Give the streets back to the people!
This photo of Rambla de Canaletes in Barcelona, Spain is by Claire Pendrous and can be found on flickr. It is just what I need right now – on a cold dark, dank day of the Wister Solstice – the shortest day of the year. A bit of Catalonian sunshine – and a good lesson in how cities ought to be organized. Barcelona existed long before there were cars, and its streets are organised around human beings. Cars take second place. In North America most of our urban areas have been built as cars accelerated the process of urban sprawl. Most cities quickly dispensed with the streetcars and interurbans – and many people now recognize that was a mistake, and simply played into the hands of the automobile makers.
The wisdom of car free streets is now commonplace in Europe and has been picked up quickly in the rest of the world. The Chinese are now beginning to learn that having everyone own a car is not necessarily progress over everyone having a bicycle.
In most older cities there are places like Las Ramblas. London still has many streets that are turned into marketplaces every week – some every weekday, like “The Cut”(actually Lower Marsh but we never called it that) behind Waterloo Station where, one upon a time, I used to spend my lunchtimes listening to the spiel of the costers. This is what civilization looks like. You can find pedestrian streets and street markets in most cities of the world but not many in Canada or the US.
UPDATE – London had a car free day before Christmas