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The challenge

You look out of the window and you see congested streets. How can we give back the public realm to the people, instead of the cars ?

By 2050, two-thirds of humanity will live in urban areas. Cities are huge magnets to people. We can forget about saying that we have to stop the growth of cities, we have to manage that growth and we have to direct that population growth into forms that can be better serviced, more sustainably, with less use of resources, with less use of cars. The focus will need to be set much more on the public realm, not just the private realm.
With the cars, the public realm has deteriorated very badly with the roads and the car parks. The whole history of transportation planning has been to predict the amount of extra traffic growth based on the extrapolation of current trends and to say that in 20-25 years the cities will need so many extra lanes, roads and car parks.

Traditionally the streets were not just for the movement of vehicles only, they have been places where people congregate, talk to one another, places where children play in the streets. This idea was with us only 40-50 years ago and somewhere along the line we changed all that, we gradually gave over the streets to the automobile and the street became a place for passage only, not a "place". That is fundamentally wrong, because streets occupy about 20 to 30% of the land in any metropolitan area.
If we just take that all away and say that is just a purely transportation function, then people have lost a major part of the public realm.

Public space does not only have an aesthetic dimension, it is essential also from the social and economic point of view.
People congregate in cities to have community, to have this casual kind of interaction and support that help to make people thrive. That is what cities should be providing for people, quality of life, outside the door.
The public environment of cities that is what is most lacking in urban development today
(Sustainable policy institute, Curtin University of Technology, Australia).

You look out of the window and you see congested streets and therefore you simply just add in another lane or build new roads. That in theory is possible for more dispersed areas, but certainly for urban territories as long as we stick to a rather agreeable definition of what city and urban is, meaning a certain degree of public space, of public engagement, then we face serious challenges because we simply cannot expand the road infrastructure to infinite levels (Urban Age Project, London School of Economics).

Today, European cities face challenges in urban planning and other societal issues (job creation, climate change, land use, immigration, etc.), but are also the best placed to find solutions.

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