Designing Cities for People and Transit

by Crystal McMillan

A few days ago I got the chance to read a document called "Our Cities Ourselves: 10 Principles for Transport in Urban Life". The document spoke about street level, concrete changes that cities could make in order to change to greener, more sustainable urban centers. In many places in the document they used the term "livability".

I have lived in urban centers all of my adult life. I have never owned a car, and I have used walking and mass transit to move through my day. The quality of the experience of moving through an urban space makes a great difference to me, and other urban dwellers like me.

One of my favorite parts of the booklet was the case studies where they showed concrete examples of urban centers that had changed their landscape in order to make the space friendlier to pedestrians and cyclists, and at the same time fostering a increased sense of community.

I liked the suggestion for a mixed use of spaces. The urban move towards integrating residential, work, retail and entertainment activities within a space. I lived in a section of San Francisco that moved towards this mixed use model. It not only made it easier for me to give business to the small, family owned businesses in my neighborhood, it cut down on travel time and made it easier for me to meet and know the people in my neighborhood.

I think there are many valuable lessons that can be learned from this booklet. As we strive to live in greater harmony with our planet, even as our population and urban centers increase in size, I think that this model will teach us a graceful way to move forward.