Wednesday, January 16

Lester Brown on Livable Cities

Prominent environmentalist Lester Brown has just released Plan B 3.0, which contains a short chapter entitled "Designing Cities for People." His main point is that cities can be designed around the needs of people or cars, but not both.

"It occurred to me that the ratio of parks to parking lots may be the best single indicator of the livability of a city—an indication of whether the city is designed for people or for cars."

He spares us the long-winded diatribe over everything wrong with the world's cities and skips straight to several hopeful accounts of real change. Consistent with the rest of the book, he suggests that a restructuring of the national tax codes is ultimately necessary to match the cost of operating a car with the real cost it bears on the public realm.

"As the new century advances, the world is reconsidering the urban role of automobiles in one of the most fundamental shifts in transportation thinking in a century. The challenge is to
redesign communities, making public transportation the center-piece of urban transport and making streets pedestrian and bicycle friendly."

I'm left with one question though: how does his promotion of mass transit and bicycles square with his equally enthusiastic support for wind-powered hybrid vehicles.

"[with hybrid cars] drivers can do their commuting, grocery shopping, and other short-distance travel almost entirely with electricity, saving gasoline for the occasional long trip."

He's obviously not speaking of rural areas here, or long-haul trucking. I wonder if these threads in his plan would clash at all.

No comments: