Today’s Solutions: September 29, 2022

Cultural attractions, walking through the city and gazing at plazas, buildings, and places—these are the things that make a city unique. And what particularly adds to the charm of a city is the absence of noise and air pollution coming from car-congested streets. With that in mind, many cities around the world are working towards ridding their streets from such urban nuisances by closing major streets to traffic and opening them up to people.

The Dutch city of Rotterdam, for example, has long been an exemplary model of designing the city center around pedestrians rather than cars. Aiming, and eventually succeeding, to create a modern city center that would thrive.

In 1953, Rotterdam opened a major thoroughfare that was completely car-free. To the surprise of shopkeepers, the area has proved to be extremely successful for retail – showing that closing streets to traffic and opening them to people, not only can benefit the public but also businesses at large.

Many other cities in Europe followed suit, and this—coupled with heavy and sustained investment in public transit, bicycle infrastructure, and more—created a very different urban experience for generations of city dwellers.

On the other side of the Atlantic, American cities are also starting to realize the importance of making their streets more pedestrian-friendly. The closing of Manhattan’s 14th Street is a great example that shows how stemming the usage of cars on congested streets can improve the liveability of urban dwellers. What was once one of New York’s most traffic-heavy streets is now a spot that puts considerable effort into meeting people’s needs, with former parking spaces turning into urban green spaces and friendly pathways for pedestrians and cyclists.

As urban spaces are expected to host 70 percent of the world’s population by 2050, such changes to our urban environments are not only welcome but also essential for improving the liveability of city dwellers.

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