Pedestrian-First Cities

Today, most cities are dominated by motor vehicles. As a byproduct, cyclists, pedestrians, and others feel and are at risk from these vehicles. Unfortunately, as within many other violent hierarchies, people trapped within this particular disfiguring framework – sometimes referred to as Car Culture – tend to punch down rather than up. Thus, it is not uncommon to encounter cyclists endangering pedestrians by blowing through red lights going the wrong direction, for example, or riding on sidewalks, or disregarding crosswalks. Similar, if less dangerous, dynamics prevail with respect to skateboarders – amongst whom, obviously, a fuck-you attitude is more prevalent than amongst cyclists who, at least in the richer cohort, tend to have an entitled/aggrieved relationship to public space. The proliferation of e-bikes, one-wheelers, motorized skateboards and scooters, etc. (all of which I enthusiastically support as alternative transportation modalities in deep need of proper infrastructure, regulation, and norms) has only further complicated these tensions, which are acutely felt in New York City, while the class component of these tensions – intensified further during the pandemic as rich(er) individuals deepened their dependence on deliveries by poor(er) individuals of all sorts of goods – simmers, often submerged, beneath the political surface.

From my perspective, it’s quite obvious that a re-orientation is necessary – one that centers pedestrians and public modes of transit, such that we start from the needs and prerogatives of people on foot (or in wheelchairs, etc.) as the users who are the primary focus of our design of/approach to public space and work our way up the chain of size/speed/dangerousness of transportation modality.

Rather than dig into this knotty topic deeply here, I simply invite readers to examine their own day-to-day experiences and behaviors through this lens.

Some Recommendations

CNN, and others, report that “A huge iceberg that’s bigger than New York City broke off near a UK base in Antarctica” – the video is awe-inspiring and sobering.

Grist reports “A surge in battery storage” in 2020. I’d go so far as to call it a massive spike in battery storage capacity in the US. (Believe I previously linked to this excellent Nature Climate Change piece – “Electrification of light-duty vehicle fleet alone will not meet mitigation targets”– which emphasizes materials extraction and availability challenges with respect to scaling up EVs and batteries, and argues, “Tackling climate change is not a one-country, one-sector or one-technology job. It will be the achievement of extensive system-based analysis, thorough planning and effective implementation. EVs offer an exceptional opportunity to reduce CO2 emissions. But electrification is not a silver bullet, and the arsenal should include a wide range of policies combined with a willingness to drive less with lighter, more efficient vehicles.”)

Good, under-the-radar news that I missed a few weeks ago: Quietly, the Delaware River Basin Commission “votes to ban fracking in the watershed” – a momentous victory for our region.

Finally, Albert Wenger has a nice piece/Tweetstorm up – “The World After Capital in 64 Theses” – which summarizes his forthcoming book. There are many points on which I don’t exactly agree with him, but his is a thoughtful take, and I encourage you to have a read.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s