When It Comes to Our Streets, You Have to Ask the Right Question

CC BY 2.0. Mikael Colville-Andersen

Mikael Colville-Andersen of Copenhagenize notes that engineers have been asking the wrong question all these years, "How many cars can we move down the street" rather than "how many people can we move down the street". He prepared this illustration pointing out that if you have a mix of bikes, transit and good pedestrian infrastructure you can move a lot more people.

Munster Comparison

© City of Munster

It is a point that has been made before, as in famous City of Munster comparison from 2001 that Mike showed here.

Car comparison Australia

© Cycling Promotion Fund

Then there is the Australian version.

Toronto Transit Commission/Public Domain

It was redone by the Toronto Transit Commission in 2009, showing the difference between the space occupied by cars..

Toronto Transit Commission/Public Domain

And a streetcar with the same number of people. (see it in GIF form here) But there is a problem with all of these photos and drawings, that John Massengale notes, that streets are more than just transportation corridors.

City streets are where public life takes place. Public life is not about "moving" or "throughput," but about placemaking—creating streets where people want to be. On those streets, both cars and people should slow down. That simultaneously saves lives and simplifies good urban design and civic art.

Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

Massengale is right. Streets are for more than just moving people. All of these photos from Munster to Australia to Toronto miss the fact that streets are about urban life as well as transportation.