European Cities Choose Walkability Over Traffic Flow

By Nicholas Kevlahan
Published June 28, 2011

The New York Times recently ran an interesting article on the shift in thinking about traffic in Europe.

And some choice quotes:

As he stood watching a few cars inch through a mass of bicycles and pedestrians, [Zurich's] chief traffic planner, Andy Fellmann, smiled. "Driving is a stop-and-go experience," he said. "That's what we like! Our goal is to reconquer public space for pedestrians, not to make it easy for drivers."

Imagine replacing "Andy Fellmann" with "Hart Solomon".

Europe was previously "on the same trajectory as the United States, with more people wanting to own more cars." But in the past decade, there had been "a conscious shift in thinking, and firm policy," he said. And it is having an effect.

It is possible to have different priorities. Europe has actually made a recent and massive change in how they view traffic and streets.

Store owners in Zurich had worried that the closings would mean a drop in business, but that fear has proved unfounded, Mr. Fellmann said, because pedestrian traffic increased 30 to 40 percent where cars were banned.


"We would never synchronize green lights for cars with our philosophy," said Pio Marzolini, a city official. "When I'm in other cities, I feel like I'm always waiting to cross a street. I can't get used to the idea that I am worth less than a car."

Nicholas Kevlahan was born and raised in Vancouver, and then spent eight years in England and France before returning to Canada in 1998. He has been a Hamiltonian since then, and is a strong believer in the potential of this city. Although he spends most of his time as a mathematician, he is also a passionate amateur urbanist and a fan of good design. You can often spot him strolling the streets of the downtown, shopping at the Market. Nicholas is the spokesperson for Hamilton Light Rail.

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By Mr. Meister (anonymous) | Posted June 30, 2011 at 10:41:50

Seems idyllic in a city with a population of almost 400,000 and less than 100 km2. Transit is so cheap if it does not have to go far and the density provides the customer base. For a city like Hamilton it seems like a nightmare.

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