Wuppertal Overhead Train (by Mike Backhouse)
It turns out vehicular traffic does something else too, more subtle but equally pernicious: It changes the way children see and experience the world by diminishing their connection to community and neighbors.
In the Heavy [traffic exposure] neighborhood, the children frequently expressed feelings of dislike and danger and were unable to represent any detail of the surrounding environment. Newell Avenue, the main road in front of the school, is a tree-lined street and yet few of the trees were drawn; instead, red (danger, cars) and orange (dislike) dominated. Participants from the Light [traffic exposure] neighborhood, on the other hand, showed a much richer sense of their environment, drawing more of the streets, houses, trees, and other objects, and including fewer signs of danger, or dislike and fewer cars. The children also drew many more places in the street where they liked to play and areas that they just simply liked: they noted playing in 43 percent more locations in their streets relative to the children in the heavy-trafﬁc-exposure neighborhood.
Appleyard worked with children in two suburban communities. One had light traffic and infrastructure that allowed children to walk and bike on their own. One had heavy traffic and children traveled almost exclusively by car. Using a technique called cognitive mapping, Appleyard asked groups of nine- and 10-year-old kids to draw maps of their neighborhoods, showing destinations such as school and friends’ houses, and marking places they liked or disliked. The results were revealing:
In sum, as exposure to auto traffic volumes and speed decreases, a child’s sense of threat goes down, and his/her ability to establish a richer connection and appreciation for the community rises.
‘Desire Lines’ and the Fundamental Failure of Traffic Engineering
Sarah Goodyear. Dec 5 2012
What if we designed cities for pedestrians and people on bicycles rather than engineering them for people in cars? What if a bike lane were as easy and intuitive to use as a chair, for instance, or a toothbrush, or a smartphone?
Those are the questions raised by Mikael Colville-Andersen, the Danish self-described “urban mobility expert” and founder of the Copenhagenize blog.
Colville-Andersen has been one of the most visible and vocal members of what is sometimes called the “livable streets” movement, which has its roots in the last decades of the 20th century but has really gained ground in the 21st. In a recent TEDx talk in Zurich, he framed the problem we face on our city’s streets as a failure of engineering, which has dominated the planning process for generations. The result, he says, has been the rise of an autocentric model – “the greatest paradigm shift in the history of our cities” — that kills millions of people around the globe every year and degrades the quality of life for everyone.
He argues that urban streets need to be refashioned with a humanistic, design-oriented sensibility, not traffic-engineering standards fueled by algorithms that fail to account for human preference and habit. By observing human behavior, following the “desire lines” that people trace in their cities, we can build places that truly serve human needs.”
Photo: Mikael Colville-Andersen
Went cycling along a bridleway with my son through fields and Starve Crow Woods. I felt like William Cobbett on his ‘Rural Rides’, only this is not 1830 - it IS still possible to travel by the old byways and greenlanes. I felt liberated. We didn’t see another soul all day, but the roads are always busy. Why don’t we use our bridleways more?