The more you follow the long term plans of the city planning department in any major city, the more you start to wonder if vehicles are becoming passé. I would even go as far as to say that cars are becoming uncool.
In the past few years there has been a dramatic shift in how the general public views city planning. I am confident that city planners have been pushing for improved public transit and accessibility for alternative modes of transportation (such as bikes and walking) for much longer, but these pursuits seem to now be on the forefront of the general public minds as well.
This shift in city planning goals is evident in the redesign occurring within the City of Ottawa. Currently under development is the first phase in the city’s long-time-coming, much-anticipated light rail transit system. While the light rail system in itself will revolutionize transit within the city, the trickle down effects of this public transit move can be seen all over.
Just this week, Ottawa council’s transportation committee unveiled a $42-million dollar redevelopment plan for Elgin Street – a major urban street for both business and recreation.
The two-year project will substantially widen sidewalks, eliminate on-street parking, and reduce the street to one lane, each direction, meant to be shared by cars, buses and bikes. In order to accommodate shared use lanes for cyclists, drivers and transit facilities, the “new” Elgin Street will also feature reduced speed limits and traffic calming measures, including speeds bumps, curb extensions, and lane narrowing.
Projects such as this suggest that urban roads are no longer being designed with cars in mind. From an environmental perspective, this is a positive change. By redesigning our urban roads to discourage personal car transit and encourage cycling, walking and public transit, we are making steps towards changing the overall belief that exists in our society that we need a personal vehicle.
The goal of these projects is to empower urban residents to live without a car completely, and encourage rural or suburban residents to utilize park-and-ride options when visiting the downtown core. Personally, I think that is a beautiful vision for the future of our cities – not only for environmental reasons, but also for the physical and emotional health of residents and the community.
How do you feel about city roads that are no longer designed with cars in mind?
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