February 21, 2020

Has Barcelona Figured Out the "Carless City?"

“Barcelona’s ambitious urban plan is made possible by the city’s numerous advantages. Much of it was built before the era of automobiles. It is already dense and walkable. It boasts excellent public transit and improving bicycle infrastructure. And there is political consensus around the need to reduce the prevalence of private vehicles.

Most US cities do not share those advantages, certainly not all of them at once. Most were built after the advent of cars and are structured around interstates and freeways. Most are not dense, but feature instead small pockets of density surrounded by sprawling suburbs. Most do not have short, regular blocks, orthogonal streets, and mixed-use zoning. And most don’t have centuries’ worth of civic pride and familiarity with urban transformation.

Americans are so accustomed to lacking walkable, accessible public spaces that they are scarcely able to articulate what they’re missing.

Yet when they travel to cities built before the automobile, cities that take urban living seriously, when they see people chatting in sidewalk cafes, bikes and pedestrians and scooters covering the pavement, herds of children being walked to and from school, people of all ages and social classes mixing in public transit and on the street — when they see street life — they feel it. It moves them.”

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