak oil doomers I knew said big business would never let cities create more bike lanes, Bus Rapid Transits (BRT’s) or retrofit city centres around moving pedestrians, not traffic. Apparently (according to the doomer) us dumb ‘sheeple’ (sheep people, following the corporate consumerist lead) would sit back and let corporations tell us to drive our cities and ourselves off the peak oil energy cliff into oblivion. But, surprise surprise, New Yorkers painted their roads and added a little temporary street furniture to create large pedestrian islands, just for 6 months. They wanted to trial it, and gather some data. They found traffic flow actually increased a little. But the dramatic changes were for local business! Local business increased 150% in some cases. Not only this, but pedestrian and cyclist safety increased dramatically as more and more people took to cycling into town, and hanging out on the new street furniture when they got there. People felt safer and had a better time. Giving up *as much* car use doesn’t have to be a chore. Just paint over any spare road surfaces, add street furniture, make sure the local businesses are briefed on increase customer flow, and stand back and watch! People will go into the city to have fun, buy coffee, and maybe a few other items. In other words, these small changes were good for business, good for people, good for health, and even slightly better for traffic. The results of this test? New York is making those changes permanent, and the idea is spreading across America as other cities copy their temporary street furniture to see if the same data appears in their city! This TED talk outlines the 2007 to 2013 developments in Times Square and other American New Urban experiments. These are baby steps compared to some of the city transport and design issues that demographers and city design experts see coming, but isn’t it good to see these baby steps growing larger and more confident?
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