The Suburbs Are Bad, Here’s How to Make Them Good

the suburbs

We need to change the way we build and live if we’re going to avert catastrophic climate change, and it’s time we think about the biggest carbon offender: the suburbs. Suburban living is car-centric, energy intensive due to the design of the houses, more expensive to maintain due to low density, and embodies other problematic issues. It may sound like a daunting task to switch the suburbs from an unsustainable system to a sustainable one, but that’s exactly what people are trying to do.

According to new research published last week by Teicher and two colleagues, if the trend away from downtown cores continues, it is essential to urgently refocus some of the effort to fight climate change from cities to suburbia.

While the authors still believe urban densification is better for the environment, their paper — titled Climate Solutions to Meet the Suburban Surge: Leveraging COVID-19 recovery to enhance suburban climate governance — addresses the reality that in both Canada and the United States, the trend toward sprawl will be hard to stop.

The only pragmatic solution, Teicher said in an interview on Friday, is to develop policy to mitigate the worst impacts of suburban and exurban sprawl.

Read more.

Ending the Gender Gap in Transportation

There is a gender gap in our cities and it’s all thanks to car-centric design. Everybody knows that cars destroy urban centers and cause a lot of harm to public health. but you may not have thought of the impact cars have on gender. As cities look to modernize themselves by returning streets to people they need to also think about how different people use transportation in the city. Part time workers are more likely to be women and that often means more trips per day than their typical male counterparts. Designing cities through a gendered lens means that the city can accommodate multiple modes of transportation beyond the male-dominated rush hour.

“The discussion on inclusive mobility is gathering steam,” said Ricarda Lang, deputy chair of the German Green party. “Feminism is not a stand-alone topic, but a perspective that we also apply in the area of urban development and mobility.”

The issue is more complex than cars versus bikes. In some cities, women cycle less, likely because lanes aren’t wide or secure enough, especially with kid carriers — underscoring the importance of transport design. But there’s no denying car-centric systems face strain.

Numerous grassroot initiatives are demanding restrictions on personal vehicles. One of the most radical is in Berlin, where activists are pushing for a referendum that would all but eliminate private autos in the inner city in favor of walking, cycling and public transport.

Read more.

Urban Ecology Cools Building, Cities, and Helps Biodiversity

Modern cities are full of biodiversity, you just need to know where to look .Urban ecology is a relatively new field of study that examines how isolated urban green infrastructure relates to one another to form an ecological understanding of our cities. This infrastructure includes green roofs, parks, water catchments, and private spaces like yards and balconies.

Cities can help cool their local area by encouraging green infrastructure, and given the heat wave the west coast is currently experience we need to invest in as much green infrastructure as possible.

The addition and maintenance of green infrastructure is now central to urban planning in most cities. This includes planting trees and bushes, naturalizing parks, restoring wetlands and promoting other forms of green infrastructure such as green roofs. Some cities, including Edmonton, have launched goat programs to control noxious weeds.

A complicating factor is that much of the urban greenspace is found in privately owned gardens. Depending on the city, gardens can make up between 16 and 40 per cent of the total urban land cover, and between 35 and 86 per cent of the total greenspace. Governments have little influence over these areas, leaving it up to individual people to make the right decisions.


Read more.

Removing Highways Improves Cities

Intersection

Urban highways occupy a lot of space that can otherwise be used for parks, housing, offices, or anything else that produces economic benefits. The post war highway building boom in North America destroyed communities (in the USA highways were built to purposefully isolate black communities), fuelled car-dependent suburban developments, and plunged cities into debt to finance the construction. Now, we pay the price for the thoughtlessness of previous generations with unsustainable developments, polluted land, and large swaths of our cities taken over by tarmac.

No more. Cities are removing their highways instead of going further into debt to maintain them (Toronto is an exception to this). As a result new land is essentially being created and new vibrant, prosperous communities are popping up.

Rochester’s Inner Loop, completed in 1965, is one prominent example. This freeway destroyed hundreds of businesses and homes while separating downtown from the rest of the city, the New York Times reports. And in recent years, local officials have been trying to undo the damage.

In 2013, Rochester spent roughly $25 million to take out an eastern segment of the freeway. Apartment buildings have since been built in its place, and smaller roads once separated by the Inner Loop have now been reconnected, facilitating the easy transportation of walkers and bikers in the area. Following the $25 million removal project, over $300 million of private investment was brought into the city, according to a Rochester City Newspaper article.

Read more.

Paris’ Cafes Will Stay After the Pandemic

Berlin

Cities around the world finally shunned cars from streets and returned the precious urban space to people in order to provide safe socially distanced places for people. These urban improvement efforts started during the COVID-19 pandemic have shown to people that we’ve given too much of our urban landscape to massive metal slabs. Cities which have given people street space get cleaner air, more room, and a more vibrant culture.

Paris has found their additional cafe space keeping the reclaimed space for cafes and social space. Plus, the program is so popular they are providing more space to people.

Under the new regulations, businesses will be allowed to take over up to three parking spots in front of their premises for “summer terraces,” which will open from the beginning of April to the end of October. As the pandemic lifts, florists, book and record stores will also be invited to apply for summer terraces, moving much of their trade outdoors. In addition, businesses can also apply for an “annual terrace” that is open all year round, provided it occupies no more than one parking spot

Read more.

Scroll To Top
%d bloggers like this: