Next Gen Streets

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo — who has called owning a personal automobile “archaic” — is in the midst of a campaign to improve air quality in her city, and dramatically shrink Parisians’ carbon footprint. From electric taxi boats to real-time emissions tracking to the now permanently car-free Georges Pompidou Highway, that campaign is being led by bold ideas, and it is well underway.

“Unparalleled challenges,” Hidalgo told Fast Company recently, “require unprecedented action.” We couldn’t agree more. Transportation Alternatives is looking around the globe for what is next and new in building cities for people, not cars. Check out some of the most unprecedented actions that we’re ready to bring home to New York.

Barcelona’s Superblocks

In Barcelona, Spain, noise and pollution are a big problem. Superblocks are the city’s answer — and they’re turning 60% of the space used by cars into streets for people. A superblock is a neighborhood that traffic flows around, but not through. Only people who live or need to do business on a superblock may drive through it, and those drivers must keep their speed below six miles per hour. Outside the superblock, traffic flows per usual. This simple restriction creates space for social activity, exercise, and green space in neighborhoods that used to be thruways. There are four superblocks in place in Barcelona today, with five more slated for this year, and 500 planned to cover the city. In every neighborhood, 1.7 million square feet of street space will be returned to the neighbors who live there.

Xiamen’s Bicycle Skyways

The city of Xiamen, China, recently cut the ribbon on the world’s longest suspended bicycle path. High above the street, cyclists in Xiamen get a traffic-free express path to their destination. Besides being safe and separate, and gifting cyclists with a killer view of the city, bicycle highways don’t require modifying existing, and often problematic, streetscapes. Along China’s five-mile aerial skyway, bike commuters can use ramps to connect to 11 bus stations and two subway stops, and have access to bike share. In Copenhagen, a similar project called the Cykelslangen (pictured), or “bicycle snake,” elevates cyclists above a congested series of intersections, while London and Melbourne are planning their own versions.

Oregon’s Truck-Free Delivery

City Council Transportation Chair Ydanis Rodriguez is excited about this idea to reduce truck traffic in the city. With electric bikes, he says, we can deliver a lot of packages, with a lot less smog, traffic, and danger to pedestrians. Electric delivery bikes can carry over 100 cubic feet of goods, about 10% of an average delivery truck. Besides being pollution-free and easier to maneuver, electric bikes won’t block traffic when they double-park for a delivery, and take up way less space on the street. Delivery giants like UPS and FedEx are excited about the idea, and already piloting electric bike delivery programs in Europe, Oregon, and Washington, D.C.

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