Cars Still Rule the Road. Is Change Possible?

The dominant narrative is that streets are for cars and infrastructure that accommodates driving is necessary for cities to grow. But cities ended up this way because of decisions that make other modes secondary.

1 minute read

September 25, 2019, 8:00 AM PDT

By Camille Fink


Jacob Bacharach laments the current state of cities and urban design that prioritizes driving over other modes, even with a rise in pedestrian and cyclist deaths in recent years. "Streets belong to cars. The rest of us are interlopers, invaders, invasive species."

He also argues that most political leaders and the media continue to champion transportation systems that favor cars. "Newspapers relentlessly editorialize about massive road and highway projects as absolute fundamentals of economic wellbeing and development, whereas rail and bike lanes and other multi-modal transit options are generally treated as luxe amenities at best, or public menaces at worst."

But, says Bacharach, car-centric cities are the result of policy, planning, and design decisions that have encouraged infrastructure that privileges cars. While he is not optimistic about great change in the future, he does point to Paris as an example of how city leaders can drastically rethink urban transportation and the diversity of users. "Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris, who has been on a great spree of road reduction and pedestrianization, recently said that she wants her city to become a place 'where you can let go of your child’s hand.'"

Monday, September 9, 2019 in The Outline

Single-family homes in a suburban neighborhood in Florida.

New Florida Law Curbs HOA Power

The legislation seeks to cut down on ‘absurd’ citations for low-level violations.

June 16, 2024 - The Guardian

Three colorful, large beachfront homes, one khaki, one blue, and one yellow, with a small dune in front and flat sand in foreground.

Florida Homeowners 'Nope Out' of Beach Restoration Over Public Access

The U.S. Corps of Engineers and Redington Shores, Florida are at a standstill: The Corps won’t spend public money to restore private beaches, and homeowners are refusing to grant public access to the beaches behind their home in return for federal assistance.

June 7, 2024 - Grist

Multistory apartment building under construction.

New Tennessee Law Allows No-Cost Incentives for Affordable Housing

Local governments in the Volunteer State can now offer developers incentives like increased density, lower parking requirements, and priority permitting for affordable housing projects.

June 10, 2024 - Nooga Today

Green meadow with water running through and trees on either side in Yosemite National Park.

Yosemite Meadow Undergoing Major Restoration

Rangeland recently acquired from private owners is being restored to a more natural state thanks to a purchase by the Trust for Public Land.

2 hours ago - San Francisco Chronicle

Large black SYV driving down city street with blurred background.

GAO to Investigate How Vehicle Design Impacts Safety

A lax set of rules around vehicle size, height, and other factors is partly responsible for the alarming rise in pedestrian deaths in the United States.

3 hours ago - Streetsblog USA

Worker in yellow safety suit holding up orange SLOW sign on road

New Orleans Faces $1 Billion Shortfall for FEMA-Funded Roadwork

After years of delays, cost overruns, and deadline extensions on a FEMA-funded street repair program, New Orleans officials face a massive funding shortfall and accusations of mismanagement.

4 hours ago - NOLA.com

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.