Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Public Pedestrian Spaces Yield Happiness

Crappy cellphone pic

Enrique Peñalosa's speech at the Main Library yesterday was time well-spent. If you'd like a summary of his lecture, Streetsblog has a good writeup. In short, he attempted repeatedly to drive home the point that we - in cities across the world, in America and in San Francisco - are wasting our scarce public space by devoting it to private transportation. Our lives would be more enjoyable if we took as much of that space as we can and devoted it to pedestrian space.

Sr. Peñalosa offered numerous examples from his tenure as mayor of Bogotá of how he managed to turn space that had been hogged by cars over to pedestrians and bicyclists. The lesson he learned: the decision to take space away from cars is not a financial, technical or engineering decision, it's a political one.

San Francisco needs to turn more of its wasted public space over to pedestrians and we need to build the political will to do that.

Decisions are made everyday by politicians and city workers regarding how much space should be reserved for cars and how much for pedestrians. If you can make it out in the slide pictured above, one of Sr. Peñalosa's points was that
If there was more space for cars in New York or London [or San Francisco], there would be more cars.

If there was less space for cars there would be less cars.
Right now SF is unquestionably going down the road described in the first sentence. For every Pavement to Parks plaza or Sunday Streets event there are several new buildings approved or constructed with new off-street parking. These new spaces - solely for cars - do more to increase the number of cars in our city than any wimpy traffic mitigation efforts.

San Francisco can be a place for people, but only if we deliberately make it that way.

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