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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.
September 25, 2019, 8am PDT | Camille Fink
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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.'"

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Published on Monday, September 9, 2019 in The Outline
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