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Posts tagged "car parking"

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Barcelona’s Superblocks: Change the Grid, Change Your Neighborhood

Two years ago, Barcelona announced it would transform chunks of its street grid to prioritize people over cars. The method: superblocks.

When American planners think of superblocks, they probably think of big parcels that disrupt the pedestrian network and discourage walking. Barcelona's superblocks are different. They only limit motor vehicle movement, which makes walking and biking easier and opens up streets for people to gather.

On Barcelona's superblocks, local access for motor vehicles is still permitted, but through traffic is not. The streets are designed to make drivers feel like they are visitors, with narrow rights-of-way for cars. Almost all car traffic is local residents or people with personal business on the block.

Without dangerous car traffic overrunning the streets, generating noise and pollution, superblocks are full of life. Children can play and explore. Seniors and people with limited mobility can relax and socialize. People -- including young kids -- can feel safe and confident riding bikes.

I visited Barcelona in June, when some of the initial, temporary superblock treatments were being made permanent in a nine-square-block section of the street grid with a lot of public housing in the Poblenou neighborhood. The drone of cars was gone, and you could hear sounds you normally can't in the center of a city. Street life ebbed and flowed through the course of the day and the week.

Barcelona has not installed many superblocks yet. In fact, until recently Poblenou was the only one. A second superblock officially opened in Sant Antoni just days before my arrival, a project tied to the redesign of a public market.

More superblocks are on the way, according to Barcelona officials, with roughly a dozen others in the pipeline. It will be exciting to see this experiment continue to transform Barcelona and show the rest of the world what cities can do when they tame car traffic and put people first.

StreetFilms
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Hoboken: Where Safe Intersections Matter More Than a Few Parking Spots

Last week, I happened to be on the other side of the Hudson, cruising the New Jersey waterfront on a Citi Bike, going up from Jersey City to Hoboken and Weehawken, then back.

On the return leg of my trip, I just couldn't believe how comfortable the streets of Hoboken felt as I was biking and walking. One thing stuck out to me: Nearly every intersection has "daylighting," meaning the space approaching the crosswalks is kept clear of cars, so everyone at intersections is more visible to each other. At several intersections in Hoboken, every corner is daylit.

I didn't plan to make a video about daylighting in Hoboken or schedule interviews with city officials. But I had my camera, thinking I could get some nice NYC skyline shots (nope, overcast), and I'm glad I did. I started taping and put together these observations, which I think will be valuable in New York and elsewhere.

Daylighting is a strategy that advocates are well aware of, but city governments hesitate to do it if it means repurposing parking spaces. Even in New York, where most people don't own cars, at a typical intersection drivers are allowed to park right up to the crosswalk, limiting visibility to the detriment of public safety.

Hoboken is showing what a city can do when it prizes safety for everyone above free car storage for a few. It should be the default practice everywhere.

For bonus footage from Hoboken, check out the awesome Observer Highway protected bike lane -- one of the best green lanes I've seen in an American city!

StreetFilms
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Oslo: The Journey to Car-Free

In 2015, the newly elected city government of Oslo, Norway, announced its intention to make the downtown car-free by 2019. I immediately put it on my list of places to check out for Streetfilms. Last fall I made the trip, not knowing exactly what I'd find.

There are a number of reasons Oslo is looking to shift away from driving and get cars out of downtown. It is one of the fastest growing cities in Europe, and leaders see more efficient streets and transportation as essential to managing this growth. But the biggest factor is that air quality in Oslo and many places in Norway is deteriorating. In winter, especially, air pollution from diesel vehicles can reach dangerous levels and keep vulnerable children and seniors restricted indoors.

Oslo already has car-free blocks and car-light pedestrian zones that are full of people even late at night. And I knew it was a good sign when I stepped off the bus from the airport and immediately stumbled upon construction of a new rail line. But to make such a large area car-free entails going above and beyond a few projects here and there -- it takes a comprehensive strategy.

So Oslo is working toward its goal on many fronts. The city has been aggressively removing car parking, for instance, and by the end of 2017, expects to no longer have any on-street parking in the city core. Off-street parking is also being addressed -- all new developments are required to be car-free.

Ruter, the local transportation authority, plans to absorb all travel growth with buses, trains, and trams in addition to shifting some current car trips to transit. Car-share services are beginning to proliferate as more people go without a personal motor vehicle. Oh, and there's this nifty plan to help people pay for electric-assist cargo bikes!

Bike lanes are getting built or upgraded throughout the city. You won't find ample, Copenhagen-style protected bike lanes yet, but the on-going removal of car parking is clearing space for many wide, red curbside bike lanes. Despite the lack of true protection they feel safe, and unlike in the U.S., you will not find cars parking in them. Over four days, I probably could count the number of cars I saw blocking a bike lane on one hand.

The city's bike-share, Oslo Bysykkel, has recently been completely overhauled with more stations, better bicycles, and a more convenient user interface. You can unlock your bike by smart phone as you approach the station, just take it and go.

Will Oslo's city center go completely car-free by 2019? Momentum is certainly on the city's side. So sit back and take in these scenes of a city making ambitious changes to its streets, as well as interviews with public figures like Oslo Mayor Marianne Borgen, who discusses why reducing the footprint of cars is so important to the future of her city. I hope you enjoy watching this Streetfilm -- I think it carries important implications for other cities around the world.