Cities Need To Be Built For People, Not Cars

With observations from six world cities on four continents, the new book "Endless City" calls for development that supports people and the environment, rather than automobiles.

Neil Peirce writes in his latest column:

"The world is urbanizing at a breathtaking pace. Ten percent of mankind lived in cities a century ago; this year we pass the 50 percent mark; by 2050, the United Nations projects, it will be 70 percent.

But beyond global warming and poverty afflicting urban masses of the developing world, there's a threat we Americans actually modeled. It's how we grew in the age of the automobile - separating where people live, work and buy, separating classes economically, then investing first and foremost in highways and disinvesting in cities where humans can mix and relate. The threat now: that new and growing cities across Africa, Asia and Latin America are too easily drawn to thoughtless mimicry of our "motors first" model.

That's the dire warning of "The Endless City," a 500-page tour de force of six major world cities' development issues, published this month by Phaidon Press. Edited by London-based architects/planners Ricky Burdett and Deyan Sudjic, the book is based on an "Urban Age" project of city experts comparing the metropolises of New York, London, Berlin, Shanghai, Mexico City and Johannesburg.

Their bottom line: more compact development - mixed-use, transit-connected, democratic cities - is the only sustainable answer to global urban growth. And not just because less sprawl translates to less energy use and pollution (cities already contribute 75 percent of the world's carbon emissions). Investment in public transportation, the authors write, is also "a form of social justice, providing millions of people with access to jobs and amenities.""

Full Story: How Car-Based Growth Imperils New Cities

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