Reinventing cities

“I have to walk the rest of the way. Jesus. Get the city under my feet… Maybe I’ll get used to it again.”
~Spider Jerusalem, “Transmetropolitan”

I didn’t know this, but apparently in 2007, São Paulo rid itself of outdoor advertising. Personally, I’m for stricter rules or even bans on outdoor advertising. Most of them are for products I don’t need, services I don’t use, or idiotic public service announcements that advise you to wash your hands to avoid the flu. Are these really necessary? Do they really add to our lives? Apparently the mayor of São Paulo doesn’t think so. The panoramic shot from Wikipedia sure looks nice.

I spent eighteen days wandering around in Japan, most of those without access to a car. One thing you notice immediately in Japan is that everything is squished together. The roads are narrow and things go tend to build up. There are tiny shrines and tiny graveyards everywhere. This guy is photoshopping narrower streets in LA.

There are several areas in my town that are meant to be walked in. One is across the street from the university, making it easily accessible to the student body. Book stores, banks, a bicycle shop, bars and a couple restaurants, all squished into a several blocks with few parking areas. The whole area is geared almost exclusively for students.

The other area is a downtown which often hosts public events. Wide sidewalks, trees, appealing store fronts with big windows. There’s more parking, but few parking lots. It’s often easier just to pull into the first spot you find and just walk the rest of the way. A far cry from the sterile atmosphere of the local Wal-mart, which relies solely on its massive advertising campaign, artificially cheap products, and brand image to sell goods.

Of course, reinventing a city would take a massive amount of effort and money. Especially if you want to go this route. But maybe if we started gradually it could work. Focus on downtown areas and areas that are already walker-friendly. Improve visual appeal (trash the advertising and add greenspaces and public areas), promote local and small-scale businesses, increase public transportation and make the car an inconvenience.


One Response to “Reinventing cities”

  1. Dargon Says:

    While I would be opposed to banning outdoor advertisements (sure they annoy me, but banning them seems like government overstepping its bounds to me), I am all for making places more pedestrian friendly. However, at least in the US, I think doing so would first require better public transportation. If you look at places where people walk, Europe, Japan, or even New York, they all have rather convenient public transportation.

    As we have discussed before, city layouts in the states generally came into being around the car and everyone owning one, which brought about a nasty feedback loop bringing car ownership to it’s near necessary state today. And as such, even if you make the towns and cities more pedestrian friendly, or even more car unfriendly, I doubt pedestrian traffic will begin to rise at all until public transportation becomes a convenience rather than the hassle it is today.

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