City Builder Book Club – Chapter 18

Part 4: Different tactics 

Chapter 18: Erosion of cities or attrition of automobiles

Chapter 18, p 361

I have been watching how people use pedestrian streets. They do not sally out in the middle and glory in being kings of the road at last.  They stay to the sides…

A certain amount of such inhibition in Boston or in Disneyland may be caused by the fact that we have all been so conditioned to respect the kerbs.  Paving which merged roadbed and sidewalk would probably induce more pedestrian use of the roadbed space….

However, that is apparently only one part of the answer…the only times pedestrians seem to use, or want to use, a street roadbed in this fashion are in case of extraordinary floods of pedestrian, as in the Wall St district..when the offices let out, or during the Easter parade on Fifth Avenue.  In more ordinary circumstances people are attracted to the sides, I think, because that is where it is most interesting.  As they walk, they occupy themselves with seeing – seeing the windows, seeing buildings, seeing each other.

In one respect, however people on the pedestrian streets of Boston, of Disneyland, or of shopping centres do behave differently from people on ordinary city streets heavily used by vehicles.   The exception is significant.  People cross over from one side to the other freely, and in using this freedom they do not seem to be inhibited by kerbs. …

lead me to believe that the main virtue of pedestrian streets is not that they completely lack cars, but rather that they are not overwhelmed and dominated by floods of cars and that they are easy to cross

…to think of city traffic problems is over simplified terms of pedestrian vs cars, and to fix on the segregation of each as a principal goal is to go at the problem from the wrong end.

Chapter 18, p363

Erosion of cities by automobiles entails so familiar a series of events that hardly need describing. The erosion proceeds as a kind of nibbling, small nibbles at first, but eventually hefty bites.

Because of vehicular congestion, a street is widened here, another is straightened there, a wide avenue is converted to one-way flow, staggered-signal systems are installed for faster movement, a bridge is double-deckered as its capacity is reached, an expressway is cut through yonder, and finally whole webs of expressways. More and more land goes into parking, to accommodate the ever-increasing numbers of vehicles while they are idle.

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2 thoughts on “City Builder Book Club – Chapter 18

  1. […] Love sketches Chapter 18: “Erosion of cities by automobiles entails so familiar a series of events that hardly […]

  2. […] Love sketches Chapter 18: “Erosion of cities by automobiles entails so familiar a series of events that hardly […]

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