Nowadays, sustainability and resilience of cities can be considered as the trending topic of urban planning, the discussion mainly focused on technological alternatives or products so as to find out the most suitable solution. On the other hand, some decision makers consider urban land use and mobility planning as the core solution, leaving these technological innovations as a very useful sort of complementary options which may be used at the right time for a specific action.
In this list of alternatives are included technological devices to improve mobility, new transportation options or futurist prototypes, car optimization or auto occupancy rate improvement, big data and the Internet of Things applied to the transportation branch, new sophisticated engine technologies to reduce emissions and optimization of fuel, among other options.
There is no doubt that all of them are such incredibly useful tools, but are these technological applications a core solution?
In essence, what really matters is a remarkable reduction in commutes, travelling distance, travel time, emissions and car use in rush hours. An appropriate land use policy and a proper integrated urban mobility with an established short, medium and long term action plan should be the core solution for this global peril.
Nowadays, cities have turned into a net of links, connecting different points and being dehumanized to embrace wildly the car and its conception of “freedom”. As a result, urban areas are a nest of congestion and pollution which is soaring beyond the limits. Here is where urban mobility planners need to rethink the city to provide a more balanced, fair and sustainable streets for their citizens.
Conceiving urban areas as a map and leaving aside the buildings, what remains is the public space, mainly streets, which is available to be used for the sake of citizens. This opportunity is a great responsibility which has to be taken very wisely.
Streets are an integral part of the transportation landscape. Every street is different from another – an important vehicular avenue is different than a local street in a calm neighborhood or a crowded shopping street. Why should streets be designed with the same parameters?
Moreover, the same applies to the different alternatives of mobility. Car drivers, bikers, pedestrians or public transport users have their own needs and features in terms of design, preferences or space demands.
An integrated urban road hierarchy
This is what an integrated urban road hierarchy consists: distribute the planned available street space for mobility between the different means of transport equitably taking into account street physical limits and the variety of commuter’s needs, always focusing on their comfort, road safety and net connectivity and prioritizing the most sustainable and humane means.
Applying this idea in urban mobility planning, the city is organized as a combination of a complete hierarchized network for each mode of transport, having defined the primary, secondary and local streets for that specific mean, and not only planning the city for cars.
These networks need to co-exist and not compete. In fact, if urban mobility plans are correctly worked out, the final output should free enough space in order to ease coherently the use of sustainable means of transportation, maintaining the car functionality as planned.
The result is a more balanced, livable and resilient city where the sustainable habits of mobility are encouraged by design, thus providing a better quality of life, urban economy, diversity and prosperity for all.
What are the important factors urban planners should consider to make cities more livable? Share your ideas in our comment section.
Please note that this article expresses the opinions of the author and does not reflect the views of Move Forward.