Safer Cities Stem from Active Communities

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In the 1990s former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani popularized the broken window theory which is a zero tolerance approach to getting rid of crime. At first it proved successful and the approach spread, only later was it revealed that other factors were at work. Today, the solution to fighting crime and bringing life back to communities isn’t by cracking down on the people living there – it’s to empower them. In order to do this it means changing the streetscape from car-focused to people focused and giving people agency around what the spaces are redesigned for.

Busy streets have less crime

These surface-level environmental changes turned out to have profound economic and societal effects on this part of central Flint.

We surveyed residents there in 2014—before the intervention began—as well as in 2016 and 2017. We are now preparing the results of the Flint study for publication in an academic journal, but here’s a snapshot of our findings.

the coalition’s latest report, assaults decreased 54 percent, robberies 83 percent and burglaries 76 percent between 2013 and 2018.

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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.

Cyclists Obey the Law More Than Drivers

Bicycle

Cyclists are law disobeying maniacs! At least that’s a common and all too nasty rumour in North American cities. It turns out that car drivers are the maniacs according to a study fresh out of Florida. The study, the largest of it’s kind, put sensors on cyclists which monitored their behaviour and that of cars near them. The drivers didn’t respect the space around cyclists while the cyclists obeyed the law nearly 90% of the time. What’s more, the study points out, is that the consequences of a driver disobeying traffic laws is far more dangerous than a cyclist.

Good on cyclists for being respectful road users and doing what they can to be safe!

If you drive a car please pay attention to what you’re doing and obey the rules of the road.

In the end, the results indicated that cyclists were compliant with the law 88 percent of the time during the day and 87 percent of the time after dark. The same study determined that drivers who interacted with the study subjects complied with the law 85 percent of the time. In other words, drivers were slightly naughtier than the cyclists—even without measuring speeding or distracted driving.

There was only one crash during the study period, and that too was caused by a negligent driver. In that case, a motorist rear-ended a cyclist as she waited to make a left turn. In the published study, researchers noted, “The driver was impatient and tried to pass at a relatively high speed since the oncoming traffic was about to stop for the bicyclist to turn.”

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EU Launches Urban Mining Project

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The European Union’s newest mining project focuses on urban areas throughout the continent. Their ProSUM project built a database of metals, chemicals, and materials brought into the EU market over the last ten plus years; the idea is that the produced goods can be “mined” again. It’s a really novel way to approach recycle by positioning the recycling process as a mining opportunity. To help companies and organizations understand the plentitude of materials available in existing products (most of which are in landfills or recycling centres) they launched a website the Urban Mine Platform.

The project outcomes are embedded in the European Commission’s (EC) Raw Materials Information System (RMIS) in order to create a more comprehensive and structured repository of knowledge related to primary and secondary sources consumed in the EU, relevant for many stakeholders:

  • Manufacturers can gain confidence about future recycled raw material supplies.
  • Recyclers will have better intelligence about the changes in product types and material content which impact on their business and provide future recovery potential.
  • The mining industry will have greater certainty about the quantities and types of materials needed in the marketplace, mitigating risk and improving profitability.
  • Policymakers will be better informed on raw material supplies, which affect jobs and financial institutions, and how materials are linked to energy consumption.
  • Researchers will have better data quantity, quality, completeness and reliability.

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Walkable Towns are Economically More Productive

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Any visitor to a North American city knows that a lot of the geography is designed for single occupant car-based transportation. Anybody who’s spent months in any of these places knows that this car-focused design has been an unmitigated disaster. People are dying, the planet is being killed, and so many other problems stem from building cities for cars.

That badness all being acknowledged, we are at turning point of urban design. The evidence for making our streets for pedestrians over cars is overwhelming; cities which life easier on people are witnessing demonstrable benefits. Those benefits are quantifiable and more research comes out every month highlighting the benefits of desiring for people. Over at Strong Towns they have compiled a great article outlining some of the benefits of pedestrian friendly design.

The cost of paving sidewalks for people is minuscule compared with the cost of paving wide roads for cars, installing traffic signals, paying the salaries of traffic cops, etc. Even the cost of providing enhancements to pedestrian space such as trees and benches pale in comparison to what we spend when we build around cars.

Furthermore, the wear and tear caused by foot traffic is also negligible compared with the wear and tear caused by car and truck traffic, meaning that long-term maintenance costs for walk-friendly areas are also much lower than for auto-oriented places. (Ironically, most cities spend exponentially more on their roads while utterly neglecting their sidewalks.)

In short, a simple sidewalk could serve millions of people traveling on foot for decades, even centuries, with only a small amount of up-front investment and minimal maintenance costs for the city — yet it would support dozens or hundreds of local businesses. The same length of street designed primarily for cars would cost exponentially more to build and keep up and would only serve a handful of businesses.

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