This is Systemic Street Safety

The video above demonstrates how communities can transition from an unhealthy, vehicle focused, urban design to a healthy pedestrian design. Regular readers of this site know that streets designed for people are better for communities by making cities healthier and economically more productive. Cars are an clunky way to move people in cities so much so Oslo is banning cars, and other cities are making similar efforts around improving transportation. We know what we need to do to reduce needless deaths at the hands of car drivers, all we need is the political will.

If you’re in Toronto today then you can meet at city hall at 5:45pm to call on local councillors to stop pedestrian deaths.

Intersection Design Improved by Using Leaves

Dave Meslin got back to his roots by engaging in some very local activism. The Toronto-based activist, artists, and all around good person decided to change an intersection near his house. The intersection is not particular safe or well designed. By using just chalk and raked leaves he and his merry band of locals improved the intersection. It’s now safer and has revealed space that can be used to plant trees or a new park for people to relax in.

Using only sidewalk chalk and fallen leaves, Meslin and his neighbours temporarily “fixed” a dangerous intersection near Regal Road and Springmount, taking special care to maintain all existing road widths at a city-approved 28 feet.

“We revealed a surplus surface area of 2,000 square feet which could be transformed into a parkette, new sidewalks, and much shorter/safer crossings,” wrote Meslin in a Facebook post about the project.

Read more.

Good Health Stems from Walking, Biking, and Transit

Regularly walking and biking are good for one’s health, but did you know taking public transit is too? That’s right just by not taking a car to work like most North Americans you can be healthier. A simple life change can have a large impact on your life, plus by not using a car you can save the lungs of your neighbours and improve your city. Urban designers and doctors are starting to take this into consideration when talking about personal health and cities.

An efficient, affordable transit network is one key to better health. This can be as basic as a solid bus service, or can include a plethora of enhanced bus options and rail. Whatever the system, people who use transit “get more than three times the amount of physical activity per day than those who don’t,” just by walking to and from it, according to TransLoc – 19 minutes of exercise daily versus six minutes for those who don’t use transit.

Transit also reduces air pollution, making everyone healthier. Not to mention that city buses today often have cleaner engines than do cars.

Public transit also causes fewer accidents than individual cars, is far safer, is known to reduce stress, and improves the quality of life for vulnerable populations.

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How the Shape of Cities Impact Public Transportation

Cities contain the majority of the worlds population and moving that many people is a challenge, to say the least. Each city has its own design and plan for public transportation and some are clearly better than others. Wendover Productions tackles this question and provides some nice insights into what makes a city a good place for public transit. The video ends with a nice snapshot of the kinds of success that public transit can bring to cities. One example is that Portland has seen an estimated 5 billion dollars in development thanks to their streetcar network.

Why North American Cities are Different Than European

We often look at urban design on Things Are Good so it’s worth thinking about how we got here. The decisions made centuries ago impact how our cities operate and how we as people integrate ourselves into the built environment. This video explores how and why cities in Europe look different than North American cities, which means they have different issues that need to be addressed in the 21st century. There is much to learn from how different places deal with problems and thinking about how we can apply their solutions elsewhere.

Why do Americans love suburbs and Europeans love city centers? How is it possible that Paris is denser than New York City? Why are the fanciest hotel rooms in Europe on the first floor? Welcome to the weird world of urban geography.

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